Soundcraft was the originator of concert mix consoles that featured unmatched EQ, loads of features and unequaled sound. The 800Bs and Series FOURs of the early and mid 80s are still legendary in sound quality, and that quality now translates to the company’s latest entry, the Series FIVE.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installation
Key Features: 24 – 56-channel configurations, four-band parametric EQ, 12 aux sends, dual power supplies, VU meters
Price: 24-ch.: $41,450 32-ch.: $47,995; 40-ch.: $54,995; 48-ch.: $61,495; 56-ch.: $72,950
Contact: Soundcraft at 615-360-0471, Web Site
The Soundcraft Series FIVE is available in 24, 32, 40, 48 and 56-channel configurations, in either FOH or monitor mode. The model I was sent was a 48 mono/4 stereo input, front-of-house (FOH) version. It arrived in an extremely stout ATA flight case with a doghouse and two power supplies. This console is designedfor serious audio applications, where quality of sound and road worthiness are of paramount importance. In other words, this console is no toy. It weighs in at a healthy 375 lbs. and will require several healthy people to pick it up.
The Series FIVE has numerous features that qualify it as a world-class console. Beginning with the input section, the modules are divided into upper and lower halves. The upper section of the mono and stereo input begins with the channel input selector, which allows you to switch between two XLRs, allowing two different snakes from two different stages or bands, with each A or B input having its own phantom power switch, therefore eliminating the need for two FOH consoles.
Next is the input sensitivity. Instead of the usual 20 dB pad, there is a switch labeled RNG (range), which effectively lowers the operating level range of the input, eliminating standard passive pads that cause signal degradation. In this same portion of the input strip is the signal polarity reversing switch, followed by the two concentric 12 dB per octave filter knobs; a high-pass and a low-pass. The high-pass filter is variable between 20 and 600 Hz, with the low-pass filter variable between 1 and 20 kHz.
The insert point – accessed on the rear panel with separate TRS send and TRS return – is turned on and off on the front of the module. The insert point is normally post-input sensitivity, but pre channel EQ and fader.
The Series FIVE has a four-band fully parametric equalization section. Controlling this section are concentric cut/boost (+/-15 dB) and frequency rotaries, each flanked by a variable Q rotary, which also allows for shelf EQ engaging. The EQ section may be switched in or out of the signal path by depressing the switch labeled EQ.
The auxiliary section consists of 12 separate sends, each able to be switched on independently, and each aux having independent Pre/Post selector switches. Aux sends 1 and 2 are arranged as a stereo pair, as are sends 3 and 4. They can be operated as four separate sends, or as stereo pairs, depending on the corresponding masters’ global stereo latching switches. The aux sends are divided into color-coded groups of four, each corresponding to a like color-coded aux master in the output section, making for easy identification in a pinch.
The upper and lower sections of the Series FIVE input strips are divided by the tape, or labeling strip, which runs the entire width of the console. The lower half of the input contains the fader, the Mute and Mute Safe buttons, as well as a three-color, 10-step LED input readout, which monitors the input-amp output, the EQ output and the postfade output. This is where the channel solo button is also located, which is illuminated when solo is engaged. One really nice feature of the solo system is the Solo Cancel, which, when illuminated, allows you to disable any input in Solo mode, so you do not have to go hunting for whatever is in solo.
Immediately next to the fader are the 10 VCA assigns, which can be assigned to any combination of VCA groups.
The output section of the Series FIVE is conveniently located in the center of the console. Here again the modules are divided into upper and lower halves.The upper half starts out with the matrix assigns, allowing any buss (group, stereo or mono) to be sent to any of 10 matrix master outputs, each master having its own insert on switch and connected at the rear panel with a separate TRS send and TRS return. The first four output modules contain the group fader just below the matrix section, and the next six modules contain the Aux masters just below the matrix section (10 modules in all for the matrix master section). The main outputs have two modules: one is the stereo master and the other, the mono master.
The main stereo is also home to the talkback system and the oscillator section.The talkback and the oscillator can both each be routed to any group aux or master and the oscillator has a variety of tones and a pink noise generator available.
The first use of the Series FIVE console was an outdoor concert featuring Kenny Loggins in a venue that holds about 4,000 people. I met with Kenny’s house engineer, Jim Moran, and we decided on the patch scheme, thanks to the exact and clear layout of the Series FIVE’s back panel. Everything is XLR except the inserts, which are TRS-balanced separate send and return. The connectors I encountered for patching were of the best quality, and all connections were solid and secure.
During the course of the sound check, Jim and I discovered how user-friendly the Soundcraft console truly is. The layout and labeling is clear with plenty of room to maneuver your fingers between the modules. The EQ section was everything we have come to expect from Soundcraft, and more.
The aux sends were connected to two Lexicon PCM70s, two Lexicon MPX500s and a TC Electronics D-TWO. The aux sends were very responsive, as were the aux masters, with plenty of headroom on each send. The stereo channels served as the returns, and they were smooth and responsive. When we were well into the actual show, several times we noted the excellent clear sound and the exceptionally friendly layout of the Series FIVE.
I used the Soundcraft Series FIVE on a show with Doc Severinsen as a monitor console (with Yorkville TX2M monitors), so we could try out the headroom of the auxes in prefader. I found the console to work very well as a 12-mix monitor desk, as EQs were easily inserted into the aux masters, and the solo system worked well cueing the mixes through the use of the stereo solo monitor outputs. Several of the artists involved said that the monitors were never more clear and that there was a nice, transparent quality emanating from the Series FIVE.
I employed the Series FIVE for six months and tested it in a variety of settings and applications. It was used by my company as an FOH console for shows with Neal McCoy, Doc Severinsen, the Phoenix Symphony (eight times), the Beach Boys, Kenny Loggins, Flash Cadillac, Tim Conway/Harvey Korman, and numerous other shows. Repeatedly, I found the Series FIVE to be a console that makes life much easier. As one engineer put it, “The Series FIVE is a console that even the first time, you feel like you’ve mixed on a zillion times. It’s just so logical and friendly.” The result was the same each and every time we used it: the Series FIVE is an outstanding console, with incredible clarity and warmth, exceptionally smooth operation and very friendly layout in both arrangement of connectors and labeling.