Only a few months ago Peavey Electronics added three new powered mixers to its existing XR Series product line: the XR 684F (400 watts program into 4 ohms), XR 696F (1,200 watts RMS program into 4 ohms) and XR 800F+ (500 watts RMS per channel into 4 ohms). I recently had the opportunity to review the XR 696F, which was used to support a five-piece band in both a small rehearsal space and a mid-sized (200-person capacity) bar/restaurant.
As you might expect from Peavey, the XR 696F ($1,199) offers all of the basics needed in a compact powered mixer plus all the bells and whistles anyone could ever want in a unit this size. I am a firm believer in having more features than one might actually require, just in case of an unanticipated need. The XR 696F meets these criteria, but in the time I had the unit I did not use many of the extra features.
The XR 696F is 10.75 inches high, 11 inches deep and 19 inches wide. The unit weighs just under 42 lb. It is encased in a solid black plastic enclosure with metal plates protecting all corners of the mixer. It is built like a tank to withstand the rigors of live sound reinforcement.
The main features include eight channels outfitted for 1/4-inch and XLR jacks, insert points on Channels 1 and 2, nine-band stereo main graphic EQ and nine-band mono graphic EQ assignable to the monitors or Channel 3. All channels feature monitor sends, with Channels 1 through 8 also containing effects sends. Channels 1 through 6 also feature a low-cut noise filter used to reduce uncontrollable noises such as wind or stage noise. This feature is handy when playing outdoor venues or clubs with a lot of ambient noise. A 25 dB pad is also featured on Channels 1 through 6; activating this switch can help eliminate distortion, for example, when close miking an amp or drum kit.
One of the most beneficial features of all three new XR powered mixers is Peavey’s built-in Feedback Ferret feedback eliminator. When activated, it uses 16 filters to automatically scan and filter feedback, eliminating the always-annoying (to both musicians and the audience) screeching feedback sound causing crowds to wince in pain and usually run for the exit door.
Another valuable feature on the XR 696F is the 48-bit digital effects processor featuring a multitude of preprogrammed effects and four user preset locations for storage of the user’s personal favorite effects. Effects include reverb, delay and chorus and can be adjusted with time/size and color/tone knobs. In addition, the effects can be independently adjusted for the mains and monitors and also again within each channel. This is an invaluable feature, especially when the mixer is supporting several singers (as was the case when I used it), all of whom have different singing capabilities and might need different levels of effects to make their voices blend together in the best possible way.
Finally, the XR 696F features Peavey’s Distortion Detection Technique (DDT), which helps eliminate power amp distortion to produce a much clearer sound than ordinary powered mixers.
As previously mentioned, the XR 696F was used for both in-studio rehearsals and at a mid-sized club gig. The main purpose for the mixer in both settings was to amplify three to four vocals and one acoustic/electric guitar. Because our rehearsal space was not very large, we only used one speaker (a vintage tower cabinet with three 12-inch speakers) and never had to raise the master gain above -3 dB, which provided more than enough juice to hear the vocals above the rest of the band (two guitars, bass and drums). Interestingly enough, even when we used two tower speakers during the live performance, the master gain was not turned past 0 dB.
Since our setup did not include the use of monitors, the most valuable feature for us was the ability to patch the switchable mono EQ to Channel 3 for use with the acoustic/electric guitar. This enabled us to get a killer sound from a guitar that normally sounds very thin and weak.
One of the reasons we were able to get such a great sound was the combination of the XR 696F with the use of Planet Waves microphone cables on all of the Shure SM58 microphones and Planet Waves speaker cables for connecting the mains to the mixer.
On the handling side: all of the knobs and EQ slides on the unit turned/moved smoothly without any jerky movements, allowing for easy, fine-tuning adjustment of all levels. In addition, all of the connectors and inputs are built extremely solid and firm, allowing for quick connecting and disconnecting of cables.
Overall, I was more than pleased with the performance and ease-of-use of Peavey’s XR 696F powered mixer. This unit provides virtually everything that anyone in the market for a compact powered mixer could want. The mixer is laid out in a very logical manner and with the use of the manual even beginners will not have a problem quickly learning the ins and outs of all the key features. Listed at $1,199, the XR 696F is a steal for the amount of features and power it provides.
Key Features: Eight-channel; built-in Ferret Feedback; nine-band stereo main graphic EQ; nine-band assignable mono graphic EQ
Price – $1,199
Contact: Peavey at 601-483-5365, www.peavey.com