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Real World Gear: Large-Format Digital Consoles

Bigger and more capable than ever -- a look at recent design trends and the latest models...

While smaller digital consoles have been getting the lion’s share of attention of late, there’s still a lot going on when it comes to larger models.

In the past month or so alone, Yamaha, Soundcraft and Midas have introduced new larger consoles. Solid State Logic (SSL), long noted for its studio consoles, also recently entered the market with the appropriately named “Live” large-format desk.

Many mix engineers still rely on larger consoles both for reasons of necessity and personal preference. Bigger is indeed usually better when it comes to increased channel counts, capabilities and feature sets, while some users simply prefer to mix on a more expansive surface.

It’s also important to note that “large” is a relative term, particularly when comparing modern digital models to their analog ancestors. For example, the Yamaha CL5 provides 72 mono and 8 stereo channels in a unit less than four feet wide by slightly more than two feet deep, with weight under 75 pounds, and furthered by the tremendous functionality of the digital platform as well as the elimination of a multitude of associated outboard equipment by including gates, compressors, graphics and effects.

Models vary in terms of onboard I/O, while all work with a wide array of stage boxes and racks that deliver a tremendous amount of connectivity while accommodating a growing stable of option cards that expand routing, networking and processing capabilities even further. These outboard boxes and racks can also be distributed to where they’re best suited to meet the needs of a particular production.

An example of this flexibility is found in the Allen & Heath iLive, which puts the DSP and audio in the MixRack, opening up a wide range of control and networking possibilities. An iLive system can be assembled to serve anything from a high-end touring rig controlled by modular surfaces that look and feel much like conventional mixing consoles right through to a compact setup with just a MixRack controlled via a laptop or tablet.

Significant upgrades also come from the software realm, where the simple upload of a new software version can bring new capabilities to existing hardware. For example, Soundcraft recently released version 4.8 software that upgrades the busing system on Vi2, 4 and 6 models for monitoring applications. It allows all 32 mix buses on the consoles to work in stereo mode when required, without stealing any other buses, fostering use for in-ear mixes.

Further, R Remote from Yamaha, a new Windows-based stand-alone app, enables remote control of R Series Rio3224-D, Rio1608-D, and Ri8-D rack unit head amplifiers directly from a computer. And, a live recording system can be created with just R Series I/O racks and a computer running Nuendo Live or similar DAW software.

Note that we’ve been focusing on specific facets and features of digital consoles over the past several months, and will be continuing that approach. This time, we’re instead presenting an overview of each model. Enjoy our Real World Gear Photo Gallery Tour of large-format digital consoles.

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Real World Gear: In-Ear Monitoring (IEM) Earpieces & Systems

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