Live Review: Midas Pro1 Digital Console

After 33 years in the production business, we have, as do most production companies, a rather large fleet of expensive, behemoth-like analog consoles.
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Will James
PAR Contributor

wjames@nbmedia.com After 33 years in the production business, we have, as do most production companies, a rather large fleet of expensive, behemoth-like analog consoles. We have a small armada of Midas and Soundcraft analog consoles—each weighing in the 600-800 lb. range, about the size and weight of a small cow. Thus I refer to our shop as “the barn.”

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Lately, we have covered a couple of festivals where I marveled at the compact nature and powerful capabilities of the new breed of digital desks. Even the “Big Boy “ consoles have come down in price dramatically while offering maximum sound quality and ease of operation.

I recently received a rather pleasant surprise for review in Pro Audio Review, arriving in the form of Midas’ smallest and most affordable entry in its line of high-end digital desks: the Pro1.

Features

Midas was kind enough to supply us with the Pro1 console in a flight case and with the DL251 snake head, along with 300 feet of Cat 5 cable. The Pro1 took two guys to set up and remove from the case, as its flight case is rather heavy. In usual Midas fashion, the console is quite colorful. It’s also quite compact, weighing in at 47 lbs. uncased/200 lbs. cased. The surface is a pleasant steel/slate blue, accented with touches of Midas’ complement of pre-school crayon colors. The total surface is broken into five sections: upper left hand screen, lower left hand input faders, lower right hand output faders, upper right hand preassigned “hard” keys, and the lower-center’s mouse/trackball and clickable buttons.

The bulk of Pro1’s FOH mode navigation is done via onboard mouse and left-click key, with other adjustments made at the faders, hard keys and center-located UP/DOWN/ ENTER keys. In monitor mode, users mainly live on the hard keys, which flip the channel faders into send mode; when engaged, these remind users, in very large letters in red, that they are in Fader Flip mode.

The Pro1’s OS is notably unique and quite a bit more intuitive than many of the digitals I’ve used. The console arrives as a blank slate; users custom-tailor their initial data settings and preferences based on needs. The center section keys allow instant access to menus and prefs, and building a show via naming, color coding and arranging is quick and painless.

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Midas has incorporated some very highend electronics into this package with a plethora of menu prefs and options. For example, the console can be configured to have six on-board effects and eight DN360 graphic EQs; or users can lower the effect count all the way down to one to have 28 graphic EQs; or users can mix and match anywhere in between. Each of the six effects banks have a variety of reverbs and delays that are instantly malleable to suit— plate, chamber, and vintage room variables plus the DN780 delay.

The output section contains 16 aux masters, six matrix masters, eight VCA group masters, and LEFT/RIGHT/MONO master faders with all names and colors programmable. Both the output section and the automation section allow for page-by-page, scene-by-scene operation. Just above the master faders resides the POP section, short for “Population groups,” which allows instant grouping of any faders on the console to a one-touch operation; this is better than sub-groups, and not quite a VCA.

The top right of the console houses hard keys, allowing manual operation of the channel strips, accessed through depressing the channel’s name button. The hard keys control input gain, high- and low-pass filters, comp, gate, fully parametric EQ, talk back and monitoring/headphones. The rear panel of the Pro1 offers 24 XLR inputs and 16 XLR outputs, as well as a variety of digital connections including multiple CAT5 connections for multiple digital snakes.

In Use

We unpacked the Midas Pro1 at my house, setting it up in my garage, as this would allow me to learn the OS for a couple of days prior to taking it out to actual gigs. The console arrived with a clean slate, so to speak, knowing nothing. Immediately I discovered how deep yet user-friendly its menus are. In order to assign the DL251 digital snakehead, I had to connect the two provided Cat 5 snakes to the snake head and the Cat 5 connections on the rear panel. My first chore was to build a template, or initial data, for both FOH and Monitor. The channeling menu is basically divided into two halves, input and output.

To create the initial data, I clicked on a series of screen locations, joining the two halves (input and output) together in whatever manner I needed per event. It’s not a complicated process, but attention to detail is everything, and this console has every detailed parameter adjustment you can imagine. For example, inserting EQs into monitor masters is a lot like patching them manually, but remember to assign the proper return to the chosen send and turn on your inserted devices. This goes for effects, too, although the on-screen menu allows for instant assigning of the device to whatever master buss you desire, and same goes with the EQs.

As soon as I got through the assigning of everything, I decided to create a template show, naming and color-coding 32 channels worth of inputs, six Effect Returns and two iOS input channels. Connecting outboard equipment (in addition to the full menu of goodies internally provided) was a simple task through use of the channel assign menu, allowing my iPod to be assigned locally—physically at the console—while the DL251 lives on stage where stage I/O takes place. In monitor mode, the console’s local 16 XLR outputs connect directly to monitor amplifiers or IEM receivers.

Our first gig with the Pro1 was an outdoor car show and music festival with four bands per day; we provided full production with lighting, roof and staging. The Pro1 was to be used as the FOH mixer. Groups were all tribute acts, ranging between a very good Guns ‘N Roses tribute, an excellent Beach Boys tribute, and in between, a band called Winter Dance Party, a tribute to early 60’s legends the Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly. The latter was a superb band with great vocals and were excellent test subjects for this console; I was interested to see how much color (or lack thereof) this console added to a mix. My immediate response at sound check was that this console took a boat load of input signals and was relatively forgiving to use.

The user keys at the top of the channel faders serve as analog trims, with additional digital gain available in the hard key section. Unlike some digital consoles, I found that I spent very little time in the EQ department of the channel strip or the overall graphic EQs inserted on the mains. The sound check clipped along quite smartly as the console’s hard keys were quite easy to access; the reverbs and EQs in the center menu were, too. The graphic EQs are accessed through the center menu, or through the GEQ key at the bottom of the output select keys; this turns the output faders into various frequency groups, and users may scroll through the EQ frequencies very quickly via arrow up/arrow down keys next to the output fader bank.

My favorite feature of the Pro1 is its POP section, or “population keys,” which allow for comprehensive, flexible grouping to one convenient button push. I was using a POP group for lead vocals; I had the vocal channel fader, reverb send and reverb return together. POP group is surely the most convenient way to group together operations, rather than constantly scrolling through layers.

Summary

I believe that I could go on for 10 pages describing how cool this console is, highlighting the goodies and power contained within it. But I will summarize by saying that the Pro1 provides so many features, it’s almost unbelievable considering the price. This console, coupled with the DL251 snakehead, is possibly the best digital mixing system that I’ve used.

I give the Midas Pro1 my highest recommendation. If you are in the market for a modestly priced digital console that has all the “big boy” sounds, ergonomics, features and clout, this is the one for you. I am going to purchase two of these Midas consoles right away for Atlantis Audio, and we do production for everyone between from Creedence to Korn.

Price: from $7,999 street
Contact:midasconsoles.com