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Sound Reinforcement - Forums for Live Sound Professionals - Your Displayed Name Must Be Your Real Full Name To Post In The Live Sound Forums => SR Forum Archives => Road Test FUD Forum Archive => Topic started by: Bennett Prescott on September 28, 2006, 02:22:32 pm

Title: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Bennett Prescott on September 28, 2006, 02:22:32 pm
I've been watching the midrange analog VCA console market very carefully recently, because it's full of products that offer unprecedented feature sets at a price I can afford. All of these things are good for my company (and the industry!) and the Soundcraft MH2 is no exception. Tom Der shipped me a 40 frame MH2 a few weeks ago in order to evaluate it for our mutual benefit. I've been able to use it on a few shows and for mixing monitors at the Wedge Fest, where attendees got to put their paws all over it. I've got some more shows for it coming up, so I'll be able to clock a pretty good amount of time on the thing.

The desk is styled similarly to the rest of the MH series, with a flat fader tray and angled aux/eq section, a look I find quite appealing. There's an internal worldwide switching PSU, plus a multipin connector for adding a redundant external PSU. Here's a few shots of the exterior:

http://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/2.jpghttp://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/21.jpg

Each channel has a defeatable swept 12db/octave HPF, switchable 48v phantom, polarity, and 20dB pad. Their marketing literature says it's even got the same preamp as the MH3 and MH4. The EQ section is four band swept and per-channel defeatable. The two mid bands have a bell response with a Q of 1.5 (or just over 1 octave) and the HF and LF bands are shelving. There is also a pre/post fader switchable direct out which does not follow the channel mutes. Inserts are balanced with a separate TRS send and return.

Ten auxes are provided, switchable pre/post fader in pairs except for 5-8, which are only switchable as a block of four. They are also switchable pre/post EQ in their pre-fader mode on a per-channel basis. Auxes 9 & 10 are capable of becoming a stereo pair. On top of that, each channel is assignable to 8 groups via pushbuttons along the aux knob path, as well as capable of being discretely assigned to L&R, Center/Mono, and/or LCR. The console is capable of true LCR panning for those of us that have the luxury of a center cluster. For those of us that don't, that Center out can be used discretely to drive your subwoofers.

There are also four stereo channels on every frame size with the commonplace truncated EQ (in this case all four bands are fixed and there is no swept HPF). Either the left or the right input, or both, can sum to mono. There are no inserts for the stereo channels, just XLR and 1/4" inputs.

The master section contains 8 VCAs, 4 stereo returns with three band fixed point EQ and basic routing, the group masters on pots, and 10 60mm faders for auxes. The console has a "fader flip" mode so you can use the first 8 aux faders for groups if you want... being that there are more auxes than groups the last two faders are naturally always dedicated to auxes. There is also an 11x4 matrix, talkback and oscillator facilities, and fixed-point four band EQ (switchable in/out) on the Aux 9 & 10 outs. There are three main output faders, L R and C. The C fader can be switched to control levels to a cue wedge with a simple button push, preserving the MH series "one desk, two uses" principle.

Here's a shot of those aux/group faders, and a lousy one of the whole master section:
http://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/9.jpghttp://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/11.jpg

Basic feature set over, here's what I find differentiates this desk from others in its market. First of all, it has a 12 segment input meter on every channel, right there along the fader path. That's really, really wonderful... I don't often get this kind of at-a-glance meter resolution, and I like it a lot. The desk also has 6 mute groups instead of the usual 4, another touch that makes my workflow easier (I tend to use four mute groups up pretty quickly). The soloing section is well featured, with auto cancel and input priority as well as Solo In Place and Solo Cancel buttons. I also appreciate the angled top-of-the-desk 1/4" headphone jack with the output volume knob right above it, I hate having to hunt for my headphone level control mid-show. The EQ on the last two auxes is a nice touch, too... I'm frequently mixing down a separate recording mix off a stereo aux, and being able to do a little tweaking pre- whatever I'm recording to is nice... not that four fixed bands is all that, but it's better than nothing.

If you've looked at the channel fader path on this console, you'll have noticed a lot of pretty lights and no buttons. Soundcraft decided to go with microprocessor controlled VCA and mute group assigns on this board, a feature that will be much appreciated by those engineers that tend to rest their fingers a little too heavily on the console while mixing. To do that, they've had to clutter up the aux send path with a few extra buttons, a compromise that I can live with. The big question about going to microprocessor control, however, is how easy is it to use?

Thoughtfully, the designers at Soundcraft silkscreened the instructions for assigning VCAs, mute groups, and safes right next to the controls for doing so. Once you've read them once, you're all set... as Rob Spence said after playing for a few seconds: "Oh. That's easy!". There are no scenes, so it's simple and un-cluttered. There is, however, remote control of the channel mutes available over MIDI, and it is possible to connect a BSS Varicurve to the console and have it "know" which output you're AFLing. So there are a few bells and whistles that are enabled by the microprocessor, but none that would get in your way if you didn't want to know about them.

There are a couple of "features" that make me go "hmmm", however. For instance, there are balanced inserts for the aux outs... or the group outs... but not both. Whichever of those two you've selected (flipped?) to be on your 60mm output faders gets the insert points, and the other will have to live without. That means you can't, for instance, compress a stereo drum mix on groups 1 & 2 while inserting an EQ on aux 1 & 2. This is probably only a minor inconvenience for most of us, and they had to make a compromise somewhere to fit that many buses into the desk.

Unlike its higher-numbered siblings, the MH2 doesn't have the level of easy field serviceability that I'd like. The internal PSU is easy to remove, and the external easy to attach, but if the console takes a bath or has a rough ride or otherwise needs to be quickly opened for repair, it appears you'd have your work cut out for you. Perhaps someone can chime in and let us know how good Soundcraft support is nowadays, but it's not obvious from the manual (and I didn't want to rip apart the board) whether it would be viable to carry replacement parts.

I also wish that it had just a little more EQ flexibility. Switchable Q on the mid sweeps would make a big difference to me. The frequency ranges on all four sweeps are appropriate, however, and I find I can do pretty much all the tonal shaping I need with the board... 1 octave is just a little big for knocking out feedback problems or odd peaks in someone's voice.

I will say that the MH2 is nicely compact, light enough to be flipped and de-cased by two people, and still easy to get around on. There's a color coding scheme going on to make it easier to find the setting you're looking for quickly. The aux section has a blue background, and group assignments and other things that don't pertain to auxes live in a white square within that background. Auxes are color coded in pairs, and that color is reflected in the output faders. There is a generous wrist rest and plenty of room to label both channels and outputs.

Here's a a few shots of it set up to mix an actual band:
http://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/7.jpghttp://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Thumbnails/3.jpg
I know, talk about overkill, but I had gear to test!

All in all, a nicely thought out desk that's a pleasure to use and won't break your back or the bank. A welcome addition to the just-five-figures range of VCA consoles available. The Soundcraft name and MH designation should help companies struggling to meet riders, and the cool look is guaranteed to attract members of the opposite sex (or the same, whatever works for you).

Geoff Smyton, who helped me out with testing the Dolby Lake Processor, also spent a show on the MH2. When he has time hopefully he'll add to this thread.

The MH2 product page is available here.
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: David Buehler on September 29, 2006, 03:48:59 am
So when can i try it out?  Twisted Evil
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Charlie Jeal on September 29, 2006, 08:25:02 pm
Bennett,

You can also flip automaticaly to mixes on driveracks when you use the AFL function as well, this works particularly well when you use a drivrack remote for monitor eq. We put an MH2 into a university semi-permanent install as a moni board last year, and I was quite impressed with it for the money. The only thing that really puzzled me about it was why they left the pink noise function out of the oscillator section, compared to MH3s and 4s
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Chris Hinds on September 30, 2006, 05:50:27 am
Have they done the same on the Headphone jack as on the MH3/4? It's very easy to get a 1/8"-1/4" adapater stuck in the desk, and if you look at the silk screen it goes to 11...

Regards

Chris
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on September 30, 2006, 08:27:36 am

Quote:

...if you look at the silk screen it goes to 11...


What a marvelous sense of humor you Brits have.  Cool


index.php/fa/6001/0/

I wonder why Soundcraft didn't choose to show this 'feature' on their official images such as PDF and JPG available at their website?

-Bink
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Scott Helmke (Scodiddly) on September 30, 2006, 09:43:11 am
Chris Hinds wrote on Sat, 30 September 2006 05:50

Have they done the same on the Headphone jack as on the MH3/4? It's very easy to get a 1/8"-1/4" adapater stuck in the desk, and if you look at the silk screen it goes to 11...


I'll have to look to see if the knob goes to eleven...  But it's the same headphone jack, and yes I did once have to use the needlenose pliers to get my adapter back out.   Smile
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on September 30, 2006, 11:36:50 am
Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sat, 30 September 2006 07:27



What a marvelous sense of humor you Brits have.  Cool


I wonder why Soundcraft didn't choose to show this 'feature' on their official images such as PDF and JPG available at their website?

-Bink



I don't have any images big enough to show the dial face clearly, but the gain on VMP 2 valve mic pre went up to 11. It looks like the product is no longer in production which is too bad, I thought it was a nice piece.

JR
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: John Petrucelli on October 01, 2006, 11:15:43 pm
Hmm, I also seem to remember something from my hazy past ...

index.php/fa/6017/0/


OK, next chance I get, I'm going for 12!   Shocked


JP-APB
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Paul Magro on November 06, 2006, 03:14:22 pm
  I got to try out the MH2 on the same gig that I used the Digam 10's!  The one thing I love about Soundcraft, besides their sound, is that their color scheme/layout is superb! It took me just as long to find out where everything lay on the board as it did to label it!  Auxes, subgroups, etc. were very easy to follow the flow though the console.  All the buttons associated with the channel strips were placed in appropriate spots with ample labeling to their function.  I felt very comfortable, even though it was my first time out with the board.  It did not slow down my work flow or cause me to change how I would run things because of its design.
 The sound quality and metering were great.  The sweepable high pass was practically the one eq I used and I could see all the input levels at a glance.   I used the board on an AC/DC tribute band that had a local opener band.  The 40 channels would have covered the siuation well, but last minute decisions led the openers and headliner to share the same backline, shrinking down the planned channel count.  
 The only "wish it had" for me was inserts on the subgroups.  They are everywhere else, and on the Auxes, but not the subgroups.  I like to gently compress individual vocal channels and then use the buss to keep down the peaks.  That's my only grip.  
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: RYAN LOUDMUSIC JENKINS on November 06, 2006, 05:12:07 pm
Paul Magro wrote on Mon, 06 November 2006 13:14

The only "wish it had" for me was inserts on the subgroups.  They are everywhere else, and on the Auxes, but not the subgroups.  I like to gently compress individual vocal channels and then use the buss to keep down the peaks.


According to the webpage they have inserts that are for either auxes or subgroups.  So you could have had them but if you were using the inserts for monitor mixes too that would short change you a little.  It appears that you can switch the aug/group fader & insert access individually for each aux so you probably had the ability to do what you wanted but would have just had to work around a little bit.
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Paul Magro on December 06, 2006, 11:12:08 am
  I used the MH2 for another show a few weeks ago.  "Street Survivors" Skynyrd tribute band out of Long Island.   Great group of guys.  My hard drive in my computer crashed, so I lost most of the pictures of the evening, but I have a few left.
 Once again the MH2 lived up to it's reputation of excellent Soundcraft technology.  A while back I first used the MH2 with the Digam 10's.  My system sounded the best ever!!  Well, for the last show I was using a variety of Peavey amps for the mains and PLX for monitors.  I hate to say I used Peavey, but it was a last minute gig and they were all I could get, and for free!  Sadly the amps were the weak point in the system, just not the response I was used to from the Digam 10's or even PLX.  
 I was running about 22 inputs from the stage with eveything on VCA's to keep everything close together.  VCA's were: drums, bass, key/piano, 3 guitars separate, and vocals.  It was so much easier to have everything in one location.  Last time for the AC\/DC tribute, I was mixing on the channel strips and VCA's because of the way I had grouped things and it was a pain.  Also, there was a drunk guy bothering me, so I labeled the unused VCA's and when he told me to turn up the vocals, I'd grab the fake faders!!  He really bought it!!  
 I looked online about the inserts on the aux/subgroups, and found that the inserts are always on the fader.  Or at least that was the way I read it.  The back of the console lists the inserts as "AUX" if I remember correctly.  They should label them as "Fader 1", etc.  So next show I will probably send the vocals though a subgroup so I can throw in a compressor.  I run FOH and MON from the console and it does not work out too well sometimes when compressing each vocal strip.  Obviously, it effects the monitors and some musos are more effected by it than others.
 Once again the preamps were so sweet on the console, and I had the right choice of mics, that the channel eqs were mostly flat.  The typical high pass was engaged on all channels.  I did a bit of eqing to get the bass and kick to sit well and a little 200 hz cut in the vocals and the rest were entirely flat!!  I've used lesser consoles over the years and thinking back, I wasn't really eqing the mics on the channels, I believe that I was really compensating for poor preamps!!!
 I've got two nights in a row over New Years and am going to take the Direct Outs to my recording system and see what the results are.  I usually use Presonus Digimax96 for recording, so I will have something to compare to as far as preamp character goes.
 Here's a fewe pictures I was able to find after all mine were wiped out!!
index.php/fa/6857/0/
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Paul Magro on December 06, 2006, 11:14:06 am
I can only put 1 picture per post unless I glue them together!index.php/fa/6871/0/
Edit:  Here's some glued pics of the FOH setup.
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: RYAN LOUDMUSIC JENKINS on December 06, 2006, 12:22:25 pm
Paul Magro wrote on Wed, 06 December 2006 09:12

 I run FOH and MON from the console and it does not work out too well sometimes when compressing each vocal strip.  Obviously, it effects the monitors and some musos are more effected by it than others.
 index.php/fa/6857/0/


Here is a really easy solutions for this problem.  Get some inexpensive XLR "Y" cables.  Plug the two male XLRs into two channels on the board for each vocal mic.  Use one of those channels for the FOH and the other for Monitors.  You will have separate EQ for the monitors and don't have the compressor plugged into the monitor channel.  This works great for running monitors from FOH.  I keep a handfull of the "Y" cables in my console case so that I am always ready.
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Ryan Lantzy on January 31, 2007, 07:48:48 pm
Well folks...

I drove up to meet Bennett through this:

http://photos.lhsoundandlight.com/photos/MH2_State/State%20Theater%20MH2%20install%20003-1.jpg

To bring the State Theatre this:

http://photos.lhsoundandlight.com/photos/MH2_State/State%20Theater%20MH2%20install%20023-1.jpg

Andrew Brodsky and I helped Jim Bowersox move it into the State Theater for some high profiles shows up there.

Look for some updates soon as it sees some use up there.

Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Brian Bolly on January 31, 2007, 11:16:06 pm
Well, we'll have Dr John in less than 24 hours.  You're coming out for that show, right?
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Ryan Lantzy on January 31, 2007, 11:19:29 pm
Brian Bolly wrote on Wed, 31 January 2007 23:16

Well, we'll have Dr John in less than 24 hours.  You're coming out for that show, right?


Like a lot of things in audio... It depends.

The box truck is in for repair.  If it's done or will be done Friday, then yes I'll be up (as long as I feel a little better).  If the truck won't be done, then I have to go unload it tomorrow before I come up.  So I may miss Dr. John, but I might be up in time for the Fools and Horses show at the Cellblock.  We'll see.

Keep you fingers crossed on the box truck.  It will make my gig this Saturday go a bit smoother.
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: The Guy on February 13, 2007, 10:28:24 am
With a few shows under our belt on the MH2, I think I've got enough to write a first review.  The first show on it was Dr. John, the New Orleans Jazz Pianist.  His BE put together a nice sounding mix and had no qualms about the console or system.

Initial Impressions:
- Build Quality is very solid.
- It's a very "pretty" console
- The raked layout is a nice touch, and all the controls are laid out sensibly.
- For the feature set, the console seems very small to me.  For the application we've got (theater) a compact size is a consideration, when seating is in jeopardy.  
- Balanced Inserts = Smile
- VCA's = Very Happy
- High Quality Fader "Feel"
- I like the fact that they printed VCA assign instructions on the desk (even though some visiting BE's still either 1)ask or 2)just punch buttons until they get frustrated, then ask.)
- Built in PSU = Nice (we are using the DPS4, but it's nice to have an internal one too.)
- 4 Band Sweep EQ = Excellent
- Sweepable HPF = Excellent

The most important considerations to me are (in order of preference): VCA's, 4 Band Sweep EQ, Sweepable HPF, Balanced Inserts, 10 Auxes.

Sound quality wise, the console sounds excellent.  I have experience with the MH3 and MH4 (and love them both) and this seems to be a legitimate shrunken down version of them.  I was expecting the console to feel "lesser" but the guys at Soundcraft have done a very nice job with this one.  The feature set is impressive, and I think this is a very viable board, especially for a regional soundco looking for an affodable VCA desk.  I would consider the MH2 to be a direct competition with the APB Spectra-T and the Yamaha M7, the three consoles on my consideration "to purchase soon" list.  

Will post more as we use it more.  Stay tuned for a big show where we're going to use the MH2 as a 10-Mix monitor console at a festival for around 8 national acts.

-JB


index.php/fa/7931/0/
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on February 13, 2007, 08:19:53 pm
Quote:

...I would consider the MH2 to be a direct competition with the APB Spectra-T and the Yamaha M7...


Fair enough conclusion. You would be looking at the Spectra-T with balanced insert option, of course, not the plain vanilla -C model. You would need to get all the optional Spectra bells and whistles in order to get closer to a straight across comparison. For one, the MH2 has classic audio subgroup buses whereas the Spectra is 100% VCA groups. This presents a big stylistic difference to people who are used to inserting processing on groups as a whole vs. individual channels. The Spectra solution is quieter in the end but the MH2 would be the choice for folks unable to wrap their heads around 100% VCA groups.

M7CL? I can see where you're coming from but I think the M7CL is significantly different than a standard subgroup plus VCA board. Full dynamics on every input, for starters. Right there you've saved a bundle on outboard.

-Bink
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: The Guy on February 14, 2007, 06:19:13 pm
Bink,

I was basing my comparison mainly on pricing, as these 3 consoles are pretty much even in the price department.  I know the M7 is a totally different beast, but it's in the price range.  And yes, the comparison includes the APB T model with balanced inserts.

As for the group thing, on a VCA desk I can't say I ever use the groups.  I generally flip the console into monitor mode (if available) to get the aux outputs on faders.

-JB
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Dan Brown on February 15, 2007, 12:18:01 am
I would say that the M7CL-48 and MH248 are not in the same price range as the M7 basic package is $24,999 list and the MH2-48 is $17,895.  I am not sure what the APB consoles are going for list.  Also map on the MH2 looks to be around $15,250 map.

The MH3-48 however is $1000 less list price then the Yamaha.

FYI,
db
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Ryan Lantzy on February 15, 2007, 09:58:56 am
Dan Brown wrote on Thu, 15 February 2007 00:18

I would say that the M7CL-48 and MH248 are not in the same price range as the M7 basic package is $24,999 list and the MH2-48 is $17,895.


I don't know much about the specific pricing of any of the consoles.  However, if what you said is true, that most certainly DOES put them in the same price range.  The difference is about $7,000 which you would EASILY have to spend on outboard for the MH2 along with cases for said outboard.  Let's do a little example:

TC M-One $495
TC D-Two $695
Drawmer 4ch gate $1300
4x Dbx 1066 $2400

That's $4800 and we haven't even started to buy EQs.  How many channels of 31 band EQ does the M7 have?

Throw in two BSS Opals and you are up to $7000.

[Note: these are all list since console prices are list]

The price of outboard is really going to depend on your requirements.  What I've listed might work for some situations, others may require much more, and then the M7 starts to maybe become a better value.

As I see it, they are in the same ballpark.


Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Ryan Lantzy on February 21, 2007, 09:27:58 am
Well,

I got to take my first spin on the MH2.  Up at the State Theater we had the Bob Mintzer Big Band on President's Day.  Bob Minzter is a jazz saxophonist who arranges and composes songs with a modern big band sound.  

The band was a 16 piece and consisted of a pretty standard sax/brass section (2 alto sax, 2 tenor, bari, 3 trombone, 1 bass trombone, 4 trumpets), upright Bass, Piano, and a full kit.

At 28 channels the MH2 made quick work of this.  I found the console easy to get around on, though the master section is a bit crammed.  The printed VCA assign and mute group instructions were a help.  It was my first time mixing on a VCA desk (though, I had used programmable mute groups before on theater type consoles.  I was able to quickly set up my VCA groups and mute groups with no problems.  The instructions are clear and to the point.

I love the feel of the console.  The aux send knobs are a little on the small side, but given the feature set packed in to that size of space, I can't really complain.  As Jim mentioned it is built well.  Seemingly much better so than the GB8.

One complaint about color schemes.  The top of the EQ and aux knobs are one color, and the hash indicating where the knob is pointing is somewhat small.  The GB8 had a grey/white marker where knob was pointed.  That helped visibility a ton!  I wish the MH2 knobs were as visible.  

Here's something else that is interesting.  The solo buttons illuminate a blue LED when they are on.  I haven't worked on any high dollar desks, but that is a first for me.  Blue.  And I really really like it.  It stands out so well, I never forget to turn off the solo when I'm done.  So many times I go to solo something else and I hear two things in my cans and I'm wondering what's going on.  Only to discover, I had left another channel soloed.  The blue master Solo LED really calls attention to that.

How did it sound?  Pretty wonderful actually.  This console worked very well with the program material and I had what seemed like gobs of headroom in the mic preamps.  Even the most delicate, low volume, and expressive solos were not lost in the noise floor of a very quiet theater.

I really enjoyed myself mixing on this desk and would do so in a heartbeat in the future.  And if you are a VCA beginner, have no fear, the MH2 is here.

Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Jason Ellis on February 24, 2007, 10:08:58 pm
To tighten up the M7cl-48 numbers a bit....my church picked one up with meter bridge and lights for just over $18,000...so the spread is pretty tight; after outboard and weight comparisons you can guess why I recmmended the M7
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Nick Aghababian on March 29, 2007, 12:15:24 am
Haha, thats pretty ballsy of someone to put their beer right on the VCA's!

edit:
http://www.campuspa.com/images/mh2/index-Pages/Image13.html
Title: Re: Soundcraft MH2
Post by: Matthew Moser on June 08, 2007, 09:14:55 pm
I was personally really happy using the MH2 main stage FOH at Penn state Movin' on 2007. Soundcraft always seems to make me happy, to bad their out of the normal high schoolers budget. The VCA was deffinatly a nice feature and only took a little time to learn. (and with some gaff tape and a silver sharpie, the VCA instruction slate becomes a great cup holder for coffee or red bull). I was impressed, could have a meter bridge though...