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Real World Gear: Large-Format Digital Mixing Consoles

The continuing evolution and capabilities of large-format digital mixing consoles and a look at recent models.
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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 Avantis
allen-heath.com

The third mixer based on Allen & Heath’s 96 kHz XCVI FPGA engine, Avantis puts next-generation technology in a 64 channel / 42 configurable bus console, with dual full HD touchscreens, a flexible workflow, extensive I/O options, and a rugged full metal chassis.

Avantis dPack adds internal stadium-class dLive processing without burning FX slots, third-party hassles or issues with latency or phase coherency. dPack also delivers Dyn8, a powerful processor offering 4 bands of dynamic EQ and 4 bands of multiband compression. Handy for adding sonic glue to a mix, dPack enables 16 Dyn8 engines for inserting on Input and Mix channels.

Continuity UI allows engineers to see and instantly interact with more of what matters, enabling a seamless connection between the physical controls and the displays.Inspired by the tubular exo-skeletons of the latest generation of superbikes, those sleek curves are all metal — super tough — but lightweight.

Of Note: The SLink connection on Avantis allows extreme flexibility by connecting to the entire range of Allen & Heath audio expander hardware (including AB/AR 48 kHz stage boxes with sample rate conversion). Add a Dante card for even more networked system options with dedicated Dante expanders like the DT168 and DT164-W.

Key Specifications
Faders: 24 faders, 6 layers (144 fader strips)
Mix Inputs: 88 (64 plus 12 stereo FX returns) with full 96 kHz processing
Aux/Group: 42 mix outputs with full processing
Matrix: User configurable 42 bus architecture
FX: 12 Stereo (dPack option adds DEEP/Dyn processing) | DCA: 16
Mains: LR, LR + Mono Sum, LR + M, LCR
Also: 2 x 128 x 128 96 kHz option slots, 64 channels of Automatic Mic Mixing (AMM)
Screen: 2 x 15.6-inch full HD capacitive touch screens with gesture control
Local I/O: 12 XLR inputs, 12 XLR outputs, 1 stereo AES in, 2 stereo AES out
Stage Boxes: GX4816, DX012, DX32, DX168, DT168 Dante, DX164-W, DT164-W Dante, DX Hub, AR2412, AB168, AR84. Also fully compatible with all dLive I/O cards (including 96 kHz Dante 128 x 128, Waves, etc.), IP controllers, and ME personal monitoring.
Physical: 36.1 x 24.7 x 10.6 inches, 57.4 pounds


Yamaha RIVAGE PM5
usa.yamaha.com

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

DiGiCo Quantum 338
digico.biz

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

Avid VENUE S6L (S6L-32D)
avid.com

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
solidstatelogic.com

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

Waves eMotion LV1
waves.com

Faders: N/A
Mix Inputs: up to 64
Aux/Group: up to 24/8
Matrix: 8
FX: 8
DCA: 16
Screens: Compatible with up to four touch screens
App: MyMon personal monitor mixing app
Local I/O: Connect to any SoundGrid-compatible I/O or server
Stage Boxes: Patch up to 16 hardware and software SoundGrid I/Os; also share I/Os – stage boxes, DAWs, computers – between multiple LV1 systems
Physical: Depends on configuration
Additional Models In Series: eMotion LV1 32-channel and 16-channel

Allen & Heath dLive
allen-heath.com

Faders: 36 faders, 6 layers (216 fader strips)
Mix Inputs: 160 (128 plus 16 stereo FX returns) with full 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 and 5.1 Mains mode
App: dLive Director for macOS and PC; MixPad iOS; OneMix iOS; custom control for macOS/PC/iOS/Android
Screen: Dual 12-inch capacitive touch screen with gesture control
Local I/O: (control surface) 8 XLR mic/line inputs, 8 XLR line outputs, 2 stereo AES in, 3 stereo AES out
Stage Boxes: GX4816, DX012, DX32, DX168, DT168 Dante, DX164-W, DT164-W Dante, DX Hub
Physical: 52.2 x 28.7 x 16.3 inches, 90 pounds
Additional Models: C1500, CTi1500, C2500, C3500, S3000, S5000

Lawo mc²56
lawo.com

Faders: Frame sizes in 16 – 144 faders
Total Mix Paths: 760 inputs (with A/B inputs) and 888 channels
Aux/Group: Up to 144
GEQ/FX: Waves SoundGrid
DCA: 128
App: Remote Desktop (PC)
Screen: up to 5 x 21.5-inch color touchscreens
Local I/O: 16 + 16 analog XLR, 4 + 4 AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: DALLIS fully redundant I/O, mc² Compact I/O
Also: MADI port, RAVENNA/AES67 audio-over-IP, remote control of Neumann AES42 digital mics
Physical: Varies (depending on frame size) from 52.5 inches wide/225 pounds to 132.8 inches wide/471.8 pounds
Additional Models: mc² 36 (16- and 40-fader versions), mc²96

Stage Tec AURUS Platinum
stagetec.com

Faders: Up to 96
Mix Inputs: 300
Aux/Group: 128
Matrix: 32 x 32
DCA: 24
GEQ: 32
Screens: Five 19-inch metering and one 10-inch
touch screen
Stage Boxes: NEXUS Base Device modular frames
Also: RAVENNA networking technology, 32-bit TrueMatch A/D mic preamp conversion
Physical: 54 x 42 x 41 inches, 90 pounds
Additional Models: AURUS, CRESCENDO, CRESCENDO Platinum, AURATUS

Yamaha TF5
yamahaproaudio.com

Faders: 32 + 1
Mix Inputs: 48 | Aux/Group: 20 | Matrix: N/A
FX: 8 | DCA: 8 | GEQ: 10
Apps: TF StageMix, MonitorMix
Screens: 1 touch screen, also facilitates “Touch & Turn” capability
Local I/O: 32 mic/line (XLR/TRS combo) + 2 stereo line (RCA pin) inputs, 16 (XLR) outputs, 1 expansion slot
Stage Boxes: Tio1608-D Dante-equipped I/O rack
Options: NY64-D Dante expansion card
Also: 34-track recording/ playback, 2-track playback via USB/SSD, Nuendo Live recording software
Physical: 34.1 x 23.6 x 8.9 inches, 44.1 pounds
Additional Models In Series: TF3, TF1

PreSonus StudioLive 64S
presonus.com

Faders: 33
Total Mix Paths (Inputs/Aux/Group/Matrix): 64+8 inputs/32 flex mixes
FX: 8 FX FLEX buses, 8 FX FLEX returns
DCA: 24 | GEQ: 16 | Screens: LCD display screen
App: UC Surface for Mac, Windows, iPad and Android
Local I/O: NA
Stage Boxes: StudioLive NSB-series boxes, also integrates with EarMix 16M monitor mixers
Card Options: NA
Also: Dual A/B Fat Channel on all inputs and outputs, 64 x 64 USB audio interface
Physical: 32.4 x 23 x 6.5 inches, 37.2 pounds
Additional Models In Series: Multiple 32-channel versions

Allen & Heath SQ-7
allen-heath.com

Faders: 33
Mix Inputs: 56 (48 plus 8 stereo FX returns) with full 96 kHz processing
Aux/Group: 12 stereo mix (aux or group) + main
Matrix: 3 | FX: 8
DCA: 8 | Mains: LR
App: SQ MixPad for macOS/PC/iOS/Android. SQ4You for iOS and Android
Screen: 7-inch capacitive touch screen
Local I/O: 32 XLR inputs, 2 stereo TRS inputs, 16 XLR outputs, 2 TRS out, stereo AES out
Stage Boxes: GX4816, DX012, DX32, DX168, DT168 Dante, DX164-W, DT164-W Dante, DX Hub, AR2412, AB168, AR84
Physical: 31.7 x 20.3 x 7.8 inches, 39.3 pounds

Soundcraft Vi1000
soundcraft.com

Faders: 20
Mix Inputs: 96
Aux/Group: 24 stereo/mono
Matrix: 16 stereo/mono
FX: 4 Lexicon stereo
DCA: 16
GEQ: 24
Screens: Two 12-inch Vistonics screens
App: ViSi (iPad)
Local I/O: 16 inputs and 16 outputs, 2 stereo AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: Vi Stagebox, Compact Stagebox, Mini Stagebox
Options: Dante, MADI, EtherSound, CobraNet, ADAT, Aviom, Blu Link
Also: Dante connectivity standard, vMIX automatic mic mixing, UA real-time plugins
Physical: 33.2 x 31.6 x 13.8 inches, 55 pounds
Additional Models In Series: Vi2000, Vi3000, Vi5000, Vi7000

Midas PRO X
midasconsoles.com

Faders: 12 + 10 + 4
Mix Inputs: 144
Aux/Group: 72
Matrix: 24
FX: Up to 48 | DCA: 10 | GEQ: 36
Screens: Two 15-inch
App: MixTender 2 (iPad), PalmMix (iOS)
Local I/O: 8 + 8 analog XLR, 4 + 4 AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: DL151 through 155, DL251&252, DL351, DL451
Options: DN9650 & DN9652 MADI/Dante/CobraNet/
ES bridges
Also: 3-way KVM switch
Physical: 54 x 37 x 17 inches, 213 pounds
Additional Models In Series: PRO3, PRO6, PRO9

CADAC CDC seven-s
cadac-sound.com

Faders: 36
Mix Inputs: 128
Aux/Group/Matrix: 56
Matrix: Up to 67 x 48
FX: 16 stereo | DCA: 16 | GEQ: 56
Screens: Two 24-inch and one 6-inch touch screen
App: Cadac Remote (iPad)
Local I/O: 8 XLR I/O, 4 AES/EBU I/O, 2 x Cadac MegaCOMMS
Stage Boxes: CDC I/O 6448, CDC I/O 4016, CDC I/O 3216,
CDC MC AES3
Options: MC MADI bridge, MC Dante bridge
Also: Dugan Automixer post fade Insert for Waves, SAM theatrical automation software
Physical: 61 x 30 x 10 inches, 132 pounds
Additional Models In Series: CDC five, CDC six

Studer Vista 5SR
studer.ch

Faders: 30 + 2
Mix Inputs: 80 mono/20 stereo
Group: 8 stereo (FOH configuration)
Aux: 10 mono/10 stereo (FOH)
Matrix: 5 mono/5 stereo (FOH)
FX: 12 stereo (w/3 optional Vista FX units) | DCA: 16
Screens: Three Vistonics touch screens
App: Virtual Vista (PC)
Local I/O: 16 + 48 analog XLR, 16 + 16 AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: Compact Stagebox, D21m, D23m
Options: EtherSound, CobraNet, Dante, MADI, ADAT, Aviom
Physical: 59 x 30 x 15 inches, 149 pounds
Additional Model In Series: Vista 1

Roland Pro AV M-5000
proav.roland.com

Faders: 28
Total Mix Paths (Inputs/Aux/Group/Matrix): 128
FX: 8 stereo
DCA: 24
GEQ: 32
Screen: 12-inch touch screen
App: M-5000 Remote (iPad)
Local I/O: 16 + 16 analog XLR, 2 + 2 AES/EBU
Stage Boxes: S-4000-3208, S-2416, S-1608, S-0808
Card Options: REAC, Dante, MADI, Waves
Also: iPad dock, M-48 personal mixers
Physical: 37 x 29 x 14 inches, 79 pounds
Additional Models In Series: M-5000C

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