As digital consoles become even more widely available at all price points, new analog desks are introduced far less, or so it seems. However, Inter-M — a prolific yet relatively unknown Korea-based company with great designers and low cost/high-yield manufacturing techniques — has released the IMX series, an analog mixer line offering impressive features found in much more expensive and larger consoles.
The IMX-824 ($6,959.95) is a 139-pound, split-layout console with dimensions of 58.1- x 8.7- x 28.7-inches. The layout of the board is very familiar with no major surprises.
Per channel strip and starting at the top of the board is the input section, with switches for +48V Phantom Power (which is backlit), -26 dB pad, phase flip, gain control knob and a highpass filter ranging from 20 Hz to 400 Hz and respective In switch. Next in line is the fourband Baxandall-style EQ, with both high- and low- shelving EQs set at 12 kHz and 80 Hz, respectively. The two middle bands are semiparametric, allowing for the frequency and level to be adjusted; all of this revolves around one little button that is the most important for the EQ: the In button.
Next are eight Aux sends, and each aux group is color-coded and can be set to pre or post; 1-4, 5-6 and 7-8 are grouped together. Blending the channel between the L/R and Center buss is available via the Blend knob followed by Pan. The scribble strip separates Pan and a red backlit Mute button. All of the lit buttons on this board are LED backlit and really stand out. When Mutes are controlled by one of the four mute groups, the buttons are a dimmed red. The mute group assignment buttons are also backlit in red and are located at the bottom right of the 100 mm fader. At the very bottom right of the channel is the Solo button, also backlit, but yellow in color. To the direct right of the fader are dark grey buss assignment buttons. Busses 1 through 8 are in pairs of two, with LCR and Mono assigned to their own button.
In addition to its 24 mono channels, the IMX-824 also has two stereo channels. Gain, phase flip (right channel only) and L+R summing accompany a slimmed down EQ (no sweepable mids, fixed frequency) and the same aux feeds. At the top right of each fader is a four-segment LED with the first green indicating signal around 12 dB below nominal level, second at 0, yellow indicates +12 and, finally, our good friend red.
Front-of-house or monitor mix positions for Touring or Installation (Theaters, Clubs and Houses-of-Worship)
24 mono channels with Phantom Power, four-band EQ with two sweepable mid frequencies and swept HPF, eight aux sends with pre-fader switching, direct output, full LCR or L/R and mono routing, 100 mm fader, four mute groups and four segment LED metering; LCR panning; two stereo input channels; “fader flip” functionality; four matrix outputs; six stereo returns; optional VU-11 meter bridge
Inter-M Americas | 866-636-5795 | www.inter-m.net
- Easy to navigate
- Operates as FOH or Monitor Board
- A mix’s “sweet spot” is easily attained
- Good sound
- Hard to Identify Buss Routing Assignments
- Due to weight and size, not ideal for a small tour or mobile system
This new name in mid- to large-scale live mixers sounds good, is built well, and rivals industry standards.Between the first sixteen channels and the last eight is the center section. The top starts off with a 16-segment LED per Group output and Mix L/R/C. Six stereo returns are controlled by short throw faders with full buss assignment, basic equalization and +4 or -10 level selectors. Returns 1-4 have two knobs fixed pre to auxes 1 and 2, while returns 5 and 6’s knobs are fixed pre to auxes 7 and 8.
The eight aux return knobs follow convenient color codes, matching the aux sends on the channels. Green backlit AFL buttons and a Blue backlit Group/Aux Flip button follows. When engaging Group/Aux Flip, the board immediately changes function and becomes a very capable monitor console. Four matrix sends accompany every buss, L/R and Center output with the option of making the sends pre. Built-in utilities include a sweepable oscillator from 50 Hz to 9 kHz, pink noise and routing assignments, which are shared with the Talkback switch.
Eight Group faders follow (LCR and Mono assignments) each with LCR and Mono assignments — Mute and AFL. Finally, the L/R faders and the Center fader are each accompanied by a Mute.
Monitoring and Phones level are in the last section with the four Mute group masters, each a red backlit button. I was fortunate to have the optional VU meterbridge attached to the board. I relied more on the VU metering, while taking brief glances at the LED segment metering.
The IMX-824 is powered by a 2U supply, which can be set up with another power supply for redundancy. The front of the unit has indicator LEDs for +48V, -18V and +18V. Accidentally hitting the power button is all but nullified with the nice half-inch frame around it.
The back of the board is self-explanatory, though, I did miss having the channel numbers silk screened on the back when plugging everything in (there is a scribble strip available for manual labeling).
From top to bottom, the back panel starts with 1/4-inch insert send/receive, which share a TRS connector, 1/4-inch direct output, Hi-Z input, and a XLR for microphone input. The direct out can be routed from pre-EQ, pre-fader, pre-insert and post-large fader (factory default), depending on the setting of internal jumpers. Aux Pre-Signal Source can also be customized to either Pre-Fader, Post-EQ (factory default) or Pre-Fader, Pre-EQ. By default, the Aux Send Pre signal is muted with the channel mute, but can be changed with a jumper. Each bucket of eight channels can be removed via four screws. The rear of the center section came with no surprises, and I was appreciative of the RCA playback inputs and record outputs.
One additional note about the board is its color scheme of the knobs, which kind of reminds me of looking down at the top of a crayon box — all reds and blues and greens and purples. The more I used the board, the more I appreciated the vast color coordination. In the Houses-of-Worship world, having things color-coordinated is a great tool in training volunteers and helping them to feel comfortable, just knowing that the first red knob turns up the monitor and the last purple knob feeds the CDR. This singular example of Inter-M’s attention to detail on the IMX-824 is a testimony that can only be a result of years of experience. This same attention to detail is also apparent on the silk screening of the board; two shades of grey are used to help the ocean of buttons have boundaries for quick identification.
I was called upon to mix for an event — a weekend retreat in the back hills of Tennessee — so I decided to employ the IMX-824 for my initial test drive. The weekend’s focal points included a full band and a speaker for teaching sessions. The only outboard equipment I took along was a Yamaha SPX990 and a dbx 160X for the main mix. The site provided all speakers and amps — suspended JBL 12-inch speaker enclosures and a pair of 15-inch subs powered by a hodgepodge of amplifiers — with a Rane crossover, everything wired in mono.
Unlike the Mackie that is typically used for remote setups, this board is simply too big for one person to handle. This is not necessarily a negative, but it should be noted that if the end user is going to cart this around, they will need at least one helper. The upside to the IMX-824’s large size was that it does not feel at all cluttered.
Truth be told, there is really nothing new with new analog consoles. The basic functions are generally all the same, so the only differences between consoles reside in their construction, routing and sound.
With that in mind, I decided to use the board “cold” — in an unfamiliar room, without the assistance of a manual, and without even going through the board ahead of time, though I did allow myself a bit of extra time to make sure everything was properly routed. My train of thought was this: if an analog board is well laid out then it should not require any preparation to use.
One shortcoming of the IMX-824’s color scheme was with its routing buttons; those charcoal gray buttons were hard to read in a dark environment. This could somewhat be assisted with a little console light, but I did not have that option, so I resorted to a flashlight/lamp combo. Even in daylight, the buttons were hard to read due to the color and the viewing angle. An adjustment in the design by putting a small white band around the bottom of the routing buttons would assist users in easily identifying what is routed where. By pressing in the button, the white band would disappear and be easier to identify which routing button is depressed.
There is a point in every mix where things come together to start working. Consoles can either become your best ally or cause you to fight just to find the pocket. Here, the Inter-M quickly became my ally. When the band was up and running at full speed and levels were set, there was a moment when everything just came together. The EQs were quickly dialed in, fader moves seemed flawless and the pocket was just right. It was fun to mix and the many positive comments I received after the weekend confirmed the fact. To me, such positive feedback speaks a lot about a console and — in a room that was completely foreign to me — the Inter-M was certainly speaking my language.
The primary designers of the board — YU Miya-zaki and David Dearden — are audio professionals of a respected pedigree, having served other respected pro audio firms as Midas, Soundcraft, DDA and Audient, just to name a few. Early reports even heralded the sound of the IMX-824 comparable to industry standard boards by the aforementioned manufacturers. So, I was determined to do some side-by-side comparisons between the EQ and pre-amps of the IMX-824 Inter-M’s and those of the Soundcraft and Allen & Heath mixers, two desks I have easy and regular access.
My testing — compiled by piping my favorite MP3 through the board while setting level and different EQ styles, then recording them to CD for comparison — confirmed what my mix had already suggested: this board sounds good. In the tests, the Allen & Heath GL2400 was at a clear disadvantage, especially in the high mids, as it truly seemed to be harsh in direct comparison (I suspected, however, there would some noticeable differences seeing that the A& H is half the price of the IMX-824). For me, the true test was comparing the Inter-M with a Soundcraft K2, which I have come to love the K2 over the years. And the Inter-M was easily in the same class.
With the IMX Series, Inter-M has created a mixer line that can stand on its own four feet — in sound quality, build quality and flexibility. Any permanent install or mid-level to large tour in need of a flexible board, whether for front-of-house or monitor position, would do well to have the IMX-824 or its bigger brothers.