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Mix & Match

The Best Mixing Consoles of 2019

Despite two decades now of command and control developments across software and hardware, developments that have led to countless numbers of new and custom audio production workflows, recording/mixing consoles still form the heart of the modern high-end production studio. Sometimes only a couple of faders are used for 2-channel summing, while other times scribble strips are pulled out and all 48 faders are engaged. Sometimes all you need is a couple of channel strips, parked in a rack. Whatever the case, physical consoles provide the paradigm that all emulations and workflows have followed. Here are a few of the many developments over the past year that caught our eye.

Allen & Heath SQ-7 Digital Mixer

Compact and affordable, the Allen & Heath SQ-7 digital mixer is powered by Allen & Heath’s 96 kHz XCVI FPGA engine. It’s the flagship console in the SQ line that comes equipped with 33 (32+1) Motorized Faders with six layers for a total of 192 assignable Channel Strips. It delivers pristine high-resolution audio quality with ultra-low <0.7ms latency, and was engineered for top performance in demanding environments like AV, live productions, corporate events and houses of worship.

The SQ-7 features 32 exceptional-quality onboard mic preamps, plus eight stereo FX engines with dedicated stereo return channels and access to the renowned RackExtra FX library. Offering 12 stereo mixes (configurable as groups or auxes), it’s a great match for in-ear monitor setups, and with its featured Automatic Mic Mixing, it makes an excellent choice for conferences, panel talks and much more

Avid S4, S1 Control Surfaces

With the introduction of the S1 and S4, Avid has brought their world-class control surfaces to studios of every size. Ideal for mid-size post-production facilities, editing suites, smaller mix rooms, and home studios, these new controllers are sure to upgrade your studio workflow.

Features include:

•Hands-on Control–Mute and Solo tracks, edit plug-ins, route signals, write automation, trigger macros, and more–right from the AVID S1. Enhance your workflow with more speed and precision than a traditional mouse and keyboard.

•Total Tactile Response: Motorized, touch-sensitive faders, touch-sensitive knobs and physical keys with a touchscreen to support VCA spill, monitor control and more. Setup custom layouts for multiple workflows for total flexibility.

•Navigate large sessions fast: The Avid S1 provides both a Tracks View and a Mix View to instantly jump to a track or scroll through multiple channels on the touch screen. The S1 automatically banks to follow your selection, ensuring you never get lost in a complex session again!

•Pro Tools and Beyond: The Avid S1 provides deep integration with Pro Tools and Media Composer along with native support for third-party audio and video software including Premiere Pro, Logic Pro, Cubase, and more. Enhance your workflow across every creative project.

•Mix from a Bird’s-eye View: High-resolution metering of levels, dynamics, gain-reduction, EQ graphs, panning, and automation status show you everything you need to see at a glance. 9.1 Surround Support allows you to work quickly and efficiently on even the most complex projects for music and film!

•Full monitor section: The dedicated S6-style Monitoring View lets you quickly assign and control talkback, playback level, monitor source, and speaker levels right from the S1. Whether you’re recording, editing, mixing, or mastering, hands-on monitoring control is essential to a fast workflow and comfortable listening environment.

•Scale the S1 to Your Studio: The Avid S1 easily scales to your needs as your studio grows. Connect multiple units together, or attach a Pro Tools | Dock to create your ultimate integrated control surface.

API: 2448 Recording Console

Designed to the same standard of excellence as the 1608, Legacy AXS and Vision consoles, API is launching the new 2448 Recording Console. The 2448 offers a powerful and impressive feature set including Dual Inputs on each channel, Stereo Returns and, optionally, API’s new cross-platform Final Touch fader automation system. The 2448 expands API’s powerful line of world-class analog recording consoles and continues API’s nearly 50-year legacy of combining functionality and reliability with the unmistakable warmth of the API sound.

Derived from API’s Vision Automation System used extensively in the Vision, Legacy Plus and AXS consoles, API now offers optional Final Touch fader automation for the 2448 console.

Final Touch automation combines system reliability, user flexibility and operational simplicity and offers a host of features found only in the most expensive and sophisticated console automation systems typically costing many times more. Consoles can be factory-fitted with Final Touch automation prior to delivery, and existing 2448 consoles can be retrofitted with Final Touch automation.

New: In addition to the 2448, API’s Final Touch automation systems are available for the flagship Vision console, the Legacy AXS, and the 1608-II. This allows for mix files to be easily transferred across any of these API console products.

Daking MK II

Designed by Geoff Daking and Dave Thibodeau, the Daking MKII recording console is built around a DAW. In addition to 16 channels of preamp, the board boasts—thanks to dual inputs per channel strip and a comprehensive bussing section featuring panning and level controls–as standard an impressive 46 possible inputs. The 16 input channels feature built-in compressor/limiters, high and low pass filters and a four-band inductor-style EQ, the latter offering high and low shelving Baxandall filters plus two mid-band peak filters. Unlike most small consoles, the center section of this model is not permanently affixed to the right side of the inputs. The center section and patchbay can be wherever the user likes. The center section has extensive controls for Control Room, Studio and Cue source selection. The console logic for Solo, Mute, speaker selection and alternate input functions is also here.

The custom patchbay connects via DB-25 cables. Each input channel has one ribbon connection, eliminating the need for multi-pair XLR cables, which reduces cost and weight and makes service much simpler. The jacks are Audio Accessories PC mount.

PreSonus StudioLive III S

The PreSonus StudioLive III S models deliver 128-channel (64 x 64) USB recording–more than any other mixer, according to the company–plus multitrack SD recording and extensive 128-channel AVB networking. Powered by the PreSonus FLEX DSP Engine, they feature state-space modeled Fat Channel plug-in processing on every input and bus; up to 32 FlexMix buses that can be individually configured as Aux, Matrix, or Subgroup buses; and flexible digital patching unparalleled in this price class.

StudioLive 64S: The new top-of-the-line StudioLive 64S brings the power of a large production console to small-format digital mixing, boasting 76 mixing channels, 43 buses, and 526 simultaneous effects, double the DSP of other mixers in the line, thanks to the all-new quad-core FLEX DSP engine. An independent main Mono/Center bus and a Center Divergence control round out the package.

StudioLive 32S: Spend less time menu-diving and more time mixing hands-on with StudioLive 32S. Powered by the dual-core PreSonus FLEX DSP Engine, the 32S is equipped with 40 mixing channels, 26 mix buses, and 286 simultaneous processors. 32S delivers a fast and intuitive, surface-driven workflow for total control.

StudioLive 32SX: The low profile of the StudioLive 32SX makes it an ideal solution for any mixing environment where desk real estate is at a premium. The split-fader workflow lets you manage 32 input channels in two fader layers, while still providing access to your mix outputs on eight additional faders. The StudioLive 32SX packs connectivity and power into an efficient use of space.

StudioLive 32SC: Its road-ready, rack-mountable size is deceptive: the StudioLive 32SC sports the same dual-core PreSonus FLEX DSP Engine of its 32-channel brethren. The StudioLive 32SC provides all the necessary tools, whether you’re building your dream studio or putting together a pro touring rig, and is dramatically expandable, thanks to the NSB stage boxes.

Slate RAVEN Core Station

The RAVEN Core Station offers professional audio engineers a complete production console ecosystem that is configurable to their needs with up to two world-class RAVEN touch panels, a Slate Control Monitoring system, an award-winning RAVEN software that turns all major DAWs into a world-class control surface. The Core Station features a modular design that accommodates multiple configurations. Standard included components allow for single setup with a centered MTi2 or a dual setup housing two MTi2s. A third configuration allows the user to pair a single MTi2 with a four-rack space accessory panel which will be sold separately. Each Core Station desk includes a cutout for the Slate Control analog monitoring controller on the right-hand side. A blank plate is included for use without the Slate Control. The Core Station features a standard satin black finish with silver RAVEN side panels. The desk is a modular design and assembles with ease.

The Slate Control optional monitor control system is a 100 percent analog monitoring system designed by legendary pro audio designer Paul Wolff. The Slate Control has been designed to provide un-compromised sonic clarity while delivering all of the necessary features studios need from the “center section” of a classic console. The RAVEN Core Station Sidecar features a 9U space rack and leatherette armrests, perfectly matching the CORE Station profile. It fully complements the CORE Station, giving your studio rack space for interfaces, monitor controllers and any other rack-mounted accessories.

RAVEN Core Station features include: Silver RAVEN Core Station side panels; padded leatherette armrest; modular design; cutout on rear desktop for cable routing; hidden accessory shelf for laptops, hubs and hard drives; elegant hidden cable troughs for cable management from desktop to floor; variable configurations; cutout for optional Slate control. Dimensions: 42 inches H x 56 inches W x 32 inches D.

SSL AWS Series

The AWS (Analogue Workstation System) reinvented the professional production console by combining classic SSL SuperAnalogue™ console technology with comprehensive DAW control hardware in a single work surface. The AWS is now used by leading international recording artists, producers and engineers and has shaped expectations for session workflow within today’s and indeed tomorrows’ production environments. The spring 2015 release of AWS delta saw another significant step in the constant evolutionary development that has characterized its enormously successful life. delta-Control (d-Ctrl) is a completely new analog console automation platform for SSL studio technology that unites the very best of automation in the analog console domain with DAW-based workflow. All new AWS consoles feature delta technology and console upgrades are available for all preceding models. In October 2016 SSL released an update to the AWS 948 (detailed here) that introduces new channel hardware to provide Stereo Channel Outputs and a new independent Insert IN/OUT switching system.

Designed for mid-scale commercial recording and production facilities, the AWS is available with 16 inputs (AWS 916), 24 inputs (AWS 924) or 48 inputs (AWS 948) within a compact 24 fader frame. The AWS 916 has 16 mic pre’s, the AWS 924 and 948 have 24 mic pre’s. The AWS 916 and 924 have mono channel strips and the 948 has stereo/dual mono channel strips that offer a second line level input per channel to provide 48 summing channels. All models deliver pristine SuperAnalogue summing, 24 ultra-clean SSL SuperAnalogue mic pre’s, classic SSL dual curve EQ on every channel, two assignable SSL Dynamics channels, legendary Stereo Bus Compressor, TotalRecall and full 5.1 monitoring. In addition to on board classic SSL Automation, all models feature the new d-Ctrl system.

The AWS also features Ethernet connectivity for streamlined hardware control over your entire Digital Audio Workstation environment. AWS delivers elegant, ergonomic physical control with dedicated heavy duty DAW transport, V-Pot multifunction encoders with position indicating LED’s, Digital Scribble Strips, DAW fader mode, global and channel routing control and built-in TFT display for advanced plug-in editing. Project Session Management is kept simple through SSL’s proprietary Logictivity interface.

The AWS is an SSL SuperAnalogue console, featuring the audio performance specifications that have established the benchmarks by which other manufacturers are measured. Exceptionally low THD, noise floor and crosstalk levels keep your audio absolutely pristine, while our legendary headroom carries every nuance of your audio and allows engineers to mix ‘hotter’ without distortion.

Toft Audio Designs Series ATB

Toft Audio Designs’ Series ATB is an extremely versatile and sophisticated 8 bus console in a compact frame. It has been designed with today’s DAW user in mind and offers extremely high audio quality and features singular to consoles in its price range. These features include an optional digital I/O card which provides the eight subgroup sends and returns as either ADAT optical or

firewire and the master left/right outputs as firewire or SPDIF. ASIO drivers are provided as well as MIDI connectivity to complete the versatility of this option.

In a multi-track studio environment, the console will perform both tracking and remix functions with consummate ease. Because of the channel monitor and direct output facilities, recording instruments to tape is simple and of very high quality with little outboard equipment being required. When mixing down, the large number of inputs to the stereo bus (56 on the 16-channel, 72 on the 24-channel and 88 on the 32-channel) makes the job very easy. The large number of auxiliary sends (six) also adds to the flexibility.

The Series ATB has also been designed for easy servicing. The console is constructed from individual circuit boards mounted at right angles to an eight-way front panel. It takes only a matter of minutes to remove any channel board from the front panel should a component need replacing. All active circuitry (i.c.’s etc) are socketed, again to aid servicing. All passive components (resistors, capacitors etc.) are of conventional types not surface mount which are difficult to remove and replace. The modules connect to each other via ribbon cables which ensure maximum reliability and freedom from wiring errors.

Connections to the console are via the rear panel where the cables can be conveniently hidden from view, which is again a feature normally only found in consoles costing considerably more. The console is fitted with extremely accurate 12 segment bar graph displays on the groups and master left/right outputs and high-quality illuminated V.U meters operate in parallel with the master left/right bargraphs.

Models include the ATB04M four-channel mixer with meter bridge; the ATB08M eight-channel mixer with meter bridge; the ATB16 16-channel mixer with meter bridge; the ATB24 24-channel mixer with meter bridge; and the ATB32 32-channel mixer with meter bridge.

Tree Audio: The Roots Generation II

Tree Audio’s latest generation Roots console, The Roots Generation II tube/hybrid recording console features an all-tube and transformer mic pre/line input/DI/EQ and limiter; four Aux sends; four 500 series slots; full-featured master section; balanced inserts on all channels and stereo buss; and fully regulated tube linear power supply. The Gen II is available in eight and 16 channels with user configurable options.

Trident 78 Console

The new Series 78 all analog consoles are all Trident through and through. The Trident Series 78 is a cost-effective mixing console tailored for engineers, studio owners, educational facilities, houses of worship and live sound applications. The 78s are Split/lnline consoles with individual channels in four-way panels. Using an eight subgroup configuration and incorporating six Aux sends, its routing options are vast and simple to use. Connections are fast and easy with DB-25s throughout the board and XLRs for speaker and main outputs.

With the 80B EQ at its core, including selectable channel inserts and discrete preamps driving the inputs, the Series 78 consoles offer a wide array of summing and mixing options. The uncompromised sonic quality and compact footprint of the 78s are able to meet any demand.

Features found throughout the 78 make for a straightforward and powerful package, but paramount to all else is The Sound. Among the many styles, preferences and methods of recording exists the expectation that a board must have the ability to be pushed hard and sound big. This is a hallmark of the series 80 consoles and the 78 carries that tradition forward.

The 78’s by design are manufactured to be a more cost-effective variant of the fully modular 88s. Incorporating a similar chassis design and the same meter bridge, the 78’s have a rugged and proven core. Using a semi-modular design, the 78s are able to effectively reduce their overall costs without a significant sacrifice to serviceability. All input channels are individual boards, faders included, each in a four-channel pack. Subgroups are individual boards, faders included, each in a four-channel pack. Master Channel is an individual channel separated from all others.

The Split-Inline console pioneered by Trident Audio on the A-Range console in the late 1960s remains a standard configuration for the company’s consoles today. Features include dual inputs to the channels with line and monitor inputs; four-band EQ with sweeping mid bands and selectable low and high bands; 27dB of headroom; channel inserts; and selectable EQ path. The 78s incorporate the same high-quality Class A Discrete preamp as the 88s. These preamps have lots of headroom and high gain fully capable of driving ribbon microphones.

The master section of the 78s is laid out for ease of use and has all the necessary features to manage monitors, talkback and stereo returns. The 78’s master section is an independent channel from the rest of console to ensure that a console’s master output functions can be easily and quickly serviced with little or no downtime.

Wunder Audio: Wunderbar Super D

The Wunder Audio Wunderbar Super D 24-channel is an analog console forged from inspiration, innovation and the bold desire to build the most impressive recording desk in the world. The result is a console so accomplished, it features The Wunderbahn, the first desk to come standard with three vintage stereo bus flavors, and employs a fully symmetrically balanced discrete summing bus system. This unprecedented blend of performance, technology and perfectly crafted build quality is simply the next standard in the pursuit of the perfect recording.

The Super D version features eight-channel sections supporting D-sub25 eight-channel cables and iMac 27-inch display section, as well as expanded inputs and outputs, DAW D-Sub inputs plus Mult for analog, track mix flip and insert defeat capability and isolated DC voltage paths and audio paths.

Yamaha Updates CL/CQ Digital Audio Consoles

BOOTH 624 Yamaha Professional Audio is offering Version 5.0 for Yamaha CL and QL digital audio consoles. This no-charge update will elevate these popular mixing systems to the next level by providing enhanced convenience, new features and expandability.

In addition to support for more Dante devices, the V.5 update adds to the consoles’ ever-growing arsenal of tools. The Portico 5045 Primary Source Enhancer by Rupert Neve Designs is now available in the Premium Rack. This device makes it easy to control background noise from microphone sources while enhancing clarity and increasing feedback margin, and is a valuable tool for houses of worship, stadiums, performance halls and any other venue where feedback must be carefully controlled.

Individual Fade Time functionality allows different fade times to be set for each fader, an important feature for users who need complex fader control, especially for musicals and other theatrical applications. Dante devices newly supported by V.5 include Rupert Neve Designs RMP-D8 8-Channel Remote Control Dante Mic Pre, Sennheiser EM6000 Digital Wireless Receiver, Shure AD4D and AD4Q Axient Digital Wireless Receiver and the NEXO DTD Digital TD Controller. Future updates will provide support for other Dante devices.