When I first experienced the CS18AI control surface at Nashville’s Summer NAMM Show, I was really impressed with how well it interfaced with PreSonus’ Studio One DAW. Especially for someone using it in a home studio or independent recording setting, I could really envision the benefits of its workflow; however, the layout of the surface is quite different from a typical digital console on the market. While this might make it difficult to stage a point-by-point comparison with industry-embraced digital touring consoles, I have discovered that a lot of people who are still more comfortable with analog consoles seem to prefer the layout of PreSonus’ digital boards and surfaces. Notably, a great feature on the CS18AI is the addition of motorized faders, as not having them is probably one of the most common complaints I’ve heard regarding previous StudioLive boards. [PreSonus points out that they now offer the StudioLive III Series of consoles that feature motorized faders—Ed.]

In use, I was really hopeful that I was going to be able to utilize the cool RM Series Rackmount Digital Mixer—a multichannel, multi-I/O stage box and so much more—alongside the StudioLive CS18AI control surface, and I wanted to do so right out of the box. The RM Mixer notably comes with a software library that includes PreSonus’ Capture, the Studio One Artist DAW and QMix-UC as well as UC Surface—more on this later.

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Since the CS18AI was added into the RM ecosystem a little later than its RM Series product debut, the stage box required an immediate firmware update in order to connect to the CS18AI. The firmware update needed to be accessed via the UC Surface, PreSonus’ multiplatform software that provides the same GUI layout and workflow on iOS, Android, or Windows 8 and 10 touchscreen devices. As PreSonus describes it, “Only UC Surface lets you roam the room with an iPad, then return to a Windows multi-touch computer at front-of-house without missing a beat.” Pretty cool, and I believe the company is now shipping the firmware updates necessary for such communication.

The UC Surface enables worthy features with the RM Stage Box. For example, it allows users to use Filter DCA groups to find a channel quicker than digging through a layer. The workflow becomes more similar to the flexibility of digital consoles with touch screen controls but works more like a dual processor computer than a layered flash memory platform.

One feature on the RM Series digital mixer/stage box not standard with other similar stage boxes is the use of combo jacks on eight of its inputs.

One feature on the RM Series digital mixer/stage box not standard with other similar stage boxes is the use of combo jacks on eight of its inputs. This again plays to the working musician by eliminating the need to convert instrument cables to XLR. Other features include a phones jack for monitoring signal, tape input for track playback, Mono and Main Outs, MIDI ports and two 8-channel DB25 connections (mirrors of the mix outputs, rather than direct outputs) as well as FireWire for connection with a DAW—a great feature for self-recording artists to utilize. That said, the FireWire connection is also available for control via UC Surface for Mac or Windows OS.


Liz May is a live sound mixer, producer/engineer, educator and schooled pianist now serving as Production Manager of Reynolds Auditorium in Winston-Salem NC. twitter.com/soundlizzard