8100 Series (1977 - 1988)
Also known as the 80-100 Series or 80/100 Series
From The Blue Room - Research by a student of Ken Coker (posted in 2011):
The 8100 was the first series of consoles created by Avolites. Some were a custom build model for TFA/Electrotec/Electrosound and were built prior to the famous QM500-TD. TFA/Electrotec/Electrosound were a sound and lighting company established in the early 80’s by Colin Waters and Tom Fields. The 8100 consoles were custom built to match a SoundCraft sound desk of the time that had blue stamped fader panels, indented white lettering and wavy brushed aluminium side panels. The amparo blue colour was a limited edition colour also used to match the SoundCraft desk.
The sloped frontage...... and separate inner panel construction were classic Avolites design. A total of six TFA custom built models were made now making them very rare. There were three styles produced; a 72 way, 84-way and a 96-way model.
The departure of the wood and leather look was a radical change. The new design was courtesy of the late Bill Kelsey of Kelsey Acoustics in London. Due to its large bulky appearance and distinctive blue colour, the 8100 was nicknamed, ‘The Blue Steak’.
Rob Steel of was one of the product assemblers at Avolites back in the 8100 days and currently has in his possession a non-custom 8100 series console with the original wooden side panels without the XY feature which gives it a much cleaner look. The wooden case was manufactured by a very high end cabinet maker in London. This desk was used on the Joan Jet tour in 1982 with John Broderick as Lighting Designer who later went on to light Metallica and other successful bands. The non custom models had no chase function and so Rob Steel arrived in the USA on his first visit to add one to this original model.
The 8100 was an entirely analogue output control desk using three or four 37-way female Socapex connectors that used one voltage line per channel outputting between 0 and 10 volts. However, Marshall Bissett of TMB Production Supplies recalled the 8100 using an early version of DMX called ‘ProPatch’ that used digital multiplexing for the first time in rock and roll concert systems to try and get away from heavy and bulky analogue multi-core control cables. ProPatch systems still exist today as a serial dimmer interface that converts DMX512 to 64 discrete analogue signals.
Due to the 8100 being a limited edition model and with Avolites being a fairly new company unsure of their future, they simply did not believe in instruction manuals despite TFA and other users requesting one. This means there is no actual published information on the operation of the 8100. Only those who used the desk back in the 80’s and early 90’s actually have experience in its operation.
The QM500 began production in 1983 and the 8100 ceased production at this point.
(Note: 1987 price lists include 8100 series desks as still available - were they still in production this late?)
Exhibits in the Backstage Heritage Collection