Product Reviews

Behringer X32 Digital Mixer - our first look, part 1

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by Gary Williams

We've all been hearing the buzz for a long time. A 32 channel digital console with flying faders for under $3000. At first the thought of such a console sounded preposterous. There was much debate as to whether this would be a piece that would be taken seriously in the marketplace. Surely corners would have to be cut, sonic quality would be greatly compromised, and the feature set and user interface would be dumbed-down. There were immediate scoffers, myself included. It would be easy to conclude that the X-32 didn't really deserve a look. Except for one point gnawing at the back of my techie brain.

One word really. Midas. I'd been drooling over Midas consoles for years, and with the Behringer acquisition of Midas, I expected to see a decrease in the quality of the Midas brand, and the opposite happened. The newer generation of the Midas digital consoles are better than ever. With Behringer now signing the paychecks for the brilliant engineering staff at Midas, job security says when the boss asks if using this technology we now own, can you implement this in a product with a street price under $3000.00 it's a good idea to come up with a way to say “yes we can”....and yes, they did.

Read more: Behringer X32 Digital Mixer - our first look, part 1


Radial Firefly - the "best-sounding direct box I've ever heard"

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by Andy Toy, WorshipLeader

Function: Tube direct box

What’s New: New from Radial is the Firefly, a high quality tube DI with tons of features. Set in a heavy-duty metal casing, the Firefly combines a class-A front end with a single 12ax7 tube stage, providing warmth and character of a classic tube sound with the legendary sound quality of the classic Radial direct box. A quick walk-through of the electronics demonstrates Radial’s commitment to quality. The discrete class-A circuit features zero negative feedback, eliminating any phase cancellation in the signal and providing a natural, full sound. The 12ax7 tube gives the DI a warm, smooth sound and the output is isolated by a high quality Radial transformer to eliminate hum and buzz. The result is a low-noise, warm, fat, and natural sounding DI.

Features: The features on the Firefly were made with the working musician in mind. Connected to the input is a drag control that allows the user to adjust the load on the pickup of the instrument connected to it, making all pickup types sound great through the DI.

Read more: Radial Firefly - the "best-sounding direct box I've ever heard"


Just because you like it, why should I? Audix VX5 reviewed.

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A couple weeks ago, the Audix sales rep stopped by with the Audix national sales manager in tow.  I've known both of these guys for a long time, and we've enjoyed a friendly relationship for at least 15 years.  We spent a few minutes catching up and telling stories, and as we talked through the line, the topic of missed opportunities came up.  I often ask sales people if they have products that we're missing out on -- ones that other dealers are selling successfully (and that we're not), or ones that no one is selling, but that everyone should be.  And like a good salesperson, Gene had an answer. 

The Audix VX-5 is a new handheld hypercardioid condenser microphone that he said was becoming very popular, and that reminded him of the old AKG C535.  That got my attention since the C535 was one of my favorite vocal mics "back in the day."

Gene let me unbox the microphone and I have to admit that it had a nice look, and a great feel, but what a mic looks like doesn't matter much to me.  The VX5 is made here in the USA, solidly built, and precise in its fit and finish.  But again, how would it sound? 

Since it's pretty much impossible to get a feel for a microphone in an office setting, Gene left the microphone with me, and I decided to try it out on an unsuspecting vocalist.

Read more: Just because you like it, why should I? Audix VX5 reviewed.


Line 6 Soundscape M20d - feature by feature

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by Doug Doppler,

The Line
 6 StageScape 
M20d does a fantastic
 job of addressing the 
challenges we face each week, 
and it does it all via a touch-sensitive user interface that can be mirrored on one or more iPads.

One of the biggest challenges we face on Sunday mornings is developing a streamlined workflow for sound check, monitor levels, and front of house mix. Workflow is an integral part of how this unit was designed, and is key to its effectiveness in a worship environment.

The five Mode Buttons allow you to toggle between the Setup, Tweak, Record, Monitor, and Perform views in the UI. With the exception of Record Mode, these buttons trace the exact production path you’d follow on a Sunday, making for a streamlined approach on an architectural level.

Read more: Line 6 Soundscape M20d - feature by feature


Which digital mixer should I choose?

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First it was Yamaha.  Today, just about every mixing console manufacturer has at least one digital mixing console of some sort, and there are very good reasons to consider a digital mixer, at almost all price points. 

Today, I'd like to point out our most talked about models.  That doesn't mean most sold, but the ones with the most buzz.  Three of the four are brand new, so there's not a lot of a track record yet. 

First up is the Behringer X32.  It came in last week, and it's the talk.  It has an almost-too-good-to-be-true feature set -- 32 channels, moving faders, backlit scribble strips, iPad interface, Midas-designed microphone preamps, and more.  $2999.  We're still putting it thorugh its paces, and we'll write more about it soon.   

Then there's the Line 6 Soundscape M20D.  $2499.  It features a unique graphical mixing interface (looks a lot like Apple Garage Band), has powerful digital effects, compression and mixing, optional iPad control, and 16 channels.  Despite its power, the Line 6 mixer is designed to make a sound technician out of even less-experienced users.  This mixer gets our vote for self-mixed bands, and for smaller church venues.  The interface (that you design yourself from a library of icons) allows you to simply point at the icon of any musician or directly at his or her monitor speaker and make adjustments to the mix or to the instrument itself.  It's really, really easy.  More info here. 

As an added bonus, when using Line 6 Stagescape loudspeakers and subwoofers, the M20D uses a digital data conneciton from mixer to speakers (replacing the analog line level interface), so that connections are as simple as daisy-chaining one Line 6 loudspeaker to the rest, whether subwoofers, monitors, or mains. No more ground loops, no special crossover, no making sure that the monitor is plugged into the monitor output and not the main.  Each speaker tells the mixer what it is and everything gets configured the way it needs to be.  It's pretty hard to make a mess of things with the Line 6 ecosystem. 

Just today, the Mackie rep stopped by to show off Mackie's first digital mixer since the old TT24.  The DL1608 is a neat little mixer.  It requires an iPad (any version) as its control surface and features very powerful effects, equalization, compression, and mixing.  Its interface is intuitive and it sounds great, using Mackie's Onyx preamps the great sound was probably also helped by the Lab Gruppen power amplifier in the rack, but that's another story).  Speaking of microphone preamps, those levels are not recallable, since they're on rotary pots resident in the DL1608 hardware itself. That's the case with many other digital mixers, too, so it's not a deal-killer at this price point.  The rest of the Mackie mixing features are only accessible via iPad, so if you misplace your iPad, you don't have a mixer.  All of that said, if you're in iPad owner and need a powerful, friendly 16 channel mixer, this one seems like a no-brainer at $999. 

The "grandpa" of the new digital mixer manufacturers is Presonus.  Presonus' StudioLive series has sold more than 60,000 units and has widespread acceptance.  In addition to making a highly respected digital mixer, Presonus just acquired Nimbit which allows you to sell the music you're recording via the included Studio One and/or Capture software, and create a website free.  I'm a big Presonus fan, but it's what I'm most familiar with.  The church I attend has had one for over a year, and I mix for a friend using an iPad almost every week.  When used with your Mac or PC, the Presonus hardware/software combination becomes a full-fledged multi-track recorder, with the ability to use those recorded tracks for virtual soundcheck (soundcheck without the band needing to be there) and for training.  How did we ever live without that? 

These consoles all have scene recall, all have iPad interfaces, and they all have comparatively (to analog consoles) unlimited amounts of equalization, effects processing and channel dynamics.  I've made the case in other articles that buying a digital console is like getting a free mixer when you subtract the cost of outboard processors from the price.  And there's a good reason to buy any of them, depending on your situation. 

When I chose a console, I picked Presonus for my own church.  But none of the others were available 15 months ago.  Today, for as many channels as we need at church (at least 24), I'd look hard at the Behringer X32 and the Presonus again, and once I've had a little more time to work with the X32, I'll report back to let you know what I found.  The Line 6 is quite possibly the easiest mixer I've ever seen, and its interface hides its very powerful digital processing that can be easily revealed for more advanced users.  And again, if you have an iPad, and don't need more than 16 channels (and are okay with making the iPad a requirement), the Mackie appears to be a steal.  With over 60,000 users, the Presonus StudioLive family has the established user base, consistent software updates, and track record for reliability. 

When you use a digital console, you place a lot of eggs in one basket.  It becomes not just your mixer, but your outboard equalization, your dynamics (compressors and gates), and your effects processor(s).  If a digital console fails, you're dead in the water, so reliability is top priority. 

Time will tell the story of reliability.  Right now, all of these mixers loook like great options for someone.  If you have questions, or would like to talk about your particular situation, call us.  We'd be glad to help you think through the options. 


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What others say

"We love the mic! It was a great fit for us." -- Greg Ferrara, Holy Trinity Church, GA

(on the Heil PR30 when used for children's choir)