St. Louis Music has been a staple manufacturer of MI products for many years, harboring the well-known Ampeg instrument amplifier line, and delving into pro audio with the now defunct Audio Centron line. Crate amplifiers has been their most popular line, and building on the success and visibility of the Crate Amplifier line, the decision was made to resurrect some of the more popular Audio Centron offerings, as well as a other audio products under the moniker of Crate Audio. Now Crate Audio offer PA amplifiers, speakers, and mixers, the subject toward which this review is directed; the CSX16.
Product PointsApplication: Live sound, installation
Key Features: 16-channel; three-band sweepable mid EQ; 100mm long throw ALPS faders; solid build
Contact: Crate Audio at 314-727-4512, Web Site.
The Crate CSX16 ($699) is a 16 x 2 x 1 format mixer, intended for use in live sound or installed public address situations. Upon first inspection, the unit seems very solid and tightly constructed, with sturdy extruded aluminum sides. A dark silver metalflake finish adorns the facia. But perhaps a description of the channel strips, master section and associated functions will give deeper insight than mere initial appearances.
The CSX16 has 12 mono channels and four stereo channels. Mono channels start at the top with faceplate mounted balanced 1 kohm XLR, 1/4-inch TRS phone line input, and 1/4-inch phone TRS insert point intended for use with a stereo “Y” cord for input/output of effects processors. Next, a 20 dB pad switch and gain control. The EQ section has high shelving (±15 dB @ 12 kHz), sweepable mid (from 250 Hz to 3.5 kHz ±15 dB), and low shelving (±15 dB @ 80 Hz). Four auxiliary bus controls, two for monitoring (prefader) and two (post) for effects. A pan control for the left/right output bus, and a PFL switch for prefader monitoring is next in line. A mute switch (post-fader), Peak LED indicator, and 100mm long-throw fader complete the mono channel. The stereo channels have left/mono and right high impedance line 1/4-inch phone inputs, with no insert points. The next difference is addition by subtraction; no sweep mids, but low and high-mid shelving instead.
The master section, from left to right, includes left and right balanced XLR and TRS 1/4-inch outputs, L/R insert points, Aux 1 and Effects 1 outputs, 11-element LED meters (which can be switched between L/R output signal or aux bus signals), a switch to facilitate the former, aux/effects output level controls, aux and L/R PFL switches, and L/R master faders. Moving further right, the summed mix out has similar appointments, except for the inclusion of stereo RCA phono/tape outputs, and the associated PFL switches.
Finally, the monitoring section includes summed mix and L/R return 1/4-inch inputs, RCA phono stereo inputs, balanced XLR Aux 2/monitor output, mix return level control, L/R return level, return pan control, and Aux 2/monitor PFL switch.
Lastly, the stereo tape in level control, headphone jack, and PFL/Headphone 100mm long-throw fader inhabit the lower right-hand corner. The AC power switch, BNC Littlite connector with switch, and global phantom power switch with LED indicator populate the upper right corner.
My first impressions included AKG K240 headphones. I like to listen, initially, to the headphone bus monitoring all channels turned up full tilt to listen to the noise floor. The CSX16 was a bit noisy in cumulative fashion, but no more than most other offerings in its price range. I then connected a Marshall MXL 2001-P microphone with Mogami cable to channel one, to get an idea of the tonality of the EQ and overall channel performance, and I found it to be likeable for its intended use; punchy adjustable sweep mids and fairly quiet on its own. I liked the monitor/PFL section, however it would have been good to have a balanced XLR output for the Aux 1 output. And a dimmer for the BNC light would have been nice. That said, even with a quartz lamp the black nomenclature on the dark silver surface was a bit hard to read.
Being the curious sort, I removed the rear panel for a peek inside. A toroidal power supply transformer was found, located in the lower left corner away from the mains section, and I was very happy to see separate input channel thick mil PCs (as opposed to one overall PC board) – something usually not seen on “budget” mixers. Good continuity was observed between input XLR pin 1 and the chassis, so RF (radio frequency) problems may be minimized, but not being in a high RF area I could not check this for certain.
The Crate Audio CSX16 is well put together, with minimal flex perceived from depressing the middle of the surface topology. I liked the “old school” size of the desk, as opposed to the “new school” of tiny jammed in controls; there is room to move here. At the price and in its form factor it should find favor with club circuit/garage bands and permanent installs on a budget.