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Author Topic: New digital boards time  (Read 3115 times)

Simon Ryder

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New digital boards time
« on: November 14, 2012, 01:01:29 pm »

Hi Guys,

we are taking the leap into big league digital boards.

My requirements are:

1 sound quality
2 reliability
3 rider acceptability
4 ease of use
5 longevity
6 customer support

These are not listed in order of preference these are all major factors.


At the moment, it would seem that almost no digital board has it pegged for us right now - hey we just bought another Heritage and a Venice F because we like
them.

The options as I see them are:

Allen & Heath:
pros: pretty easy to use, the designer answers his phone, I haven't heard of any reliability issues.
cons: no rider acceptability.

Avid:
pros: the Americans like them as do many studio engineers. Can have reliability issues - especially stemming from that control cable. Long boot up time
cons: several other digital consoles simply sound better. Interface is pretty clunky compared to some now. May be replaced before too much longer - it is an old design now.


Digico:
SD series
pros: sound superb, good economics, many major league bands and rental houses favour them.
cons: how many engineers outside of a small high end circle know how to use them? Digico's reliability was pretty iffy in the early days - has this been sorted now and does their reputation suffer for it?


Midas:
Pro 2, 6 etc
pros: appearing on all the riders. superb sound quality
cons: reliability and some glaring software issues. Also the pre amps don't have much gain without the digital trims being used. The effects rack is really slow to operate.


Soundcraft:
Vi6:
Pros: on loads of riders now, sounds great, very fast interface.
cons: reliability and slow boot time.

Yamaha:
The M7CL:
pros: Its the rider king, rider acceptability. Stability - whilst Yamaha's do throw their toys out of the pram occasionally, it seems to be much less often than almost any other desk.
cons: it sounds awful (compared to our H3k etc)

PM5D:
pros: THE digital board for monitors
cons: interface is truly antediluvian now and the desk is surely about to be replaced before too long. Sounds OK but still not quite what we are looking for.

New Cls:
Anyone buying these? Not on riders yet but I guess anyone who wants an M7 will take one. I am hearing about Dante dropouts.


In short, if the Midas Pro range didn't have a few question marks over it, we would spin for it immediately. The networking facilities on it are phenomenal.

Our most serious other contender would have to be the Digico SD family. Any thoughts?


We are looking for 1 x FOH console, 1 x monitor console (AAA rider level acceptability) Also a couple of more medium format consoles (M7 size) and a couple of smaller ones for the little gigs. If we can stay within the same manufacturer family, it would be ideal.


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Ryan O John

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2012, 06:34:03 pm »

Considering I own a few boards now and always tour with one of them, I'm not only touring with my Midas... But that said, walking into a venue, the only of those boards I would be excited to see would be a Profile, or Vi6.  The Profile is because EVERYONE has a show file built for one, and they can sound alright, and the Vi6, well 'cause I actually quite like it.

I wouldn't put a Midas in a venue, it's too slow for most throw and go shows, and too many people don't know how to use it...  Personally I hate the interface for the SD series desks, but that's just me.
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Peter Morris

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 10:52:12 pm »

I asked a similar question a while ago that may be of interest.

http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,140435.msg1302654.html#msg1302654

Also worth mentioning is that Allen & Heath have just released new firmware (1.9) Looks great so far....  rider acceptability is getting better but its still an issue.

http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/allen_heath_releases_version_1.9_firmware_for_ilive_digital_mixing_system/
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 10:58:32 pm by Peter Morris »
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Simon Ryder

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2012, 04:12:50 am »

I asked a similar question a while ago that may be of interest.

http://forums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,140435.msg1302654.html#msg1302654

Also worth mentioning is that Allen & Heath have just released new firmware (1.9) Looks great so far....  rider acceptability is getting better but its still an issue.

http://www.prosoundweb.com/article/allen_heath_releases_version_1.9_firmware_for_ilive_digital_mixing_system/

Interesting thread.

Out of 31 tours, Midas digital was on 12 - the highest number - Avid were next on 10.


The A&H is ruled out due to rider reasons. These desks will be used with A list and ex A list (now B list) artists.

It seems to me the choice is pretty much falling down to an XL8 and a Pro6.

It is a shame that the Vi6 is not taking hold more than it is because it sounds superb and probably has the fastest interface of all to navigate around. It is also fairly rider acceptable in the UK.

As it happens, this year I have had to remove a Pro 6 and place a Vi6 in its place twice, take out a Vi6 and put an SD8 in its place and take out an SD7 and put a Pro6 in its place. A vicious circle and it would seem, no matter which board you buy, it is the wrong one.

I am not going to go the Avid route. I just don't think they sound as good as some of the other offerings out there. I am aware that one very high profile (no pun intended) engineer uses a custom Profile with Midas pre-amps on it.

I have mixed on a PRO2C once with a touring act at a festival. I did not enjoy the experience. Sounded great, really clunky and slow interface.

I am also noticing that some of the big players are starting to offload XL8s and PRO 6s. Anyone care to comment - PM me if it is controversial.

My leanings are towards the Midas camp but after using the PRO2 and hearing the stories of its teething problems and its reliability issues, I am wary. Do the higher end PRO series and XL8 fair better in this matter? The XL8 had some horrible glitches and issues when it first came out. I take it that these are all fixed and sorted. If you have one in rental stock please let me know how you are getting on with it (again PM me if it is controversial.)

Many thanks,

Simon
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Roland Clarke

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2012, 07:05:07 am »

Interesting thread.

Out of 31 tours, Midas digital was on 12 - the highest number - Avid were next on 10.


The A&H is ruled out due to rider reasons. These desks will be used with A list and ex A list (now B list) artists.

It seems to me the choice is pretty much falling down to an XL8 and a Pro6.

It is a shame that the Vi6 is not taking hold more than it is because it sounds superb and probably has the fastest interface of all to navigate around. It is also fairly rider acceptable in the UK.

As it happens, this year I have had to remove a Pro 6 and place a Vi6 in its place twice, take out a Vi6 and put an SD8 in its place and take out an SD7 and put a Pro6 in its place. A vicious circle and it would seem, no matter which board you buy, it is the wrong one.

I am not going to go the Avid route. I just don't think they sound as good as some of the other offerings out there. I am aware that one very high profile (no pun intended) engineer uses a custom Profile with Midas pre-amps on it.

I have mixed on a PRO2C once with a touring act at a festival. I did not enjoy the experience. Sounded great, really clunky and slow interface.

I am also noticing that some of the big players are starting to offload XL8s and PRO 6s. Anyone care to comment - PM me if it is controversial.

My leanings are towards the Midas camp but after using the PRO2 and hearing the stories of its teething problems and its reliability issues, I am wary. Do the higher end PRO series and XL8 fair better in this matter? The XL8 had some horrible glitches and issues when it first came out. I take it that these are all fixed and sorted. If you have one in rental stock please let me know how you are getting on with it (again PM me if it is controversial.)

Many thanks,

Simon

Of all the shows I've seen recently, the thre best sounding ones were mixed on Avid Profiles.  I saw a couple of good sounding shows on Digico's, however, these shows were no where near as complex as the ones run on the Avid.

I've not heard the Midas used live, however, having looked at them at Plasa last year, whilst they hd some neat facilities, I thought they had missed some of the more basic stuff.  As pointed out above, I would think in a gun and run situation they would be quite slow, much the same as the LS9 compared to a M7.
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Simon Ryder

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2012, 07:33:54 am »

Of all the shows I've seen recently, the thre best sounding ones were mixed on Avid Profiles.  I saw a couple of good sounding shows on Digico's, however, these shows were no where near as complex as the ones run on the Avid.

I've not heard the Midas used live, however, having looked at them at Plasa last year, whilst they hd some neat facilities, I thought they had missed some of the more basic stuff.  As pointed out above, I would think in a gun and run situation they would be quite slow, much the same as the LS9 compared to a M7.

Not all engineers are equal!

It is hard to determine sound quality of a desk until you A/B it against another one.

We use the H3k / XL3 as our benchmark and play a reference CD player through it. All outputs set to identical levels.

Avid - OK. pretty much average in the pack SQ wise.

Vi6 - very good indeed. Clean, clear good sounding preamps.

Digico - superb.

Yamaha - M7 & LS9 - need I say more
PM5Drh OK. a bit sterile and not quite as open as the best analogue boards

Midas Pros - not tested these against their analogue brother yet.
XL8 - superb sounding board. I have mixed on it but not done the A/B yet.

To my ears, it is the XL8, Digico then Vi6. Though Ian't be sure about the Midas until we finally A/B it.


Of course, the best sound was just plugging the CD player straight into the system processor! Quite noticeably so actually.
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Michael Kurczeski

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2012, 08:17:48 am »

fwiw, i have a Vi1 and so far have not had any problems getting engineers looking for AVID, PM5D's or a Vi6 to accept the Vi1. it seems you like the Vi6 and i think you have to go with what you believe in at this point. since there are so many options out there now, who knows what will be on the riders next year as old standards are getting replaced and competition is heavier. The Cl series definitly seems enticing, but i think many people (including myself) are just sick of yamaha digital.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 12:16:23 pm by Michael Kurczeski »
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2012, 09:16:01 am »

Hi Guys,

we are taking the leap into big league digital boards.

My requirements are:

1 sound quality
2 reliability
3 rider acceptability
4 ease of use
5 longevity
6 customer support



At the level you mention in another post, I think you will not be buying just 1 each FOH & monitor desks IF your intention is to fill the riders of "A" list national/international acts.  At that level the BE *will* get what he/she wants even if you don't have it.  That means either you have a PM5D and a VENUE and a Midas and a Soundcraft or you'll be hiring them in to get the gig.

Are you providing for tours or one offs?

As for perceived or desired "sound quality" I go back to my thoughts that if you or your staff aren't the sole users of the desk, what *you* think of the sound quality is mostly irrelevant.   Buy whatever will spend most of its time out on gigs, not sitting in the shop because you like it though it's not in great demand.

From your experiences and observations I think that no matter what you buy, you'll wish you'd bought something else or purchased more variety.  The latter is very expensive unless you can hire out your excess inventory yet still have it available when you need it.

Good luck with whatever you decide on, Simon!
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Roland Clarke

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2012, 11:41:11 am »

Not all engineers are equal!

True, but if an engineer can make the desk give good sound, there can't be anything wrong with it?  I would also point out that good engineers can choose any desk, so it goes to say that they might know what they are doing.

Quote
It is hard to determine sound quality of a desk until you A/B it against another one.

We use the H3k / XL3 as our benchmark and play a reference CD player through it. All outputs set to identical levels.

Avid - OK. pretty much average in the pack SQ wise.

I think to try and judge a desk by sticking a CD player though it is of little value.  You are going in either line level, (so the pre's don't come into it) or digital, so the only thing you really can be comparing is the DA convertor and good DA conversion is pretty much a given these days, it's not esxpensive to achieve.

Quote
Vi6 - very good indeed. Clean, clear good sounding preamps.

Digico - superb.

If you compare pre's from the cheapest of the cheap, to the esoteric end, the differences are very small, even when used in a controlled recording environment.  Sometimes noise can be an issue, however, with modern chips, cheap, high performance pre's are not difficult.  Having used things like FM acoustic pre's class amps at 3,500 a pop the difference is very subtle.  Interestingly there is another thread on another forum where there has been little love for the Digico sound, I suspect their pre's are a pretty standard design, being that the companies history is based in the Soundtracs studio consoles, a firmly lower to midrange product.

Quote
Yamaha - M7 & LS9 - need I say more
PM5Drh OK. a bit sterile and not quite as open as the best analogue boards

I've mixed good sounding shows on LS9's and M7's.  LS9 has pretty awful ergonomics, the M7 is much better.  Reasonable effects, can be capable of good results, not what I would want to do a tour show with though.


Quote
Midas Pros - not tested these against their analogue brother yet.
XL8 - superb sounding board. I have mixed on it but not done the A/B yet.

To my ears, it is the XL8, Digico then Vi6. Though Ian't be sure about the Midas until we finally A/B it.

I think that people take too much stock by the name on the product, I like a couple of features on the Midas, particularly the pop groups, but the eq layout is a farce, particularly for a console that is approximately twice the price of everyone else offerings, but then it is a "Midas" and how it works or what it really sounds like becomes irrelevent as people formulate their ideas on that.  The fact that they are touting that the mic amps in the "baby" desks are the same as the XL8 means that they can't be that esoteric, not unless every PRO2 is being sold at a significant loss.

Quote
Of course, the best sound was just plugging the CD player straight into the system processor! Quite noticeably so actually.

That shouldn't be the case, for starters you could go to the processer digitally then there is no difference as it should be bit for bit accurate, worse case scenario is that you are hearing a difference with DA conversion and that shouldn't be noticeable with decent equipment.
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Chris Johnson [UK]

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Re: New digital boards time
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2012, 04:57:21 am »

Interesting thread.

Let me give you a few thoughts.

I'm a Freelance Engineer & System Tech, so I'm not coming at this from the company owner perspective. I also live in the UK, so that changes my perspective a bit. For example, here, Avid's support is abysmal, and Digico's are cheaper, made here, and their offices are down the road from me, so support is great. I appreciate that in the US, Avid is better represented, and Digico is imported, so the roles reverse a little.

I have however, mixed many (many many) shows on nearly all of the products you mentioned, so I have a lot of experience on which to draw. I also work on large shows in a systems capacity where I see A-list engineers using a variety of gear.

My take is as follows:

A&H: Good products, no doubt there, but not very rider friendly. So I wouldn't go for this.

Soundcraft Vi: Sound great, probably the best build quality of any live sound product (but you can thank Studer for both of those things). Very easy to use. However, let down by poor software (Still can't map the user defined keys!!! years after release!) and limited expandability. These days, large IO counts are becoming the norm. I like them though, enough to spec them, but not enough to buy one.

Yamaha:
5D/M7: I wouldn't buy either of these now, particularly not the M7. The 5D is a good console, but newer products from Digico, Midas, Soundcraft have a bigger feature set, better usability, and better form factor. M7s just sound bad compared to the competition too. Like Roland says, Pre's are cheap and easy. Converters on the other hand: not so much. When most people say 'the pre's sound good' they mean the whole A-D chain sounds good. The pre's are the cheap part.

CL: I have been using these a bit recently. This is what you want instead of an M7. It has all the good features of the M7, but it sounds good, has a better IO setup, and is generally just better. Worth considering. Its not going to be rider friendly though I think... If that matters...

Midas: Great digital products. XL8 is stupid money, but technically good. Pro6/9/2/1 are all great, and I highly recommend them. They are mostly suited to music work, as they are that way inclined, and they have lower IO counts than similarly priced products, but they sound good and have great control surfaces. I don't think their should be any questions over their products. Their Music Group purchase was great for them, and means they are now backed by the richest company in pro audio. They have state of the art manufacturing, and excellent distribution. So I would be a lot more comfortable buying midas now than a couple of years ago...

Avid: Good boards, really filled a gap in the market since their release. But, that was a couple of years ago. they are getting long in the tooth, and have a few issues that really bug me: No ability to properly rack-share, proprietary multi, stupid MADI implementation. Not to mention that given the roadmap for discontinuing TDM support in protools, there will inevitably be the same change for Venue, which means a new console at some point. Maybe next year, maybe the year after, but the point is, if you buy one new today, it won't be current by the time you come to replace. So a good board, but not a solid technical investment... Plus, Avid aren't doing so well...

Digico: I will admit that these are my favorite. But let me tell you why:
First off, its a solid technical investment. The FPGA architecture is essentially the same as the top-end broadcast consoles (Lawo, Stagetec, Calrec, etc...). Not to mention, that basically the same chip runs the entire line of SD consoles (11 to 7) and is capable of much more audio throughput and processing than the current SD7 can handle (which is more than any other live console by a fair margin) which gives it longevity. Digico have built a platform on which to build desks that gives them massive flexibility and opens up big feature addition software update options.
Secondly, from a company perspective, they are very flexible. The completely open bus and channel configuration means that they can be great monitor consoles, great FOH consoles, great BC consoles, and great theatre consoles. Thats not true of much else.
Thirdly, they are cheap, especially considering their featureset and IO count. More expensive in the US than UK, but still good value i'd suggest.
Fourthly, I'm a big fan of adopting industry standard protocols. I like MADI. Its reliable and it will be around forever (if you ever wonder what new standards will survive, look at the broadcast industry. It will take some doing for them to move away from AES, MADI and SDI...). It also makes it really easy to integrate a digico into a larger infrastructure. Add that to the Optocore, and you get a powerful system.
Lastly, they have hands down the most powerful snapshot engine of any live console. Thats why you find SD7s all over the place in broadway/west end shows. The midas comes close, and the Avid system is easy to use, but nowhere near as powerful.

So, as an engineer, my rider preference list normally goes Digico/Midas, Avid, Soundcraft, Yamaha, the rest. But if i was buying a console, it would be a digico...
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