Digital mixing desks

What's Hot
RolandRoland Frets: 1261
There is an increasing number of digital mixing desks coming onto the market. Who has used one? What would you buy?

We played in a remodelled pub last night. Sound was a nightmare. The rooms had been knocked together, leaving brick pillars to hold up the floor above. Every three feet the sound changed. We spent too much time trying to balance the sound, knowing that it would only change when the pub filled with people. I think it's time we got a sound engineer, and armed him with a tablet controlled mixing desk.

What's out there? What do we think of it?
0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
«134

Comments

  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    I've been on digital for about 8 years now. Originally the move to digital was for the processing and increased aux sends but the iPad remote thing was a huge bonus, especially at weddings where the organizers are very touchy about running a snake and mixing desk out front. We paid 4.5K for our first one, the last one we brought had twice as many features and cost £1600

    There's 2 ways you can go. Either no surface and iPad only, such as the Mackie DL1608 and similar or full surface with iPad remote. Personally I would always go with full surface as this means an iPad failure only means you lose the remote mix function, you don't lose the ability to mix anything like you would if the iPad failed on a DL1608 or similar no surface desk. 

    My favorite of the current crop is Allen and Heaths QU16 .... That's a full surface digital desk with 16 motorized faders and 2 layers. The channel processing is great, the main effects are great. It's very well built and solid. You can control your own monitor \ iem mixs from additional iPads or your phone. It also supports with their excellent stage rack which allows you to connect 24 channels of audio to the desk via a single ethernet cable.
    The built in QU drive allows you to record gigs direct to USB drives in multitrack format for remix later. You can also use this feature for virtual soundcheck. The desk has 4 mono and 3 stereo aux sends which is enough for 5 stereo IEM mixs . 

    I'm also using a Presonus Studiolive desk with one band, it sounds fine but it's a bit flaky and doesn't have the build quality of the QU. We also use the Mackie DL1608 which is great but it's reliance on the iPad worries me, although so far there's been no issues. 

    All digital desks have to be learned and the only way to do it is to read the manual and put some hours in on it. I normally send a multitrack of a band into the channels and then I can try the processing on real material. Then you can practice selecting a channel and processing it and sending it to aux sends for a monitor simulation. Once you have learned one though the next one is easier as they all use the "select channel" first for focus then process ...... wheres an analog desk has controls on a per channel basis 

    Regarding soundman with iPad ...... that's the way to go in my opinion ..... you can't mix a song from stage, at least not with a professional sound as just the register your singing in affects the volume. An AC DC tribute could set a mix and forget it but your average covers band is covering too much territory for a static mix
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 1reaction image Wow! 2reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • glt56glt56 Frets: 81
    I've got two analogue desks which are now completely redundant since I bought my Behringer XR18, incredible bit of kit that will revolutionise your setup.  Once all the levels are set up as you want them, you can save the image and recall them instantly and then just tweak them as required. So no more lengthy setups, no more rack effects either 'cos there are superb software plugins all built in.  And no snake required either as the XR18 just sits on stage like a breakout box.  Plus you can easily adjust the mix from a £50 tablet, the musicians can all connect in with a small tablet (or even an android phone!) and adjust their own FOH or foldback mix.  I have absolutely no affiliation with Behringer but I also have no hesitation in recommending it.  Great bit of kit!  You can also check it out on Youtube as there's loads of supporting videos to help you, and the Behringer X-Air forum on Facebook is priceless!  
    Here's one of the Youtube videos: 

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4011
    We have our eyes on one of those XR18s, any chance you could do an in depth review in the reviews section?
    This is my rant thread, there are others like it, but this one is mine.
    Bet you're wondering if this is a flounce? Truth is I haven't decided yet.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    The XR18 looks good for the money but for another £300 you could get the Allen & Heath QU-SB which is basically the surfaceless version of their excellent QU series of mixers ..... it's got enough aux sends for 7 stereo IEM mix's which is important because stereo IEM mix's are a basic human right like clean water and good wifi :)  Plus it's got the Qu  drive which enables you to record live gigs to multitrack with just a USB drive


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2613
    edited August 2016
    We've just bought a Allen and Heath Qu32 for our church.  This will be our first Sunday using it but playing around with it on Wednesday night I'm seriously impressed.  It is a different way of working and there is a bit of a learning curve but it does seem to be very well thought through.

    I'd echo what @Danny1969 said about wanting a conventional control surface and not be completely reliant on a tablet.

    If you are on a budget there is an extra saving to be had with the Behringer because (as @glt56 said) you can do the mix with a £50 Android tablet not a £300 iPad.  The full mix app on the Allen & Heath is iPad only.  I don't know if they have long term plans for an Android version.

    It does support Android for the smaller app that does personal monitor mixes though.  I'm not sure I'm going to tell some of our singers that though.  The singers share a monitor and one or two of them like too much of themselves and overpower the other singers.  The good news is that the sound guy will be able to stand next to them with the iPad when setting up the monitor mix and get one that is good for everybody.

    Edit: we have discovered that the Allen & Heath can be a bit fussy about what USB drives it works with.  There is a list on their website somewhere of ones that have been tested with it,
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    @crunchman  I have used quite a few different USB drives with our QU16 and QU24. If you format the drive on the QU desk and don't use it for any other purpose your generally be fine. Although not officially supported we also record directly to USB pen keys in multtrack format . You can also use the USB socket on the back to a laptop as it's as ASIO interface as well. 

    Monitor wise the phone ap is pretty good but I use an ME-1 which is their personal hardware monitor mixer. As this runs off ethernet it simply passes all channels on from the desk without using any aux sends so there's pretty much no limit to the amount of monitor mixs you can have using these ME-1's .... pricey though at £350 ish each




    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 1reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • jesonejesone Frets: 50
    For those that are interested there is an iPhone app for the X18 available in the iTunes store. I've got it but not used it in anger yet.
     https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/x-air-fmp-remote/id1112931654?mt=8

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2613
    Danny1969 said:
    @crunchman  I have used quite a few different USB drives with our QU16 and QU24. If you format the drive on the QU desk and don't use it for any other purpose your generally be fine. Although not officially supported we also record directly to USB pen keys in multtrack format . You can also use the USB socket on the back to a laptop as it's as ASIO interface as well. 

    I had a blank one lying around but the desk refused to recognise it when we plugged it in.  We found one that did work in the end.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • shuikitshuikit Frets: 114
    crunchman said:
    We've just bought a Allen and Heath Qu32 for our church.  This will be our first Sunday using it but playing around with it on Wednesday night I'm seriously impressed.  It is a different way of working and there is a bit of a learning curve but it does seem to be very well thought through.

    I'd echo what @Danny1969 said about wanting a conventional control surface and not be completely reliant on a tablet.

    If you are on a budget there is an extra saving to be had with the Behringer because (as @glt56 said) you can do the mix with a £50 Android tablet not a £300 iPad.  The full mix app on the Allen & Heath is iPad only.  I don't know if they have long term plans for an Android version.

    It does support Android for the smaller app that does personal monitor mixes though.  I'm not sure I'm going to tell some of our singers that though.  The singers share a monitor and one or two of them like too much of themselves and overpower the other singers.  The good news is that the sound guy will be able to stand next to them with the iPad when setting up the monitor mix and get one that is good for everybody.

    Edit: we have discovered that the Allen & Heath can be a bit fussy about what USB drives it works with.  There is a list on their website somewhere of ones that have been tested with it,
    Also, make sure that the app and the firmware are the same version.  I updated the app on my phone before the firmware on the desk was updated and the phone wouldn't connect to the desk.  
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895

    shuikit said:

    Also, make sure that the app and the firmware are the same version.  I updated the app on my phone before the firmware on the desk was updated and the phone wouldn't connect to the desk.  
    Yes good advice, turn off auto update on phone and ipad otherwise firmware mismatch is a right pain when your in the middle of nowhere with no wi fi or 4g to correct things 


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2613
    Danny1969 said:

    shuikit said:

    Also, make sure that the app and the firmware are the same version.  I updated the app on my phone before the firmware on the desk was updated and the phone wouldn't connect to the desk.  
    Yes good advice, turn off auto update on phone and ipad otherwise firmware mismatch is a right pain when your in the middle of nowhere with no wi fi or 4g to correct things 


    Did all that.

    We were like little boys playing with things on iPad/phones and watching the faders move.  Great fun.

    What I wasn't expecting was how much better the sound was.  The sound just seemed to be clearer than with the old desk.

    It's a different way of working and a different flow than an analogue desk but it's actually very well thought out.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    Yeah I agree if you come from an analog desk you will notice how clearer the sound is..... I remember cutting a lot of treble on my first one because you don't get the loss of high end you do on an analog desk ..... or the noise

    The QU was a wise decision, having used quite a few of the current crop on the market I would have spec'ed a QU myself as it is an incredibly well thought out solid good sounding mixer
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • TrudeTrude Frets: 212
    I use the Line6 M20d.  It has its quirks, but the one killer feature that no others seem to have is the ability to record and play back a soundcheck.  I play in a couple of low-stage volume acoustic acts (no backline, no loud drums), and this means I can record half a song, send everyone to the bar and then replay and tweak at my leisure until it sounds just right, knowing that it's going to sound pretty much the same once we're all playing for real.  It's a lifesaver!
    Probably wouldn't work so well for a band with loud backline in a smaller room, but it's great for my purposes.
    Trading feedback here
    0reaction image LOL 1reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    Trude said:
    I use the Line6 M20d.  It has its quirks, but the one killer feature that no others seem to have is the ability to record and play back a soundcheck.  I play in a couple of low-stage volume acoustic acts (no backline, no loud drums), and this means I can record half a song, send everyone to the bar and then replay and tweak at my leisure until it sounds just right, knowing that it's going to sound pretty much the same once we're all playing for real.  It's a lifesaver!
    Probably wouldn't work so well for a band with loud backline in a smaller room, but it's great for my purposes.
    All the Allen and Heath QU series have fact feature with the built in Q drive .... just arm the record button and it will record to usb in multitrack so you can then play back into the desk with no band present. Very useful for vocal treatment and keys, less useful for drums but you can use it to zero your Q in to get rid of annoying rings and it's also useful for setting your gates 

    All the Presonus Studio live can also do the same thing if connected to a laptop 

    I agree, very useful tool for soundchecking
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Used to use an Allen and Heath GL2400 analogue 16 track.

    I worried about reliability with digital (and the thought of several minutes going by while doing a software reset in the middle of a gig)... so, when we went digital nearly 3 years ago (A&H Qu16), we also bought a very small A&H analogue mixer as a backup. Happy to say... the Qu16 hasn't missed a beat... seems reliable and easy to use.. so the small mixer has remained in its box. 

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • I'm following the Behringer XR Facebook page and the amount of problems and glitches is extraordinary.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • mike257mike257 Frets: 212
    I'm following the Behringer XR Facebook page and the amount of problems and glitches is extraordinary.

    I think a fair amount of that is user error from what I see popping up there - one thing that has become apparent with the proliferation of cheap digital is that it's made a fairly complex set of features available to a wide audience who are used to the simplicity of an analogue mixer where you can literally follow the channel strip down from the input to the fader and clearly see what everything is doing.  

    The Behringer XR, Soundcraft Ui and their ilk have a lot more functionality on board that, whilst straightforward for people with some sound engineering experience, is probably a bit heavy for "average band member who can work a small analogue desk" to dive head first in to - there's more to potentially go wrong, lots more routing options to get your head round, etc.  Seen the same with the X32, it smashed the price of access to digital mixing tech, so the forums are full of people who have come from simple analogue setups and just can't wrap their head around everything going on under the hood. 

    If you keep it simple and take the time to work it all out properly, they're great little units.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Took a QU 16 out at the weekend for 2 gigs one using it for FOH and one for monitors,  FOH duties did well. As for  monitors well only 4 mono sends is limiting we ended up using stereo auxes for a further 2 sends, only real drawback was head room in the pre amps no pad function unless you get the stage box so coming from IDr48 direct outs some of the signals almost too hot for it to handle. I would add this was the first time i've used one in anger so will see what work arounds or magic buttons I've missed but on the whole thinking about adding one to stock  
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • @maltingsaudio  what version firmware was in running ? more and more stuff has been added as times gone by. The pads on the iPad ap in the same page as linking, 48V etc ... where on the desk depends on the firmware version

    Although it's a great compact mixer the QU24 is probably worth the extra dough for the extra channels, more aux sends and matrix 
    We also have 2 of the AR2412 and the add on 8 pack. Although pricey new you can get them used quite reasonable and they make the whole QU series a much better prospect

    Out of the current X32  \ Studiolive \ Mackie DL current stuff the QU series is my favorite to use and the best built. 3 years on ours now and nothings ever gone wrong yet 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • My band uses a Soundcraft UI16 and it is brilliant.

    We had one hiccup when we first got it (quite soon after it came out and the firmware was a little buggy), we were playing a gig for around 150 people in a large hall and half way through the first set the wifi cut out and we had no control over the desk. However, the sound was great and we finished the first set without needing to make any further adjustments and without any feedback problems, thanks to a good mix during the soundcheck and the anti feedback features built in to the mixer.
    We turned it off and on again in the interval and it ran the rest of the gig absolutely perfectly.

    After upgrading the firmware we've played loads of shows and had no problems whatsoever. For the price it's absolutely fantastic.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Cheers @Danny1969 will have a look don't know the firmware version just picked it up on thursday nigth and got on with it, if the pads are only on the Ipad app that is a real pain!
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    So Friday night we were using a Mackie DL1608, FOH engineer was a guy we've used loads of times before, very experienced and good. Soundcheck went great, IEM mixes all set up and then 2 minutes to show time the DL1608 AP had a fit and wiped the active current mix .... reloading the stored mix didn't work as it had overwritten that. Bollocks !!   ..... so he got out his own iPad which had some show files from another venue with the us and as soon as his iPad sync'ed to the desk it zero'ed everything and overwrote that as well.  So the poor FOH guy has got to start from scratch and get a workable FOH mix and IEM mixs  in five minutes on a touchscreen that onlys shows 8 faders at a time!

    This is a danger with surface-less mixers .... thank god the gains are analog otherwise we really would have been fecked  


    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • robinbowesrobinbowes Frets: 1342
    Interesting failure modes there. Have you had a think about how you might have been able to recover the mix, if at all?

    R.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • You see this is the issue I have with surface less mixers, in my mind a step too far. Digital very happy with did a gig last nigth on a Soundcraft expression hadn't been back to this venue for 6 months but just took my usb drive which had my last settings I used there on it recalled the show and up and running,. Wifi will, in my mind and experience, be less than rock solid all the time so faders and knobs are a must in my book
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 3reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • PS @Danny1969 ;   re the QU16 getting usable work rounds, updated the firmware from 7 to latest, keep having to remind myself its a cheap digital desk, and the other problem I've found with it is getting USB sticks which are compatible.. nightmare!  
    www.maltingsaudio.co.uk
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 1374
    I'm thinking about buying a digital desk this week, so I'd appreciate any input.      

    Looking at the features I'm tempted by the Behringer X18,   compared to the mackie it is has built in wifi connection and multitrack recording.    The XR18 could go in a rack and has more xlr outs but rather than live in the amp rack I can use the desk format with multiple bands and I can live with jack sends to monitors and iems so the X18 might work better. The sound craft ui16 only has 12inputs and there will be times that I want a couple more.  
    I'm a bit wary of buying behringer so long term use reports would much appreciated.
    or is there another product with iPad control, 16 inputs and easy multitrack recording?
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    John

    The Allen and Heath QU-SB has 

    • Qu-Pad iPad App for all live mixing controls
    • 16 Mono Inputs (TRS + XLR)
    • 1 Stereo Input (TRS)
    • 12 on-board Mix Outputs
    • 1 Stereo Matrix Out
    • Expandable up to 32 Mono + 3 Stereo channels
    • Up to 11 Monitor Mixes (4 mono + 7 stereo)
    • Qu-Drive direct Multitrack Recording to USB
    • 19” Rack mount option
    Bit more money than the Behringer though

    PS : a built in router isn't always good as your better off getting the router above the crowd when mixing with an iPad ... I normally put mine on the FOH stack. 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 2reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 1374
    Thanks Danny - I've just been sat comparing the specs,  and ideally I'd go with the AH with the behringer at around £450 I'm debating if the extra features on the AH are worth another £400 -   in the analogue world it would be easy to justify the extra but I'm assuming that with no moving parts the behringer is pretty reliable.
    Post taken about the built in wifi,   I assume if connection is lost it just tries to reconnect in the background and the audio continues but I figure I could add an external router fairly cheaply if they make a noticeable difference.  
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 2895
    Yeah audio continues while it reconnects but obviously while it does you have no control at all .... which is why I don't like any surfaceless desk really. 
    I've used Behringers X32 and that seems fine but never used an X18 .....  I'm recommending the QU stuff because I've used it since it was first released a few years ago and it's been rock solid. It wouldn't be the end of the world though if you brought the X18 and didn't like it, you could always flog it on without losing a lot
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • we have a behringer XR16 which we will be trying out in practice for the first time on monday, so will let you know how we find it.
    This is my rant thread, there are others like it, but this one is mine.
    Bet you're wondering if this is a flounce? Truth is I haven't decided yet.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Sign In or Register to comment.