With people continually asking, "what edit desk do you use?" here at the COW forums, Creative Cow forum leader, Marco Solorio hopes to settle this question once and for all with his in-depth review of TBC's Crossfire X-K3 edit console. If you're in the market for a new editor's console or are just curious to know what's "out there", this should give you all the information you need to base your own judgment.
Back at NAB 2004, I was on the prowl for a high-end edit desk without an overly high-end price. I wanted something stylish to fit the ambience of my new facility. Figuring I'm going to sit in front of "something" day in and day out, I might as well invest in something that is not only ergonomically functional, but also pleasing to the eye. Coming from years of owning custom made desks to the popular IKEA route, I wanted something fresh, new and complimentory to my editing needs.
While walking the NAB expo floor, I talked to many console reps from different studio furniture manufacturers and looked over their assortment of comparable products. But one company did catch my eye early on, even before NAB rolled around in April. That company was TBC, not to be confused with "Time Base Corrector" although that did help me remember the name of the company!
So what was so appealing about TBC? I first gathered their info from their website, which is filled with a wealth of information and a product line-up that doesn't quit. When I finally got to see some of their products in person at NAB, I was impressed to say the least. It was good to touch the materials and see these edit desks in full glory. But this was just the beginning.
Making The Move
When I was finally ready to move into my new facility, I summed up what I saw at NAB from the different companies and decided to go with TBC and their Crossfire X-K3 console with their Charcoal Matrix Top and black trim.
Now here's something I didn't know about TBC until I ordered this desk. Each order is a custom one-off order. They do not stock items on hand. In fact, they email you schematics to sign off with your order to fax back to them. This is to insure you get exactly what you want since there are a lot of choices and color/trim options. After that, your directives go to their CNC machines and crank out your unique order. Due to these custom one-offs, make sure you prepare your order far enough in advance since it'll take a couple of weeks to process and build. They do have expedited ordering as an option for a fee.
The X-K3 arrived in a crate from an independent trucking company. No flimsy cardboard shipping boxes here! A crate is definitely required for the enormous weight these pieces muster.
Construction and Build-Quality
Taking the individual parts out of the crate and boxed sections, it's immediately apparent how good the quality is of these materials. The actual desk portion and the bridge portion are made of 1.25-inch thick wood. Those two pieces are lined with a very hard rubber/plastic lined trim that not only makes it look really nice, but also protects the edges from looking cruddy over time. And like everything else from TBC, even this trim is offered in differing cosmetic variations.
The rackmount bay section is pure quality, down to the upper heat ventilation and the rear hinged access door. There are grommet holes everywhere for cable routing and each hole comes with a cap.
The strength of this console is literally bar-none. It's better than I could have ever imagined. Allen screws are used throughout to maintain the tightest, strongest hold of each piece. Support beams run across important areas like the monitor bridge and the main desk. There's even a cable runner at the back, which I didn't even need to use. The main legs not only look cool, but are designed in such a way that makes it impossible to tip this thing over even if your fat 400-pound butt sat anywhere on this console. In short, if the largest earthquake in history strikes California, I'm running to my TBC console!
Installation of this console was fairly straightforward, but I do advise having another person help out simply due to the sheer weight of the console and for holding things in place while screws thread.
Each of the three rackmount bays are perfectly angled. Having this angular placement was one of my key priorities in finding the right desk for my main edit suite. Having the gear sit at a slight angle is easier to read than gear that sits at a perfect 90 degree angle. And in the end, it just looks a lot cooler. Each rackmount bay consists of 4 spaces, but you can really only utilize gear in the top three spaces since the bottom space sits directly behind the edge of the actual desk. TBC even gives you special plastic 1-space rack fillers to use as penholders, but I used the bottoms spaces to fit in Furman power supplies.
The monitor bridge above the rackmount bays will hold a LOT of weight; enough for three or four CRT video monitors. For me however, the weight isn't much; one Sony PVM20L5 video CRT monitor, three Dell 2001FP LCD displays and a pair of KRK RokIt 5 powered speakers.
Not to leave the console alone, I complimented it with a TBC 1.5 Bay Equipment Cart for some of the extra gear that needs to be in this edit suite. A Tascam DM-24 digital mixer sits perfectly atop this sidecart with other gear in the rackmount section. The vertical "half" section is typically used for a computer, but I'm using it to hold other small pieces of gear since the computers and decks all go in the machine room. I got the 12 RU version so the cart can nestle under the left edge of the main console. The two units are a precise fit and applaud each other in perfect visual harmony.
It's also important to note that the sidecart came in a wooden crate like the main console, except that this unit was completely pre-built! No assembly required. And once again, this was a very heavy load; prepare yourself for putting it in place. Luckily the caster wheels make things a little easier.
So when it was all said and done, I had everything in place and filled it with gear. I stood back and basked in all its beautiful glory! What a set up! It truly is an awesome culmination of beauty, function, art and the oh-so-important, cool-factor. Who says an uncompressed Final Cut Pro system can't be in a high-end environment? Whether it's a client, a colleague or a friend, it never fails that they voice the same three-letter word... "WOW!"
There really isn't anything negative I can say about this console. Even the price is completely fair for what you're getting. There is nothing "cheap" about the quality and look of this furniture. Even the laminates have perfect edges unlike other manufacturers that skimp in this department, leaving visible gaps between joining laminate seems.
With everything said, this is an EASY 5-COW review. It is very rare that I give 5-COWs reviews on any product, because if there's even just one small flaw, well, then it's not perfect! The X-K3 on the other hand IS perfect. Having bought studio furniture from other manufacturers in the past, I have something to compare this to and in short, nothing compares to TBC's quality. If you're looking for quality studio furniture and decide on these guys, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Take this from someone that walks into his main edit suite everyday and never tires from the beauty these TBC units provide on a daily basis. "Impressive" is an understatement.
Form meets function
Many options and choices
All consoles are a one-off, made-to-build custom orders.
Very helpful and informative website
Very reasonable price for being the "best in class"
None, other than not having dancing girls deliver the console.
If you want the coolest, strongest and the most stylin' edit console out there with a competitive price to boot, then check out TBC. You just can't go wrong with these guys.
Marco Solorio is a multi-award winning digital media producer and published writer working in the San Francisco Bay Area. He owns and operates OneRiver Media, a succesful post-production facility focused on bringing the highest level of quality to each and every project in a reality-TV driven era of "cheap, fast and cheap". Marco Solorio is also credited for the internationally recognized OneRiver Media Codec Resource Site, a resource that compares various codecs for the benefit of end-users and developers alike.
::: Page design and layout by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media
::: Article copyright 2005, Marco Solorio
::: Sham Pain's "My Life" music video images courtesy of gRock Records and Delvian Records (online post production performed at OneRiver Media)
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