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Digital mixer conundrum

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by DirtDog, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    hey ya'll.

    My band upgraded from a powered mixer in a box and crappy speakers just about a year ago when I purchased a Presonus SL16.4.2. and some powered mains and monitors (EV and Mackie). We have used this setup at over 25 gigs since then. It's performed well enough but one of it's shortcomings is the dodgy wireless remote setup with the mixer - this non-AI unit needs a laptop AND and external router to work - and even then, the whole thing was not that stable. The board would freeze if there were wireless issues. And of course, the board would freeze at the most inopportune moments. I'm doing sound from stage, playing bass and singing. So stuff like this is a challenge and can be stressful for no good reason.

    So, in the last month I've been investigating alternatives and ended up with a Behringer XR16 - seemed like a better choice for wireless (and it has proved to be more stable than the SL16.4.2) AND has a minimal form factor. Deployed this on our second last gig and we had horrendous sound issues (feedback, weird artifacts, difficulties dialling in AUX mixes, etc) so again, my confidence in the digital solution was not inspired (pilot error was a factor, though).

    Played a gig this past weekend with a lower end analog board with the house PA and the boys said it was the best sound that we've had in a while. Reading through the lines here, I'm guessing they aren't all that happy with the results we've been getting with the digital stuff that I've sunk a couple of grand into. They didn't seem to miss the custom AUX mixes, channel dynamics controls and all the other goodies on the Presonus and Behringer mixers.

    I'm at the point where I'm questioning the utility of staying digital vs taking a step back and going with a quality, yet compact, analog board. A big part of that is the workflow - with the digitial system, there are a ton of things that can be tweaked, so a ton of things that could potentially go wrong - many of which I have trouble dealing with while playing bass. With an analog system, the variables are reduced signficantly Another factor is that with an analog system, anyone in the band can do sound easily where with the digital system(s), there's a significant learning curve that not everyone is willing to invest time into. I'll also be the first to admit that there's been a lot of pilot error on my part in deploying these digital solutions.

    I suppose one solution would be to use the SL16.4.2 standalone and dispense with the wireless functionality, but the 16.4.2 is a pretty big and heavy board compared to something like a Soundcraft 16 channel analog board.

    So - TL;DR. Digital mixers have proven to be far from flawless performers in our experience. For a weekend warrior bar band, are we better off with a decent quality analog mixer with basic FX and routing capabilites?
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
    WayneP likes this.
  2. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Feedback and difficulties w/ aux mixes? Sounds like more time getting comfortable with the mixer would pay off. I can't speak for the XR-16, but the X-Air mixers are very capable of delivering good live sound.

    I've been using digital boards since the 1990s, and even so I found a couple details in Behringer's underdocumented X-Air mixing software interface to be ambiguous and counter-intuitive. I didn't first bring it out for a self-mixed gig until I'd used it for a half-dozen rehearsal sessions, and even on the first gig I had it tethered to a laptop JIC. That's maybe over-cautious, but I definitely didn't want undiscovered quirks biting me on the gig.
    DirtDog likes this.

  3. This:

    I hear ya buddy. Digital pretty much requires a dedicated sound man, IMO. I don’t think it’s the way to fly when you’re doing multiple things like you are. Things like feedback are pretty quick and easy to deal with with an analog board. You can instantly see which is the offending channel and grab an EQ knob to deal with it.

    At the church I used to go, our fancy Midas M32 totally lock up and refused to boot up one Sunday morning. It was right at its one-year anniversary. Ever have an analog console do that?

    I remember when I used to work at a pro-audio company back in the 90s, it was common for touring consoles to always have a spare power supply (most of them, like Ramsa, Midas, Soundcraft, etc. all had rack-mounted outboard power supplies). I wonder what they do now since digital is the norm for touring rigs – seems to me they have to basically have complete spare consoles for both FOH and monitor mixes.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
    DirtDog likes this.
  4. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    I would LOVE a digital mixer. But I have a perfectly functioning 12 channel Carvin RX1200 (passive) that does everything I need to do with my acoustic projects (solo/duo/trio/band). There's not enough benefit (for me) to going digital ... but I love the concept.
  5. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) mmm Woody! Supporting Member

    My band uses the Behringer X32 Rack, controlled by the guitarist via an iPad.
    I have an Android Tab (as a backup / second mix control) and both singers have their monitor mix controlled by old Smartphones so they can tweak to their hearts content ....what they hear out of the foldback system. Been rock solid for over a year, BUT rollout WAS painful (learning curve)
    DirtDog likes this.
  6. The more tweaks there are, the more there is that must be tweaked.
    DirtDog likes this.
  7. I'll second what some guys are saying. Bit of a stretched out learning curve, but I wouldn't go back myself.
    It only seems more difficult because it's got so many more capabilities, each of which needs to be adjusted to suit.
    The separate monitor mixes, each with separate eq's, saving different scenes, wireless ipad control, etc. I still have our soundcraft board which was great, but really no comparison to our XR18.
    musicman7722 and DirtDog like this.
  8. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    Maybe try finding somebody local who knows the XR-16 really well and hire him to run sound for you for a gig or two? Then save the scene at the end of the gig.

    I've been breaking in my XR-18 by myself, in my basement with no band. I wouldn't think of gigging it until I had a couple rehearsals with it. My singer is also really fluent with the X-AIR app, so I have someone to help me dial it in. It's a lot to master by yourself.
    DirtDog likes this.
  9. MakoMan


    Oct 17, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    This is a very interesting thread because I too have been considering going digital. However I also do the sound myself as well as lead vocals and bass and have been wondering if I might be biting off more than I can chew by going digital. Your first post in this thread may have just saved me a couple grand :)
    DirtDog likes this.
  10. I sold my A&H mixwiz to go XR18, and I know some people would say i am crazy. I couldn't load the rack into my van, let alone fit the rest of the PA AND My bass rig, so it stayed at a venue I work at 6-8X a month. The last real show I mixed with it was Joe Louis Walker, and I had some real issues, not being able to give them the monitors I wanted to without feedback - mostly due to my own inexperience. He and the Band are such pros, they worked with me to get through it, and said everything was just fine. I vowed to never let that happen again. I ran Jams with the XR18 during the slow season, and had a couple of smaller shows, and took it home to really work with it. Since then, I have had a chance to work with quite a few great performers, ran a BUNCH of jams, and a lot of gigs for my band with it, usually with one or two subs, K12s, and 2-4 monitor mixes. It was the best move I made. In fact - I bought a second XR18 as a real backup. I also use it mostly with an external router, and at least two PCs. I know a lot pf people like tablets, but I really like the look/feel of the PC. I usually set up side stage for monitors and quick stage access, while my wingman takes a laptop out front for FOH. On my own gigs, I put it on a table near me, and step out from time to time to check the general mix. As good as a dedicated sound guy? No - but on my own small gigs, it seems to work. If I could give any advice - it would be to learn how to place mics/monitors and how to ring out the monitors. Find what works for you and run with it. there is so much more that these systems have to offer - and the RTA is a great tool. some day - I will be almost mediocre.
    DirtDog likes this.
  11. jcerio

    jcerio Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Syracuse, NY
    I've used both digital and analog mixers, and FOH processors like the Driverack. In my experience, if I'm running the sound from the stage while playing analog mixing and a simple graphic EQ and compressor is the way to go. It's too easy to reach over and adjust a clearly labeled knob or fader on the fly than it is to wade through menus on a tablet or (Yuck!) the editor screen on a digital. Right now I'm using a small Yamaha MG Series mixer, a dual 15 band EQ, and two QSC K12s for the few shows that I have to provide a PA for (in only the tiniest clubs), plus spot monitors (no ringing!). I used to own the big sound system, but now we hire it out. I'm too old to be lugging all of that heavy gear.
    DirtDog likes this.
  12. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    As one who has used both analog and digital consoles for some time, my guess is (no offence intended) that it's pilot error and lack of familiarity with the XR16.
    My current band uses both an X32 Producer AND an X32 rack - with the rack used for IEM mixes. We do that so we're not monitoring FOH channels and have a completely independent IEM no matter what FOH tries to hose up!
    I also own 3 analog consoles and a SL16.4.2 that I use for SR for other bands when I'm not playing.
    The beauty of digital is that all of the outboard gear one would use with an analog board (reverb, delay, compression, gates, etc.) are all embedded and available to ALL channels and [USUALLY] all the output buss mixes too. You don't have to use them, and I highly recommend you don't do things like put compression on the vocal channel that you are sending to FOH AND the singers wedge!
    And. when you shutdown.. those SAME settings are recalled at next power up.
    As has been suggested, get used to the console before gigging with it.
    I'd also guess that the rest of your band is outside their comfort zone with all the features on a digital, and are more comfortable (as are you) on the analog side.
    The price/feature set on the XR16 is hard to beat.
    My $0.02? ?
    Use what works for you..
  13. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Thanks sOc9....sage advice...just having a few moments of self doubt.

    Could elaborate a bit more on the compression issue??
  14. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Sure.. basically.. compression [when used properly] can be good [great?] on vocals in FOH, especially for rock-style vocals where lots of dynamics are involved.
    The problem(s) occur when you feed the compressed vocal channel back to the singers monitor - be that a wedge, IEM's, etc.
    What [normally] happens when the vocalist needs to hear a little more "me" in the wedge? - they tend to sing louder.
    What happens when a louder vocal signal encounters compression? The signal is squashed.. That "squashed" signal then goes back to the singers monitor!
    Your vocalist then sings louder to compensate.. it's squashed more.. the cycle repeats.
    The singer blows out their voice. :(
    I've seen it happen a number of times over the years.. and the singer usually has no clue as to why it happened.
    MakoMan, DirtDog and Geri O like this.
  15. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    ...and heavy-handed compression in the wedges can quickly turn into feedback
    DirtDog, Ulf_Hansson and Geri O like this.
  16. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    Not really. With the digital mixers discussed in this thread I can understand that one might want to enable all the bells and whistles available. But you really don't have to compress each individual channel, do complex layering, VCA/DCA, or monitor matrices. Start with using it as a simple analog mixer and learn how to dial in the sound during a few rehearsals, getting to know the layout of the controls. Don't do any fancy stuff until after gigging for a while. Avoid going crazy with the compressors and gates (gates can really mess up your sound if you do not know what you are doing...).

    Just my experience.
    DirtDog, jthisdell and s0c9 like this.
  17. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester
    Absolutely correct IME too.. just 'cus it's there doesn't mean you need to apply or use something.
    When going from analog to digital.. configure channels like you would on an analog mixer... IOW - basic EQ. This can be an easier thing on digital as many [as a reference point] will let you overlay the EQ screen with the FFT View of the channel, making it easier to see peaks and valleys on the channel.
    You don't need to use gates, compression, insert effects, buss routing (layering, VCA/DCA) or any fancy stuff until you get comfortable doing so.. even then start easy.
    Gates help with drum bleed, but like compression, judicious use is essential.
    I seldom use gates on vocals - unless I'm outdoors on a really WINDY day, and will generally avoid putting FOH effects (maybe a teeny bit of reverb if asked) back into the vocal monitors as it often messes up the vocalist.
    And..If you ever use pitch correction.. DON'T put the "corrected" signal back into the singers monitor mix. It will throw them off.
    DirtDog likes this.
  18. jthisdell


    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    We went to a Soundcraft 16 a year ago and it has made life a lot easier. This is a pretty simple Bluegrass trio and we use 8-10 channels. When we turn it on it is about 95% set up and just need a couple tweaks. Yes it is easier to tweak an analog board on the fly but we found with the Soundcraft we don't have to fool with it nearly as much. Now we are playing fairly reasonable volume levels which always helps. And no, we don't use many of the features, which also helps keep it simple.
    DirtDog likes this.
  19. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i purchased the XR18 a few months back (after many years of analog FOH and studio) and i'm slowly becoming more impressed with each use. the fact that i no longer have to carry a snake/trunk is a big plus from the get. all of the advice above about not having to use every bell and whistle is excellent, IMO. the learning curve can be steep, but for me: it was more a matter of 'acceptance' --- the digitals do the same thing, mostly better, so you just have to 'let go' attitudinally, to make the switch. my experience...so far! :thumbsup:

    i still have my analog boards, but i'll need to sell them before they become worthless.
    DirtDog likes this.
  20. lakefx


    Sep 14, 2012
    Having spent years working with analog consoles and outboard equipment live and almost as long with DAWs in studio, I think the issue most people have with the digital transition is that digital mixers have a workflow that is closer to a DAW than an analog board. If you are used to working quickly with a DAW, then the control app is fairly intuitive. I replaced my DAW and analog rehearsal board with a Behringer X18 and I love it. I can tweak and fix things faster than I could with analog because I know what I want and sometimes the fixed controls of an analog board are not enough.

    I have had regular issues with losing wireless connectivity between the X18 and my router, but that might have to do with DHCP lease times and I may just need to assign it a dedicated IP address. But, the saving grace is that the board keeps working even if I can't make changes, so it doesn't interupt anything.
    DirtDog likes this.
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