Fairlight FAME Version 21 Digital Mixing System - ProSoundNetwork.com

Fairlight FAME Version 21 Digital Mixing System

The FAME is an all-inclusive digital audio production system for the serious professional at a great price. The unit I reviewed - the FAME Version 2.1 - improves on an already fantastic product. Let's take a look at some of the features that make this system one of the best in the post audio arena.
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Quite a few all-in-one, high-end digital production systems have been introduced to the audio world in the past several years. The Fairlight Audio Mixer Editor (FAME) is an integrated system for post audio production. It consists of the 24-track, MFXplus editor combined with a smooth looking and feeling control surface. FAME brings together the finer aspects of what a great digital editor and fully functional control surface should be. Most all-in-one software packages work well, but let's face it, a good console surface is a must for engineers doing post production audio.
Product PointsApplications: Post production; TV production

Key Features: Dynamics; 24-track MFX editor; EQ on every channel; touchscreen interface

Price: From $125,000 for a 24-fader standalone system; upgrade: cost of any additional hardware and/or RAM that may be required based on the age of the user's current system.

Contact: Fairlight at 800-432-4754.

Plus

+ Low price

+ Compact footprint

+ 12 bus outs; expandable to 24

+ Up to 24 outputs, expandable to 64

+ EQ plus compression on all channels as well as busses excellent routing page easy and flexible automation

Minus

- Cannot see a graphic representation of the EQ curve at a glance

- Must interrogate channel to center section

The Score: A very well-implemented, all-purpose digital mixing system for a wide variety of applications
The FAME is an all-inclusive digital audio production system for the serious professional at a great price. The unit I reviewed - the FAME Version 2.1 - improves on an already fantastic product. Let's take a look at some of the features that make this system one of the best in the post audio arena.

Features

This is one nicely laid-out product. FAME v1.1 was a very functional foundation that Fairlight greatly improved upon with this new software release. Version 2.1 really makes the most of the FAME interface. The company added a lot more features and functionality.

The console is an incredible marriage between the mix surface and the recorder/editor, Fairlight searched high and low for a console it could integrate with its MFX 3plus platform. The Amek DMS frame met all Fairlight's criteria. It feels like an army tank. The faders are smooth and the knobs are well spaced. You'll never get carpal tunnel syndrome on this desk! Everything is within easy reach.

Even though it has a small footprint, the desk has the feel of a serious production console. There are dynamics and EQ on every channel, including the bus outputs. The compression actually creates an analog warmth that I haven't heard from other digital systems. One of the things making this product great is its abundance of EQ power. Since the MFX already has powerful EQ, the marriage of the surface and the editor created two areas where EQ could be performed. Overall track EQ is performed at the console level, while clip-based EQ is performed at the editor level. MFX also crossfades in real time, thus providing up to three independent, real time four-band equalizers on any track.

Of course, the FAME 2.1 software has full automation, which is ideal for sound design. You can punch in different EQs on the fly if you like, as well as fully automate an EQ pass. Different bands individually! One of the striking features of the FAME is the touchscreen interface. Its nicely laid-out screen shows a representation of every fader. This lets you easily monitor their actions.

Since the FAME allows you to set up different fader sets on the console, you may have certain faders in use that are hidden in a different layer. The touchscreen interface lets you see all the faders. You can monitor their automation, record, solo or mute status.

Many different configurations of the system can be saved for later retrieval. I have a basic stereo setup that I recall at the beginning of a mix. I've also stored a 5.1 setup. It's very handy to have these different setups stored, but it is also possible reassign the console from a stereo to a 5.1 board by going through just a few reassignment pages.

Reallocating the output configuration only takes a minute. Of course different mixes can be stored and archived as well. All bussing, EQ and dynamics, as well as fader sets, are saved. This all happens on one screen. No complicated menus or paging through different directories. One of the great pluses with this console is ease-of-use.

The console is fast. All routing can either be done at the fader level or on the touchscreen. At the fader level all you need to do is interrogate the fader and watch a representation of the fader and all its functions appear on the touchscreen. From this screen you can copy and paste all EQ and dynamics from one fader to another, as well as toggle EQ and dynamics on and off individually and change output bussing.

The routing page has large buttons that enable you to reroute an entire mix in seconds. This is unlike any other digital board and saves a lot of time. Interrogating each channel for bussing is something the fame touchscreen software has done away with. But if you want to treat things on a channel-per-channel basis, you can do that too.

In use

Starting a mix on the FAME is a very straightforward process. I begin by loading my stereo default title. In less than 30 seconds, the console is normalized with all faders set to unity gain. Starting a 5.1 mix happens the same way, but the desk just takes a little more time to load because it needs to change its bussing structure to 5.1.

I also have patches made in my virtual patchbay that I like to start out with. Since I usually start a session recording an announcer anyway, my record bus is normalized to my DAT machine. Fairlight calls this virtual patchbay the matrix page. It gives me a visual representation of all my outboard equipment and live inputs.

I have about a half dozen software macros that let me patch things by hitting the appropriate user keys on the surface of the desk. There are six macro keys and a shift button for access to another six. This saves me the time of going to the matrix.

If I have to go to the matrix page, however, it quickly shows me the patching of all virtual cables from source to destination. I can see at a glance where everything is going. I love the aspect of redundancy in the system. There are transport controls on the MFX editing keyboard built into the surface of the FAME, as well as transport and locate controls in the center of the desk. I constantly find myself using both at the same time as I move around the surface.

I use the jog wheel on the editor and hit stop and play on the surface control. Record functions are also possible from the touchscreen and surface transport controls. Or you can arm and record from the familiar MFX editing keyboard. The four-band EQ sounds very musical. There is a sweep-enable button that toggles the knobs from frequency to sweep. Once you get used to it, it's very fast. I enjoy having the extra room between knobs that most consoles don't have.

You can see which frequencies you're grabbing with the displays on each knob, and you can see a representation of the EQ curve on the EQ screen of the touchscreen monitor. During a mix I will start with an overall EQ at the console level and use the MFX clip-based EQ.

One of the most fantastic things about the system is that I can search an on-line sound effects database and place sounds into the sequence while I'm loading in DATs or CDs. I can actually multitask on this thing! Fairlight promises that in Revision 15.5 software, due imminently, the automation file will be streamed off to the Exabyte backup with the MFX project. Right now automation data can only be backed up to a floppy.

One of my favorite things about the FAME is its small footprint. No more leaning over a large-format console with backbreaking distress. Every button, knob, fader and joystick can be reached from one location. This small footprint saves a lot of time over the period of a day.

Summary

In its FAME 2.0, Fairlight produced a mixer/editor with a ton of flexibility. It delivers all the functionality - and then some - for its intended market. Its small footprint allows for smaller room environments. It's a great solution for everything from ADR to post and radio work. The FAME's versatile routing architecture allows an engineer to reconfigure different setups for different kinds of applications on the fly. The Fairlight FAME version 2.1 is the definition of what an all-in-one professional digital audio production system should be and is a great inexpensive upgrade for all FAME v1.1 users.