I’ve been trying to get my ugly mitts on a Soundcraft Vi6 since I first saw one at AES two years ago.
Tom Der had one to spare this summer and shipped it down to Asbury Park, NJ where Jason Dermer’s company, TSL, will be putting it through its paces.
Since I do a lot of work with Jason, I got assigned the duty of figuring out how the brightly lit control surface works, getting it set up, mixing the openers, and then handing it over to him for State Radio’s show this past weekend.
Fortunately, my job was easy from that point on.
When it comes to digital consoles, I always harp on two points: Usability, and sound quality, usually in that order. This is because most of them sound OK enough, but fall flat in the usability department.
There’s simply no good way to cram the thousands of knobs and switches that we have come to enjoy on an analog console into a few hundred multi-purpose controls without sacrificing the human interface.
When I first had the opportunity to get the inside tour of a Vi6 at AES, I said to myself “Self, I think this is the first digital console that I would be just as happy to use as a large frame analog desk.”
While it is telling that one has to get into this $60,000 price range to have the same level of control as a $15,000 analog desk, that is not an entirely fair comparison as the Vi6 will mix 64 inputs to 35 outputs (including L, C, & R) and does it well!
Walk-up usability of the desk is really excellent, I would have no qualms handing this over the the most junior of engineers and expecting them to be able to understand everything they need to do to mix within 30 seconds. The desk operates in two banks of 32 input channels with 8 master faders that can bank between VCAs or any of the bus masters.
The main outputs have a dedicated fader bank and metering. Each input channel has a clear control strip on the touch screen so that all settings, from gain and polarity to EQ and dynamics to aux levels, are immediately viewable and, with the touch of a finger, immediately adjustable.
Above each fader is a beautiful, clear, long LED ladder (with peak hold!) for signal metering, as well as a 9 element ladder for gain reduction. Above that is a soft knob that can be set, globally, as input gain, pan, comp or gate threshold, HPF, or LPF.
Everything needed to rip through sound check in too little time because the headliner showed up 4 hours late and diddled around on stage until 10 minutes to doors is right there on the top layer, no banking or extra thought required.
Input channels are set up in banks of 8, each with its own dedicated touch screen and Vistonics knobs. That places the Vi6 in the rarified company of desks that allow more than one engineer to work at the same time, independently.
Not even intending to, Jason and I did that very thing… while I was mixing the openers, he was finalizing his settings for the headliner, completely different tasks and not once did we get in each other’s way (well, except physically).
Had we been working on different layers it might have been a slightly different story (the whole desk, aside from the master section, banks at the same time), but the Vi6 thoughtfully allows a touch of the meters on the main screen to bring any bank of 8 channels over to the rightmost fader group for full control, while the rest of the console is elsewhere.
This proved useful still, since I buried my effects returns on the last 8 channels (58-64) but could easily bring them up to adjust without losing immediate control of my band channels.
This discussion by Bennett and the Road Test community continues here.