The VeniceF series is the upgrade to the original Venice console, adding more of the professional features found on higher-end consoles. The first Midas Venice console was adopted quickly in the live industry, the quality preamps and nice-sounding EQ always a favorite. This new console will delight anyone who thought the original console lacked some important features.
Compared to the original Venice range, the F series is a different beast altogether. There are smooth 100mm faders on every input channel and output bus. The ergonomics of the desk and the flat fader tray make everything visible and accessible. The updated mic pre section now includes a -20 dB pad, Polarity invert, phantom power and 80 Hz HPF switch at the top of each input strip.
The stereo channels have dual concentric gain controls, and while the phantom and pad switches affect both sides, the polarity switch inverts only the left channel. The four stereo channels can be used with phantom-powered sources via the dual XLR inputs, or line-level sources via the quarter-inch jack inputs. Another great feature lets you use the stereo mic inputs and the stereo line inputs at the same time: for example, connecting external effects while not diminishing the channel count.
Each channel has a direct out (both analog and digital) which can be switched either pre or post EQ. There is also a switch to enable the analog insert point. Possibly the greatest feature of the console is the XL3 EQ section, with four-band swept EQ and two fully parametric mid range sections as well as an EQ bypass switch. The compact nature of this console has really not omitted any features, with the dual-concentric EQ controls tightly packed onto the mixing surface. There are a total of six aux sends: two can be pre or post EQ, while all six may be switched pre or post fade, essential for flexible applications.
There are routing switches for each of the four group busses, as well as a pan to groups switch and switches for the LR and mono bus. There are two matrices (with seven inputs), which are great for feeding other zones or for record outputs. In addition, a two-track send and return with RCA connectors for your music player is included. Other professional features are a 1 kHz oscillator and talkback input, which can be routed as required.
It would seem that Midas has been listening to its customers, intently it would seem, as the most demanded features have been firmly integrated into the desk. Things that the original Venice was lacking are now included, such as a pad switch and a phantom-power switch you can reach without having to stretch behind the console. The 100mm faders are also a welcome upgrade to the original 60mm faders. By integrating everything including the power supply into the same box, even the 32-channel version is still a very compact tool for something with this feature set.
On top of this fully functional analog Midas console is a built-in 32x32-channel FireWire interface with its own ASIO or Core Audio drivers for easy routing to any DAW software on a Mac or PC. The power here lies in the ability to use the FireWire interface and your favorite software to run inserts on each channel, effects plug-ins and record high-quality multitrack audio all at the same time. A converter in the VeniceF operate at 44.1 or 48 kHz rather than the default 96 kHZ in the digital consoles.
The desk comes with Propellerheads Record software, which is an extensive (if somewhat initially unintuitive) package. It seems to work very well, but having limited time to learn this Reason-like software, I chose to stick to my Logic audio setup. Theoretically, you can use any software you like, as long as it supports core audio or ASIO.
I started out using the desk as an analog mixer, plain and simple. PVC tape fits perfectly above the faders so you can still see the channel numbers. As usual, no lights came with the desk, but (on the 32-channel version) there are two 4-pin XLR 12V lamp sockets. Plugging everything in is easy, “fat” jack plugs go in next to each other with no problem, unlike some densely populated products. The FireWire and power connectors have no way of locking into place, so care is required with both these critical connections.
Setting up an input channel is quick and easy, everything is right next to the gain pot. Getting at the densely populated EQ controls requires a little care, so as not to make any unintended adjustments. As predicted, the mic pre and EQ sound very sweet: a fantastic Midas console with the quality you would expect. The high-shelf filter really sparkles; it adds a lovely air to vocals, instruments and cymbals. The fully parametric mids are excellent and can have a very sharp Q to really hone in on something, at least between 100 Hz - 2 kHz and 400 Hz - 8 kHz. The wider Q settings can give very subtle results and really shape a signal smoothly.
I would have liked the lo-mid filter to drop to a lower frequency than 100 Hz, as using a sharp Q at low frequencies is a handy tool. The bass-shelf filter is very responsive and adds a lovely warmth and fatness. When used in conjunction with the HPF (fixed at 80 Hz) you can limit the boost to the 100 Hz area without adding too much in the 50-60 Hz area. The EQ is very musical sounding, with a very smooth action and a nearly silent bypass switch.
The possibilities of setups for the VeniceF are pretty endless, but here are some examples of the type of setups the desk could be used for.
1. Small Venue FOH and monitor console with four monitor sends, L-C-R PA, under-balcony delays from a matrix, stereo record out from a matrix, digital dynamics inserts via the FireWire interface, plus multitrack recording and effects.
2. Playback Mixer Sub mixer for a large multitrack replay system — 32 inputs from playback software (Pro Tools, Logic, Live, etc), three stereo monitor mix outputs, L-C-R mix, and four group outputs to the main system.
3. Theater System Combining radio microphone signals, simple monitor setup and multitrack surround-sound triggered audio cues.
4. Small Studio I/O Perfect if you want to interface a collection of analog gear with a DAW and also mix out of the box, summing analog signals. This desk is equally at home in the studio. In fact, it is pretty much the main hub of a very high-quality studio setup, amazing for live tracking of up to 32 channels.
5. Mobile Recording A small mobile studio could use the VeniceF as a tracking console, using the analog direct outputs for recording to existing equipment, while also running a FireWire recording system for redundancy.
Connecting the desk to speaker systems is a breeze, thanks to the high-quality XLR connectors for every bus output. Although there are only insert points for the main L-C-R, the four groups, and the two “monitor” aux busses. The other four auxes do not have analog insert points; unless you “flip” the group and aux faders allowing the group insert points to be used for auxes instead. This would make sense if the board were to be used as a dedicated monitor console.
I started using the board as a FOH and monitor desk in a small venue. Sending vocals to the monitor system, without any EQ I apply to the FOH signal, traditionally requires the use of either another channel or a group output. For the two “monitor” auxes on the VeniceF, you can simply select the pre-EQ option, so your EQ won’t affect the monitors. Getting a mix up on the VeniceF is easy: Everything just does what it says on the tin. Any adjustment you make is instantly audible, and you can feel that every component is of a high quality and individually secured to the main surface. I had no problem getting four monitor mixes and an FOH mix together. In fact, using inserts via the digital interface worked rather well, although using a mouse is possibly not the most efficient way to control the software.
The desk sounds great. We like to think that summing audio signals in the analog domain has a certain advantage when compared to the digital alternative; certainly a high-quality analog product such as this console produces a wonderful representation of whatever you feed into it.
There is nothing of this quality available with this feature set at this price point. Midas has struck a genius blow in the current climate of small (and usually far lesser quality) digital products that promise large capability in a small package. The VeniceF promises absolute Midas quality with all the traditional analog features, plus the digital interface. As a console, it is extremely quick and easy to use; couple this with whatever software you fancy and you have a very powerful mixing/recording system.
If there is anything I don’t like about the console, it would be the lack of mute groups — not such a big deal if you can move fast or are able to route channels through the groups.
Price: 16-, 24- and 32-channel versions, $2500, $4000 and $6000
Contact: Midas | midasconsoles.com
Ben Burns, contributor to PAR sister publication, Audio Media, is a London-based live/studio engineer for artists such as Blur and Dido.