When taking a long look at audio mixing consoles, there are so many great options out there today.
A little more than two years ago, I went to the WFX conference in Nashville, and came across a console that just blew me away…
It is truly a time where we live in a golden age for audio, and at a certain price point, so many of the options available to us pretty much have similar features and do the same job.
Yet it seems that everyone ends up choosing the same two or three audio consoles over and over again.
Now going with what is a tried and proven desk is always a great way to go, and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that. Sometimes, though, we miss out on some great products that are on the market that might be an even better option for us, because they don't get the recognition those other well-known choices do.
For me personally, a large part of looking at a digital audio console is seeing how well it integrates with Waves Soundgrid. Like many people, I have been using Waves on studio projects for years and started looking into using their live version back in 2013. That year, I talked myself in and out of using them several times, and finally went to a Waves Soundgrid seminar at the end of 2013 and fell in love with the concept.
In January of 2014, I switched everything I was using at church and also at home over to Waves Soundgrid, and have never looked back. Needless to say, using Waves Soundgrid is a big part of how I mix, and I encourage people to look into using Waves live, if you have not already.
Products like plugins such as X-FDBK and PSE (primary source enhancer), I use all the time and are a great at making my job easier. The Dugan auto mixer plugin should also be at the top everyone's list, for those who do large Christmas or Easter productions, with lots of wireless mics on actors. Because of my extreme preference for using Waves Soundgrid, I am always looking to see how well a manufacturer integrates their console with Waves.
A little more than two years ago, I went to the WFX conference in Nashville, and came across a console that just blew me away and til this day is my favorite digital console on the market, the Cadac CDC six. They had just released it a couple of weeks before WFX, and I had not heard of it before, so I stopped to check it out and found myself going back to check it out several times while I was at the conference.
Wow, what a great desk. Among the more notable items, is that it has an extremely large single touchscreen and a beautiful interface. Besides including Waves integration, in a way that I think is better than anything on the market, I was amazed at how easy it is to get around on the mixer.
The CDC six has two touchscreens, with one serving as a small setup touchscreen for quickly accessing menus, while the other is a 23.5-inch touchscreen for the main viewing area. Getting around on this was a breeze, even if I had never used one before, whether I was trying to patch something or jumping from EQ, compression or effects. That aspect is important to consider, when looking at purchasing a new audio mixer, because depending on how God has wired your brain, some consoles just make more sense to you than others.
One of the features I really like on the Cadac, is that it had a touch and swipe feature to move along between the different channels and was similar to what I was used to when using iPad apps.
There is also a Waves interface built into the desk that comes standard on the CDC six. When using Waves, the MultiRack displays on the desk's 23.5-inch touchscreen monitor, so it is always right in front of you, making it very easy to use.
Even though I really do prefer to use Waves when mixing, I also checked out the built-in processing on the desk. On the exhibit floor, the Cadac six was using tracks live from Waves, while playing back a live multi-track recording of a Pink Floyd song. I took the opportunity to mix using the built-in processing and was really impressed with how good it sounded and also how easy it was to use.
Even two years later, this desk would be at the top of my list when looking to purchase a new audio console.
Other than the Cadac, another worthy option out there, is the Waves LV1 digital mixer.
Being that I prefer mixing with Waves plugins, I jumped at the chance to start using the Waves eMotion LV1 for my main mixing console this past year, and in turn sold off three Yamaha digital consoles.
The LV1 is available in either 16-, 32- or 64- (these can be either mono or stereo) channel versions and I would recommend either the 32- or 64-channel version for most situations.
As much as I love using MultiRack live, the LV1 took using Waves plug ins to another level for me. I find it much easier and faster to do things on the LV1, than I did using a console running MultiRack, not to mention how much quicker it is to set up and tear down. Now you will need a touchscreen (you can use up to four if you want) and a pretty good computer to run it, and it does take some time getting used to mixing on a touchscreen.
After doing it for a year now, though, I really cannot go back to using a normal digital console (but I would be tempted by the Cadac). With my business, Pure Sound Concert Systems, we mostly do large music events where we are mixing several bands at each event. These are groups that we have never mixed before, and I can say that the LV1 is really fast at getting these different bands up and running and sounding good in as little time as possible.
The LV1 does a really good job of giving you quick access to monitor mixes and gives you several different ways to set up your screen to see what you want to see. And if you find yourself saying, "I just have got to have faders to mix," don't worry, Waves makes an expandable control surface just for that.
Crest Tactus is also a great option for both Soundgrid-compatible stage boxes and they make a wonderful control surface that I might pick up later this year. For Waves LV1, you do have to have Soundgrid-compatible hardware, and this past year I used the Waves DiGiGrid IOS and DiGiGrid IOX preamps and server for all of our events. DiGiCo makes the DiGiGrid hardware for Waves and uses the same preamps that are in their high-end boards. So, you end up with a great sounding clean preamp that is perfect for using with plugins.
While this look at the Cadac six and LV1 doesn't necessarily serve as a thorough review of either audio mixer, I do hope that you will stop and consider these two options if you are in the market for an audio console., along with some of the other things that are out there, and not just the usual options that people tend to look at.
Beyond the Cadac six and LV1, other considerations include both Roland and Allen & Heath, which released an array of new consoles over the past years that look really good, also I think Avid's S3L is a really great, small portable mixer with big features that does not get the attention that is should.
So, take advantage of this great time in the audio industry and go to some trade shows like WFX, where you can get yourself in front of these consoles and determine what works best for you and your teams.