Very subjective question. I think all the above mentioned desks sound fine and all have great features. The best one is the one that does all you need it to do at the price your willing to pay. As mentioned ancillary items will be a large factor to consider. A case, I-Pad, computer and router may set you back another large chunk of change if you don't already have them. A good case start around $500 and goes up from there. In some cases, a really good case may cost more than the item it contains! mark?
How many mixes are you planning on running from FOH? Is a personal mixing system a possibility at some point?
John,Two years. That's how long it took me to decide a digital board was what I wanted. Two years. That's how long it took for me to decide on which board I wanted.The biggest problem you face is not spending the 10K, which by the way is the same limit I put on the cost of a new board, your biggest problem is deciding what features fit your needs now and in the future. I waited, watched as new models from more manufacturers appeared on the market, and tested every board I could get my hands on keeping note of features, build quality, quality of sound, history, and finally support options.I eventually opted for an Expression, which to many doesn't have some of the features of other boards in it's class, but for my use now and in the future it fills the bill based on my criteria above. And, other than a few changes to features the Expression is for most intents and purposes a Compact in disguise. Same build quality and components, expandable to 66 channels in regardless of fader count (16, 24, 32).In your case though an Expression may or may not be what fills the bill for you, and what I'm saying in a round about way, is that regardless of flavor compare boards, don't buy a board based on feature count alone, and buy the board that fits your needs, the board that will make you feel good every time you turn it on.My choices based in order of sound quality, overall feature set capabilities, perceived quality / brand name, available service and support options, and expansion capabilities;Midas Pro1Roland M480Soundcraft PerformerA&H GLD-80Soundcraft ExpressionDM-4800Roland M200LS-9QU-16X32
Luke,I'm leaning toward the Soundcraft Performer, please share it's shortcomings.
For me (with nearly the same budget) the choice was a Roland M480. My line of work is regional theatre and there wasn't much out there that was in direct competition.Reasons for buying;Gallons of DCA's.24 faders, and 3 user defined layers - i'm regularly mixing 30 radio mics, without the luxury of being able to do scene recall, so even this is a compromise and is still where the LS9 does well.Digital snake - you don't have to use it over any length, just keep the stage boxes local if you want, but it works really well. Great sound quality - particularly if you use the rack mount stage box (I don't) the pre amps sound superb. Can still carry it under one arm.A proper 48 input console (not 48 inputs, if you count stereo in's and returns). 48 mono inputs available without any extra cards (just more stage boxes).Really flexible routing - the tick box matrix for routing is simple and very powerful. For example if you're so inclined you can route an input from one stage box, to an output of another, without having to use up a channel strip - you've got pre amp control for every input, even if it's not assigned to a channel strip - useful for getting something across a stage from one stage box to another without having to eat a channel.Free multitrack recording drivers - this wasn't the case when I bought, but they've now released the ASIO drivers for download letting you multitrack via a network cable. I use Sonar which is their recommended software, but i've heard of people doing it succesfully in Reaper too. Doesn't work on mac though.Can pick the console up under one arm.Excellent support from Roland UK - Spent a lot of time talking to Chris Webster about the console and it was during a phone call to him tin which I asked a lot of questions and got a lot of helpful answers, that I was persuaded to buy it, largely just based on his helpfulness.All of these, plus the usual ipad remote and PC software, tipped the balance for me. Things that put me off about other consoles;LS9 - a good little workhorse and i'm sure we'll see them around for many years to come, but I didn't want to be buying a console towards the end of its' life. Never had issues with the sound quality myself, (yet to walk in to a theatre and think "sounds like an LS9"), but I understand people's concerns.M7CL - just can't carry the thing! It's a lot of console for only 48 channels.iLive - Couldn't get my head around the thing. Really don't like a console that has a boot time measured in minutes. GLD - At the time that I bought, it didn't quite have the full feature set I needed and was very much new and untested.Soundcraft - the number of new releases scares me. If i'd bought an SI Compact then i'd have sat and watched other consoles come out at a lower price, with a largely similar feature set, and would have wondered just where i'd gone wrong. Didn't like the build quality (push on the surface between the faders and you'll see what I mean - it bends). 32 channels over 30 faders with a layer holding only 2 channels - what? why? Little things like that just made me feel like it hadn't been thought about properly. X32 - at the time I bought this was still a bit of a joke. I admit that things have changed a little and it appars to have stood the test well, but despite all of this i've got to be really honest and say i'd still have felt a little nervous every time I turned it on - probably for no good reason.Midas Pro 1 - Just not enough faders.Digico SD9 - it was a close run thing, but I just didn't see the benefit of the increased spend on this console over the Roland that did the job just as well.It wouldn't be fair not to mention one or two negatives of the M480 that i've come across (i'm still a massive fan though, would certainly buy it again if I was in the same position). No subgroups - yep, it's got tonnes of DCA's, and the Matrix is extremely well featured so any channel can be sent to a matrix so you can apply an effect to a bus still, but it's not quite the same. It has gallons of GEQ's and effects though, so this has never really got in my way, I just think it's a shame they left it out.Occasionally a bit fussy about USB media being left in - if you reboot it with a USB key in (actually moreso if you unplug or plug one in while it's turned off) it can get a little confused on startup. Not a huge issue, just turn it off again and unplug the usb stick - never an issue once a gig is up and running. If you get one, turn off the touch feature on the faders, it causes them to "grab" very occasionally as you move them. Use the select keys like anybody else! The M480 is one of those consoles that people just don't consider, yet once they've used one, walk away from with a smile on their face commenting that it's a good little console for the money.
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