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Author Topic: Which Mixer would you buy? why?  (Read 21052 times)

Randall Hyde

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #20 on: March 27, 2011, 01:10:51 pm »

I can get the DIY approach. It would have been cooler if he had written SAC for Linux, then it would truly be an open source mixing platform.
As SAC is not open source, I really don't see the benefit of doing it under Linux.

The problem with Linux (which I understand all too well, my day job is a software engineer developing nuclear reactor control software under Linux) is that device drivers just aren't there. Under Windows, products like the RME RayDat board have *excellent* drivers under Windows. Such strong support is not available under Linux. Case in point: I use a Sensoray Model 626 digtal/analog board in a console I've written software for. The Linux drivers are for the 2.4 kernel only. Same issue exists in the sound world. The *few* manufacturers that support Linux tend to update the Linux code far less frequently.

Quote
Maybe then I could get into it. But if you use hardware other than the cheap shit by Behringer, you're still looking at something in line with an M7 or SC48 (or more perhaps).
Personally, I'd never put Behringer in the audio chain. Even if the audio quality is okay (and by most accounts, the ADA8K does an okay job on the audio), there are quality/reliability and rider issues; even at the ankle-biter level, you don't want to be bringing a lot of Behringer gear with you to a gig, especially if it's in the audio chain.

I'm willing to live with Behringer BCF/BCR-2000 control surfaces until I can put something custom together for my needs (though I'll probably build something around the Mackie MCU units for FOH, just so the Behringer nameplate isn't out there, leave the Behringer gear for monitor world).

You *could* pay $5K for some high-end Aphex preamps, A/D converters, etc., and wind up paying $40K-$80K just for the preamps and A/Ds, but there are less expensive preamps that are a whole lot more acceptable to the audio community (e.g., Focusrite OctoPres). I would argue, though, that if you're paying $250 - $500 per preamp channel, you're probably getting *much* better quality than you would with an M7, so the comparison is hardly fair.

I'm currently running 32 channels (planning on upgrading to 64 this summer) of Focusrite Octopre Mk II Dynamic units. That cost me about $2,200.  I could go crazy and replace them with Aphex 188 units (about $2,000 for eight channels) or even the new Focusrite Red models; but the Octopre units sound and work great.  I've had absolutely no problems with them, and Focusrite has a decent reputation, so I'm not expecting a lot of problems from them (unlike reports I've heard on the ADA8K units).

Ultimately, though, that is the real attraction of SAC to me: you get to choose *exactly* what goes into your system. The ankle-biter/weekend warrior, for whom budget is the primary concern, can put together a decent digital system on the cheap end of the scale; those with a little more money can put together something really decent. I'm not going to argue that SAC is going to compete with a high-end Midas Pro6 or high-end iLive system, but if you're technically-inclined enough to deal with the DIY nature of the system, it beats the pants off anything costing 2-3x as much.

If SAC had *one* serious omission, I'd argue that it's the lack of an inexpensive remote-controllable set of preamps & A/D converters. RME and Aphex have such units, but they are a bit pricey (per channel) and SAC doesn't directly control them (you use a separate application to do so).  For many users, this isn't an issue (if the board is associated with the same band night after night, who cares?). However, if you do a lot of festival work, it's back to cue sheets.  That's why I'm moving up to 64 channels this summer; I rarely do any shows where the performers need more than 16 to 24 channels, but I do a lot of festival style shows with 3-4 bands. With 64 inputs I could almost always put all the bands on separate preamp channels, set the preamps during sound check, and pretty much leave them alone from that point forward. About one-half the price of the cheapest remote solution and it provides a fair amount of redundancy (e.g., in case a preamp goes dead at a show, I'll usually have some spare channels laying around).

The one other thing about SAC that beats consoles like the M7 is that with my SAC system I don't have just one console. The SAC software supports a FOH console and up to 24 additional monitor consoles. For the price of a cheap little netbook (or decent laptop, if you don't want to do cheap) you can have as many mixing consoles as you like.  In my SAC system (about $5,000 into it right now), I'm running four consoles: the main SAC host is on the stage and it's my monitor console, I've got a little $250 PC running FOH (along with a $200 1920x1200 monitor, just to be fair), I use an HP TouchSmart laptop/tablet for remote work (and this is a *full* SAC console, not a simple little "fader app" like you're starting to find on the iPad for many of the digital consoles), and a little netbook running SAC as a backup (in case something goes wrong with one of the other machines).

Originally, I had set aside $20,000 to buy a new console to upgrade my analog board. I was looking at a pair of GL2400/848 and GL2400M/848 and a 48-channel x 8 return snake (analog) to upgrade my system. I was also looking at all the digital consoles in the $10,000 to $25,000 range that were available at the time (about a year ago). The thing that really sold me on SAC was the fact that the (on-screen) control-surface didn't overload a million different functions onto one button, knob, or fader. When I see a fader, I want it to correspond to a single channel. I don't want to have to press some other button in order to make it switch to the channel I want. I *hate* overloaded controls; that's why I really wanted to stick with analog (you generally don't have that problem with analog; at least, not with any analog I could afford). With SAC, I got different knobs, buttons, and faders for each individual function. Also, the 24 monitor mixes are a *heck* of a lot easier to deal with than the matrix of knobs you find on a typical analog monitor board. Sold.

To be fair, SAC's support for physical control surfaces is not ideal in my mind. If you use something like the Mackie MCU (along with the SAC-supplied driver), it overloads the 8 rotary knobs ten ways from Sunday. Fortunately, I know a thing or two about writing software so I've been able to overcome this (e.g., I wrote a little driver for a Behringer BCR-2000 that puts all the EQ, dynamics, Aux, etc., functions on their own individual knobs without any overloading; yeah, it's Behringer, but that will do until I build a custom unit). Granted, your average sound person isn't going to have the ability to do this; but the bottom line is that if I bought a console like the M7, there's probably *no way* I (or anyone else) would be able to hack into it and accomplish what needs to be done.

Again, SAC isn't for everyone, but as I said in my first post, if someone is considering a SoundLive board for rodeos, SAC is a possible option to consider.

Around here, SAC gets treated like the BFM cabinets; very little respect at all. Largely, I think it's because SAC lowers the cost of admission into the world of digital and people using higher-end desks feel threatened by this. Unlike the BFM cabinets, where you're pretty much stuck with the design and you can't deviate too much from it (thus limiting you to a cabinet that was designed for low-cost/low-weight purposes), you can design your SAC system to do pretty much anything you want. Sometimes it might not be cost-effective to do so, but you have the option of doing just about anything you want with it. And it's modular and expandable (well, up to 72 channels). That's what's really attractive to me.
Cheers,
Randy Hyde
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #21 on: March 27, 2011, 01:49:22 pm »

As SAC is not open source, I really don't see the benefit of doing it under Linux.

The problem with Linux (which I understand all too well, my day job is a software engineer developing nuclear reactor control software under Linux) is that device drivers just aren't there. Under Windows, products like the RME RayDat board have *excellent* drivers under Windows. Such strong support is not available under Linux. Case in point: I use a Sensoray Model 626 digtal/analog board in a console I've written software for. The Linux drivers are for the 2.4 kernel only. Same issue exists in the sound world. The *few* manufacturers that support Linux tend to update the Linux code far less frequently.
Personally, I'd never put Behringer in the audio chain. Even if the audio quality is okay (and by most accounts, the ADA8K does an okay job on the audio), there are quality/reliability and rider issues; even at the ankle-biter level, you don't want to be bringing a lot of Behringer gear with you to a gig, especially if it's in the audio chain.

{just enough quote to establish what I'm replying to}

Cheers,
Randy Hyde

Hi Randy-

That's the most concise thing you've written about SAC, and I think it nicely lays out your concept of what the tool allows *you* to do.  Ain't nothin' wrong with that, and I can see various economies of scale that could make sense in defined applications.

I'm not sure why Justice has issues with SAC other than it's polar-opposite of what he needs as The SoundGuy at his performing arts center.  For the bulk of the work my shop does, I need consoles that are requested on riders.  That's not an indictment of other products, it's a commercial decision.

SAC has this "boutique" aspect that scares the hell out of some clients.  Some folks might find it appealing.  It sounds like you've found a place for it in your business, though, and it's making you a ROI.  That's the hard part of the Make Noize business.

Have fun, good luck.

Tim Mc
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George Dougherty

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #22 on: March 27, 2011, 11:40:28 pm »

I could go crazy and replace them with Aphex 188 units (about $2,000 for eight channels)

I've priced Aphex 188's closer to $1100 per unit.  You could do a 48 channel SAC system with 32-40 channels from stage of 188 and another 8-16 for I/O back at the board of something like the Octopre Dynamic and easily be in the $10-14K range.  Then you don't have to deal with the 64 channels and repatching things from stage boxes to a new preamp channel followed by reassigning everything within SAC.  Big bonus is the remote preamps in that case.
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George Dougherty

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #23 on: March 27, 2011, 11:50:31 pm »

Hi Randy-

That's the most concise thing you've written about SAC, and I think it nicely lays out your concept of what the tool allows *you* to do.  Ain't nothin' wrong with that, and I can see various economies of scale that could make sense in defined applications.

I'm not sure why Justice has issues with SAC other than it's polar-opposite of what he needs as The SoundGuy at his performing arts center.  For the bulk of the work my shop does, I need consoles that are requested on riders.  That's not an indictment of other products, it's a commercial decision.

SAC has this "boutique" aspect that scares the hell out of some clients.  Some folks might find it appealing.  It sounds like you've found a place for it in your business, though, and it's making you a ROI.  That's the hard part of the Make Noize business.

Have fun, good luck.

Tim Mc

I think you hit the nail on the head.  SAC is not a replacement for an iLive, M7, Venue, etc for those that need to meet riders in order to keep the money flowing in.  It's real appeal is for small operators that get to choose the tools they have to use on various gigs and for bands that would rather, or at least are willing to, cart their own gear around. 

I've seen a few small up and comers run out and buy an M7 to throw in their trailer when they're just barely making it, but they want their FOH guy to have the tools he wants to provide a consistent and polished sound.  SAC travels better and provides far more features for signal processing in a more budget friendly range for people in that class.  It fits a niche and allows some to enjoy a feature set they otherwise would not have.

Even bigger though is the idea of having fun with it.  For Justice and others, use what works for you and allows you to have fun.  If a tool gets in the way, find something else.
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #24 on: March 28, 2011, 12:06:48 am »

I've priced Aphex 188's closer to $1100 per unit.  You could do a 48 channel SAC system with 32-40 channels from stage of 188 and another 8-16 for I/O back at the board of something like the Octopre Dynamic and easily be in the $10-14K range.  Then you don't have to deal with the 64 channels and repatching things from stage boxes to a new preamp channel followed by reassigning everything within SAC.  Big bonus is the remote preamps in that case.

Can you use Dante, and the new focusrite Dante preamps? Having a network I/O system would be a big advantage, and allow for putting I/O where ever you want it.

Mac
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Randall Hyde

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #25 on: March 28, 2011, 04:05:18 pm »

Can you use Dante, and the new focusrite Dante preamps? Having a network I/O system would be a big advantage, and allow for putting I/O where ever you want it.

Mac

Yeah, you could. But I understand the price on those units is going to be around $3K for eight channels (in or out). They looked cool at NAMM, but definitely outside my budget range. They also look like they would be far more at home in the studio than on the road (but I can't really say, for sure).
Cheers,
Randy Hyde
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Randall Hyde

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #26 on: March 28, 2011, 04:10:37 pm »

I've priced Aphex 188's closer to $1100 per unit.  You could do a 48 channel SAC system with 32-40 channels from stage of 188 and another 8-16 for I/O back at the board of something like the Octopre Dynamic and easily be in the $10-14K range.  Then you don't have to deal with the 64 channels and repatching things from stage boxes to a new preamp channel followed by reassigning everything within SAC.  Big bonus is the remote preamps in that case.
Good point. The $2,000 price is what I got from Aphex at the NAMM  2011 show. Probably should have looked up the "real" price first.

When I go 64 channels, there will be *no* repatching. Separate subsnakes, separate preamp channels, etc.  In SAC I will obviously have to set the channel inputs for each channel manually, rather than using a template, but that's a relatively minor thing to me (about five minutes per act).

OTOH, the 64-channel approach will fall apart if the number of bands requires more than 64 channels total. Adding more preamps is a possibility, but at that point $1,100/8 channels starts to look a whole lot more attractive. When I start putting a second SAC system together and my current system moves down to my "B" rig, I may take another serious look at the Aphex units.  Now, if only SAC's attenuator knob would control them remotely :-)
cheers,
Randy Hyde
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #27 on: March 29, 2011, 12:01:37 am »

I have been running SAC for about a year now. I just added a highly portable tablet for mixing from the floor. I really like the fact that just like the setup of my "FOH console" the setup of the tablet is not an app, but is completely up to me.  I show what I want to show, I put my scene list over here, I setup alternate screens my way.  I would think that running sound for a rodeo from a "disposable" used tablet would be ideal.

I read a good review of SAC that explained why  it is hard to get your head around it.  He said, Reviewing SAC is like reviewing a custom tailor made suit.

It fits me perfectly.
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Brad Weber

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #28 on: March 29, 2011, 10:08:17 am »

My view is that SAC is all about how you look at it.  To some it is 'their' mixer, they created it, imbued it with their personal touch and made it what it is.  It is almost their child, which is probably why some get unreasonably defensive if it is criticised in any way.  What some seem to fail to see is that others will not have the same perspective and to them a SAC system may be viewed as somebody's else's homebuilt experiment.  Even something as simple as telling someone what mixer you have is difficult with SAC as it is just software and both it and the system are highy customizable, so you don't really know what you have until you walk up to that particular system.  Being able to customize a SAC system to reflect personal preferences and approach may be great for the person making those choices but can also be a negative in terms of supporting others and a more general perspective.
 
As far as cost, a while back when KUI, CIA and other were publishing pricing on their web sites I tried putting together the cost for a 'turnkey' 32-40 channel SAC system that included the functions of most digital mixers and that would be delivered already working and with a warranty.  The cost for a SAC based system like that exceeded the cost of comparable entry level digital mixers and started getting up into the next tier, where you then ran into issues such as those mixers having a much better physical interface, electronic scribble strips, color coding on the work surface, etc.
 
I see SAC as being a very interesting option for some people, but it seems to have number of challenges in being accepted for applications other than being someone's personal mixer.  If a church, venue, contractor, etc. wants to purchase a 'SAC mixer' as a device that is delivered working and with some warranty then the cost savings of the DIY approach greatly disappear.  It's difficult for outside parties to know what they will really encounter when told a venue or event has a 'SAC mixer'.  Bottom line, I would definitely consider SAC for a mixer for my personal use but would very rarely consider it for the venues and users I typically work with.
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #29 on: March 29, 2011, 01:12:30 pm »

I think Brads statements are fair  A SAC system is best suited for an environment where someone in house understands it.  This is not because it is unreliable, (It is reliable)  but because it is so completely customizable that it doesn't lend it self to remote phone support.  For example,  I was training a new guy last night and I taught him how to setup a scene.  I found my self saying "We always make the first fader on the left the main. I recommend you do the same."  There is nothing holding that position. He could place the main anywhere he wants it, and he get's to place it in one spot on the wide mixer and another spot on the full mixer and a third spot on the physical faders. or have them automatically follow one another.  That's not a bad thing or a good thing, it just is.  It is one example of as Brad says "you don't really know what you have until you walk up to that particular system."

Another example, While I built a "budget" system (48 in and out, $4000) I chose to go with real faders and electronic scribble strips.

The up side is I don't wish I could have a board that works exactly the way I want it to,  I have it.
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Re: Which Mixer would you buy? why?
« Reply #29 on: March 29, 2011, 01:12:30 pm »


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