Since audio manufacturers introduced the first digital audio mixers to recording studios more than 30 years ago, it’s now a relatively common sight to see a digital mixer in place of what used to be an analogue console in events like concerts and performances halls.
With affordable digital mixers such as Behringer X32, Yamaha TF Series, Allen & Heath QU Series, Presonus Studio Live Series flooding the market, churches worldwide embrace this digital revolution. However, as an audio consultant and integrator, I occasionally encounter church audio volunteers hesitant to step into the digital realm. The reason – digital mixers are still too expensive compared to analogue mixers.
Today, I would like to show you a relatively inexpensive digital mixer – the fader-less digital mixer. Please continue to read on to know why churches who are yet to get digital mixers for themselves should get at least one.
What is Faderless Digital Mixer?
Some manufacturers called them Digital Rackmount Mixer. They are the same digital mixers but stripped off their faders and knobs. The functionality remains the same but with some trade-offs. While some models offer a touchscreen panel, most will require gadgets such as tablets or computers to interact with the unit wirelessly.
Why Should You Buy One?
1. It’s super portable – Some are as high as a single rack unit and weigh less than 10 kg. You can still mount an amplifier on a 4U rack should you wish.
2. It’s feature-packed – Four parametric equalizers, compressor, expander on all channels including two or four effects. A wet dream for all audio engineers 30 years ago are now ready to be turned on at your fingertips.
3. It’s live-stream ready – With its multitrack channels streamed to your computer via USB 2.0, your live stream audio would be as transparent as ever! What limits you is your mixing skills, which you can slowly hone with time.
4. It’s IEM “ready” – Want to give your musicians the ability to mix their monitors? Just add some headphones amps on the bus outputs or active monitors. Your musicians can download the companion monitor mixing app that won’t interfere with your central mix using their phones. Now while the musicians are happy fidgeting over their monitor mix, the front of house engineers can sit and relax over a cup of coffee.
5. It’s modular and scaleable – Need more inputs for the future? Most fader-less mixers allow you to expand the mixer capability by connecting it with a digital snake box or to its bigger mixer sibling, ensuring your investments continues to profit for many moons to come.
What To Buy?
There are many capable digital mixers that you can buy in the market, but today, I will like to specify one that I want to use – the Presonus StudioLive 16R.
The Presonus StudioLive is one of the most affordable and great-sounding digital mixers I have ever used. Costing only RM4,150.00 (at the time of this writing), this model is perfect for small churches or rental startups who want to purchase their first digital mixer.
I won’t go into the specification here as they are listed on the official website. But I would like to state what I love about the Presonus Studiolive 16R mixer.
- Great preamps. Let me start by saying that I love how these preamps sound! It’s clean, plenty of dynamic, but yet it doesn’t have that digital shrill that plague most digital mixers. It wasn’t as warm sounding as the Midas M32 preamps, but it has its character, and Presonus got it right for their preamps. Multitrack recordings would sound great.
- Great User Interface. The control software, which Presonus named Universal Control very intuitive. I do not find any problem navigating around the software. I can find all the settings I need rather quickly. The recording software is called Capture and work seamlessly with one another. You can just control Capture recording controls via the Universal Control app, making it very easy to mix and record at the same time.
- Small form factor. With just a 1U height rack space, this unit is easy to bring along for your next gig or home recording, should there be another lockdown. (MCO 4.0, perhaps? Hopefully not!)
- Easy Mute Switch. Worried that something will go awry in your mix halfway through the show? An easy mute switch will mute all your channels for your convenience and those “panic” moments.
- Three years full warranty. Read that again. It’s a full three years warranty, so you can be assured that your investment will have great support for many years to come.
- Plugins – Having to mix for livestream since the pandemic, I have begun to appreciate the intricacies and the sonic qualities offered by different plugins. I can now see the appeal of plugins being used in a live sound mix. There are a few EQ and Compressors plugins that you can use for every channel, not to mention the pleasant effects plugins you can use.
- Expandable – Need more than 16 channels? Presonus got that covered. The Presonus AVB protocols allow up to 64channels of inputs for all your event needs. You can quickly increase input channel counts by networking your 16R to its bigger siblings like 64S to a total of 64 channels.
Bronte Audio Solutions are one of the appointed dealers for all Presonus products. Contact us if you want to get a hands-on demo of this digital mixer. You may purchase one directly here through our Shopee store as well.