Buyer's guide: Mixing Consoles

The best audio mixing consoles on the market.
DiGiCo D5 Live.
DiGiCo D5 Live.
ALLEN & HEATH iLive series.
ALLEN & HEATH iLive series.
Calrec Audio's Artemis
Calrec Audio's Artemis



With more than 100 delivered worldwide including two in the Middle East, the PRO6 takes the best aspects of Midas’ full-scale XL8 console and condenses them into a relatively compact desk suitable for touring and permanent installation duties.

Its diminutive size belies an ability to provide up to 80 simultaneous input processing channels and up to 32 (+3) discreet mixes, all of which feature EQ and dynamics processing options.

By adding additional I/O hardware, the PRO6’s network can be expanded up to 264 inputs and 264 outputs. These connections can be patched and routed on a scene-by-scene basis, by use of the PRO6’s snapshot automation functionality.

The PRO6’s FX and dynamics algorithms are incorporated within its automatic delay management system, so that wherever they are patched, the audio will be absolutely phase-coherent when summed into the mix.

DiGiCo D5 Live
A favourite among touring engineers, the D5 has forged a formidable reputation for its simplicity, flexibility and digital effects capabilities.

The desk can be configured to support 224 inputs and outputs, 160 channels, and 32 insertable processing channels.

Key features include a redundant-loop optical fibre system, full remote control and console mirror facility, and DiGiCo’s proprietary Gain Tracking technology, which allows changes to input gains on either the monitor or FOH desk without affecting the sound balance on either console.

Three years since its debut, Soundcraft’s first ever large-format desk is still one of the best on the market.

While the desk has been tweaked here and there over the years, the fundamentals have largely remained the same: 64 available channels from within a compact 32-channel frame, motorised faders, 32 outputs (plus a stereo and mono mix) and 16 matrix outputs, four-band fully parametric EQ and integral dynamics on all channels, Soundcraft FaderGlow and Harman HiQnet compatibility.

Small to mid-size DESKS

Venue SC48
Launched in the US and Europe last May, the Venue SC48 is a compact and relatively affordable desk that combines I/O, digital signal processing and tactile control.

Key features include professional plug-in support for third-party technologies; direct connection to Pro Tools LE for simple recording and playback; single channel control for multiple parameters; centre flex channel control for faders; and VCA and group spill for multiple channel control.

S&S verdict: Great desk designed for smaller venues and rental applications.

Widely hailed as the best digital mixing console to hit the market upon its release in 2004, the PM5D has aged well. The desk came in for a fairly comprehensive overhaul in 2007, benefitting from the addition of an expanded effects library, which included a de-esser, VCM (virtual circuitry modelling), analogue-modelled compressors and EQs, and OpenDeck tape simulation.

The update also saw Yamaha’s Virtual Soundcheck application included for the first time, providing easy switching between live inputs and outputs from a multitrack recorder for band-less rehearsals.

S&S verdict: Still up there, despite its advancing years.

iLive series

A&H’s compact live mixer is ideal for touring applications. Equipped with CAT5 cables, the desk can be easily connected to the mix-rack, ensuring quick set-up. Each of the desk’s 64 input channels has a gate, parametric EQ, compressor, limiter/de-esser and delay, while all 32 mix outputs have a 1/3 octave graphic equaliser (EQ), parametric EQ, compressor, limiter and delay.

S&S verdict: Solid mixer for club gigs, corporate events and touring applications.

Small fry
Allen & Heath makes the grade
The super compact ZED-10 and ZED-10FX mini mixers made their European debut at last month’s Prolight+Sound exhibition, following their launch at NAMM 2010.

Part of the ZED range of USB-equipped mixers for live performance, recording and production, the new additions feature two innovative ultra high impedance discrete Class A FET (Field Effect Transistor) inputs, which allow an instrument to be plugged directly into the mixer. There is also a 26dB gain boost switch, which caters for instruments with very low output pickups.

The ZED-10 and 10FX can also manage up to four microphones and two stereo sources with MP3 player compatibility, provide separate two-track record outputs and a stereo playback input for two-track replay or interval music from a CD player, XLR main stereo outputs with inserts, comprehensive monitoring with headphones and separate monitor speaker outputs, 48V microphone phantom power, and DI level switching for sub mixing.

There is also a USB send and return for PC or Mac recording, playback and effects.

Bluefin tuner
Calrec Audio’s Artemis console is based on the company’s award-winning Apollo platform, which was launched at NAB 2009, and utilises the same core technologies such as Bluefin2 and Hydra2.

Central to the Artemis console is a dedicated integrated router so that its I/O functions can be performed by Calrec’s next-generation networking system, Hydra2.

Hydra2 uses high capacity 8192 x 8192 cross-point routers and makes available a variety of I/O units to provide analogue, AES, MADI, SDI and Dolby E formats. All use copper or fibre connectivity, and can be fitted with GPIO cards. Console routers can be connected together to form large networks, and stand-alone routers will also be available.

Artemis utilises Bluefin2, the next generation of Calrec’s trademark Bluefin High Density Signal Processing platform, to provide substantial resources at multiple sample rates.

At 48kHz, Bluefin2 provides Artemis with up to 640 channel processing paths, 128 program busses, 64 IFB/Track outputs and 32 auxiliaries. Artemis also features a second compressor/limiter in each channel, more than 70 minutes of assignable delay, and three independent APFL systems for multiple operator use.

Using a combination of OLED displays, touch screens, and light-emitting knobs the soft Artemis control surface not only provides instant visual feedback, but a flexibility which enables the user to reconfigure the desk on the fly.

As with all Calrec consoles, the inclusion of full automatic hot-swap redundancy is part of the system architecture – on Artemis, all DSP, control processor, router, power supplies, and connections remain fully redundant at all times.

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