We’re continuing our comparison of the Digico SD8, SD10 and SD5 today. Last time we looked at the channel and bus count, as well as the “goodies” that are included in the channel processing section. Today, we’ll examine the differences in the surfaces (and corresponding workflow). While the SD8 and SD10 are very similar, the SD5 is a different beast (it’s really the little brother to the SD7).
All three desks offer 37 full-motorized faders (36 plus master). Having mixed on all three, I would rate fader feel thusly; the SD5 is the clear winner, the SD8 is second, the SD10 is third. The reason is that the SD10 is sealed up to better protect from spills and weather, so the faders don’t feel quite as good.
The SD8 and SD10 both have three rows of encoders above each fader. Each row is dual purpose and assignable. In one mode, they access aux sends (in groups of 3), in the another mode they can be assigned to any rotary control (gain, trim, dynamics, or even auxes) on a per-row basis for the bank. Every bank can have different assignments, which is handy. There is also an additional row above the center touch screen which generally controls gain and trim settings.
The SD5 takes a different approach. There are two rows of encoders above the left and right banks (none in the center). A line of buttons to the left of each display select the various functions of the encoders, or you can assign them. I thought I would miss the third encoder row on the SD5, but in practice, I quickly adapted to the workflow. One wonderful feature of the SD5 is that all the encoders have a glow ring beneath them that changes color to indicate what you’re controlling. It looks very cool and is actually incredibly useful.
All the consoles have buttons above each fader with a two line LCD, and the color changed depending on what type of a fader it is (input, aux, group, etc.). These buttons also act as solo buttons for the channel, or when the “LCD Function” button is pressed, accesses the menu of fader management options (assign, un-assign, solo choice, join CG, move and swap for example).
The SD8 and SD10 can access 8 layers of faders in each bank of 12, while the SD5 gives you 10 layers on the left and right banks and 8 in the center. The layers have LCD buttons on all desks, but the SD8 and SD10 have silver buttons to select layers, while on the SD5, you press the LCD button itself.
The biggest difference of the SD5 is the inclusion of three 15” touch screens plus two “Interactive Metering Displays.” On the left and right banks, you also get full EQ and dynamics controls. The SD8 and SD10 put a single set of controls next to the center screen.
One of my favorite features of all Digico consoles is that there is no limitation of how you assign faders. There is no “input” and “output” bank restrictions. You can build fader banks however you like, mixing inputs, auxes, groups, matrixes and even solo levels on any layer in any bank. And you can have the console switch to any layer via a snapshot so you will always have the right faders underhand.
Another differentiation is the macro buttons. The SD8 has 8 silver buttons that can be assigned to any macro you write (the macro language is a whole post in itself). We use these for quickly putting monitor mixes into sends on fader mode, tap tempo, or triggering both talkback busses for example. The SD10 and SD5 have 10 LCD buttons which can be color-assigned and accessed in 4 banks (for a total of 40 assignable buttons). That is the one feature I really wish the SD8 had.
While the layout of the SD8 and SD10 is very similar, the SD5 takes a little more adjustment if you’re used to the other two. I thought it would take longer, but I was very comfortable in about 3-4 hours, and very proficient at the end of the first weekend. Like anything, time makes one more comfortable.
Next time around, we’ll consider the connectivity these consoles offer, as well as my opinion on how to choose between the three.