Okay, we're just waiting out things now, so I'll relay some thoughts and opinions about the event we held last week. I hope it's okay to start another thread on it as these threads get pretty bogged down after a few pages and some more discussion can be had here about what I mention (or not)...I'm not presenting anything as Gospel or The Way It Should Be. Just sharing the experience and what I learned from it.
As it's been discussed, we set up 3 small digital mixers to evaluate and play with. We set up a Yamaha LS9, a Presonus SL24, and a Behringer X32. When James asked me to participate, I thought why not, because at the time, I wasn't interested in any of the 3 involved. I was familiar with the LS9, wouldn't mind one being around the shop. I had decided that I just could not get next to the Presonus. I didn't like the layout, the lack of motorized faders (and I'm sorry, but once you go motor faders, you can't go back), and I felt like it was a little mushy-sounding. The iPad app was easier to drive it with, but there was no head amp control on the app (because the head amps are analog) And heavens to Betsy, we all know
what Behringer was about, right? What on Earth would a digi mixer from them be like? Would it work? Sound like anything? Toss in the garbage if it breaks because of lack of service facilities? And to boot, I had been playing with a brand new Yamaha CL5, so I didn't feel any interest in these three consoles.
James sent an X32 to me to get familiar with a couple of days before the shoot-out. So I had time to play with the workflow and lay-out. I was able to figure out the layout and began to get familiar with getting around on the X. And I came to 2 conclusions, one good and one, well...It has a good layout, no doubt. The panel layout of the selected channel is cool, I REALLY like the "View" button in each section that takes you to the screen for the function you're working in. I like the buttons for changing fader functions. The screen is where you can get tangled up if you're not careful. On the right side of the screen, there are 8 buttons for various functions and views. They are all pretty self-explanatory. And once you select a function, there are tabs in the screen view that can be toggled through by using the arrows buttons at the bottom right underneath the screen(side to side) and once in the tabs, there are layers of yet more functions controlled by the 6 rotary encoders located along the bottom edge of the screen. And there are up and down arrow buttons to scroll through the layers (I'm hoping that I have the "functions" and the "layers" terminology straight. It would make a LOT more sense to see a manual or even better, look at the mixer). The point of ALL of this is that while I do think it's a good lay-out, there is a LOT of functions and layers and I did get tangled up a time or two assigning EQs to mixes, getting around various functions, and other simple things. As with anything, once you get used to the lay-out. it's easy to get around on the console. The "well..." moment came when I was attempting to adjust the comp settings on the vocal channel and the layers at the bottom of the screen were showing me mute groups. Huh?? But John came to rescue, pointing out that I had activated the mute group button. I was seeing the comp window in the screen, but with the mute group functions activated, I was seeing the mute group layer instead of the layer with the attack, ratio, threshold, and release functions. I could fuss about maybe certain functions being locked out while in another function, but it'd make more sense to be aware that this sort of thing could happen and not to press buttons you didn't need to. Okay, that was the biggie moment for me. I'm gonna try and condense things from here.
Sound quality - what everyone seems to be wanting to know. As I said early on, none of them suck. At all. If the sound quality of any of them wrecks your day, then start looking for something else that might be causing a problem such as a PA in poor shape or not tuned properly. Seriously, all of these mixers have a very decent very usable sound. I'm not suggesting that Robert Scovil or Cub Cubby or Dave Morgan should be happy with the sound of one of these things, but for the Kombat Audio people like me, any of them offers good results for what we do. Okay, my feelings. Yes, I liked the Behringer better than the other two, by the slimmest of margins. The Presonus seemed stuffy, not breathing, soft around the edges (well, you asked..
). JUst not very punchy. The LS9 actually fared a LOT better than I thought it would. I was hard-pressed to really hear a difference between it and the Behringer. The Behringer sound seemed to breathe, just a..a..nice
quality to it. And in accordance and in agreement with JR's thoughts, we are really splitting hairs here. My true feelings are in the sentence or two of this paragraph. Sorry if it's disappointing. But there's just no earth-shattering revelations to be had here. Move along...
Feature set: This is where the X32 just....kicks...BUTT. Motorized faders alone would do it for me. I've been bitten by the SL24's lack of motorized faders more than I should probably be telling. It's doesn't make the SL24 bad, but it's a feature that I wanna have, waaa, waaa, waaa...
. Then there's the really good screen (but kinda hard to see in daylight, honestly) that is way more informative than the SL24's little window. Digital recallable head amps on the X32. Lots of fader options that motorized faders lend themselves to. Nice little label windows for names of inputs and outputs. 16 mix buses. 32 real channels. Another 6 aux channels on TRS connectors. Yet another 6 aux output channels on TRS connectors. And if I'm remembering correctly, there's a mix of RCA connectors and a USB connector that I'm not sure if it's tied to the outputs or the inputs. And honest-to-goodness real MALE XLR connectors on the outputs. Really nice FX choices. Channel comps that, under our circumstances, seemed quite decent and usable.
I haven't mentioned the LS9 much here, because it has a similar set of features, but not all. We all should be familiar with the feature set and the workflow of this one and to boot, it's an older design for a lot more money. There's a LOT to be said for Yamaha's reliability record, which is long established at this point. And in our experience, Yamaha's support is second to none. I'm told that Presonus does very well with their service, too, but I've not had the occasion to need that. Frankly, I was surprised at how well, the LS9 held its own during the course of our evaluations, it being the established standard of the smaller mixers. It's still a LOT more money than the other two. And it's overdue for an upgrade or revamp or a replacement model altogether.
Workflow: LS9, nearly everyone should know. It was next to nothing for me to learn, once I quit poking the screen like I was on an M7CL. Very similar. I just never cared for the Presonus way of doing things, and this was long before I was the X32. The X32 is a fair amount to get one's head around, but that's because there's a lot there. On these mixers, you can either make the surface larger to accommodate more faders, knobs, and buttons, or you can make more layers. I think Behringer struck a good balance of of available controls vs layers of control. And I think I poked the X32's screen just once...
. Had to try...
Software control: Yay, Studio Manager. Yay, UC (Presonus). Didn't get to play with the X32's control software, because, arrgghh, there's not a Mac version. I did observe John with Behringer running it under Parallels on a Mac w/ 4gigs of Ram. It was running quite decently, too.
iPad apps: Yay, Stagemix. Kinda Yay with UC and the iPad app. I like it, but I wish you just hang a router on the SL and have iPad control instead of the whole computer connected via Firewire and a router to connect the iPad. Kinda clumsy. and no input gain control, for the obvious reasons. Didn't play with the Behringer iPad app, I understand that it's pretty barebones at the moment with more functionality to come. Ehh, I'll wait...
Reliability: Ahh, how do we determine that? We know that the LS9, save for some ginchy faders, is a very reliable, solid console. I can't speak to the Presonus' reliability record. I hate to say "I heard" and be disparaging to the Presonus. That can be discussed among those interested and/or with actual experience.
There's no real way to determine how the X32 will hold up over the long run at this time. Behringer's reputation for reliability hasn't been stellar in the past.
And there's been a few reports of fader issues and noises on a channel or two. I believe Uli himself has addressed those issues here and their plans to remedy them. And Joe and John told me of the support plans going into play with service centers being established with more on the way. All things considered, I'd go ahead and buy one knowing these circumstances.
Geez. this got entirely too long. And I regret that I have no experience with the stage boxes, which we had intended to use during the shoot-out and following concert. But we were trying to beat the impending rain, so we narrowed down the set-up to one FOH desk running monitors for simplicity's sake. Even then, we were going to break out a stagebox, but the analog snake was sitting right there and the radar wasn't looking good, so we opted to make it simple. Which I think turned into a very nice little concert with a great local jazz artist. Also, the plan was to use each mixer, but I didn't see the point since I would be going for my mix on each, doing whatever it took to get that mix, and not really offering any more info to the participants. I was familiar with the LS9 and the Presonus, so of course, we went with the new kid on the block for concert. And it did not disappoint.
Summary: This ain't yer father's Behringer (wait, I said that somewhere else, dang...). Seriously. Forget the name on the mixer if it bothers you. It's worthy of serious consideration. Put it this way - I'm suggesting that the boss hold off on the Si Compacts for the moment while I show him around the X32. we can get two of them for the price of the Si.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I hope some find it useful. I'll try to elaborate or answer any questions I can. Thanx again to James and Doug for the considerable outlay of time, money, and efforts, and Nat for helping out and making my day really easy. And again to Doug for the above and beyond the call efforts with the mixer evaluation and using the VUE speakers for the listening part of the evaluation. MUCH more on the VUE coming soon. They're great. Go check 'em out. I think there's a performance and value part to those speakers that's gonna rock the free world.
And thanx for reading...
(Doug, Mac, et al, if this is too much, strike it and I'll try and shorten it. I've saved this in a document that I'll keep on hand)
(EDIT - Woo, thought I screwed up the whole thing with the X32's number of window buttons edit. really glad I had this saved in Word. Up (sorry)