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Real World Gear: Large-Format Digital Consoles

The latest with large-format digital consoles.
ProSoundWeb Consoles

When we talk of “large frame” consoles, older analog units with channel counts of 40 inputs or more come to mind because they actually had very large frames loaded with channel strips. In today’s digital world, however, we’re usually referring to a console that can professionally handle a large production, even if physically it’s not all that sizeable, because most use layers of fader banks to access additional channels and functions like aux sends on faders.

It’s not uncommon to see newer digital models measuring only a few feet in width that can handle 40 or more channels, where in the analog world a 40-input console might be six or more feet wide. Digital consoles have also eliminated the need to carry heavy racks loaded with outboard gear like EQs and effects.

Most digital consoles can operate on a network, allowing multiple channels to travel down a small Ethernet, coax or fiber optic cable. Inputs and outputs can be located remotely in stage boxes that are easily linked via lighter cable, eliminating the need for heavy copper analog snakes. In addition, multiple audio devices such as additional consoles and recording units also have easy access to the network.

My company also utilizes networked computers for live multitrack recording, archival recordings, and virtual sound check. Coupled with the full recall capability of digital consoles, virtual sound check insures that mix engineers don’t have to start from scratch at every gig with the same band, and can “dial in” the band before they even arrive at the venue.

Another feature many digital consoles now provide is offline editing, which is the ability to set up and configure the console for a specific act, load the showfile on a thumb drive, and then transfer the settings at a later time to a console. This has been a boon for touring folks can have multiple showfiles for different consoles, and when they get to the venue, simply upload their parameters into the given console without having to spend time labeling, adjust and configuring parameters at every tour stop.

My favorite digital console capability is remote access via tablets and laptops. Many models allow engineers to connect via Wi-Fi to remotely control a variety of parameters, allowing them to step away and listen to/adjust the mix in different locations throughout the coverage area.

When doing the house mix, it’s great to be able to move around to hear what various sections of the audience are hearing and be able to optimize. It’s also much easier to dial in a monitor mix while standing on stage, hearing what the performers are hearing.

Following is a look at a number of recent digital consoles that deliver larger-format capability. While some are not necessarily physically imposing, all have the facilities to handle bigger, more complex events.

Enhanced Listing

Allen & Heath dLive CTi1500

dLive is Allen & Heath’s flagship mixing system. The power of dLive emanates from the XCVI core, pioneered by the Allen & Heath R&D team using next generation FPGA technology, with 36 parallel virtual processing cores generating enough power for 160 x 64 channels of processing at 96 kHz. From the lightweight 25.4-pound rack-mountable CTi1500 up to the largest S7000, all dLive surfaces are fully compatible with dLive C Class and S Class MixRacks.

Seven control surfaces and seven MixRacks, support for leading audio networking protocols like Dante, MADI, and Waves, plug and play ME personal monitor mixers, an array of compact TCP/IP network remotes, I/O expanders, iPad and Android apps, and Mac and PC online/offline editor software all combine to rethink and redefine the ultimate in scalable and versatile audio mixing systems.

Technology Focus: All dLive systems utilize the XCVI FPGA core to calculate over 10,000 cross points per sample, while the FPGA router has capacity for 3,000 x 3,000 audio paths. XCVI (25 billion operations per second) allows dLive to deliver 128 processing inputs and 16 stereo FX returns, a configurable 64-bus architecture, variable bit depth for exceptional precision and noise performance and more.

Of Note: The DEEP processing architecture within dLive embeds compressors and processing emulations directly within input and mix channels. An array of algorithms, including graphic EQs, compressors and a 64-channel Automatic Mic Mixer (AMM) can be inserted on the fly without burning FX slots.

Key Specifications:
Faders: 12 faders, 6 layers (72 fader strips)
Mix Inputs: 160 (128 plus 16 stereo FX returns) with 96 kHz processing
Aux/Group: 64 mix outputs with full processing
Matrix: User configurable 64 bus architecture
FX: 16 stereo | DCA: 24
Mains: LR, LCR, LR+Msum, LR+M and 5.1 Mains mode
App: dLive Director for macOS and PC; MixPad iOS; OneMix iOS; custom control for macOS/PC/iOS/Android
Screen: 12-inch capacitive touch screen with gesture control
Local I/O: (control surface) 6 XLR mic/line inputs, 6 XLR line outputs, stereo AES input and stereo AES output, 2-track USB
Stage Boxes: GX4816, DX012, DX32, DX168, DT168 Dante, DX164-W, DT164-W Dante, DX Hub
Physical: 25.4 x 17.4 x 13.3 inches, 25.4 pounds
Additional Models: C1500, C2500, C3500, S3000, S5000, S7000

Standard Listings

DiGiCo Quantum 338

Faders: 38
Mix Inputs: 128
Aux/Group: 64
Matrix: 24 x 24
FX: 24
DCA: 24
GEQ: 24
Screens: Three 17-inch touch screens
App: Quantum App (iPad)
Local I/O: 8 + 8 analog, 4 stereo AES/EBU, 6 sets of MADI ports, 2 DMI card slots
Stage Boxes: SD Rack, SD-MiNi, SD-NANO, D2-Rack, D-Rack
Options: DMI Card options for ADC, AES, AMM, DAC, Dante, [email protected], Hydra 2, Klang, MADI B, MADI C, ME, Mic, Waves
Also: HTL (Hidden Til Lit) Technology, overview monitor output
Physical: 62.8 x 31.7 x 19 inches, 154.3 pounds
Additional Models In Series: Quantum 7, 7B and 7T


Faders: 38 (12+12+12+2)
Mix Inputs: 120
Aux/Group: 48 (DSP-RX), 72 (DSP-RX-EX)
Matrix: 36 (DSP-RX-EX); 24 (DSP-RX)
FX: 45 types, up to 384 / 512 instances depending on DSP configuration
DCA: 24
GEQ: 48
App: StageMix (iPad)
Screens: Three 15-inch touch screens
Local I/O: 8 + 8 analog XLR, 4 + 4 AES/EBU
Stage Box: DSP-RX-EX; DSP-RX
MY Cards: Dante, MADI, Aviom, many others
Also: Neve inserts, TC and Eventide FX, SILK mic preamp
Physical: 56.9 x 25.3 x 16.2 inches, 93 pounds

Avid VENUE S6L (S6L-32D)

Faders: 32 + 2
Mix Inputs: 192
Aux/Group: 96
Matrix: 24 x 24
DCA: 24
GEQ: 32
Screens: Four 12-inch touch screens
Local I/O: 8 + 8 analog XLR, 4 + 4 AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: Stage 32, Stage 64
Card Options: Ethernet AVB, Dante, MADI, Aviom, Thunderbolt
Also: Direct Waves and AAX plugins, 128 tracks of Pro Tools
built in
Physical: 51 x 31 x 15 inches, 155 pounds
Additional Models: S6L-48D, S6L-24D, S6L-24C, S6L-16C

Solid State Logic Live.L200

Faders: 37
Total Mix Paths (Inputs/Aux/Stems/Masters):
144 full processing paths can be 96 inputs, plus
up to 48 aux
Matrix: 4 x 32 input x 24 output
FX: up to 48 instances at one time
GEQ: 96
Screens: 17 inch multi-touch screen, optional arm mounted external screens
Local I/O: 12 + 12 analog XLR, 8 + 8 AES/EBU, 8 MADI, Blacklight II, Dante
Stage Boxes: ML 32.32, ML I.32, D 32.32
Options: MADI-Dante Bridge, Live-Recorder SSD PC
Also: Optical FX loop for Waves SoundGrid
Physical: 54 inches wide, 180 pounds
Additional Models In Series: Live.500, Live.L300

Lawo mc²56

Faders: Remote stand-alone frames of 16 faders (16 to 144 faders)
Mix Inputs: 768 inputs and 256 summing busses with full 96 kHz processing, up to 32 surround channels
Aux/Group: up to 128 and buses, up to 96 groups, up to 32 automix groups
VCA: Up to 128
Mains: Up to 96 main sums
App: mxGUI remote control via laptop/tablet PC
Screen: Up to three 21.5-inch HD touch screens (depends on frame size)
Local I/O: (control surface) 16 XLR mic/line inputs, 16 XLR line outputs, 8 AES3 inputs and outputs, 8 GPIOs, plus local MADI (SFP)
Stage Boxes: A__UHD Core, A__mic8, A__digital64, A__madi6, A__stage64, A__stage80
Physical: 91.9 in (64 frames wide) down to 23.5 in (16 frames wide); 207 lbs (64 frames) down to 62 lbs (16 frames)
Additional Models: mc² 36, mc² 96

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