(The XTRAMIX is being used by the Rolling Stones for keyboard mixing on the “No Security” tour of 1999-2000. – Ed.)
Compact size in electronics has become a major selling point with a lot of companies’ products. Speakers, microphones and computers have all followed suit, along with mixing consoles and rack mixers. Speck Electronics has designed a compact mixer that combines all the right individual pieces into a great finished product. The company has been in the pro audio field since 1973, manufacturing recording consoles. Now Speck Electronics is concentrating its efforts on compact audio mixers.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound; studio recording; installations
Key Features: Four rack-space; 33 lb; 76 total inputs and 18 outputs; 8 bus assignments; 8 effect sends
Price: $4,215 retail; $2,990 Speck Direct
Contact: Speck Electronics at 760.723.4281
+ Packed with features
+ Dynamic sound
+ Lots of inputs and outputs
+ Great value for the price
– Pan, return and mono knobs too close
– Needs Overload LEDs
The Score: A unrivaled product with more inputs and outputs than most midsize mixing consoles. A terrific value
The ice-blue Speck XTRAMIXcxi synth/line mixer weighs a mere 33 lb, including its external power supply. Included with the mixer is an IEC/AC cable, power supply interface cable and rack ears. Taking up only four rack-spaces, the XTRAMIXcxi is one of the smallest eight-bus mixers seen by these eyes.
A possible 76 inputs and 18 outputs make this unit a very flexible product. Got your attention now? The unit retails for $4,215 and is available on Speck’s Web site at just under $3,000. A 16-channel rack EQ unit with three bands of sweepable equalization is also available for more input control.
There are 20 stereo input channels that have two (left and right) 1/4″ TRS jacks. Within these stereo inputs are the eight bus assignments, eight effect sends, a pan (balance) knob and a solo button. At the bottom of each input module is a stacked set of input control knobs. The top knob is a stereo level control and the bottom outside knob is the input balance or pan control to the subgroups.
Four push-button switches control the subgroups individually, or in groups of four. As with any small console or mixer, using a combination of the subgroup assignment switches and the pan knob lets the user distribute the signal anywhere possible. To the right of the subgroup assignments, four small push-button switches control stereo effect send designations. Yes, that is correct, stereo effect sends.
Sticking with a similar assignment principle, a dual-stacked knob controls the amount of input sent to odd or even sets of effect send outputs. Speck also installed a stereo/mono switch on the rear of each input channel that sums the right and left channels, creating a mono signal for the effect send outs of each channel. When stereo/mono is selected, a yellow LED, labeled M, lights on the front panel.
Two other LEDs are present on the input channels: an input signal LED and a solo LED. All 20 channel inputs have LEDs that light even without channel input assignment. No mention of channel overload could be found in the manual, which for example, might change this LED red. Each channel is also numbered with large, easy-to-read numerals.
On the right side of the XTRAMIX are the eight stereo effects return channels, subgroups and the master section. A set of five buttons allows assignment to any of the eight subgroups, mono or stereo. Again, a solo button with its own red LED has been installed to monitor each stereo effect return from the monitor outputs.
Panning and stereo return levels are controlled by two separate knobs below the assignment buttons. A mono switch among the five buttons links the stereo inputs as a combined mono signal and lights up the yellow mono LED.
The subgroup and monitor channel section gather and control all information sent. This allows adjustment of the stereo mix, as well as the headphone and monitor outputs. Three buttons and three knobs have been set up for distribution and signal control. A bus/line switch manipulates the subgroup in the bus mode or the line signal when the 1/4″ rear line jack is in use.
As with the other sections of the XTRAMIX, a solo and mute button are standard in the subgroup/monitor section. Additionally, a green LED glows when the mute button is depressed. The master bus level is controlled by a potentiometer at the bottom of each subgroup section. The monitor level control knob is a dual-use knob in this section. It controls the monitor level from each subgroup master in the bus mode and the overall gain of the external mono or stereo (rear) line input. The third knob is a monitor pan.
Speck Electronics has done its homework by designing a compact, easy-to-understand master section. This section, on the far right of the unit, is grouped into eight sectors. The 1/4″ headphone jack and level control have been conveniently placed on the front panel. The source of the headphone feed, as well as the monitor, can be set up so they are post-master program-level control. There is also an omnidirectional talkback microphone. The stereo monitor master knob and the aux return level are located in the master section. The auxiliary return level regulates any outboard device plugged into the auxiliary stereo inputs and sends this signal to either the headphone and or monitor, leaving the stereo master and eight subgroups untouched.
A push-button kill switch below the monitor master knob and an auxiliary return each have a corresponding LED, giving the user instant on/off access and monitoring capability. Muting the monitor master does not affect the program master or headphone outputs.
A cue return level and pan knob allow for a master headphone mix from a recording console or click-track to be sent through the Speck’s headphone and/or monitor sends. Signal can be muted to the monitor and headphone mix via the aux mute switch. A two-color LED recessed into the top of the master section serves a dual purpose. When the solo/power LED is green the unit has been powered up. When the LED is red, one of the specific solo buttons has been pressed. This is a very nice touch. Completing the master section is a series of multicolored meters, monitoring the stereo and eight subgroup outputs. A push-button switch and a nifty select system permit versatile meter monitoring capability.
I must agree with Speck after using this product: this is the Swiss Army knife of mixers. I enlisted the help of OATH Studios/GBS Records to test the unit. I set up the mixer to blend keyboards and send/return effects from the Speck prior to reaching the mixing console.
Using the manual and a supplied flyer as reference guides, I employed the subgroup assignment buttons to assign the keys to monitor/busses 1 and 2. I used the program master outputs for sending signal back to the studio-mixing console. The inputs cannot be assigned directly to program (stereo) master outputs; they must be assigned to a subgroup first.
I used the input channel solo button and the VU select button to achieve a proper signal without distortion. Where the effects get their send depends on which effect assignment switch is depressed. I left the 1/3/5/9 (odd) button out since our reverb unit was routed to effect output send one.
With the XTRAMIXcxi, the odd changeover switch must be left in the up position for effect busses 1 and 3 to be operational. I sent the keyboard signal from channel inputs 1 and 2 to a reverb unit using the smaller top effect send (odd) knob. I then adjusted the blend of the reverb and dry key signal. The reverb return had to be assigned to a submix; I chose monitor/bus channels 1 and 2, the same as my keyboard assignments.
Playing along on the keys with an ADAT was all that remained. I spent a few minutes blending the keyboards and reverb prior to reaching the studio console and achieved great results. The mixer was dead silent; no noise, distortion or coloring of the keyboard or reverb were heard. Stereo separation of the keys was deep and wide even without the reverb.
As complicated as this setup may appear, it only took about a half an hour out of the box to achieve. This includes referencing the manual and finding the correct cables. In the recording studio, this piece would be an invaluable resource if used as a submixer. It is light enough to be transported to gigs for keyboard players, DJs or even live remote recordings. In addition, it could be used for a permanent install, such as an audio rack for a convention center or church.
Looking over the Speck, I am amazed at all the features and connectors arranged into such a compact box. Electronics technology has been on an extreme upswing the last five years and this product is a giant leap ahead of that. The principle is this – develop a rackmounted mixer; improve the tonality, versatility, quality and functionality; and call it the XTRAMIXcxi.