Crest Audio Company has been producing cutting-edge amplifiers and consoles for more than 20 years now, and with the introduction of the 8001 amplifier and the acquisition of Gamble consoles in the late 80s, it became a major player in the touring sound industry. Ten years later Crest was bought out by Peavey. Some products received a facelift while other new models were introduced. One of these new products is the X-Rack series of mixers, which come in 20 ($2,200) and 24-channel($2,400) configurations as well as a monitor-specific model (XRM)-$2,60).
Product PointsApplications: Live or installed sound reinforcement
Key Features: 20 x 4 x 2 format console with a small (17.5-inch H x 19.5-inch W) footprint, ample patching, flexible monitoring section, low-noise mic pres.
Contact: Crest Audio at 201-909-8700, Web Site
These compact mixers are aimed at the install and touring markets. For a touring band, or an events facility, the X-Rack packs a lot of features into a small footprint. Where rack-space and pack space is at a premium, this kind of package is extremely desirable.
The XR-20 has 12 mono and four stereo inputs, four subgroups, L/R and Mono main outputs, essentially making it a 20 x 4 x 2 format mixer. With six auxiliary sends and a monitor section, one can imagine a packed work surface topology, considering this all squeezes into 10 rack-spaces (17.5 inches).
Each mono-channel mic preamp contains a 27 dB mic pad, a 12 to 70 dB gain control and a 70 Hz high-pass filter. The EQ section has 12 kHz shelving with 15 dB boost/cut, 80 Hz shelving with 15 dB boost/cut and sweepable hi and low midbands from 400 Hz to 8 kHz and 100 Hz to 2 kHz respectively, with a boost/cut of 15 dB as well. An EQ bypass switch is included.
Aux 1 and 2 are stereo pre/post selectable sends with a level and pan control. Aux groups 3 and 4, and 5 and 6 are pre/post selectable in sets of two, each with separate level control. Continuing downward, a pan control feeds left/right or odd/even groups. Next is a channel mute switch with LED indicator, and bus assign switches for mono, left/right, Groups 1-2 and 3-4. A peak signal indicator LED and PFL (pre fader listen) switch reside next to the 100mm input fader. The stereo channels have identical controls except for the exclusion of the low cut switches (a sum mono switch is in its place). The input gain control range extends from 15 to 60 dB.
The master section includes a headphone level control, 1/4-inch headphone jack, solo – PFL and AFL (after fader listen) – off switch, “from monitor” and tape in switches. These switches enable monitoring from various sources, which all defer to solo listening. An Add Mono switch blends the mono master signal into the headphone mix if needed. To the right is a pair of L/R ladder LED level indicators from -24 to +10 dB, solo and power indicator LEDs and a 12 V lamp BNC socket. Below is the tape-in level control with assignment switch (assigns source to auxes 1/2 or left/right mix busses), and aux out level controls 1/2 through 6, with associated AFL switches. Subgroup assignment switches route groups 1 through 4 to the left, right or mono busses.
Group master faders, peak indicator LEDs and AFL buttons are also in this section. Next, a flexible monitoring section with associated rear outputs features a level control, sum mono button, solo off button, aux 1/2, mono bus, L/R bus and Group monitoring buttons. Wrapping up the master section are 100mm mono and left and right master faders – with peak signal LEDs, as well as an alternate L/R output level control. This mixer has great facility for driving multiple zones, if need be.
Now, around back to the comprehensive jackfield. Each mono channel has a 48V phantom power switch, balanced 1/4-inch line level jack (enabled by the front panel line-in switch), XLR mic or line input (again, depending on the aforementioned switch position), 1/4-inch channel insert jack, and post fader 1/4-inch direct out jack. The stereo input channels forego the direct outputs and channel inserts and have a pair of balanced 1/4-inch line-level inputs to go with XLRs. L/R and mono bus +4 dBu XLR inputs, and group 1 through 4 1/4-inch TRS (tip ring sleeve) bus inputs can link external devices or mixers for cascading purposes.
Main outputs are XLR, with mic/line switches, and each output has 1/4-inch insert points. Monitor out, alt out and tape inputs each have L/R 1/4-inch as well as RCA patching for connection with consumer (-10 dBV) gear. Group outs and inserts are 1/4-inch TRS, as are the six aux outputs and inserts. There are six aux XLR outputs, too. Obviously, there is no shortage of patch points on this mixer. Finally, a solo link DIN receptacle allows slaving the solo functions to a master mixer. And the AC power connector with on/off switch is located here.
I decided to try the XR-20 in a reinforcement setting requiring multiple zones. The monitor and alt outputs were helpful to drive under balcony and spillover feeds. The mic preamps were very quiet, giving an airy, almost condenser-like appeal to even the normally mid-heavy Shure Beta SM57s (surprising!).
I loved the crisp consonants and round bass/mid-bass vowel sounds that emanated from the connected Crown Macro-Tech amps and Audio Composite Engineering speakers. The EQ was intuitive and responsive without being edgy or contrived.
Having four stereo channels gave me plenty of FX returns, and group inserts allowed for dynamics processing on overall percussion and guitar subgroups. As I mentioned earlier, there is great patching for a compact console such as this. All this, and the unit is built as solid as a Swiss bank’s vault door. This weighty mount has front panel attached handles to facilitate easy installation. Circuitry can be easily accessed via a removable rear panel, as the PC boards are fastened to the front panel. And graphics and layout are excellent; at no time did I feel “control cramps” from close quartered faders (which glide like glass) and knobs.
I liked the Crest XR-20; it has good sonics, a plethora of patching and features, and is solid as the road calls for. All in all, this is a mixer well conceived, designed and executed.