Right now as a church, we are starting the process of moving to a digital desk. That means I get to drool on lots of really expensive gear. Or, so I thought.
Turns out that our budget is a bit less than what I would have liked for a console. Our price range is in the sub-$30,000 price tag. Mind you, there are still several great consoles to be had in that price range. So based upon several conversations I have had with our leadership about what we want to do in production over the next 5-7 years, I started generating a short list of candidates to demo. Then, talking to some of my other audio geekery friends, they said,“If you’re checking out this product, you should also look at that one too.” Which has added more to the list of candidates. I took initial looks at some products and then eliminated those that don’t seem to be what we’re looking for. Today, however, I’ll be talking about the Midas PRO2 from the demo I did recently.
The Scalable I/O
Possibly the biggest selling point on why I love this as an option is that it doesn’t use a fixed I/O. The standard PRO2 comes with a DL251 I/O rack with 48 inputs and 16 outputs. Local I/O on the console has another 8 inputs and 16 outputs. But if you need more inputs and outputs, you simply add more. Plug in a CAT5 cable and buy a DL451 with another 24 inputs and 24 outputs. The I/O racks connect to the console via AES50. So what you can do is put I/O where you need it, and up to 100 meters away. I could put my 48 in, 16 out on the stage and let it be my input for microphones and output for IEMs. I could also put a rack in our electrical room to have the inputs interface with our tie lines, and the outputs can be the shortest possible cable run to our amp racks. Say goodbye to all those copper snakes. And the entire desk runs at 96kHz, with a 40-bit floating resolution.
And you can keep expanding your I/O all the way up to 156 inputs and 166 outputs. WOW! By that time, you might need a bigger console just to manage all those channels. But because Midas shares all the same I/O racks, you could just trade in your PRO2 (leaving all the I/O architecture) and drop in a PRO9 or XL8. This also means that it will still sound like a Midas. The console also features dual hot-swappable redundant power supplies. Not that you really want to try that feature during a Sunday morning. But knowing that there is that safety factor built in is very comforting.
On the Midas, you have 6 POP groups (or Population groups) that by tapping the POP group, it temporarily places the channels within that group just to the left of the VCAs. VENUE users know this as VCA/Group Spill. But unlike the Midas, the VENUE consoles have 8 groups.
One of the things I don’t really like about looking at consoles in this price range is that you don’t have 24 channels on the surface; you have 16. On the PRO2 however, there’s a little button that expands the inputs channels onto the VCA faders so that you can mix 24 channels at a time. I also found out the other day that each Aux can also be a group bus, or a mix minus bus. In today’s world, all everyone wants to do is control the console by a laptop or iPad through a VNC client. Midas has submitted its own iPad app that is designed for your finger and not a mouse.
I’ve spent some of my spare time the past few weeks working with the console offline software. The Midas software is very a very intuitive user interface that seems to work well. What’s more is that the software is the same for all their digital desks. The man I did the demo with stated that he could take a show file from his PRO9 or XL8 and put them on the PRO2, provided that the channel count isn’t over on the PRO2. For some reason, I find the software looks less cluttered than the Avid software. Not to mention that you actually have a SAVE button in the file window that makes it simple to know how to update your scene or snapshot. In the D-Show software, you right-click on the showfile you’re working in and select Overwrite. Seriously?? No save button that just lets you save/update the scene you’re working in? On the Yamaha desks, you have the Save button right on the desk without having to dig in the software. I’m still not sure how to save my work on the DiGiCo.
The SC48 will allow you to record up to 32 channels into ProTools with the new D-Show 3 software. For this, you need a computer, FireWire cable and install the supplied Pro Tools LE software and some external hard drive space for all those audio tracks. With the Midas, you would buy the Klark Teknik DN9696. It’s a 96-channel 96kHz audio recorder that integrates directly with the console via AES50. Now where as the Avid will cost you a little over $1000 for a computer, mouse, keyboard, screen and external hard drive space, the Klark Teknik DN9696 will set you back a whopping $14,000. I was astonished to be honest when I saw that number on the price quote. It’s almost as expensive as the PRO2C. One possible workaround for this would be to buy the Klark Teknik DN9650 Network Bridge to convert the AES50 digital audio to MADI then run it into a JoeCo MADI recorder. You get 64 channels of recording and playback instead of 96, but the cost will be a little less than half the cost of the DN9696. With the SD9, you can grab the UB MADI and any computer with a USB 2 connection and with Reaper recording software, you could record 48 channels of audio for less than $2,000.
The console will integrate with Waves Soundgrid so that you can use any Waves plug-ins. But I’m somewhat ambivalent towards plug-ins anyway. If you can’t get your mix sounding good with just the channel EQ, expander/gate, and compressor, you should spend more time focusing on your mix rather than messing with plug-ins. Seeing Lexicon 480Ls, TC Electronics, and Yamaha REV5s and SPXs on the shelf where I did the demo, I asked the man who was demonstrating the console what effects units he takes on the road to mix. His answer,“none.”He said he uses all the onboard effects units. The onboard compressor has four different modes: corrective, which is a peak sensing compressor with exponential attack. Then there is Creative, which is peak sensing with a linear attack. Adaptive mode is like most RMS sensing compressors, then there’s vintage, which adds some coloration to the compression.
First off, there are 2 options for this console—the PRO2 which has 28 faders on the control surface; then there’s the PRO2C, which is the same console but minus 8 of the input faders, so it has 20 faders on the console. I was shocked how much power and versatility was packed into this console. The PRO2C with the DL251 rack (total of 56 inputs and 32 outputs) can be had for a little under $17,000. The PRO2 with the DL251 rack (again, 56 inputs and 32 outputs) can be had for under $23,000
Pros of the Midas
The Midas can completely scale its I/O to meet your needs. Auxiliaries can be configured to be a mix, group buss, or mix minus buss. All of the inputs and outputs can be color-coded to make it easy to group channels or outputs. You have two solo busses. Variable high pass and low pass filters on each channel. Matrix outputs or buss outputs can have either a 6-band parametric or 31-band graphic EQ. You have six free-assignable rotary encoders I forgot mention. Six unique mute groups. Monitor send flip to faders. The rotary encoders are touch capacitive-sensitive. You can mix in any format from mono to 5.1. It has its own app for VNC control. It shares the same I/O as the XL8 so it sounds like a Midas! You can change processing order on channels… There’s way too much stuff to list.
Cons of the Midas
The show filing and presets are perhaps too comprehensive for a novice. The console wants you to be intentional about what you are doing. Every parameter can be scoped and saved into the show file. This can be daunting the first time you do it, but once you have you patching done and global settings done, you won’t need to touch that page.
The price of doing virtual sound check on this console is an optional extra. But then again, it’s the same with the SC48. You still need a mouse or trackball and a computer screen that is not included with the SC48 console. You also need the AO16 card (roughly $2,500) to bring the I/O to a maximum of 32 outputs, a computer running Pro Tools, a screen, mouse, keyboard and some external storage space. But even still, the price on the Midas is ridiculous if you do it the way Midas and Klark Tecknik want you to do it. $14,000?? I know it’s a 96-channel recorder that records broadcast WAV files at 96kHz, but I’ll take the other, cheaper 64-channel solution I outlined earlier.
I have the SD9 demo and Avid demo packed into next week’s schedule. It will be a hectic week, but I can’t wait to get to know these consoles and find the one that meets our needs. I’ll be posting later on my opinion on the other consoles.
Jeremy Blasongame is currently a part-time A3 for a concert production company and a Tech Arts Director at Sunridge Community Church. Over the past seven years, he has also worked in two major recording studios and is the author of Church Audio Blog. Feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on twitter at@JBsoundguy, or leave a comment below.