Tom Stiegler, owner of Blokhed Studios (Deer Park, NY) is a drummer, recording, mastering and live sound engineer, and he’s also a self-described “sonic perfectionist” who didn’t want to make the move to live digital mixing until it met his standards. When the Soundcraft Si Expression 2 console hit the market, he was finally convinced to move to digital.
“I hated it,” was his reaction in finding earlier digital models thin-sounding and impractical to use because the faders had to be zeroed out whenever they needed to be reset. He shied away from trying a digital console again until recently, as prices came down and more manufacturers entered the market.
This time, Stiegler was more wary and spent a lot of time “obsessively researching my options” and making sonic comparisons. “Soundcraft was on my list. I always had faith in their mic preamps, and the new Si Expression Series looked like it had the features I needed. The Si Expression 2 was price-competitive with other comparable brands.”
After comparing various digital consoles in his price range, Stiegler chose the Si Expression 2. “I’m a mixing and mastering engineer,” he notes. “I hear everything. What seems like a little bit of a sonic difference to others is a big amount to me.”
Stiegler does a lot of live sound work for local Long Island and New York Metro area bands at outdoor and indoor gigs, where bands have come to rely on him for a good-sounding mix no matter where they’re playing—even in clubs with less-than-stellar acoustics and house sound systems. “I feel that local bands should have a live sound mix that’s as good as any national act,” he states. Easier said than done in some venues, which is why Stiegler often brings in extra PA gear and appreciates the Si Expression 2’s ability to adapt to any live sound situation.
In the hectic environment of club sound, Stiegler will often have to set up the Si Expression 2 in less than an hour—or even have only minutes to build a mix. He finds the console to be adept at getting him where he needs to be fast, thanks to its motorized faders, logical layout and features like Soundcraft’s simple, time-saving cue/snapshot system that lets Stiegler instantly recall any board settings from any club he’s ever worked in – “a beautiful thing.” Also useful is Soundcraft’s TOTEM (The One-Touch Easy Mix) system that reconfigures the console and allows users to press a single key to mix to an AUX, FX or Matrix bus.
Stiegler adds that all the compression, EQ, noise gate and other controls he needs the most are at his fingertips, with the “analog section” of the console right at the top and the touchscreen interface providing ready access to desired functions. Stiegler finds the FaderGlow color-coded illuminated faders a lifesaver in clubs where front of house is thrown into near-darkness when the house lights go down.
The Si Expression 2’s iPad compatibility gives Stiegler the ability to make adjustments to the console from anywhere in the room—an extremely useful feature that lets him adjust the mix from anywhere in the venue and set each musician’s monitor mix from the musician’s on-stage position.
In making the move from analog to digital, Stiegler found there was a learning curve, but not too big a one. “The Si Expression 2 is not that hard to learn. The biggest mistake you can make is walking into it thinking it’s going to be too complicated. If you’re thinking about buying a digital console in this price range, the Si Expression 2 is the one to get—it’s not even a question,” he concludes.