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Mixers - Digital versus Analogue & Reliability

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Smallmouth_Bass, May 16, 2018.

  1. Smallmouth_Bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    Does your band use a digital mixer and some sort of App based control of mixing for live sound in small to medium sized venues? Have you avoided it for a particular reason and is analogue more reliable than something that requires an iPad or tablet (or phone)?

    I like the idea and versatility of going digital (saving settings for particular venues comes to mind as a big plus), but the thought of an iPad crashing or running out of power or something like that and getting "connected" makes me wonder if old knobs and sliders still might be the more practical method.

    What are you using these days and are you happy with your setup?
    Last edited: May 16, 2018

  2. The iPad crashing is surely an issue, but that’s not the only one. Since digital mixers all have hard drives, if they crash it’s a total fail, unlike an analog mixer that typically might only have various functions go out.

    The church I used to go to had their Midas M32 unceremoniously crash right before a Sunday morning service. It was barely one year old.

    National touring acts used to travel with a spare power supply for the analog console. Now days, with digital consoles, they travel with a second console for back-up.

    So if you’re using a digital mixer, not a bad idea to keep you old analog one in the truck, just in case.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Ecclesia: Unique Arrangements of Hymns, P&W Standards, and Original Tunes
    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
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    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly
    My Basses

    dralionux and btmpancake like this.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    I mixed sound for over 20 years and had more reliability with analog mixers. Mackie, Crest, Allen & Heath analog VS Yamaha O1V, LS9, and DM1000. Never had a failure on one of the Yamahas...operator error is another issue especially when someone gets ahold to the board that doesn't know what they are doing. Sometimes using the factory reset is a good strategy. I have read that digital is more susceptible to problems when line AC is poor, especially low voltage (brownouts).
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  4. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    If you play enough gigs without a plan "B," any piece of gear will eventually come to grief and drag you along with it.

    For wifi-controlled mixers, the connection is a likely vulnerability. The good news: if they temporarily lose the connection with their controller(s), most wifi mixers just continue to pass audio with their current setting as-is. If your band is self-mixing a gig that's already underway, a hiccup in the wifi connection wouldn't necessarily be noticeable, much less critical.

    But snakes will bite. A few weeks ago, I was playing bass on a gig for which the band leader was providing sound, and after a quick and easy soundcheck he'd left his Mackie DL1604—with tablet attached—onstage not far from the edge of the bandstand's covering. It was a late afternoon gig on a warm blue-sky day, and after soundcheck, while the group and BL were in the greenroom, the sun's angle shifted enough so that it was shining directly onto the iPad. By the time we came back to the stage just before downbeat, the iPad was overheated and locked up—with all subgroups except the break music muted.

    Since almost all wifi mixers allow connections to multiple devices, carrying the app on another smart phone or tablet is good practice.
    mikewalker and s0c9 like this.
  5. SuperK

    SuperK Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2012
    San Jose, CA
    We've using the Behringer XR18 for over a year now. We had some issues with the internal WiFi antenna not being reliable so we hooked up an external WiFi router(? not sure of the exact lingo). It has been far more reliable and we always have a laptop on hand to hard wire if there is any connection issues. Having the ability to control my personal IEM mix from my phone is priceless.
    mikewalker likes this.
  6. MakoMan


    Oct 17, 2011
    Ottawa, Canada
    Our band has both a digital and an analogue mixer. We've used both, but we definitely feel more comfortable with old faithful, so more recently we've gone back analogue most of the time. A lot of that is possibly because we just have not spent enough time with the digital mixer to really dial it in and learn all its advantages. We always seem to be dicking around with it somehow at gigs, whereas our analogue mixer is pretty much turn it on at the start of the night and turn it off at the end.
    I will also say that on the occasions when we do use the digital mixer, the analogue mixer is always in the van, just in case. So far we have not had to use it, but we've had a scare or two.
  7. juancaminos

    juancaminos Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    USA, Phoenix, AZ
    I have four analog boards and have been looking at digital tablet controlled mixers but haven't pulled the trigger for fear of connectivity issues. In reality fear of the unknown I suppose...
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Most of my gigs have digital boards these days since we do a lot of changeovers with different singers and sometimes bands. I have no problem with them, although one tech we work with a lot uses Behringer X32's and had to buy like 6 of them and brings 3 to his gigs because they keep crapping out on him. The Yamaha LS9's have been rock solid, though. Don't know much about other boards we've had techs use but I don't recall any failures.
  9. Korladis

    Korladis Banned Supporting Member

    Some venues around here use a digital mixer and tablet system. I think they have a backup tablet, though.
  10. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    I use a digital mixer with my band, the latest one of three digital mixers we’ve used. I’ve had positive experiences. The only thing is, with a tablet you can’t jump on a fader quickly if you need to. If you soundcheck and get things eq’d so they don’t feed back you’ll be ok. I can’t say enough how much power gets packed into three rack spaces. It’s the equivalent of tons and tons of outboard gear. The ability to save settings is so critical—I know when I fire up the board that our monitor mixes are ready to go and we just take it for granted now.
    SoCal80s, musicman7722 and SuperK like this.
  11. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    The only thing digital in my system is the delay/reverb effects unit. Board,compressors,and eqs are all analog. If I need to tweak the compression on the snare drum,I have it right there at my fingertips. No scrolling through menus to find what I need.
  12. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Asheville, NC
    It's really nice to be able to adjust monitor mixes from the stage (where you can hear the monitors..), but this is the only advantage I see to the ipad-type interfaces. Once had a guy accidentally mute the first channel on an ipad simply by nudging it while trying to plug in his phone, it was the lead vocal channel and she was in the midst of talking between songs. I'll take real knobs and faders any day if it's one or the other, but I'm thinking maybe the integrated systems are best where you've got both a portable device and a real, tactile interface.
    tadawson likes this.
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You can also walk around the room and adjust stuff to suit the room overall instead of being in a fixed position and having to walk out, then walk back, and maybe you miss something while you're walking around.
  14. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    analog is done and i don't miss it one bit.

    might as well be asking about the pros and cons of CRT vs flat screen TVs, that train left the station already.
    Geri O, musicman7722, Bufalo and 7 others like this.
  15. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    We have been using a digital board for the last year and a half. Once we added an external router, it has been stellar. The best thing is that our setups are much easier. We never sound check. We dialed it in during rehearsal and the first few gigs and have presets saved for a couple different types of venues. Most of the time, the master gain pot (physical control) is all that gets touched.
    mikewalker likes this.
  16. Our church recently went with a X32-Rack and so far we're real happy with them. We picked the Rack model because it does have the ability to have all controls/parameters adjusted from the unit or from a connected device. Using the front panel can be tedious for some things but it's possible if needed. You also have the option of connecting a computer directly to the unit with an Ethernet cable or using an external router.

    It takes a little time to "get it" but once I learned the basics I've been able to build on that pretty well. YouTube has been a real help in learning the system..
    LiquidMidnight likes this.
  17. Yep. I love being able to walk the room and adjust things on the fly. It's really effective for getting a very balanced mix. Every time I mix a show with a tablet, especially when doing multiple monitor mixes from FOH, I think "man, I wish we had this tech 20 years ago when I was driving the big rigs."

    I wouldn't go quite that far :D but in terms of live sound the analog mixing console is indeed a rare bird these days and has been for some time in the touring world. I still prefer mixing on analog desks unless I have to move or chart them. They still sound better to my ears (a bit of low order distortion isn't such a bad thing) and it's nice to have all of the functions on the same layer but the overall power and convenience of the digital desks is undeniable. I knew several guys who refused to work on digital desks back in the early-mid 00s. They got left behind by the industry and none of them (including a couple of very talented mixers) are working in audio any more.
    Rompin Roddy, mikewalker and JimmyM like this.
  18. As for reliability, some of the cheaper digital desks have some durability issues for sure (Behr X32 comes to mind) but in most non-touring situations most of them are just fine. The X32 is a fine desk for installs but I wouldn't trust it for serious road work.
  19. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    NJ Bayou Country
    I've been on digital the last 5 years, and now use it exclusively. Being a Yamaha fan and loyal customer, I reluctantly bought the Beringer X32 Rack, and mated it with a DBX Driverack.... and man THERE'S NO GOING BACK!

    The X32 is top notch in it's features and abilities, but most importantly it has a 5 inch screen, so you don't need to rely on an app, phone or Ipad...

    All features and routing can be controlled easily from the front of the head, and man is it feature packed!!! Chocked full of pro effects and Midas pre's.

    The learning curve was nuts, but once you get it... you're in! I couldn't love it more, and everyone who sees and hears it is speechless. I'm the bassist, vocalist, and sound man for my band, and even with all of that going on, I can easily manage and troubleshoot the X32.

    The limitless effects are incredible and the virtual routing makes anything possible as well. My setup saves scenes for different venues, members, and instruments, all of which are instantly recallable.

    It uses an RTA mic to read the room, auto EQ, and kill feedback too. X32 PA Rig (1). X32-RACK_P0AWN_Left_L-285x360.
  20. jthisdell

    jthisdell Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2014
    Roanoke, VA
    There are pluses and minuses to both. I am in two bands, one uses a Soundcraft digital, one a Soundcraft analog. The digital makes set up easier, the analog is easier to adjust during the gig if you are doing it from the stage.
    RustyAxe likes this.

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