CTA Review: QSC TouchMix 16 Digital Mixer Pt. 1

When I first saw the QSC TouchMix at the NAMM show in 2014, my first impression was, “Meh.” After all, here was another small mixer with a touch screen instead of actual faders. I spent a few minutes with it and came away unimpressed. So when I was asked to review one, I looked again at the spec sheet, and my interest was piqued. 

Impressive I/O

On paper, the mixer actually does look pretty good. It cones in two versions, the 16 and 8, and aside from I/O count, they are identical. We’ll focus on the 16 input here. It’s called 16, because of the 16 mic inputs, 4 of which are combo jacks. There are also 2 stereo inputs on TRS jacks that bring the total input count to 20. There are technically 10 aux mixes on it; I say technically because 1-6 are mono, and 7/8 and 9/10 are stereo. The mono mixes leave the desk on XLRs while the stereo auxes have TRS jacks, which would make it hard to break them up. So, you really have the capability to do 8 monitor mixes, which is impressive on a mixer this size.

On most small mixers, you end up burning auxes to do effects, but not on the TouchMix. There are 4 dedicated FX busses that feed a limited selection of reverb, delay, chorus and pitch change effects. There is also a pitch-corrector processor that can be assigned to any channel. This could come in quite handy for vocalists that are, how shall we say, pitch-challenged. There are also 8 DCAs and 8 mute groups, which might be overkill on a 20 channel mixer, but there you go. 

Impressive Power

Internally, the mixer uses 32-bit floating point processing and has 24-bit AD and DA converters. It also features Class-A microphone amps which sound quite good. Each input has a four-band, fully parametric EQ, variable high and low cut filters, a gate, and compressor with a de-esser. The aux outputs also have a four-band parametric, limiter, delay and 4 notch filters for eliminating feedback in wedges. The main output substitutes a 31-band graphic EQ for the parametric. 

Other goodies include a dedicated talkback mic input, separate phones and monitor outputs (on TRS jacks), and four user-assignable buttons for quick access to common tasks. As is becoming common on small digital mixers, the TouchMix features over 100 presets for various types of inputs you’d find in a live setting. I didn’t try them all, but the ones I did were good starting points. I suspect experienced sound guys would ignore them or modify the starting points, but they may be helpful for less experienced operators. If nothing else, those starting points will get you in the ballpark quicker for those gigs when time is short. I’m not opposed to preset libraries for that reason—sometimes you just need to get close, fast.  There are also Wizards that assist in gain set up and effects selection and routing.

Physically, the mixer is quite small at roughly 13”x10”x2”. It uses an external power supply and a beefy power cord. It gets quite warm in operation, which tells me there is a lot going on under the hood. The interface is dominated by the 6”x3.5” color touch screen. It’s capacitive touch, and while it works OK for most operations, it’s not great at precision selections, nor as responsive as an iPad or iPhone. Instead of physical faders, the screen presents banks of 8 virtual faders at a time. You can touch and drag the faders on the screen, or touch the channel then use the large knob to raise or lower the level.

Not So Impressive Screen

In use, I found the touch screen a bit laggy, and sometimes the fader would over-shoot my target level. The screen was honestly the biggest disappointment of an otherwise good mixer. In my view, we all carry around touch screens in our pocket that work quite well. There’s really no excuse for a lousy touch screen these days, especially when it’s the primary interface for using “faders.”

Using the knob is better, but be aware there are ballistics built in; if you spin it fast, the fader moves fast. A quick flick of the knob can take a channel from off to +10 in under a half-second, so be careful. Moving it slower is easily controllable however, and pushing down enables a fine control mode. Again, this is a miss in my book. It’s possible that a future software update will fix the ballistics, but the firmware version I tested was tenuous. I was ready to write the whole mixer off based on the poor fader controlling experience, but there is one big saving grace, which we’ll get to next time. 

You may be picking up that I’m not a fan of this mixer, but that’s not correct. I think it’s a good concept, with a few flaws. But there is a way to get around those issues, and we’ll cover that, and a lot more, next time.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.