Last time, we started looking at the QSC TouchMix 16 digital mixer. It’s an interesting concept; a powerful mixer in a small package with no physical faders. It relies on a touch screen—and a not very good one at that—for fader control. While I didn’t love that part, there is a lot I like. Well, except for the non-recallable head amp controls.
Why, Oh Why?
Instead of encoders, we find analog controls that sit in two rows below the two rows of mic inputs. They are not hard to use, but making them recallable would have been nice. I know manufacturers have to cut costs somewhere to keep the price point competitive, but I really wish we could do recallable head amps on all digital mixers these days.
A series of buttons allow the user to access the mixers deep feature set quickly. Below the phantom power and mixer power buttons are five easy-to-activate rectangle buttons labeled Wizard, Info, FX Mute, FX Master and Mute Groups. The Wizard button helps inexperienced users set gain and route channels to effects. Info is basically a help menu and is pretty good. FX Mute is a nice touch, as it kills all the effects in a single button press that is always on the surface. FX Master takes you right to the FX Master page—shocking, I know. Mute groups brings up a set of on-screen buttons for the 8 mute groups. Below those buttons are the Phones, Talk and Monitor buttons. Phones and Monitor bring up an on-screen volume indication for those two outputs. Talk does exactly what you would expect it to. That’s a common theme on this mixer; it’s laid out well and acts the way you’d expect it to. Even novice users should have no trouble getting up and running quickly. I like user interfaces that are intuitive and make sense, and this section of the TouchMix is good in that regard.
The big knob on the lower right side of the mixer has a cool blue ring around it and there are five buttons surrounding the top half. Four are user-definable and come pre-programmed for left-right navigation, cue clear and clear clip. The final button is the channel polarity flip control. Next to the touch screen we find three more buttons; Home, Menu and Record/Play. Home takes you back to the main channel display quickly, so if you get lost, that gets you back. Menu brings up the system menu, which has a bunch of controls for how the mixer behaves, sets security, gives access to aux and effects overviews and more. Record/Play brings the transport controls to the bottom of the screen.
Easy to Use
In use, the TouchMix is fairly easy to get around on, with one caveat that I’ll get to in a minute. Routing is simple and intuitive, the display is clear and bright and I never struggled to figure out how to do something. It offers two USB ports on the back, one of which comes with a Wi-Fi adapter installed. The other can be used for any FAT-32 formatted drive and can record 22 channels; all 20 inputs plus stereo mix. You can even play them back by setting each channel to take signal from the track rather than the input. It makes for easy virtual soundcheck.
Better With an iPad
As I mentioned last time, the biggest problem I have with the TouchMix is the touchscreen. I found it sluggish to respond and occasionally overshot my targets. The version 2.1 firmware helped some, however. The best way to use this mixer in my opinion is with an iPad. While the TouchMix can be its own Wi-Fi access point, I found it worked much more reliably when I connected it to my Airport Extreme.
The iPad app is really quite good. Where fine selections are hard on the mixer screen, it’s easy on the iPad. All functions are available—including all set up and configuration settings—from the iPad, so after gain is set on each channel, I’d walk away and use the iPad exclusively. This is really why I wish the head amps were digitally controlled; I’d never use the surface for anything if they were. It also helps that the iPad is multi-touch; the TouchMix is not.
An iPhone app is also available, and it’s really designed for monitor mixing. You can allow a device to access all mixes (including the main) or just one through the configuration screen, making it easy for band members to mix their own ears.
In use, the TouchMix works well enough. When paired with an iPad, it would do well for small gigs, student rooms, ancillary rooms and the like. I suspect it was really designed for small bands to set on the side of the stage to mix their shows. It feels like a set it and forget it mixer. But it does have some cool features and the number of aux mixes is surprising for a mixer in this size and price class. I did crash it once or twice during testing, and I saw a few configuration menus that weren’t complete. A reboot cleared most of that up, and to be fair, the crashes happened right after a firmware update. There’s probably some software work left to do, but overall, it’s a decent mixer in the right application.