A few weeks ago, Roland Systems Group announced a new mixer in the V-Mixing lineup. I was invited up to the LA office a week before the announcement to get a preview of it. Now, I’ve been a fan of the V-Mixers since the M-400 was introduced several years ago. I believe they offer a great value, sound good and are easy to use. And the line has grown significantly since then.
The M-200i looks great on paper. Check out this spec overview:
- 32 channels mixed from a possible total of 64 inputs
- 8 Aux + 4 Matrix mixes (those are full matrices—individual channels can go straight to a matrix)
- 8 DCAs
- 4 built-in effects
- 4 built-in 31-band EQs
- 17 motorized faders
- USB recording (2 channels)
- DAW recording (40 channels)
- 16 mic pres on board + 8 line inputs
- 12 analog outputs + 2 channels AES
- 40x40 REAC for digital snake, monitors or recording
That all looks really good, especially when you consider that the MSRP is $3,495! The surface is familiar to V-Mixing users, with dedicated mute, solo and select buttons for each channel. Direct access to the sends on fader for both Aux and Matrix mixes is provided, and there are two user layers for building custom fader layouts. They included a small LCD display and a bunch of controls for set up and effect functions.
But it’s the “i” in the name that sets this mixer apart. Rather than spend a bunch of money on an expensive touch screen, they simply built an app for the nearly ubiquitous iPad.
This is not a new solution; many consoles can be controlled by an iPad. However, Roland has included far more than simple mixing and EQ adjustments in here. Virtually every single function of the console from input patches to effects assigns, from mixing and monitoring, from scenes to output patches can be accessed by the iPad app.
They included a custom dock connector to attach the iPad hardwired to the desk so you don’t have to worry about wi-fi. However, if you want to go wireless, you don’t need a computer.
The M200i can be connected to a wireless router, or your network, or you can use the USB wireless dongle Roland sells. It’s pretty simple to use from that standpoint. But the star is really the iPad app.
The app looks very good—modern and functional. Several modes of use are provided depending on what you are doing. A long fader mode gives you maximum resolution of the faders for mixing. No fader mode gives you a great overview of the currently selected bank of 8 channels when you’re using the surface. Another mode mixes those two.
Of course, full multi-touch is supported in the EQ and dynamics section, allowing you to adjust Q and knee by pinching. Assigning inputs, outputs, DCAs, and FX is accomplished in the channel edit page. This is what really sets the M200i apart. You don’t have to keep running back to the surface to manage this stuff.
The level of integration between hardware and software is evident in the "touch and turn" mode that is built-in. Any adjustable parameter—say EQ frequency—can be selected on the iPad, then adjusted using a hardware encoder on the surface for precise adjustments. Selecting a channel on the surface and also select the channel in the iPad (this is configurable) making the operation even faster.
I haven’t heard the console yet, but I expect to receive a full demo system when it starts shipping in January. I am pretty bullish on this console; it fills a much-neglected hole in the digital console universe right now. I think this is going to be a big hit with churches that need to mix 32 channels and want to go digital.
When you consider it can be configured with their digital snakes, M-48 personal mixers, the R1000 recorder/player and set up with Sonar for multi-track recording, it’s a great option. The iPad integration not only makes it easy to use, but helps overcome the often poor FOH mixing locations of many small- to mid-sized churches.
Of course, it’s a direct competitor to the Presonus StudioLive desk, as well as the Behringer X32. Next time, we’ll compare the three to see how they stack up.
Note: All of the iPad app screen caps are from preliminary versions of the application. It's changing rapidly during development (I've received 4 versions in the last few weeks), so don't get really attached to anything yet. The software is continually evolving right now, and looking really good, but it's not final yet.