I know, I know, it's Behringer. Normally I don't pay them much mind, but since their acquisition of Midas and Klark Teknik, they have been busy bees. We saw the Behringer X32 on day two of the show having heard about it from some friends on day one. Given the price point—$2,500 list—and the I/O count—32 channels, 16 busses—I felt I had to at least give it a look.
Honestly, I was surprised. On the surface, it looks pretty good. It has 25 motorized faders on the surface, each with individually backlit (with customizable colors per fader) LCDs.
There is a dedicated channel strip on the top left (where we've come used to seeing one) that features control for dynamic, EQ and sends. To save space, some of these controls are multi-function, but I found it fast to get around.
They included a 7" LCD screen, that while not a touch screen, is very high resolution and easy to read. The software interface is clean and easy to follow and I never felt lost on it (unlike the A&H GLD). The setup options are very deep, and you can select from a handful of combinations of pre/post auxes plus groups depending on your needs. It's not quite up to DiGiCo flexibility, but then I can only buy two input cards for the price of this mixer.
To make it faster to get to functions you might need to adjust regularly, they put a bank of four customizable encoders on the surface. You can assign a wide variety of parameters on the board to these encoders, and they have 12 banks worth of assigns. I need to play with it more to see exactly how this works, but at least initially, it looks pretty handy.
A few other things I was surprised to find on a mixer in this price range; two talk back busses, controls for headphones and a monitor wedge, scenes, and AES50 connectivity for attaching stage boxes with Cat5. Given that the Midas Pro series racks operate on AES50, it seems that you could use one of those for a stage box if you wanted to. Maybe... If not, they offer a 16x8 stage rack that is $699. The console has the ability to take in 48 channels via AES50, though you can only mix 32 of them at once.
Other nice features include 6 mute groups and 8 DCAs; 8 virtual effects (all true stereo); a 6 channel matrix with full processing; and adjustable line delay on every input and output. Of course, you can connect it to Behringer's personal mixing system as well.
We did some math and realized that for under about $4,500 list, you could get a 32x16 mixer with 8 personal mixers. Let that sink in for a minute. That is an incredible price point.
Now, yes, it's Behringer. And no, we didn't hear it so I can't comment on how it sounds. Yes, in the past, Behringer products have had a reputation for working for two years or so before quitting unexpectedly, and I don't know if the association with Midas will change that. And yes, it's Behringer; so I know you Avid, DiGiCo, Soundcraft, Midas, Yamaha et. al. jockeys aren't interested.
But we have to keep in mind that there are a lot of churches out there that really can't afford even an LS9 (which is not well-loved anyway—and the X32 is far more feature rich). I'm not recommending you run out and buy an X32, even if you are a smaller church for whom this seems like a great option. However, I am saying this should be part of the discussion. Remember, you could buy 3 of these for the price of 1 LS9. And the feature set is far superior. Keep two in a closet for when the first one breaks.
Will it sound like a Pro6? Probaby not. But it would have to sound absolutely terrible to be ruled out, considering the price point. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see where this goes. It's not yet shipping, but I have heard spring/summer.