Comparing the Digico SD8, SD10 & SD5 Pt. 3

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Today we'll wrap up our series on the three mid-sized consoles from Digico. All are great-sounding, powerful desks, and which you choose will depend on your needs. Thankfully, options abound.

Connectivity

All the Digico consoles run on MADI. The most common way to interface is with simple coax cable (SDI cable works great) using the BNC connectors. The SD8 and SD10 have two MADI interfaces, and each interface has dual/redundant ports. The SD5 has three MADI interfaces, also dual/redundant. 

Any of the consoles can also be configured with optical interfaces (standard on the SD5). The optics package is a bit expensive, but gives you some mad options if you have multiple consoles in your installation. 

With MADI, it’s easy to share a input/output rack; simply connect one console to the main interface, and a second to the aux interface. Gain tracking makes it easy to manage levels (one console is the master, the other one tracks). This works great for sharing inputs, but if you need to share the outputs, you’re out of luck. The master owns the outputs of the rack; the slave desk can’t access any of them. Unless you have optics. 

With the optics package installed any console on the loop can access any of the inputs, just like with coax. However, you can also split the outputs on a per-card basis. So the FOH console could use output cards 1-3 while monitors uses 5-7. Those output cards can be analog, digital, Aviom, or ADAT. If you’re looking at doing a setup with FOH, monitors and broadcast consoles, the optical interface will be your best friend. 

With the SD5, the optical link is very cool. You can access up to 448 inputs and outputs, from up to 14 SD Racks plus 56 console-to-console tie lines. There aren’t many churches that need more than that... 

Virtual Soundcheck is a big deal today, and it’s easy with Digico; at least if you’re using one rack. By using the function “Copy MADI 1 to MADI 2” all the inputs from MADI 1 are copied to the output of MADI 2. Connect an RME MADIFace to MADI 2 and you’re recording the inputs right after the A/D conversion. Press the button “Listen to Copied Audio” and the console digitally swaps MADI 1 input for MADI 2. All you channels are right there just like you recorded them. 

If you’re using multiple racks, going optical makes it easy. If you stick with coax, it can be done, but be prepared to get a little creative. Thankfully, routing inputs from one MADI bus to another is pretty easy. 

It should also be noted that all three consoles can be configured with a Waves Soundgrid server for running Waves plugins. With the server connected, you interact with all the plugin settings right on the console touch screen, and all settings are saved with snapshots. The SD5 and SD10 have a dedicated Ethernet port for such a connection, while the SD8 requires an additional card to be installed.

How to Choose

All three consoles are very capable and sound great. All offer the best snapshot system in the industry (hands down, no one else can touch what you can do with this system), and any can be outfitted with a Waves SoundGrid if you want to run plugins. So the factors for choosing will likely come down to I/O count. 

If you band will fit into 60 sources (mono or stereo), and you don’t need more than 24 mixes (again, mono or stereo), the SD8 will do just fine. We’ve done some really big shows with it, and I have yet to run out of dynamic EQ, multi-bands or DigiTubes. 

On the other hand, if you need more inputs, perhaps you go up to the SD10 for a little higher I/O count. If you’re building a complex system with multiple racks and consoles, the SD5 is the obvious choice. Having optics built in makes it so very easy to share the I/O, and you’ll probably have to buy fewer racks to do what you need to to do because you can share them. 

With any of the consoles, it’s impossible to run out of DSP, which I really like. Turn on every single thing the console offers and it won’t even be working hard. Digico also has a reputation of adding new features every year or so. I didn’t even talk about the new multi-channel feature which allows you to fold a bunch of channels up into a single fader, with some or all parameters linked. That came out this year as a free update. 

I mentioned it earlier, but I recommend you download the offline software and start playing around with it. Once you get used to the “Digico way,” you’ll find the consoles are incredibly powerful, easy to set up and use. I have yet to find one that I don’t really enjoy mixing on.

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