Sony DMX-R100 Digital Mixing Console

The DMX-R100 fills a huge void in the console market. It provides an option for the studio in need of a powerful digital console that is sonically superior to the vast selection of low-priced digital desks available today, yet is only a fraction of the price of the high-end Sony Oxford, SSL Axiom and AMS Neve Capricorn digital desks.
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In 1995, with much acclaim, Sony released the OXF-R3 console, better known as the Oxford. The English company, Oxford Digital Limited, which was purchased by Sony shortly before the Oxford's release, initially developed the desk with the high-end studio market in mind. The Sony Oxford is considered by many to be the finest desk ever created.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production

Key Features: 48/channel, fully automatable digital console; comprehensive sync I/O; 12 mic preamps; additional options available

Price: $20,000

Contact: Sony at 800-686-7669 Web Site

Plus

+ Outstanding sound quality

+ Extremely flexible operative design

+ Multiple consoles can be linked

+ Price

Minus

- Title data has to be saved to floppy disks

- No offline editing of automation

The Score: It would be difficult to find a console that could compete with the DMX-R100 without spending $75,000 or more. The desk is extremely flexible, easy to use and most important, it sounds fantastic.
Unfortunately, at a cost of a half million dollars, only the world's top studios can afford the Oxford's quality sound - until now. By creating a scaled-down version of the Oxford with the same first-rate sound, the affordable ($20,000) Sony DMX-R100 is becoming known as the "Baby Oxford."

The DMX-R100 fills a huge void in the console market. It provides an option for the studio in need of a powerful digital console that is sonically superior to the vast selection of low-priced digital desks available today, yet is only a fraction of the price of the high-end Sony Oxford, SSL Axiom and AMS Neve Capricorn digital desks.

Features

The Sony DMX-R100 is a 48-channel fully automated digital mixing console. The 47.25-inch wide by 10.65-inch high by 27.25-inch deep desk includes 25 motorized faders (with a resolution of 1,024 steps), a built-in monitor that doubles as a control surface, a digital routing matrix and a fully integrated automation package. The 24-bit desk weighs 121.25 pounds and operates at 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96 kHz.

The desk's performance specs are particularly impressive. The typical Line In to PGM Out frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/-0.2 dB with a THD of 0.01 percent at +4 dB, 1 kHz. The typical Mic In to PGM Out is 20 Hz to 20 kHz +/-0.3 dB with a THD of 0.06 percent at -60 dB, 1 kHz. The Line In to PGM Out dynamic range is 104 dB.

The console's rear panel provides an extensive selection of connectors to allow the R100 to adapt to nearly any situation. In addition to these standard connectors, four slots allow for additional I/O options (see below). The R100 has an internal power supply, so a standard IEC power cable connected to 120V AC power and a flip of the power switch (also located on the rear panel) are all that is needed to power-up the desk. The R100's supply doesn't need a cooling fan and there is no internal hard drive - the console is completely quiet.

The R100 has 42 analog inputs. Twelve channels of Analog In A (+24 dBu max, 4.7 k-ohm, balanced, with switchable phantom power) are via standard female XLR connectors. Twelve channels of Analog In B (+24 dBu max, 10 k-ohm, balanced) are via 1/4-inch TRS jacks.

Twelve channels of analog inserts are provided via unbalanced 1/4-inch TRS jacks (tip-send, ring-return). These inserts can be applied to either the Analog In A or the Analog In B inputs and are positioned before the analog to digital converters. Twelve channels of Line In (+24 dBu max, 10 k-ohm, balanced) are provided via combo connectors (accepts either XLR or 1/4-inch connectors). The 2TR In #1's two +4dBu inputs (+24 dBu max, 10 k-ohm, balanced) are provided via two 1/4-inch TRS jacks. Finally, four channels of Aux Return (+24dBu max, 10 k-ohm, balanced) are via 1/4-inch TRS jacks.

The console has 18 analog outputs. Two channels of +4 dBu PGM Out (+24 dBu max, 10 k-ohm load, output impedance 150 ohm, balanced) are via 1/4-inch TRS jacks. Eight of Aux Sends (+24 dBu max, 10 k-ohm load, output impedance 150 ohm, balanced) are provided via 1/4-inch TRS jacks. The Control Room Monitor outputs consist of 6 +4 dBu (+24dBu max, 10 k-ohm load, output impedance 150 ohm, balanced) 1/4-inch TRS jacks.

The desk has six digital inputs and six digital outputs. Four channels of Aux Return are provided via two AES/EBU female XLR connectors and the 2TR In #2's two inputs are via a single AES/EBU female XLR connector. Four channels of aux send are provided via two AES/EBU male XLR connectors and PGM Out is via a single AES/EBU male XLR connector.

Six optional boards provide the R100 with additional I/O. The DMBK-R101 8 CH Analog Line In Board provides eight channels of analog +4 dBu input (maximum input level: +24dBu) via eight female XLR connectors. The DMBK-R102 8 CH Analog Line Out Board provides eight channels of analog +4 dBu output via eight male XLR connectors.

The DMBK-R103 8 CH AES/EBU DIO Board provides eight channels of AES/EBU input via four female XLR connectors and eight channels of AES/EBU output via four male XLR connectors. The DMBK-R104 Sampling Rate Converter DI Board inputs four pairs of digital inputs. Each input can be via an AES/EBU female XLR connector or an optical connector. The DMBK-R105 Insertion Board provides eight unbalanced inserts via eight 1/4-inch TRS jacks. The DMBK-R106 Interface Board for ADAT has two optical connectors. One provides eight channels of lightpipe input and the other, eight channels of lightpipe output. Lastly, the DMBK-R107 Interface Board for TDIF provides eight channels of digital I/O via a 25-pin D-sub connector.

The desk also includes connections for word clock I/O, video sync, time code I/O, MIDI MTC In/Out/Thru, 9-Pin Remote I/O 1/out 2, PC port, foot switch, mouse, keyboard, USB and serial (RS-232C).

Sony is introducing a MADI card for DMX-R100 later this year, which will greatly expand the number of audio channels that can be connected to the mixer. The DMX-R100 MADI card supports 48 input and 48 output channels of audio I/O, providing an ideal method of directly interfacing the DMX-R100 with MADI-capable recorders such as the Sony PCM-3348HR DASH recorder. The MADI card installs in one of the mixer's I/O slots, and all its audio signals can be flexibly routed to DMX-R100 processing channels using the mixer's internal routers.

The desk's control surface is a 21-cm wide by 16-cm high SVGA LCD touchscreen monitor with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. The surface allows the user to quickly jump through menus and make adjustments with a constant visual reference to the console's setup or current audio processing. Graphics pages include automation, I/O routing, mixer set up and channel processing. The console has a 15-pin female analog RGB output as well, so an additional monitor offering the same view as the built-in screen can be connected.

The R100's internal audio routing matrix allows any input signal to be routed to any channel or multiple channels. In addition, input signal can be assigned to any output or multiple outputs. Two touch-screen pages control this routing matrix. The first for input signal assignment and the second for output signal assignment. With this flexible routing matrix, the console can be configured to operate like an inline console, a split console or a combination of the two.

The R100's equalizer is four-band parametric with both high-cut and low-cut filters. The high frequency (peak/shelf) is +/-20 dB (128 points, 0.25 dB to 0.5 dB steps) from 622 Hz to 19.9 kHz (61 points) with a Q from 0.5 to 16 (63 points). The high-mid frequency (peak) is +/-20 dB (128 points, 0.25 dB to 0.5 dB steps) from 220 Hz to 7.0 kHz (61 points) with a Q from 0.5 to 16 (63 points).

The low-mid frequency (peak) is +/-20 dB (128 points, 0.25 dB to 0.5 dB steps) from 77.8 Hz to 2.5 kHz (61 points) with a Q from 0.5 to 16 (63 points). The low frequency (peak/shelf) is +/-20 dB (128 points, 0.25 dB to 0.5 dB steps) from 27.5 Hz to 880 Hz (61 points) with a Q from 0.5 to 16 (63 points). The high-cut filter is adjustable from 1.48 kHz to 22.35 kHz (48 points) and the low-cut filter is adjustable from 27.5 Hz to 415 Hz (48 points). Both filters are 12 dB/octave.

The console's dynamics section includes a compressor/ducker and an expander/gate. The compressor/ducker has adjustable threshold, attack time, release time, ratio, range and hold time. The expander/gate also has adjustable threshold, attack time, release time, ratio, range and hold time. Both dynamics functions can be used simultaneously (this is not possible on most small format digital consoles, it is usually one or the other).

When operating at the double-speed sample rates (88.2 and 96 kHz) the number of input channels, direct outs, multitrack busses, bus inserts and aux returns is cut in half. There are only two aux sends (1 and 2), and the maximum channel delay time is cut in half (to 499.9 milliseconds). In addition, the HF band of the channel and bus equalizers extends from 19.9 to 39.8 kHz and the high-cut filter in the channel equalizers extends to 42.2 kHz.

In use

After spending a day with Sony's Karl Kussmaul, I put the DMX-R100 to work and my end results were nothing less than spectacular. It took no time at all to enter the song's cue points and I quickly went to work driving my iZ Technologies RADAR 24 with the R100's onboard transport control. First and foremost, the console sounds fantastic. I have always found that the better the console sounds, the less EQ I end up using during a mix.

The initial track I mixed with the R100 was a song that I had mixed two weeks prior on an analog desk (with a price tag several times that of the R100). The sounds were still fresh in my memory and needless to say, I was extremely surprised when I found myself using only a fraction of the EQ I used on the original mix.

I found the console's microphone preamps quiet and uncolored. They should be more than adequate for most any application. The 12 onboard mic pres were sufficient for the applications under which I tested the console. If the desk was being used for full tracking sessions, additional preamps would obviously be needed.

Nothing is more frustrating than an automation system that is difficult to figure out and/or lacks power and flexibility. In contrast, the R100's highly intuitive automation system is both quick to learn and extremely powerful. The ability to automate virtually everything is a godsend. For instance, I love being able to ride the compressor's threshold. Back in the caveman days of mixing I often found myself with a lead vocal that was overcompressed in the chorus because the compressor's threshold was adjusted for the verse or a verse that was undercompressed because the compressor was adjusted for the chorus - that won't happen again. With the R100, all the dynamic parameters can be automated. My only complaint with the automation is the lack of offline editing. Hopefully this will be added in a future software version.

The R100's automation data is stored as a Title. Each Title is comprised of one Mix, 99 Cues, 99 Snapshots, output routing and all clock, sampling and time-code information.

Though the DMX-R100 operating manual is adequately written, it makes for pretty slow reading (translation: it's boring). I found that it works best solely as a reference tool. On the other hand, Kussmaul teamed up with Howard Massey (the superb writer of Behind the Glass) to compile the DMX-R100 Quick Reference, which is an excellent read. This guide gives step-by-step tutorials on standard operating procedures (e.g. tracking, overdubbing, mixing, controlling Pro Tools from the DMX-R100, surround monitoring) as well as a host of informative

information. The Quick Reference is included with the DMX-R100 and it can be downloaded for free at http://www.dmxr100forum.com/resources.html. Tech support for the R100 is available from 8 am to 8 pm (Eastern Standard Time) Monday through Friday.

From the knob and button placement to the control surface operation to the remote machine operation controls, the desk is laid out perfectly. Its operation is intuitive and fast.

Editor's note: As we went to press, Sony announced a major software upgrade will soon be available for the DMX-R100, extending the mixer's operational versatility, as well as expanding capabilities for multiformat/surround operation.

The Version 2.0 software upgrade adds:

• Mixer cascade, which allows two mixers to be linked (both mixers require MADI cards to be fitted).

• Surround Sound processing at double sample rates (88.2 and 96 kHz).

• Additional Surround Sound processing features (sublevel control and negative divergence).

• New dynamic automation functions that include enhanced Trim and Audition modes.

• Fader naming on channel GUI.

• Equalizer and dynamic library function.

• Access follow solo function.

• Optional mode for floppy disk/DOS compatible title data.

• New dither mode for PGM output.

Summary

The Sony DMX-R100 offers the features and sonic performance of consoles costing several times as much. Any studio looking to upgrade consoles should make the DMX-R100 a top consideration.