CTA Review: Digital Audio Labs Livemix Pt. 2

Last time around, we took a look at the Digital Audio Labs Livemix system in overview. It’s an easy to use system that offers more than meets the eye. Today, we’ll start digging into some of the features that make it unique.

DSP in the Brain

As always, there are different ways to design a system. Some systems, say the Roland M-48, use a lot of DSP in the mixer itself. This affords great flexibility and they can do a lot of things very well. But that power comes at a price. First, there is the actual price of the unit, which is on the high side. Second, they are complicated to set up to fully utilize all that power. 

The Livemix takes a different approach. Instead of loading up the surfaces with a bunch of DSP, they put most of it in the Central Mixer. This allows them to do some interesting things. For example, each of the inputs has a 3-band EQ, and dynamics control. Unlike the Roland, the channel EQ and dynamic settings are global for every mixer. This sounds like a limitation on paper, but in practice, I found our musicians rarely delved into the channel EQ on the M-48s anyway. Instead, they usually adjusted the main bass and treble controls—something the Livemix also offers. Except here it’s a 3-band EQ and mix dynamics that are local to each mixer. 

The Central mixer also offers an adjustable HPF on each channel. While not fully adjustable, there are enough set points to be useful. When using the Dante input module, you can choose any 24 inputs from the Dante network. Again, this is a global setting; all the mixers get these 24 channels. However, you can assign those channels from any mixer in the system or Dante Controller. 

More Than Meets the Eye

The Central Mixer is a simple-looking affair. It’s 1 RU high and looks like a network switch. The front panel contains eight RJ45 jacks (not EtherCon), a USB port, a power switch and data indicator. If you are using the Dante option, all you have to do is plug the Mix-16 into the Dante network, and patch the channels. It’s pretty simple. If you’re using the analog input module, a shielded Cat5 connects the AD-24 to the Mix-16 (and then it takes up 2 RU). The USB port allows you to route a 2-track mix of any of the mixers on the network to that port for recording. Plug in up to eight CS-Duos and you have 16 mixes at your fingertips. 

The Mix-16 supplies not only audio data but also power to each CS-Duo, which keeps the cable clutter to a minimum. There are also two more RJ45s on the back of the Mix-16 labeled Livemix Data Out 1-16 and 17-32. The manual states those are for future use. At InfoComm a while back, they were suggesting those could be used for sending the 2-channel mix from each mixer back to a D/A box for use with wireless IEMs. Guess we’ll have to keep our eyes open for that one. 

On the Surface…

The CS-Duo itself contains the aforementioned controls as well as a few inputs and outputs. Of course, we have two 3.5mm headphone jacks in the front, one for each side of the mixer. There is also a 3.5mm Aux In jack that can be very clever (more later). On the back, we have a pair of 1/4” TRS jacks that can be configured either as stereo headphone outs or balanced line outs (one for the A and B side). A TRS foot switch jack also hangs out back there. It’s a multi-function foot switch available from DAL that does all kinds of cool things. Finally there is the RJ-45 (non-EtherCon) for data and a USB port for loading and saving settings. 

By now, you would be forgiven for thinking this is really similar to other products on the market. The ability to mix 24 channels is a nice upgrade from other 16 channel systems, but other than the dual mixers, what’s really unique? Stay tuned!

Roland

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