So a while back I wrote a First Impressions piece (actually two—part 1 and part 2) on the X32. That was after a brief bit of use during a student worship event. My initial impressions were good, but would they hold up over the long-haul after using it some more? The short answer is, “Yes.”
I’ve had the X32 for several months now, and it’s a surprisingly good console. This past August when we had a flood in our auditorium, we had to move services to the gym at the school next door. I set the X32 up at FOH and mixed the entire weekend—FOH & monitors—without incident. And dare I even say it was fun?
I used an analog snake as we don’t have the digital one for the X32, along with our wireless IEM rack. I mixed stereo house and 6 stereo ears for the musicians. It was a smaller band, but that still meant two vocals, drums, bass, two guitars and keys. Last time I used it for a service, I simply set everything up on the console. This time, I went another route.
Offline software and iPad control
I downloaded the offline software (which can also be used to control the console) from the website and set about configuring my show file. Freed from naming channels by pushing and spinning a knob, it went quite quickly. The desktop software looks exactly like the software on the desk, so it also helps you learn it.
After I had everything set up the way I wanted it, it took a few tries to get the right boxes checked to export the show to a USB drive. Once I got that, it loaded right up and I was ready to mix. The day of the service, I brought in my old Linksys router and plugged in the console. The iPad takes about 6 seconds to find and connect to the console, and it worked reliably.
Mixing a Regular Service
Well, perhaps I should put “regular” in quotes as it was a little more stripped down than usual, being that we were in the gym next door. Still it went very quickly. I had pre-dialed up some monitor mixes; that got the band going while I set gains. After my gain structure was set up (I was shooting completely in the dark, having never used the console with this PA before), I tweaked the outputs to hit the IEM transmitters right. After about 20 minutes, we went right into rehearsal.
I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Man, I like mixing on this thing!” I can’t tell you because I lost count. It’s really a nice desk to work on. Once I had a little muscle memory for common functions, it was very fast. I found the preamps sounded very acceptable—certainly as good or better than most analog desks in that price range, and better than most digital desks under $5,000.
Having spent some time on it between the first time I used and this service, I was able to get my FX dialed up quickly enough. Again, I was surprised at how good they sound, especially considering the price point.
The Proof is in the Sound
When the Saturday night crowd showed up and service started, I figured we were in for some goodness. Normally, in the large empty aircraft hanger we call our auditorium, the Saturday night crowd is pretty dead. While still a small group, they were clapping after songs, and seemed quite engaged with the worship. My PA was as basic as it gets; a pair of old JBL EONs sitting on top of JRX100 subs. I have a DriveRackPX driving them, and while I’ve spent a little time getting them sounding good, most of the EQ was done in auto mode.
Still, I had more compliments on how great it sounded for that single weekend than I have in the last year. Of course, it’s remarkable what happens when you point speakers at people instead of the walls, but that’s another post (and hopefully, we’ll correct that malady in our main room next spring…).
What’s Not To Like?
Honestly, every time I find something I am not crazy about, I remind myself of the price point. An MSRP of $2700 helps you forgive a lot, given the power. But really, there’s not a lot to dislike. I wish I could pair channels odd-even or even-odd like I can with my Digico, but then again, a PM5D can’t do that, so…
It would be nice if the screen were a touch screen, but that would likely add at least several hundred dollars to the cost. And the iPad makes a great companion to it. The scene recall system is a little bit clunky, and requires a lot of clicking and playing with it to get the results you want. It’s not terribly hard, but it’s also not immediately intuitive. The menu structure is a bit odd, though when you’re actually mixing, there are quick access View buttons below every major section, and that helps you get around pretty quickly. The USB recorder worked great, and I multi-tracked the whole service to my laptop using a single USB cable.
If you’re shopping for a new console and don’t have $10,000 to spend, you have to look at this. It’s not the right tool for every job, but there is a lot to like here. It’s a good-sounding desk that’s easy to work on once you acclimate to the layout. You’ll be stumped on a few things at first, but keep digging and you’ll find what you’re looking for. Pair it up with a Waves Multi-Rack and I don’t see how you can go wrong.