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Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Today, digital console technologies are not only accepted by the live sound and contracting community, but truly dominate major segments of the touring market

Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Mar 22, 2010 12:00 PM,
By George Petersen

Allen & Heath iDR-16 and iLive-R72

Today, digital console technologies are not only accepted by the live sound and contracting community, but truly dominate major segments of the touring market. As the technology matured, several trends emerged. Greater numbers of channels are being controlled by increasingly smaller controllers, plug-ins have been accepted into FOH and monitor “racks,” and software upgrades can expand the feature set of existing products without fear of obsolescence or bankrupting the sound company.

Recently, there’s been a lot of movement toward advancing the state of the art in digital consoles for live applications. Looking into developments from various manufacturers (listed alphabetically) over the past year, here’s what we found.

Available in standard formats or customized to user requirements, Allen & Heath‘s iLive modular mix system combines a central MixRack and an iLive surface controller, which connect over a single Cat-5 cable up to 120 meters in length. The iLive Series now has six surface and five MixRack variants, and they can be mixed and matched in any combination. Show files are transferable between systems via a USB key.

The latest additions are the iDR-16 MixRack and the rackmountable iLive-R72 Control Surface. Together, they offer a compact, digital live mixing system with the same power and sonic performance of the larger touring iLive systems but at a significantly lower price point. The fixed I/O iDR-16 MixRack has 16 mic/line inputs and eight XLR outputs in a 3RU frame. An extra eight I/Os are available locally at the iLive-R72 surface. All MixRacks, including the new iDR-16, feature the same 64×32 RackExtra DSP mix engine, which provides processing for 64 channels, 32 mixes, and eight stereo effects processors. An expansion slot offers audio networking possibilities, digital mic splitting, and multitrack recording (with ACE, EtherSound, MADI, ADAT, and Aviom interfaces available). A built-in network switch and MIDI ports at each end allow remote control using laptops, touch tablets, and MIDI devices.

Cadac S-Digital

Cadac’s S-Digital live theater console reflects the surface architecture of Cadac’s J-Type analog board, offering a familiar mix environment but with the benefit of digital control. The board combines proprietary high-speed digital communication with a core busing system based around field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and dedicated SHARC DSP devices within the DSP rack. This handles all I/O channels with fiber-optic or coax interfacing to the stage rack/preamps. Additional control surface frames can be brought in during rehearsals (for single-operator or multioperator use) and then removed or relocated to reduce the mix footprint during performances.

Computer Integrated Audio (CIA) now offers its System 48—a 48-input/output, software-driven virtual console powered by RML Labs’ SAC application—split into two rolling racks for fast transport and setup. Standard features include 48 inputs and outputs, 5-band parametric EQ, compressor and gating on every channel, 16 DCAs, six stereo aux sends, eight master outs (and 16 virtual outputs), and 7.1 mixing capability. In addition to the 48-channel model, 32-, 64-, and 72-channel versions are also available.

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Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Mar 22, 2010 12:00 PM,
By George Petersen

DiGiCo SD8-24

DiGiCo‘s new SD8-24 offers the identical power of its entry-level SD8 console in a footprint less than a meter wide. It features the same fixed architecture and Super FPGA of the SD8 and DiGiCo’s unique Stealth Digital Processing. Features include the 48/8 Stage Rack and a 100-meter digital MADI snake; up to 60 mono or stereo channels with full processing; 24 mono or stereo buses; onboard local I/O with eight mic/line inputs, eight line outputs, and eight AES I/Os; eight stereo floating-point effects processors; snapshot cue control with crossfade; 25 touch-sensitive faders; touchscreen control; networking and remote control; MADI connection; 24×32 bands of graphic EQ; eight channels with 4-band dynamic EQ (mono or stereo); and eight channels of multiband compressor (mono or stereo).

Also new is the EX-007 controller, which is designed to substantially increase the number of available faders and the number of channels controllable from an SD7 console and from a distance of up to 100 meters over Cat-5. Two EX-007s—each adding 24 faders, two additional touchscreens, metering, and other standard functions—can transform the SD7 into a 100-fader mixing console. Besides simply adding more faders, the EX-007 can be used as a remote surface for controlling entire mixes within an auditorium while the SD7 is placed elsewhere, thus freeing up more seats.

On the horizon, DiGiCo plans to integrate plug-in specialist Waves Audio’s new SoundGrid technology into DiGiCo’s single-FPGA Stealth Digital Processing products. SoundGrid will allow DiGiCo platforms to access existing plug-ins with low-latency performance. More details should be announced later this year.

Digidesign Venue SC48

Designed for midsized and small spaces, the Venue SC48 from Digidesign is a one-piece system combining I/O, digital signal processing, tactile control, and plug-in support. Features include a Pro Tools LE FireWire interface and software included for audio recording/playback, 48 analog XLR mic/line inputs, 16 analog line outputs (expandable to 32), 16 aux sends, eight groups, eight mono matrixes (linkable as up to four stereo matrixes), and 26 touch-sensitive, motorized faders (16 input, eight output masters, one mains, and one flex channel). A single expansion slot is provided for maximizing output count or adding Aviom A-Net connectivity.

Harrison Trion Live MkII

Now in its second generation, Harrison’s Trion Live MkII features a traditional surface rather than a central, shared-knobs approach. Hardware enhancements include transformer-balanced mic preamps with a high-impedance input setting for line-level and wireless mic inputs, and a combo I/O unit intended for smaller configurations with 24 A/D converters, 16 ADCs, and 16 AES I/Os, with MADI (optical or copper) interfacing to/from the board’s MADI router, which now has 12 4×1 summing points. Harrison also offers plug-ins for live users, including 2- and 6-band denoisers, de-esser, and a sub-harmonic generator, while adding FFT displays to its harmonic notch filters and buzz/hum killer.

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Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Mar 22, 2010 12:00 PM,
By George Petersen

Innovason Eclipse

Innovason’s Eclipse digital control surface, which has the Eclipse DSP engine, lets users mix up to 104 inputs simultaneously into 48 mix buses with the capacity to manage up to 320 inputs on the console, using up to five remote audio racks. The Multitrack Audio Recording System (MARS) option allows 64 tracks of audio to be recorded directly to a hard disk plugged into the back of the console.

The compact (46″x30″) surface has 48 faders and 48 configurable rotary knobs spread over four layers. An LED on each channel strip provides at-a-glance indication of the bus or function assignment to any channel. The Muxipaire interface connects via coax or fiber-optic cable to the 64 I/O Stage Box up to 500 meters away, and a Cat-5 port ties into a 64-channel bidirectional EtherSound network. MADI and Aviom connect modules are optional.

Lawo mc256

Lawo‘s smaller mc256 uses the same Lawo HD core as the other mc2 models, with up to 512 DSP channels, 144 summing buses, and 8,192-crosspoint routing capacity. The mc256 has a new control surface that provides direct access to essential operating elements. Rarely used functions are handled via the touchscreen interface for fast operation and a short learning curve. In addition, the new design reduces fader width to 30mm for efficient, ergonomic production. Every 16-fader bay has full-function, high-res TFT metering. With frame size choices from 32 to 80 faders and special flight-case versions, the console is adaptable to a wide range of applications.

Also new is version 4.8 software for the mc2 consoles. A new channel display features additional color and textural information for the VCA and Link displays. Now, any number of channels can be interconnected with an almost unlimited number of link groups. Each link group can be linked with different modules—such as fader, mute, or EQ—with a color and name assigned to each group. Each channel can even meter one of the first eight linked channels, comparable to a VCA master. And the Couple function can temporarily link multiple channels for quick adjustments of all grouped channel parameters. Changing the level of Aux-Send 1 or Input Gain for a large number of channels can, therefore, be completed with only three moves.

The latest update for Mackie’s TT24 digital console is version 1.7.1 software, which, among other enhancements, improves functions such as channel copy/paste, touchscreen scrolling, and snapshot naming. A recent LP48 Lake loudspeaker processing card option adds onboard two-, three-, and four-way crossovers with delay and limiting (with outputs assignable to the back panel of the TT24 or DS3232 expansion card); Ideal Graphic EQ and Lake Mesa parametric EQ; and integration of the Lake Controller interface with Mackie’s PC-based TT Control software.

Midas PRO6

The big news at Midas was the sale of the company to The Music Group (the parent company of Behringer and a number of other associated companies) from Bosch Communications Systems. North American distribution of the brand is now via American Music & Sound, which also handles Allen & Heath, Turbosound, Beyerdynamic, Focusrite, Klark Teknik, and other brands.

Midas recently launched offline editor software for both its XL8 and PRO6 digital consoles. The application runs on any Intel-based Apple Macintosh computer running Mac OS X 10.5 or higher and is currently in free beta release from The software lets users prepare shows in advance or migrate an XL8 show to a PRO6 (or vice-versa) from anywhere—all without having access to the board. It enables full control of all parameters, including creation of show files, management of preset libraries, system setup and patching, etc.—essentially running the same as the console software. The offline editor also has a training function so novice users can learn XL8 and PRO6 operations prior to operating the consoles.

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Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Mar 22, 2010 12:00 PM,
By George Petersen

PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2

Unveiled earlier this year, PreSonus’ StudioLive 24.4.2 digital console is a 24-input live mixer with onboard 32-bit effects, four buses, 10 aux outputs, and 32 outputs (and 26 returns) via FireWire for direct-to-computer recording. The heart of StudioLive is the Fat Channel, which features EQ and dynamics on every input channel, as well as on every aux, subgroup, and main output. Besides additional inputs, the 24.4.2 expands on the 16.4.2 version with a host of new features, and multiple StudioLive consoles (16- or 24-channel) can be cascaded for additional inputs. The package includes Capture recording software and Studio One Artist digital audio workstation software for Mac and Windows.

In other news, PreSonus has released a StudioLive 24.4.2/16.4.2 driver and Universal Control software for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7 operating systems, which is available as a free download.

Roland Systems Group expands its V-Mixing System lineup with the RSS by Roland M-380, a 48-channel digital console with all the features of its popular M-400 V-Mixer but in a compact rackmount footprint. The M-380 V-Mixer offers setup recalls, 100mm motorized and touch-sensitive faders, an 800×480 color screen, dedicated EQ/pan/gain knobs, onboard effects, 16 aux/monitor sends, eight matrices, eight DCAs, eight mute groups, built-in stereo recording/playback, and support for LCR configurations. Based around Roland Ethernet Audio Communication (REAC), the M-380 interfaces with a variety of RSS digital snake/stagebox systems over standard Cat-5e cable. A Cakewalk multichannel recording option is also offered.

A recent free software update for the M-400 and M-380 adds control of the RSS modular digital snake system’s S-4000M Merge Unit directly from the V-Mixer, allowing up to four digital snake heads to be merged into a REAC stream for flexible V-Mixing system configurations. Other functions in the new software include access to three user fader layers, expanded control of aux send/direct out muting, knob control of gate/compressor parameters, and more.

Soundcraft Si1

Designed to easily replace an existing analog console, the Soundcraft Si series expands with the small-footprint (1.2 meters wide) Si1, which comes standard with 48 inputs (32 mic inputs mapped on 16 faders, four stereo line channels, and four effects returns from its four onboard stereo Lexicon FX processors), eight balanced insert sends/returns, 24 group/aux buses, eight matrix buses, and main bus outs. Any group/aux/matrix bus can be assigned to any of the Si1’s 16 XLR bus outs, and each bus has a 30-band BSS Audio graphic EQ. Three option card slots provide further expansion, such as recording all the channel direct outs or increasing the number of mix channels. Soundcraft’s offline editor program, Virtual Si, lets users set up and manage complete shows offline for later download to a Si1 console through a USB memory key.

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Digital Consoles for Live Sound

Mar 22, 2010 12:00 PM,
By George Petersen

StageTec Crescendo

StageTec’s Crescendo is designed to fall between the company’s top-end Aurus console and the fixed-bus layout Auratus, which is designed for smaller venues. Crescendo provides a freely configurable layout—simply add DSP boards for more channels—with a maximum of 128 buses. The controller surface can be ordered from 43in. to 94in. wide, depending on application requirements, with up to 48 individual channel strips handling 300 full audio channels. Visual feedback comes via TFT screens and OLED displays.

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Crescendo’s audio-processing and optical-interface components are accommodated in a Nexus Star central router, which serves as an audio-routing matrix and provides a maximum matrix size of 65,536 I/Os with a capacity of 4,096 inputs simultaneously routed to all available outputs. Two consoles on the same Star router can share the audio matrix at the same time, for example, one mixer in the auditorium and another handling monitors or recording.

A new software release expands the scope of Studer’s Vista 5 SR live sound console. Version 4.7 adds features dedicated to live theater, such as enhanced cue list management, including single-button creation of cues; simplified cue renumbering/inserting; the firing of MIDI/MMC events; and a large display of current and upcoming cue events. Channel VCA mute/unmute assigns can now be entered on a cue-by-cue basis while building a show, and library entries based on a play’s character names can be created, for example, assigning EQ or effects to each.

A key feature in version 4.7 is Virtual Vista, a PC software suite that enables both offline setup of shows (for example, channel labels, routing, VCA assignments, and main cues to script) and direct online control of the console so sound engineers can position themselves at critical locations within a theater and make system adjustments to delay, EQ, etc.

Yamaha M7CL-48ES

The latest addition to Yamaha’s successful M7CL console line is the M7CL-48ES, which adds EtherSound stage box connectivity for state-of-the-art system layout and signal routing capability. The M7CL-48ES’s built-in EtherSound interface provides the benefits of a digital network infrastructure while allowing the card slots to be used for other purposes, such as personal monitoring systems and recording outputs. Like the M7CL-48, the M7CL-48ES can mix up to 48 mono channels plus four stereo inputs to 16 mix buses, eight matrix outs, and stereo and mono outputs. The M7CL-48ES supports up to three SB168–ES remote stage boxes as its main I/O interface, and a new Stage Box Quick Set-up feature offers fast plug–and–play connection via Cat-5 cable.

Also new is version 3.01 software for Yamaha’s entire line of M7CL consoles, including the M7CL-48ES. Among the major enhancements in version 3.01 is a link option for the Channel Select and Sends On Fader between the M7CL and the editor. This lets users remotely adjust PA and monitor systems from the stage or the house. The software can be downloaded for free at

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