CTW NAMM 2013 Coverage: Aviom A360 Personal Mixer

Continuing on with our personal mixer theme…

OK, so maybe I’m jaded. When I heard Aviom was introducing a new mixer, my first reaction was, “It’s about time.” After inventing the segment almost 15 years ago, they’ve pretty much milked that little blue box for all it’s worth, and then some. It was revolutionary for it’s time, but many have vastly improved on the concept, while Aviom just kept selling A-16IIs. 

a360-1.jpg

So now we have the new A360. And honestly, I’m not that impressed. While Roland and A&H are bringing in up to 40 channels, Aviom chose 36 (?). I suppose you could say it’s better than the 16 they used to have, and that’s true. They added stereo groups, meaning any of the 16 inputs can now be mono or stereo without eating up an additional channel. That’s progress to be sure. 

They added a 17th “Dual Profile Channel” that, to be honest, I’m not sure I understand. It can be another input, or a mirror of any of the other 16 channels, and it has two mix settings for level, stereo placement and reverb. I suppose that could be useful for a background singer who leads one song, for example. Or it could be unnecessary complication for a musician that’s already struggling to get a good mix. 

They made a big deal of their “enhanced stereo placement” feature, which basically lets you pan mono or stereo sources. So even a stereo source can be panned, while still maintaing some stereo spread. You can now adjust tone (yes, tone), reverb and level for each channel. Master bass and treble are still included. An ambient mic is also included, or you can designate one of the 36 channels on the Cat5 an ambient mic and it shows up in the dedicated “ambient section.” 

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the quick mix recall. You can save four versions of your mix to one of the four quick-recall buttons. This could be useful for trying out different mixes quickly or when lead parts move around during a set. Most personal mixers will let you save and recall, but this is really fast and easy. You can also save 16 presets the regular way.

The surface is exactly the opposite of the A&H ME-1. Whereas the ME-1 is very minimal with regard to button layout and sports a nice, bright display, the A360 is cluttered with buttons and level LEDs. While it may not be hard to get used to, it’s not pretty to look at either. But that’s not my major gripe. 

The biggest complaint of Avioms over the years (past the limited channel count) is that they don’t sound good. The headphone amps don’t get loud enough and there is no dynamic range. It just sounds as though the life has been sucked out of the music. When we talked to the rep (very briefly), we asked about this. He said the new one sounds “amazing!” So we listened to it. After about 4 minutes of twiddling with the mix trying to get it to sound like something, both Van and I looked at each other like we’ve been sucking on lemons, took off the headphones and said, “yuck.” 

It’s always hard to tell if the tracks are just terrible, but what we heard was not impressive. When I put headphones on at MyMix, EliteCore or Roland, the sound is rich, full and dynamic; even if the mix isn’t dialed in yet. The A360 never sounded good, no matter what we did to the mix. 

And there’s more bad news; the list price is $899. And while it’s compatible with the existing Aviom architecture, the only way to get to the 36 channels is to use the Pro64 snake system. The booth was packed, so I couldn’t get anyone to explain the math of how you get 36 channels from a system built in 16 channel blocks. 

2-6-13 UPDATE: I was informed that the a360 does not use the Pro64 snake system, but instead uses the new AN-16i v.2. Apparently, you can chain up to 4 of these devices together (for 64 total channels) and choose which 36 of them go to the a360. But since it's still in 16 channel blocks, you're either going to be 4 channels short if you buy two AN-16i v2s, or have 12 channels more than you need if you buy three. Seems silly and wasteful, but what do I know. Thanks to Ryan Durbin from Sight & Sound Technologies for the updated info. END UPDATE

If you’re still interested, you can learn more at their website. But frankly, I think there are better options. 

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