CTA Review: Digital Audio Labs Livemix Pt. 1

There are no shortages of personal mixing products any more. It wasn’t so long ago that Aviom was the only game in town. Thankfully, we have many more options now; and almost all of them better than the venerable blue boxes that populate so many church stages. The Digital Audio Labs Livemix is a product that I’ve been waiting to review for almost a year. We first saw it at InfoCom 2013. We shot a video of it back then, but it wasn’t quite ready. A few weeks ago, a big box arrived on my doorstep full of personal mixing goodness. 

We’ll do this in three parts. First, an overview. Second, we’ll dig a little deeper into the components and how they are laid out. Finally, how does it actually work. From the outset I’ll say that I like the system. It’s built well, sounds good and offers some unique features that no one else does—at least not the way they’re implemented here. 

System Components

Like most personal mixing systems, the Livemix consists of two main parts; the input module and the control surface. Here, it’s implemented a bit differently. The input module consists of the Central Mixer or Mix-16 and either an analog input module, the AD-24 or a Dante expansion card. And of course, you have the personal mixer itself. Now, you might notice something right away that is unique here. The personal mixer is called CS-Duo, which I suppose stands for Control Surface, Duo. There are actually two complete personal mixers in each control surface. 

While that might initially sound confusing, it’s really not in practice. Each side of the mixer—A and B—are clearly color coded blue and red respectively. When you select A, the buttons and screen turn blue; press B and it all turns red. The control surface is outfitted with two sets of three knobs that also trigger a function when pressed, 24 channel selection buttons and a pair of A/B selection buttons. But the biggest feature is a 2.5”x2.25” color LCD touch screen. 

Multiple Ways to Work

The touch screen is one of the most interesting features, if I’m honest. It’s easy to select channels, set up mixing parameters, adjust EQ and even patch inputs on the central mixer right from the touch screen. Using the screen and Adjust knob, it takes no time at all to set up a mix on the Duo. Of course, you can also push any of the 24 channel buttons to select a channel to adjust. The Adjust knob normally acts as volume, but a quick press turns it into a panner. It is also used to adjust other parameters such as EQ, dynamic and reverb settings. 

It is very intuitive to use right off the bat. But when you spend a little more time with it, you discover some cool tricks. For example, a short press on a channel button selects it for volume or panning adjustment. However, hold the button down for 2 seconds and it switches to single channel mode, which displays more options for that channel. Subsequent channel button presses select new channels in single channel view mode. Pressing the X button on the screen takes you back to the overview. 

Long presses also access advanced functions in the single channel mode. In fact, that’s the only way to get to the EQ page for the channels. This sounds like a pain at first, but it’s actually a good thing—something I’ll explain next time. Basically though, the interface is a variation on the touch-then-turn process that most of us are used to. Most musicians should take to it quite quickly.

That’s a brief overview of the system. It’s simple to set up, simple to use and easy to train people on. Those are all good characteristics. But sometimes, we want a bit more, and the Livemix system delivers that as well as we will see next time.

“Gear

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What's the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 3

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Today we’ll get to our final installment of LCD vs. DLP. We’ve covered some basic design differences, discussed the pros and cons of LCD, so today we’ll tackle the pros and cons of DLP. And I’ll tell you which one you should buy (spoiler alert, I’m not really going to do that; it’s not nearly that clear cut). But first, DLP; what’s good, and what’s not.

DLP Pros

  • High reliability. Because of their sealed optic engine and lack of organic or inorganic panels, they tend to last for a long time and look the same throughout the life span. 
  • No convergence issues. It’s a single chip, so you don’t have to worry about images not lining up. Of course, when you start looking at 3 DLP projectors, convergence becomes a factor again. 
  • No real screen door effect. At a given resolution, the pixel pitch tends to be tighter on a DLP than LCD. Thus, you are less likely to see the pixels. The image tends to look more homogenous. Again, at 1920x1080, these differences are shrinking a lot.
  • Higher apparent output. DLPs have a while slot on the color wheel to boost brightness. Thus, the image may look brighter than an LCD. This is deceptive, however. I’ve seen shootouts of projectors where a 5000 lumen LCD is clearly brighter than a 7000 lumen DLP. I suspect this has more to do with how “lumens” are calculated, however. 

DLP Cons

  • The rainbow effect. I mentioned this last time. Because of the color cycling that happens when the image is produced, some people can see a rainbow of color on the screen. 
  • Color saturation might not be as good as LCD. Again, this has to do with the way the colors are reproduced. There are some DLPs with exceptional color saturation, but they tend to be expensive. Lower cost units are often a little washed out. 
  • No grey. A DLP micro-mirror is either on or off, black or white. There is no grey. To produce a grey, the pixel as to be flashed on and off between black and white many times per second, and this can produce some artifacts. Whether this is a problem or not will depend on your content. 

Does It Matter?

Maybe, maybe not. Again, for many applications, either a DLP or LCD projector could be perfectly acceptable. As I said, I’ve seen some LCD models that look so much better than DLPs it’s not funny. At the same time, I’ve seen some DLPs that are gorgeous. Like many things, it’s more about the price point than the technology. Once you start comparing projectors of comparable (and sufficient) price, the differences become more subtle. 

That’s not to say there aren’t choices to be made. It all depends on the application. For something like environmental projection, you can easily get away with an inexpensive LCD projector. When you start talking about IMAG in a large room, you have to start choosing more carefully. I’m not convinced it’s the underlying technology that has to be the key factor, though. I’ve been to enough NAB’s and InfoComm’s and seen enough LCD and DLP projectors to know either can look great. Often, it comes down to availability, price, suitability, lenses, service and what your dealer carries. The good news is, either technology can be more than good enough. And they keep getting better

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What's the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 2

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Last time, we touched on the basic, underlying technology of LCD and DLP imaging systems. Today, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons. As I said last time, much has been written on this subject and I’m not going to exhaustive here. If you want a very thorough look at this, albeit from a home theater projector perspective, check out this article at Projector Central

LCD Pros

  • LCD projectors are generally less expensive than 1-DLP units at a given brightness. This is a general rule, and there are plenty of exceptions. But if budget is a big concern, look to LCD.
  • LCD generally has better contrast. This is relative, however. Keep in mind, you’re shooting the image onto a white screen. So the blackest the image will ever get is as black as the white screen ever gets. 
  • No rainbow effect. I sometimes notice a slight jitter in DLP images. It’s not always readily apparent, and I’m a trained observer. But LCD images tend to be pretty rock-solid. 
  • Better apparent resolution. Because the pixels are very clearly defined, graphics tend to look sharper on LCD projectors. To some extent, this is academic now that we’re getting up to 1920x1080 chipsets in both technologies, and given the average viewing distances. But there is a difference. 
  • Better color saturation. Because a DLP color wheel typically has a white slot in it to boost brightness, the color saturation can be lower. LCDs behave more like LED lights; the brighter they are the more saturated they get. 

LCD Cons

  • Lifespan of panels. We don’t really know how long the LCD panels will last before they start breaking down. We do know they break down and the colors start to shift. Newer inorganic panels seem to hold up better than older organic designs, but some are projecting the life of an LCD panel to be between 4,000-10,000 hours. That could be 1-3 bulb changes. Of course, a lot of those tests are being done by DLP makers, so… If you are using your projector for a few hours on the weekend, and occasionally during the week, this is probably not an issue. In a big command center where projectors are on 24/7 for years, this is a problem.
  • Dust. The LCD engine is not sealed, so it’s possible dust can get in there. This is less of a problem with pro-grade projectors that have good filtration systems. Still, if you have a dusty environment, be aware of this. 
  • Screen door effect. Because the edges of the pixels are so well defined, you can sometimes see the spaces between them. It looks a bit like viewing the image through a screen door. Again, with higher resolution and tighter pixel pitch, this is less of a problem than it used to be. 
  • Mis-convergence. Because an LCD image is made up of three images of different colors, they have to be lined up perfectly. If they are not, you’ll see fringing of color on vertical or horizontal lines. Again, with newer, pro-level projectors this is less of a problem. But it does show up on budget models.

There’s a look at the LCD. On Friday, we’ll wrap this up with a look at DLP pros and cons, and some concluding thoughts on which one is better.

“Gear

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