Digital consoles are also referred to as “mixing systems,” and it’s an appropriate moniker because in addition to supplying control surfaces with a lot of onboard functionality as well as I/O, they can be further expanded in a variety of ways with the addition of “outboard” capabilities such as offline editing stations, remote apps, interface cards and modules, and of course, digital snakes, networking, and personal monitoring.
Offline editing provides the ability to set up patching, scenes and other parameters on a computer and then upload these settings to the console. Many programs also allow remote control of the console, and can also be used as an additional display screen when the console is in use.
Remote apps vary in scope and focus but offer the ability to remotely access most—if not all—key functions. And when at the console, the app on the tablet can also be used as an additional display device.
Many consoles are equipped with slots for interface cards providing extra I/O with a variety of analog and digital connectivity, along with extra processing like auto-mixing and program leveling as well as a conduit to integrate personal mixing devices and recording units. Some have external modules that foster interconnection of various digital protocols and processing.
Consoles all have a least a few “local” inputs and can be used as stand-alone, as well as digital snake links to accommodate one or more stage boxes offering an impressive amount of I/O. The boxes can be located at the mix position, on stage, or anywhere else that is best for the particular application.
In addition to digital snakes, digital networks can be used to provide source inputs to more than one console (i.e., FOH and monitor), broadcast feeds, and send/return to recording devices.
We can all appreciate the fact that digital consoles are usually smaller and lighter than their analog predecessors, with the “modular” nature of these packages furthering that cause while also delivering greater capability and flexibility. For a solid roundup of what’s available, take our Gallery Tour of what’s available with recent models.
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.