Crate Pro Audio grew out of the Audio Centron group, a division of St. Louis Music, Inc. Crate has been a well-known manufacturer of musical instrument amplifiers for a number of years and has an established distribution network – the Crate Pro Audio nameplate can be found on a variety of gear, from digital effects processors to power amplifiers and a line of mixers.
Product PointsApplications: Sound reinforcement mixer
Key Features: Four stereo channels, aux 2 remote switching
Contact: Crate Pro Audio at 314-727-4512.
+ Good sonics for economy board
+ Solo/PFL switches on all channels
– No sweepable mids on EQ
The Score: A sturdy board with a good features at an economical price point.
I tested Crate’s CSM-1402 mixer ($569), a 14-in/2-out unit featuring six mono mic input channels and four stereo line-level input channels. This configuration is found on many boards aimed at performers with minimal needs – a good fit for most applications of the genre (small-scale bands, acoustic outfits).
Each mono mic channel has, from the top front of the mixer to the bottom: 1/4″ TRS effects insert jack; balanced XLR mic input; balanced 1/4″ line input; input gain control; pre-fader aux 1 level control; EQ section; post-fader aux 2 level control; pan control; mute and solo switches; and channel level fader. A peak indicator LED next to the fader will illuminate within 6 dB of clipping to help set input levels.
The stereo input channels have L/R line-level 1/4″ unbalanced inputs, with the same EQ section, auxiliary and pan setup as the mono channels. You will also find the mute and solo/PFL (pre-fader listen) switches here, next to the channel level faders, but no clip LED or input gain control. The EQ section configuration is low-mid-high passive, with boost or cut of 15 dB at 70 Hz, 800 Hz and 12 kHz respectively.
The master section jackfield is located top right. Auxiliary 1 and 2 sends and stereo returns with 1/4″ inputs, main left and right outputs (balanced 1/4″ TRS), headphone output and an unusual 1/4″ footswitch jack reside here. The footswitch can be used to turn on or off the aux 2 send, which is post-fader and most likely used for effects.
Moving down to the master section controls one comes to the global phantom power switch with indicator LED, AC power LED, aux 1 and 2 return level controls, L/R output ladder LED meters, left and right master output faders, solo-to-mains switch, solo LED indicator, tape section and headphone level control. The solo-to-mains switch must be enabled to monitor soloed channel signal content at the main outputs. Otherwise, only the headphone jack can be used. The tape section is a useful feature, with RCA jacks for L/R inputs and outputs, with level adjustment. A tape monitor switch switches the headphone bus from mains monitoring to tape only.
At the back of the mixer are left and right balanced XLR main outputs, a balanced 1/4″ TRS summed mono output jack, master on/off switch, AC power supply wallwart power input and a +4 dB/-10 dB selector switch that selects one of these two levels for all outputs.
I tested the mixer at a benefit in a local park. The performances included a few acoustic acts with vocals and sundry microphoned instruments, keyboards and electric bass with a DI. I ran the CSM-1402 through a Hafler P5000 amp, driving a pair of Yorkville PL315 three-way speakers on tripods for FOH. A Yamaha P2100 amp powered a pair of Community floor monitors.
With the output selector at +4 dB, the board had enough headroom to drive the amps at required levels. The mic channels were fairly low noise, although I perceived a slight amount of hiss in the headphone bus with all channels driven. The level faders were a bit rough as far as feel factor goes. The EQ did a good job when rolling off, but in boost, the highs got a bit edgy. I would have liked a sweepable mid for some of the acoustic flat-top guitars. It was nice having solo/PFL switches on each channel to help set individual levels – an unusual feature on a board at this price point.
The CSM-1402 has a lot to like in a small-format economy board. It is sturdily built, with a thick steel case that should resist a good pounding. The wacky silver metallic paint will definitely keep you awake at 2 a.m., and the control topology is comfortably laid out (no subminiature knobs) . Good sonics and features, combined with an affordable ticket, make this offering by Crate Pro Audio an attractive alternative to the usual MI store stock.