Last time, we started investigating the Behringer X32. I’ve already acknowledged that while Behringer may have a less than stellar reputation in our industry, the X32 does offer a compelling value proposition. I think it would be a mistake to ignore it. So, today we’ll look at a few of the features that, quite frankly, surprised me.
Virtual Soundcheck Made Easy
Virtual Soundcheck is all the rage these days. Everyone is looking for ways to make it easy to record the band, then play back the tracks in place for training, tuning or mix adjustment. In this regard, the X32 excels. On the back of the console are both USB and FireWire ports that are connected to a 32×32 audio interface. To try this out, I followed these steps.
- Locate a USB cable.
- Plug said cable into the X32 and my MacBook Air.
- Launch Reaper and select the X32 as my audio interface.
- Create and arm tracks.
- Hit record.
That was pretty much it. Playing the tracks back was as easy as going into the routing page and selecting the card as my input source instead of the mic inputs on the back of the console. Rarely is virtual soundcheck so easy.
Another cool feature that I have yet to try out (but may before this is published) is the ability to turn the X32 into a surface that controls a DAW. It will operate using one of three standard protocols, and with the press of a single button, you have a mixing surface that will run the DAW.
If you’ve read any of my posts on the Digico consoles, you know that I love programable buttons and macros. Remarkably, the X32 includes 4 assignable encoders (with digital scribble strips), as well as 8 assignable buttons. Moreover, there are 3 banks of these controls, meaning you can have up to 12 assigned encoders and 24 buttons.
Initially, the encoders come set up to adjust parameters on the FX while the buttons take you to the individual FX pages. That’s good. But since there are two more banks, I wanted more. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I can send MIDI commands via the buttons over the USB cable. Once I selected the X32 as my MIDI interface in Reaper, I configured a few buttons to arm and disarm the band tracks, arm and disarm the speaker’s mic track and start and stop recording. Now we’re having fun!
While the list of assignable commands and things you can do with the buttons and encoders isn’t as deep as I’m used to on the SD8, it’s still quite impressive.
I’ve mixed on dozens of consoles in my career. Some are easy to pick up, others are less so. I would put the X32 in the “very easy’ column of mixers I’ve worked on. It really is pretty intuitive and simple to get around on. There are a few things I didn’t like—the EQ controls for instance—but they weren’t deal breakers. To some extent, I even understand the choice to give us three encoders for the EQ with push buttons to select the bands; it keeps the surface much less cluttered. In practice, it was reasonably quick to use (and I would probably have the iPad close by most of the time anyway if this were my primary console).
The quick access “View” buttons made it very easy to get from one page to another on the non-touch screen, even if I didn’t know exactly where the page was located in the menu structure. In no time, I was naming and color-coding channels, assigning things to DCAs and creating mute groups. All of this was done without looking at a manual (which is good, because no manual was included and I can’t get the website to give me one).
Time will tell how the desk will hold up, but honestly, it’s cheap enough that if it lasted two years, it would still be a good value (and I think it will work longer than that). It feels reasonably well built, and based on what I’ve heard from Uli Behringer, they are really working hard to shed their “low quality, stolen IP” image. I’ve said before that it seems like Behringer is like a Mob family that’s trying to go legit. Again, time will tell if that’s true, but the X32 is a pretty good first step in that direction. For $2500, it’s really hard not to at least consider it if you’re in the market for a 32-ish channel digital (or analog for that matter) console.