The Sony OXF-R3 was, in its day, the best digital mixing console money could buy. The story begins in 1989, when engineer Paul Frindle left SSL – where he had worked on the G series console and initial development of digital mixer technology – to set up his own company, Oxford Digital. Oxford’s first contract was to develop a new flagship digital mixer for Sony.
In a lengthy interview with Avanturb, Frindle explained the challenge: “The Oxford Digital initiative was inspired by a single-minded and burning desire to realise the truly ground breaking advantages of digital processing. As the cultural divide between the analogue and digital fraternities continued to grow unbearably, it seemed that realising this goal required a completely different environment and mindset.”
In 1996, Sony finally released the OXF-R3, a fearsomely expensive digital console that helped usher in a new era of even more precise automation, total recall and truly professional digital signal processing. The EQ was an ultra-precise five-band parametric design with high- and low-pass shelf filters.
At a list price of a million dollars, the R3 was by no means a common mixer. Second-hand prices eventually dropped and a few lucky dance producers got their hands on them (we’re led to believe German techno producer Alexander Kowalski owned one at one point), but generally speaking the Oxford was the preserve of mega-budget commercial studios. So why does it justify inclusion here? Because in 2002, the Oxford EQ was ported from the original DSP code and released as a software plugin for Mac and PC DAWs, immediately setting a benchmark for ‘surgical’ EQ.
Chopstick explains: “I use the Oxford Plugin for all surgical procedures. It’s great for finding the bad frequency and cutting it out with a really sharp bandwidth. I find it very clean and solid sounding. It’s pretty useful for any sound in electronic music. It’s also my go-to EQ filter for cutting the lows or highs depending on the nature of the audio material.”
In 2002, the Oxford EQ was ported from the original DSP code and released as a software plugin, immediately setting a benchmark for ‘surgical’ EQ.
There are plenty of other choices of surgical EQ these days (we also like Fabfilter Pro-Q and Universal Audio’s cheekily-named Cambridge) but the Oxford EQ goes down in history as one of the first times the technology from a hugely expensive piece of hardware was ported to more easily affordable software. Buying an Oxford console is probably a step too far for most of us – especially since they’re no longer supported by Sony and starting to show their age – but the Oxford EQ allows us all access to technology which was very recently at the cutting edge.