It’s been over a year since I first encountered the X32. And I know what you’re thinking, “Ew, Behringer, gross.” I know, I thought the same thing. But the price point and feature set of the console were so compelling I just had to take another look. As someone pointed out on Twitter, not everyone can afford an SD5…
You probably know the basic specs by now (and if not you can find them on their website). The X32 is a 40 channel mixer with 32 mic inputs on board. It has 16 assignable outputs on XLRs and another 8 inputs and outputs on 1/4s (with a few RCAs thrown in for good measure). In addition to the LCR busses, it also has 16 auxes, and 6 matrix mixes.
Each fader has a digital scribble strip above it, which can also be color-coded by the user and display an icon. They also include a pair of AES50 ports for additional stage boxes, plus a 32x32 USB/FireWire audio interface (more on that in a moment). The console can also be remotely controlled via a computer through the Ethernet port, or using their iPad app. There is a lot more, but I’ll let you dig into the specs. I want to talk about mixing on the console.
From SD5 to X32
For Palm Sunday-Easter, I was mixing on a Digico SD5 (our normal SD8 was down at monitor world). The Tuesday after Easter, I unboxed the X32 and set it up in our auditorium for a student worship night. The band was relatively small—four vocals, an acoustic and cajon—but I thought it would be a good initial test. Since I mix in that room all the time, I’m very familiar how the PA sounds.
I tend to judge consoles by how easy they are to unbox, get plugged in and set up. In this regard, the X32 scores many points. The console I received was a demo at the NAMM show, and was set up for their booth. I quickly located the “Reset All” command and zeroed the entire desk. Once I did that, it was easy to get inputs plugged in and working, and my output mixes showed up right where I wanted them.
I wanted to use just the console—no iPad or computer—for this first outing, so I configured all the channel names, routing and patching using just the controls on the surface. Again, I found it quite quick and easy to get around on. Initially, I was pushing more buttons than I needed to; to view the channel EQ, for example, I initially pressed the Home key near the screen, then navigated to the EQ page. Then I noticed that each section on the desk has a “View” button in the corner that takes you directly to the page those controls adjust. Slick.
As I was doing my initial set up, I found myself a bit irked that you can only patch channels in groups of 8. In other words, you choose where channels 1-8 come in (in groups of 8 inputs on the back, or in groups of 8 from the AES50 ports). I’m a bit spoiled with my SD8 being able to patch anything to anywhere. Then I reminded myself that the X32 costs less than the sales tax on the SD8. With that perspective change, I realized it isn’t that big of a deal. UPDATE 5/4/13: Neil pointed out that you can in fact patch any input to any fader. In fact, the input faders can also be busses or auxes. It's set in the individual channel config screen. I glossed right over that when setting up the desk. This again proves that a good manual would have been really handy. END UPDATE.
“Sound” and “Quality” are not two words we’ve normally applied to Behringer products in the same sentence (at least in a positive light). However, I can report that the X32 sounds perfectly acceptable. No, it doesn't sound as good as the SD8 or (especially) the SD5. But again, the entire console costs less than two 8-channel input cards for an SD-Rack. The sound is certainly as good as an LS9 or M7, the EQs are very useable—much, much better in fact than the MG32 we have in our student room—and the compressors are not bad at all. Even the FX are pretty decent, providing you keep in mind the price point.
All of the vocals that night were female (my daughter being one of them) and I had no trouble getting them sounding quite good. I played around with hall and plate reverbs as well as delay, and was able to fairly quickly get a sound I was happy with. The faders felt OK, and within an hour of using the console, I was quite comfortable on it.
The initial impressions are good; next time, I’ll consider a few things that surprised me about this little desk.