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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