Live Sound — Houses-of-worship, fixed installation and touring
Eight Automix channels; LCR outputs; 10 auxes; 8 groups
$7,500 (40 channels, as tested)
Crest Audio | 866-812-7378
- Very good sound quality
- Low noise
- Plenty stout for trailer tours
- Excellent owner’s manual
- An 80 Hz fixed low-band frequency in the EQ section, and a little lower low-mids sweep
A well-built and affordably priced mid-level analog live mixer — a good performer with nice features Crest Audio has long been a name associated with high-end audio products; back in the day, the industry saw such live sound product giants as the 4001, 6001, 8001 and 10001 power amps, as well as consoles by respected designer Jim Gamble. Crest Audio, like many manufacturers, has expanded its product lines to include consoles that meet a variety of needs, the newest being the eight-bus HP series as well as the HP-W.
The Crest Audio HP-W analog live mixer is a solution for installations that could benefit from affordable flexibility — environments such as houses of worship, auditoriums and small stadiums — while certain segments of the board are ideal for spoken-word purposes. The particular model we tested was a 40-channel console with four stereo returns and eight Automix channels (a signature feature to be addressed below).
The HP-W 40-channel version, which is actually 36 inputs and 4 stereo returns, has a relatively small footprint, being only 90 inches wide, 37 inches deep and 5 inches tall, and weighing in at 250 pounds). The mono inputs feature XLR and line inputs with the input sensitivity and 25-dB pad affecting both modes. Also at the top of the strip are a polarity reversal switch and a 70 — Hz high-pass (low cut) filter switch. The EQ section offers four-band control of the audio spectrum with fixed highs shelved at 12 kHz and the lows shelved at 80 Hz. The low-mids are fully sweepable from 100 Hz to 2 kHz, and the high-mids are sweepable from 500 Hz to 10 KHz. Both sweeps are fixed Q and feature separate (non-concentric) cut/boost and frequency knobs.
The auxiliary section features 10 sends, allowing for control of monitors from a FOH position or use of the console as a pure monitor desk. The first six sends are switchable from pre to post as a bank of six, and the next two pairs are switchable from pre to post in two-channel banks. A likely scenario would be the first six feeding monitors in pre-fader mode with the second two feeding a couple of reverbs and the last two feeding a vocal delay and a sub woofer in post-fader mode. The bottom of each strip concludes with a 100 mm fader, a stereo pan knob, L/R/Mono assign, eight group-output assigns, a mute switch and a PFL monitor switch.
One of the most interesting features of the Crest HP-W is a section called Automix, which is designed to assist in multi-mic dynamic control without the use of outboard dynamic processors. Crest’s Automix section works like this: in the group of eight Automix channels, one channel can be designated as the most important via a “Dominant” button. Once engaged as dominant, the other seven channels in this module will basically remain signal-dependent on the dominantly assigned channel. That is, the designated channel will receive priority in the gain-sharing Automix scheme. In addition, each of the eight channels in that module has its own individual compressors with variable threshold that operate independently of the Automix function. In addition to the Automix and mono inputs, the Crest console has four dual stereo inputs with separate input sensitivity, four-band shelving EQ and Aux routing along with stereo RCA connectors on each.
The output and Master section contains all of the eight group master faders, two additional effects returns with full function and routing, the Left and Right masters, the Mono master, mute controls and assigns, and a two-output matrix with internal compressors allowing any of the auxes or groups to be sent to two additional masters for delay speakers or fills.
The rear panel of the HP-W is well arranged with each input having an XLR mic and 1/4-inch TRS line input jacks, as well as a single–point (unbalanced Y-cable scheme) 1/4-inch insert. The master outputs are XLR and the eight group outputs are on1/4-inch TRS connectors; all feature single-point insert jacks. The Aux outputs are a mix with the first eight being XLR and the last two being 1/4-inch TRS, but all have single-point 1/4-inch TRS insert connections. The on/off switch for the internal power supply and its related IEC connector are also rear panel residents.
The Crest HP-W was employed at several fair and festival events. One recent event was Country Thunder in Florence AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. We supplied stage, lighting and audio for each of three stages that surround the main stage for a music festival on a 60-acre site. The Crest console was employed at one of the stages featuring up and coming label acts. For this type of event we generally provide one 48-channel console per stage that performs both FOH and monitor functions. The Crest HP-W was perfectly suited for this purpose. Additionally, the console’s outputs were perfectly suited for this gig because all of our snakes are XLR connections including drive/return lines. All of our EQs were easily inserted into the signal paths with good solid connectors on the rear panel as were the XLR connections to the snake fanout.
Setting up blind mixes — or wingin’ it, if you will — was actually quite easily done on the HP-W. The actions of everything on this console - from the input sensitivity to the master fader - were easy to pick up, as they were totally in line with 90 percent of the consoles out there. The Automix modules, referred to as HP-W-A modules, worked surprisingly well. If you are good at building mixes through proper gain structure, then you will find the Automix function to be a friendly addition that certainly does not hurt to have available. We applied Automix to a vocal mix of four voices and found it to maintain a nice lead vocal 3 - 5 dB edge over the backing vocals regardless of intensity of vocal energy (quiet versus loud passages).
The overall sound quality of the console was quite respectable with friendly, responsive EQ that certainly augmented the signal quality (as opposed to some consoles that totally degrade signal quality). The faders were smooth and responsive and felt to be of very sufficient quality to provide good longevity in torturous environments … and nothing is as torturous on faders as Arizona dust and grit. It’s like high-carbon sandpaper.
All in all, I would give the Crest HP-W a very good grade. It offers some very impressive features, is exceedingly well built and affordable, and it should provide many years of mid-level use.
Review Set Up
A-Line Acoustics AL10 line array (six per side); A-Line Acoustics LS218 powered subs (a line of 8); Klark-Teknik Square One graphic EQs; BSS AR133 direct injections various Audix microphones