Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: May 2013 (Page 2 of 3)

Going to Gurus?

Gurus 2013 is happening soon; starting Tuesday May 21 at Willow Creek in Chicago. Van and I are excited to be going and while we’ve talked about it on the podcast, I thought we should mention it here as well. If you see us walking around, please come up and say hi. We love talking to you guys and putting faces to the names.

We’ll be recording a live ChurchTechWeekly during lunch on Wednesday, with a second segment taking place during the facility tour later in the day. We’d love to hear from you, so look for us in the auditorium and come over and join the fun for a few minutes.

If you can’t be there, we hope to be able to broadcast the first half of the podcast during lunch on our Livestream channel. If all goes well, we’ll be live sometime around 11:45 AM CDT. We’ll also be doing some video coverage—interviews and stories from speakers and attendees alike, so watch the blog for that as well.

The event is free, and it’s not too late to register, so if you can get to Chicago by Tuesday, you can still make it happen.

Hope to see you at Gurus!

Managing Creatives is Tricky…


Photo courtesy of  Robert Huffstutter

Photo courtesy of Robert Huffstutter

Creative people can be a hard lot to manage. And I say that as a creative person who has also had to manage other creatives. Part of the problem is that most of us tend to assume that other people are like us. So, if you’re a left-brained analytical person, you tend to assume that everyone else is similar. As such, walking into the tech booth and saying, “It’s too loud,” or, “Can we kill the haze,” or “I don’t like that background for the second song,” seems like a perfectly logical and non-offensive thing to do. And it would be; if your tech booth was populated by left-brained analytical people. But it’s not. So your words have far more meaning than you think they do.

I was reading an article in Fast Company a few weeks ago. They were doing a feature story on the head of J. Crew. Now, even though I’m normally pretty fashionable in my tech standard-issue black t-shirt and blue jeans, I normally don’t pay much mind to J. Crew. But the article caught my eye so I started reading. One quote from the young president, Jenna Lyons, really resonated with what we do in the technical arts. She says:

“When someone creates something and puts it in front of you, that thing came from inside them, and if you make them feel bad, it’s going to be hard to fix, because you’ve actually crushed them.” 

This simple, run-on sentence really helps clarify why we feel so hurt by a simple, “It’s too loud” comment. I think it perfectly illustrates the disconnect between most church leaders and their technical staff. Leadership tends to think that the tech people are left-brained analytical people who just happen to understand technology better and know how to push the right buttons at the right time.

To be sure, some of us are like that. But the best technical artists I know are just that; artists. Mixing a worship set isn’t just bring up the faders to unity and turning the pastor’s mic off. There is as much artistry going on behind the mixer as there is on the stage (sometimes more; but that’s another post). The best lighting guys don’t just turn on lights—they carefully choose colors, angles and intensity to appropriately convey the mood of the song. The presentation tech picks backgrounds that go with the lights and the song. It’s all art; varying degrees, but still art. 

So what the left-brained person thinks is a totally neutral, fact-based comment is actually much more. Walking into the booth and saying, “It’s too loud,” or “Can you turn the guitar down?” and leaving is not at all unlike throwing a hand grenade into the booth, then leaving. You thought it was a statement of fact, but it’s more like tearing up your 4-year old’s painting in front of her.

Now to be sure, we artists need to develop thicker skin. We are in a service business and ultimately we need to serve our leadership and their vision of the church and service. It’s important for us to recognize that our leaders aren’t intending to crush us with their comments. They are pointing out a problem that they see needs to be solved. And as problem-solvers, we should be good at this. 

But somehow, we need to develop better methods of communication between the artists and thinkers. Church leaders need to understand that we’re not picking values at random—a lot of our hearts and soul goes into whatever we’re doing. At least it should. The danger comes when the artist gets so beaten down that they give up and fall back to, “Whatever you want” mode. 

And while the left-brained types think it would be much better for everyone if they didn’t have to deal with those “out there artists,” the reality is, they don’t want that. Because a purely intellectual expression of the Gospel is an incompletely expression. The church needs artists, desperately. God himself is the ultimate artist, and when we as artists express what is in us, we are all better off for it. 

Somehow, we need to figure out how to get along, and how to better communicate with each other. Only then will the church be all it can be.

CTW Review: myMix Personal Mixing System Pt. 2

Last time, we looked at the basic components of the myMix system. Today, we’ll put the system together and see how it sounds. 

Configuration

Once I had the system wired together (which was very easy—no manual needed), I wirelessly connected to the myMix PLUG for configuration. The PLUG is a small computer and wireless access point that serves as the interface between the user’s browser and the myMix network. I did need the single page “manual” for this step, but only to get the IP address to hit with my browser, and to learn the username and password. Once connected, configuration was pretty easy. myMix uses a straight HTML interface for configuration, which is both good and bad. It’s good because no additional software is needed; you can hit it from any browser.

The downside is that you’re limited to HTML-accessible controls, which means buttons and drop downs. The layout is not the prettiest, and it takes a little bit to get the lay of the land amongst the rows of similarly sized buttons. Once you get it, it’s pretty easy to get around on.

I got into the input expander and quickly named the channels and set the stereo pairs up. That took about 3 minutes. I then started configuring the myMix mixers. It didn’t take long to get my inputs assigned; the biggest challenge (which wasn’t really that hard) was figuring out where to turn off the built-in inputs so I could access all 16 inputs from the input expander (hint: it’s in preferences; select “None” for the built-in inputs). With that done, I put on my headphones and built my mix.

Sound Quality

I noticed this at NAMM, and it was confirmed again in the studio—these sound good. The headphone amps are very, very stout, and easily drove my Heil ProSet 3 headphones very loud. I tried my Ultimate Ears UE900s and UE7s, and had to turn the unit down. So volume will be no problem. The sound is also very clean. The audio is 48KHZ, 24-bit, and it sounds like it. Even when I clipped the inputs (you see clipping when the channel names turn red), I heard no distortion. 

The sound quality gets a two thumbs up rating from me. It’s easy to set up different configurations on the unit, and save them as Profiles. This can be accomplished through the Control software interface, or on the units themselves. One feature that was very handy was being able to set up a profile on one unit, then quickly copy it via the web interface to another. You can also save profiles, and upload those to other units via the web interface. It would be very easy to build multiple starting configurations and upload them for each musician as needed. 

You can also adjust the individual mixes on each unit using the web interface, but you probably won’t want to. This is one of the big limitation of the HTML interface. To set the volume of a mix channel, you select from a drop down menu that gives you volume values in .5 dB increments. Panning is the same way, only you select items like “72% L / 18% R.” And once you set all the levels, you hit apply to make the changes stick. Building mixes on the mixer is much, much faster. 

On the other hand, the cool thing about Control is that you can put it on a network and access it literally from anywhere. In fact, if you visit mymixaudio.com, you can log into their myMix network and see that input expanders and myMixers they have plugged in. This could be useful for troubleshooting. 

You can also select various parameters to lock the user out of. For example, if you don’t want the user changing channel selections, you can lock that feature out. The list of lockable parameters is quite extensive, so you have very granular control, which would be nice for keeping musicians out of the configuration pages.

Conclusion

As I said at the start of this review, I was initially not that impressed with the concept of myMix. But as it’s grown up and more features have been added, I think it’s a solid system. Price-wise, you’re looking at just under $700 each per mixer ($679 MSRP). The input expanders run about $1,000 (add $300 to include the ADAT ports). The POE switch will set you back $200-800 depending on model and number of ports (they recommend various models from D-Link, Cisco and Netgear). Finally, the myMix PLUG is just under $700. 

So it’s not a low-budget option, but it’s a highly flexible one. Cost-wise, it’s on par with Aviom, but it’s far more capable and sounds a lot better. You can save and pre-build mixes like we do on the Roland M-48s, though it doesn’t have the channel count or mixing ability (the M-48s can mix 40 channels into 16 stereo groups). 

And we didn’t even talk about the ability to record multi-track audio of all 16 channels on the system at any or all of the mixers on a simple SD card. What a great way for musicians to be able to listen to and critique their playing (and hopefully get better). 

Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty robust and capable option.

Today’s post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 147: Vocalists Don’t Pan A Lot


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It’s all about monitors this week! We delve into the various monitor options that we can choose from; mixing from FOH, a monitor desk, personal mixers, iPad options and even hybrid solutions. Plus, In The News.

More…

Today’s post is brought to you by the Roland R-1000. The R-1000 is a multi-channel recorder/player ideal for the V-Mixing System or any MADI equipped console or environment. Ideal for virtual sound checks, multi-channel recording, and playback.

CTA Review: myMix Personal Mixing System

Sixteen channel personal mixers are not new, nor is there a shortage of them. However, the myMix offers an interesting take on the concept. Introduced a few years ago, I was initially excited about the system. But then I learned that the only way to get inputs into the system was to plug into each individual mixer, two channels at a time. I liked the interface, but that mode of inputs just didn’t work. 

The folks at myMix heard that, and set off to develop an input module. Now that it’s possible to get 16-32 channels on the network using a module, now we have something to talk about. So to start off, let’s consider the components of the system. 

System Components

To get signal into the system, you can use the IEX-16L or IEX-16L-A input expansion module. Both feature 16 analog inputs on DB25 connectors; the -A model adds two ADAT inputs. You can mix and match input types in groups of 8; so 8 channels analog, 8 channels ADAT or all 16 via the same type—unless you don’t have the -A model, then it’s all analog. myMix sells some cool DB-25 break-in cables that conveniently include both TRS and XLR inputs on the ends. It makes for a slightly messy install, but having both cable ends eliminates a lot of adapting issues.


The big green lights make it easy to see signal flow into the A/D converter.

Once you have your 16 channels on the network (you can actually combine two input expanders on the network to put 32 channels on the digital network), the next piece of gear is a POE Ethernet switch. myMix offers a nice, 8-port Cisco version with two gigabit ports as part of the system. Finally, you use a Cat 5 cable to connect to the myMix mixer. At NAMM this year, they also introduced the myMix Control, which is a software that gives you networked control over all the input modules and myMixers on the network. More on that in a moment.

myMix took a whole new approach to the personal mixing interface. Instead of a blank panel punched through with encoders, there is a nice large LCD screen with a single large knob at the bottom. Four buttons along the right side select various menu elements, and two buttons below the screen mute or start and stop recording. That’s right, you can multi-track record your 16 inputs to an SD card using the built-in card slot. 

Initially, I suspected the single-knob approach would slow the user down, and make it harder to use. But when I played with it at NAMM, I actually found it to be fairly quick to get around on. That was confirmed when I set it up in the Palatial Studio. After configuring the 16 inputs, it didn’t take long to build a mix. Each input has level, tone, pan and effects send options. To use the mixer, spin the knob to select the input you wish to adjust. A single press brings up the volume. The four buttons on the right select the other options. When finished, a second press of the knob returns you to the overview screen. It’s all fairly intuitive and easy to use.

The only criticism I have up to this point is that the type on the screen is pretty small. We have some older musicians on our team and I suspect some would have an issue reading the channel labels. Since I lost my progressives a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed that small type is a bit of a challenge, so I put myself in this category. Thankfully, the screen is illuminated and sharp. You can also select a list view of the input channels, which makes the type a bit bigger. You do end up with a little more scrolling, however.

Each myMix mixer also has two XLR/TRS combo jacks on the back. These are inputs, that can be used for each musician’s channels, and/or sent out to the network. One model for use is to have each musician plug their instruments into the myMixers, then everyone on stage can select from everyone’s inputs. A “FOH” mixer could be used to dial up a house mix. In this set up, you wouldn’t even need an input module. It also assumes you’re not mic’ing the full drum kit with 8-10 mic’s.

I suspect that club bands would use this feature more than churches, so I didn’t play with it much. However, for a smaller student or kids venue, that might be useful… Another very clever design feature is the mic-stand mount. It neatly integrates into the bottom of the unit using a single captive thumbscrew. Once the mount is in place, you screw it to the top of any standard mic stand. If you want to set one on a desk, you remove the mount, and four rubber feet protects the surface.

So that gets us through the initial set up and basic components. Next time, we’ll see how it works, and more importantly, how it sounds.

Today’s post is brought to you by Horizon Battery, distributor of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. Used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, and broadcast companies. We offer a free rechargeable evaluation for any church desiring to switch to money-saving,  planet-saving rechargeables. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors. 

And by GearTechs. Technology for Worship is what they do. Audio, video and lighting; if it’s part of your worship service, and it has to do with technology, GearTechs can probably help. Great products, great advice, GearTechs.

CTA Tutorial: Crimping BNC Connectors

I’ve written a whole series on soldering XLRs, 1/4” plugs and Speakon connectors, but I’ve never done a post on BNCs. A few months back, while I was wiring our video rack, I decided to take some pictures of the process. Several people asked if I could write this up, along with a list of tools and connectors I use. I’m happy to do so, but with a simple caveat; I use what I use because it works for me, and I’ve had good luck with the tools, connectors and cable. There are other varieties of all available, so this is not a “you must do it this way” post. I’m showing you my process, with my stuff. Feel free to copy it though, it works great.


This is my BNC connecting kit. We have multiple strippers calibrated for different wire types. 

This is my BNC connecting kit. We have multiple strippers calibrated for different wire types. 

Parts is Parts

First, we’ll start with the tools and parts list. Terminating coax is actually pretty simple, and once you get things in place, you can do an end in under a minute. Here’s what I use. 

Cable: Gepco VPM-2000

Connectors: Kings 2065-2-9

Cable Stripper: Paladin CST Vario 3 blade adjustable stripper

Crimper: Paladin 1389 full-ratchet crimper

In the past, I’ve used Beldin cable, as well as Canare, and I find the Gepco easier to manage. The braiding is much easier to flare out without tearing it all up. It’s also affordable and stocked 40 miles from me. Kings has been my BNC of choice for over 15 years. I’ve simply never had one fail. Note that I’m using the 2065 series, which is their 75 Ohm connectors (which you should use if you plan to do HD ever). 

The “2-9” destination indicates the variant for that particular cable. Most of the problems people have with terminating BNCs stems from not using the correct connector for the cable. Not all cables are the same diameter, so the center pin won’t crimp fully, or the outer crimp will be weak. If you choose to use Kings, you can find their connector/cable reference here. Most cable manufacturers also have a cross-reference. If you properly match the cable to connector, you won’t have any problems. 

We went through several strippers before I found one I really like. The CST Vario is about $90 at Markertek, it’s totally worth it. You can get the blades adjusted exactly right for your connectors (look up the instructions for assembly, they’ll tell you what the strip lengths should be), and I’ve not broken a single Vario blade. I have however, gone through about $90 worth of blade cartridges for their cheaper stripper. Spend the money the first time. 

I’m not going to get into the process for adjusting the stripper. Follow the directions with the stripper and the connectors. It will take a while to get the blades set to the right depth. Be patient, and be prepared to waste a few feet of cable. Once you get it right, you shouldn’t be nicking the center connector, and the braiding should be cut cleanly. Take the time to get this right. After it’s done, everything goes a lot easier. Trust me…

The Process

The first step is to strip the cable end. With the Vario, I will line the end of the cable up with the outside of the cartridge, and engage the rollers. I like to push the rollers up until they engage the cable, go another two clicks, then make a turn or two. After two turns, I’ll push the rollers all the way in to fully seat the blades and make 4 more rotations. After that, grip the side of the stripper and pull it straight off the cable end. If you have it adjusted correctly, it will look like this:


Don't worry about the slight bend of the center conductor, the pin will straighten it out.

Don’t worry about the slight bend of the center conductor, the pin will straighten it out.

The next step is to crimp the center pin in place. I found with my 1389, I can close it 5 clicks then drop the pin into the .041 hole. I then slip that over the center conductor on the cable. A final few clicks on the crimper, and we’re done. Make sure you don’t twist the crimper when you put it on. Keep the center conductor straight. It should look like this (and not pull off under moderate tugging):


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You’ll notice I’ve already put the outer sleeve on the cable (along with a heat shrunk label). I like to put the sleeve on before I start crimping so I don’t have to take the end off and put the sleeve on after I’ve adjusted it. Flare the braiding out a little bit, or if you’re using Kings, just gently slide the end over the cable. They thoughtfully put a little ramp on the connector that flares VPM-2000 pretty nicely. You should feel the center pin snap into place (it’s pretty subtle, but it does seat if your strip lengths are correct). It should look like this:


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Now slide the sleeve up in place, making sure you don’t push the end off. This takes a little practice to get the feel, but it’s not hard. You should now have this:


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Finally, put the sleeve (and everything else) into the right slot on the crimper (for a 2065-2-9, it’s a .255). Making sure to not jostle the connector off the end of the cable, gently crimp down. When crimping, you don’t have to squeeze extra-hard or anything; just complete the ratchet cycle. After you’re done, it will look like this (you will probably have to make an extra pass at it to finish the rest of the sleeve):


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Now give it a little tug. It shouldn’t pull off even if you pull pretty firmly. If it slides off too easily, you are either using the wrong connectors for the cable, your crimper is not adjusted properly or you pulled the connector off while you were crimping. No big deal, cut the end off, re-strip and do it again.

It’s Not Hard

You can make these cables. And once you get the hang of it, wiring a video rack is easy, fun and makes the rack look really nice. The best piece of advice I can give is do your homework and get the right parts. All the manufacturers publish specs on which ends to use with which cable, and what crimp die sizes to use. Sometimes you need to dig a little bit, but you can figure it out. Don’t skimp on the tools, and they will last you a long time. Happy crimping!

Today’s post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.

Also by Ultimate Ears. Housed within a custom shell designed to fit your ears, high quality multiple armature speaker systems provide an unparalleled sound environment, as well as 26 dB of passive noise cancellation.

Review: Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone

The shotgun microphone is a staple in the video production world. Highly useful for recording dialog, typically employed on a boom pole, the shotgun is a must-have in any video producer’s toolkit. At least it should be. With the rise of low-cost camcorders a few years back, and DSLRs today, more and more people are producing video. That’s not necessarily bad. However, too often, they forget (or don’t know anything) about audio and simply using the built-in mic on the camera. Before we go any further, if you’re shooting video and using the built-in mic, just stop it. Right now. Unless you’re shooting party footage, strictly B-roll, or your kids soccer game, do us all a favor and get a good mic. Like this one.


Everyone shooting video should have at least one  shotgun mic. 

Everyone shooting video should have at least one  shotgun mic. 

Sennheiser recently (at NAMM, I think…) released a new shotgun mic designed specifically for video recording, the MKE 600. Sennheiser has a pretty good reputation in the shotgun mic space, so I was curious to see what set this apart. In external appearance and construction, it’s pretty ordinary. It’s basically an aluminum tube with slots all along the front, and an XLR at the rear. They thoughtfully included a low-cut switch, which rolls off frequencies below 100 Hz (at an unspecified rate), as well as a AA battery power option. 

According to the marketing material, the MKE600 is for “Video Journalists.” The included shock mount is designed to fit in a cold shoe, and supports the mic on a rubber cradle, isolated from camera noise. I’m normally not a fan of on-camera mic’s (they’re typically too far away for good audio), but the mount is pretty clever. And I suppose if one was shooting with a wide-angle lens on a DSLR, you could get close enough to the talent for good audio.

Educational Sidebar

Perhaps now would be a good time to deviate from the review to point out that while a shotgun mic’s (this one included) are reasonably good at rejecting sound from the sides are rear, they are not magical. Just because you point them at the talent, doesn’t mean they somehow know to only pick up their voice. I’ve heard so many audio for video tracks that have horrendous amounts of background noise because the videographer thought 12’ was an acceptable distance for the mic. It’s not. Get it as close as you can without it being in the frame, which will probably mean employing some kind of boom pole. I’ve said it before, there is no magic plug in that will fix bad audio if you didn’t get it right at the source. End of instructional lesson (for now…)

Sound Quality

So how does the MKE600 sound? Actually, it sounds really good. I did a few tests with it. First, I gave it to my bud and monster bass player Norm Stockton to record some of his instructional sessions with. He had been using another shotgun mic for many of his other recordings, and found the 600 to be much warmer. The problem with many shotgun mic’s is that they tend to get rather thin-sounding as you move away from them. Even at reasonable distances of 2-3 feet, you’re way out of the proximity effect zone, and that can make your vocals sound a bit thin.


The mic is reasonably flat, with a slight presence bump around 5-8 KHz. Note the unnecessary quotes around Low Cut...

The mic is reasonably flat, with a slight presence bump around 5-8 KHz. Note the unnecessary quotes around Low Cut…


   While the polar pattern is not bad at lower frequencies, you see a lot of lobing above 1KHz. Thus, it's not going to have great off-axis sound, or phase response. But that's not terrible, you want to be as close to on-axis as possible with a shotgun.

While the polar pattern is not bad at lower frequencies, you see a lot of lobing above 1KHz. Thus, it’s not going to have great off-axis sound, or phase response. But that’s not terrible, you want to be as close to on-axis as possible with a shotgun.

The MKE600 did a good job of keeping frequency response reasonably flat at good distances. If you get right up on it, the mic gets muddy, but I would expect that; it’s not designed to be a 2-3 inch mic. I compared it to my studio Heil PR-40, and while I sounded much richer and warmer on the Heil, I sounded much more natural on the MKE600 (which is why I use the Heil for CTW…). 

While not in the same league as a Schoeps, it also costs a fraction of, say a CMIT5U. At $399, the MKE600 is a pretty solid value proposition. I used to have an AT 8035 which I quite liked, and while this is a bit more pricey, it’s also more compact and has a warmer quality to it that would be nice on interviews and dialog. The foam windscreen is also quite a bit thicker than what you get with a lot of shotguns, and I suspect far more useful. 

The Bottom Line

Overall, it’s a good mic. It’s solidly built, reasonably priced, sounds good and comes with a 2-year warranty. Learn more at the Sennheiser website.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Church Tech Weekly Episode 146: Buy Food, Skip the Talent


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This week it’s all about audio consoles! We help you come up with criteria for choosing a new console that will meet the needs of the church today and into the future. And we have a little fun while doing it.

More…

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Behringer X32 First Impressions Pt. 2

Last time, we started investigating the Behringer X32. I’ve already acknowledged that while Behringer may have a less than stellar reputation in our industry, the X32 does offer a compelling value proposition. I think it would be a mistake to ignore it. So, today we’ll look at a few of the features that, quite frankly, surprised me.

Virtual Soundcheck Made Easy

Virtual Soundcheck is all the rage these days. Everyone is looking for ways to make it easy to record the band, then play back the tracks in place for training, tuning or mix adjustment. In this regard, the X32 excels. On the back of the console are both USB and FireWire ports that are connected to a 32×32 audio interface. To try this out, I followed these steps. 

  1. Locate a USB cable. 
  2. Plug said cable into the X32 and my MacBook Air.
  3. Launch Reaper and select the X32 as my audio interface.
  4. Create and arm tracks.
  5. Hit record.

That was pretty much it. Playing the tracks back was as easy as going into the routing page and selecting the card as my input source instead of the mic inputs on the back of the console. Rarely is virtual soundcheck so easy. 

Another cool feature that I have yet to try out (but may before this is published) is the ability to turn the X32 into a surface that controls a DAW. It will operate using one of three standard protocols, and with the press of a single button, you have a mixing surface that will run the DAW. 

Programmable Buttons

If you’ve read any of my posts on the Digico consoles, you know that I love programable buttons and macros. Remarkably, the X32 includes 4 assignable encoders (with digital scribble strips), as well as 8 assignable buttons. Moreover, there are 3 banks of these controls, meaning you can have up to 12 assigned encoders and 24 buttons. 

Initially, the encoders come set up to adjust parameters on the FX while the buttons take you to the individual FX pages. That’s good. But since there are two more banks, I wanted more. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I can send MIDI commands via the buttons over the USB cable. Once I selected the X32 as my MIDI interface in Reaper, I configured a few buttons to arm and disarm the band tracks, arm and disarm the speaker’s mic track and start and stop recording. Now we’re having fun!

While the list of assignable commands and things you can do with the buttons and encoders isn’t as deep as I’m used to on the SD8, it’s still quite impressive. 

Intuitive Layout

I’ve mixed on dozens of consoles in my career. Some are easy to pick up, others are less so. I would put the X32 in the “very easy’ column of mixers I’ve worked on. It really is pretty intuitive and simple to get around on. There are a few things I didn’t like—the EQ controls for instance—but they weren’t deal breakers. To some extent, I even understand the choice to give us three encoders for the EQ with push buttons to select the bands; it keeps the surface much less cluttered. In practice, it was reasonably quick to use (and I would probably have the iPad close by most of the time anyway if this were my primary console). 

The quick access “View” buttons made it very easy to get from one page to another on the non-touch screen, even if I didn’t know exactly where the page was located in the menu structure. In no time, I was naming and color-coding channels, assigning things to DCAs and creating mute groups. All of this was done without looking at a manual (which is good, because no manual was included and I can’t get the website to give me one). 

Time will tell how the desk will hold up, but honestly, it’s cheap enough that if it lasted two years, it would still be a good value (and I think it will work longer than that). It feels reasonably well built, and based on what I’ve heard from Uli Behringer, they are really working hard to shed their “low quality, stolen IP” image. I’ve said before that it seems like Behringer is like a Mob family that’s trying to go legit. Again, time will tell if that’s true, but the X32 is a pretty good first step in that direction. For $2500, it’s really hard not to at least consider it if you’re in the market for a 32-ish channel digital (or analog for that matter) console.  

Today’s post is brought to you by Bose Professional Systems Division, committed to developing best-in-class products, tools, and services to create original audio experiences. The chief advantage products like RoomMatch® array module loudspeakers and our line of PowerMatch® amplifiers offer for worship are clear natural sound that makes voices and music seem more real.

Behringer X32 First Impressions

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…


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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 32×32 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 Quality

“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. 

Today’s post is brought to you by DPA Microphones. DPA’s range of microphones have earned their reputation  for exceptional clarity,  high resolution, above all, pure, uncolored accurate sound. Whether recording or sound reinforcement, theatrical or broadcast, DPA’s miking solutions have become the choice of professionals with uncompromising demands for sonic excellence.

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