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7 of the best live mixers on the market

PSNEurope takes a look at some of the best live mixing consoles available on the market.

Rapid advancements in live audio technology over the past few decades have enabled manufactures to continually improve products and create new ones all the time. Live mixing equipment not only has to be fast and powerful, but user-intuitive, as touring engineers will often have restricted time to get to grips with new technology. It could be argued that audiences expect high-quality sound as the norm these days, and these consoles make that happen (not forgetting the people sat behind the desks, of course). We spoke to the manufacturers behind some of the best products on the market right now to find out what’s on offer…

Allen & Heath – dLive C Class

“Launched in January 2017, Allen & Heath’s C Class, part of their dLive range, has rapidly become a strong contender in a number of roles, but particularly in live sound applications that require a powerful digital mixing system in a genuinely compact format,” marketing comms manger Jon Jannaway tells PSNEurope.

“Thanks to its small footprint but impressive capability, the C Class has earned a reputation as a powerful, versatile workhorse, found in houses of worship, theatres and music venues, as well as being extremely popular for festivals and ‘fly-in’ gigs where a large format touring rig is not always practical.

“For ultra-compact rigs, some users opt for true ‘surfaceless’ mixing, controlling the C Class MixRack solely via an iPad and/or laptop. Based on XCVI, the same 96kHz FPGA core which drives Allen & Heath’s flagship dLive S Class mixers, the C Class features the company’s DEEP processing architecture, allowing class-leading compressors and processing emulations to be embedded directly within the inputs and mix channels.

“There are three compact MixRacks in the series – CDM32, CDM48 and CDM64, plus three control Surfaces, the 19” rack mountable C1500, C2500 and twin screen C3500. The MixRacks house the XCVI Core, providing capacity for 128 inputs with full processing and 16 dedicated stereo FX returns, plus a fully configurable 64 mix bus architecture, with full processing on all mix channels. Each surface and rack has a 128 channel I/O port, supported by a wide array of networking cards, including Dante, Waves, MADI, fibreACE optical and more.

“dLive C Class is also compatible with S Class hardware, and the ME personal mixing system and supported by a full ecosystem of apps, Director software, and accessories.”

Cadac – CDC

“The CDC six and CDC seven control surfaces are based around a 23.5” high contrast HD touchscreen – one on the CDC six and two on the CDC seven,” explains a spokesperson from Cadac. “These combine with CDC OS in Cadac’s intuitive and swipeable graphical operator experience. Akin to the glass cockpit paradigm in aviation, it provides for a minimal learning curve for operation by less experienced engineers.

“Cadac’s legendary mic preamplifier design is coupled with a time-aligned, phase-coherent mix bus architecture, resulting in total through-system propagation delay of under 0.4 milliseconds (the audio industry’s lowest latency protocol) and the best audio quality and performance of any live mixing console, analogue or digital.

“The consoles run Cadac’s proprietary MegaCOMMS protocol, a high performance, audio network platform. Up to 128 bi-directional channels of 96 kHz/24-bit audio per port, with a total of 3,072 channels (with inclusion of MegaCOMMS router) is available on a single network. Total through-system propagation delay from onstage inputs to outputs, including all console processing and A-D/D-A conversions, is 37 samples (at 96 kHz). All audio samples are synchronised before summing, for absolute phase coherency at all outputs.

“MegaCOMMS features a range of I/O, interface and bridging components, to enable direct connectivity with other networks and the wider AV world.”

Digico – SD12

“Representing the culmination of 15 years of pioneering digital console design, Digico’s new SD12 console utilises the latest generation of Super FPGA, making it compact in size, but big on power and capability,” a Digico spokesperson tells PSNE.

“It features 72 input channels, 36 aux/group busses, a 12 x 8 matrix, LR/LCR buss – all with full processing – 12 stereo FX units, 16 Graphic EQs, 119 Dynamic EQs, multiband compressors and DiGi-TuBes, 12 Control Groups (VCA) and SD Series Stealth Core 2 software.

“Dual 15-inch digital touchscreens provide 24 channels in one view, dual operator mode and the ability for the right-hand screen to be the Master. There are eight local mic/line inputs, local line outputs and AES/EBU in/out for local digital sources. There are two MADI ports, plus a UB MADI connection for recording at 48kHz: 48 tracks of recording with the console clocking at 48kHz, and 24 clocking at 96kHz.

“Further connectivity is managed by two slots for DMI cards, of which options include Dante and Waves SoundGrid modules. Plus, as with all SD Series product, there is the option to upgrade straight into the Optocore network, allowing the SD12 to sit happily anywhere on a loop with any other Optocore-enabled SD product.”

Mackie – DL32R

“Mackie’s DL32R is a powerful 32-channel digital mixing system controlled wirelessly from Mackie’s intuitive Master FaderiPad app,” explains a spokesperson for the company. “Featuring complete wireless control over virtually all mix parameters, including fully-loaded DSP and multi-track recording and playback, the DL32R enables you to control everything from anywhere.

“The Mackie DL32R features a mix of flexible, professional I/O in a compact 3U rackmount design. Each of the 32 inputs (24 XLR, 8 XLR/TRS combo) feature Mackie’s all-new Onyx+recallable mic preamps, with remote control over preamp gain and phantom power. The new Onyx+ preamps outperform the industry-proven Onyx design, which has garnered rave reviews for its boutique-quality sound and performance.

“With complete wireless control of the system using Mackie’s Master Fader iPad app, a new world of mixing possibilities opens up. There is no longer any need for a fixed FOH position, or an expensive, bulky analogue snake. Place the mixer where it works best – next to the stage, backstage, or even tucked away in a utility closet.

“Using the new DL Dante Expansion Card enables the DL32R to integrate into any Dante-powered AV network, adding 32×32 channels of networked audio I/O with incredibly low latency and flawless interoperation with hundreds of Dante-enabled products.”

SSL – L200

“The L200 is the latest in the SSL Live range – a mid-scale console that brings the sound, flexibility, and workflow of its more powerful siblings to a much wider audience,” says Paul Macdonald from the company.

“The inverted T chassis design keeps all essential console controls within easy reach and brings arm-mounted screens and devices closer to the centre of the console. A row of three 12-channel Fader Tiles plus the Master and Focus Fader Tiles, provides a total of 38 faders. These, plus a centrally located 17” multi-gesture touchscreen give easy access to all console functions. The L200 has 144 available full processing paths that can be configured as up to 96 input channels, 48 aux sends, 24 stem groups, and six masters. An additional 4 x 32”/ 24-out Matrix is also available.

“The console’s flexible architecture allows easy drag-and-drop console configuration and surface layout specific to demands of each production, while an internal FX Rack offers the same wealth of superior quality processing options as the more powerful L300 and L500. Forty-eight instances of FX processors are available at any one time on L200.

“All show files are fully compatible across the SSL Live range and SSL’s SOLSA PC app can be used for online control and offline editing.”

Yamaha – Rivage PM10

“Yamaha’s flagship Rivage PM10 digital mixing system has become a fixture with some of the world’s biggest touring names and festivals, as well as being a familiar sight at a wide range of major classical, jazz, Christian and other live events,” says Robin Johnson for the company.

“Available with two different sizes of control surface and I/O rack, plus a range of audio interface options, Rivage PM10 is a versatile system that can accommodate up to 400 channels (44.1/48/88.2/96kHz, 32-bit) using Yamaha’s Twinlane audio network protocol.

“The system features 144 input channels, 72 Mix buses and 36 Matrix buses, along with 24 DCAs, 12 mute groups and up to 1,000 instantly-recallable scenes, making it a great solution for large events.

“A key feature of Rivage PM10 is its exceptional audio processing. Features include high-end analogue devices from Rupert Neve Designs, precisely modelled using Yamaha Virtual Circuitry Modelling (VCM), with up to 64 channels of Dan Dugan Sound Design automatic microphone mixing and a range of plugins. These include the iconic Eventide H3000 Live harmoniser, Rupert Neve Designs compression and EQs, TC electronic reverbs and a range of Yamaha processors. Everything about Rivage PM10 is designed to achieve sonic perfection for every situation, in the fastest and most intuitive way possible.”