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recommendations for a mixing console

  • 1.  recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-03-2018 11:59
    Our theater is in need of a new sound board.  We currently have an analog mixer, but we are likely going to purchase a digital mixer.  We need a mixer with at least 32 channels and, most importantly, we need a mixer that will not be too difficult for the students to operate.  I am looking for recommendations on what to buy and would also like to know which mixers I should avoid purchasing.

    Brad Schmidt
    Belleville IL

  • 2.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 06:30

    Let me start with a disclaimer: This is my opinion.  I'm sure people are going to have other opinions.  But this is what works for us.  

    Last year we switched from an analogue board to a Behringer x32.  I will tell you why I like it.  It has more features than I think we will ever need and if we do need them they are available. 

    Instead of me listing everything I love about the board you should just check it out on their website.  Or there are hundreds of instructional videos on Youtube you can take a look at.  

    Again, this is my opinion.
    Good luck.  I know this is an important decision.  

    Chuck Yarmey
    Advisor/Technical Director
    Wyoming Area Drama Club
    Thespian Troupe 4795
    Exeter PA

  • 3.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-05-2018 07:48

    We have been using the x32 by Behringer for a few years.  The console offers a lot of bang for your buck.  We actually use two for our major musicals using a master/slave set up with one the (X32 RACK)  used to mix the band (we mic every musician in our pit orchestra) and one for our wireless mics we use 24-26 per show. For us it was tough to compare the functionality and number of channels we could get for the money.

    X32  $2299
    x32 Rack $999
    S 16 snake $899
    Laptop or tablet to mix x32 rack on (touch screen is a big plus here)  ???  we used one we had.

    There are certainly other options from Midas, Yamaha and Allen & Heath in this price point now, (a few years ago they are all over 10K) but we have had success with the Behringer and without my sound designer having really pushed for it I would have gone with a much more expensive console because of the name.

    Good Luck!

    John Whapham
    Theatre Director
    Sycamore High School

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  • 4.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 08:35
    We upgraded to a Soundcraft Expression 3 and it has been great - my students have been able to pick up on fairly quickly, and there are also a lot of video tutorials.

    If you have $2000-$3000 to spend, my guess is that you can't really go wrong with any of the main brands - Soundcraft, Behringer, Allen and Heath, Yamaha. They will all offer similar features- and most likely have more features than you will ever use (unless you have someone who has a ton of experience).  The biggest help to me was having someone come in to set up the board and spend a few hours with me and a student going over the basics. That personal training may be more important than whatever board you buy.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 5.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 09:50
    One of the theaters I worked with had an ongoing saga with sound. One board clearly wasn't "big" enough to handle most musicals, but, even then, people often complained about the sound quality on plays, and it came down to the various operators knowing how the board itself worked, but not how to mix sound in a theater.

    Then they upgraded to a board that was, according to knowledable people, too big for the place. But the complaints continued for the same reason: they tried different operators, but none of them really knew how to mix live sound for a theatrical production. Finally they hired a professional sound engineer (for one show at a time) and the complaints stopped.

    Then they upgraded again as part of a major renovation. And they continued using a pro for the productions.

    Moral of the story: just like with a light board, the thing is just a tool.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 6.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 10:14
    Darron West, who won a Tony for sound design for Peter and the Starcatcher, recommended that we purchase a Digico SD 9 or SD 10. They are pricey but he said they are the standard go-to boards for professional work. Coupled with QLab you have the same set-up he uses on Broadway.

    John Perry
    Retired Theatre Teacher

  • 7.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 11:03
    We recently replaced our board with the Midas M32 here is the advice given to me by a friend in the business:

    -3 levels of consoles listed lower non pro series, but all should be suitable for your use, 
    -The Yamaha desk are some of the newest on the market only a couple of years old, but also come with a higher price tag for the mid and upper tier models 
    -Both brands are well respected and each comse with their unique feature set, but overall offer more than you will need in respect to DSP or hardware 
    When you get to the pro Tier you lose local I/O and require a stage box for Inputs & Outputs, but this box can be located in your current control room as to not have to reconfigure any wiring or pre existing cable paths 
    Overall perception of each brand 
    Midas- better sound quality, but Pro line has a bit steeper learning curve and sligtly less DSP than the Yamaha CL Series, been on the market since 2011-12, so not antiquated by any means but not as new.
    Yamaha- More DSP, the CL series is gaining lots of tractions in the market, a bit more familiar for some who were used to the previous yamaha desk, but cons are higher cost 
    If you are in the price point of the TF/M32 range I don't have any first hand experience with the TF so I would most likely lean towards the M32, as it has easier access to control options on the surface 
    Lower Tier:
    Yamaha TF3 - 24 fader (24in 16out)
    Midas M32 - 24 fader (32in 16 out)
    Mid Tier:
    Yamaha QL5 - 32 fader (32in 16out) 
    Pro Tier:
    Midas Pro 2 w/stage box
    Yamaha CL3 w/stage box  (above $30k)

    Kristi Jacobs-Stanley
    New Orleans LA

  • 8.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 11:52

    I recommend the Allen and Heath QU32 or Soundcraft Expression 3. Most of the boards in this area of the market have very similar features, and all sound great. I have found the Allen and Heath QU and Souncraft Expression lines to be much easier to teach students and community volunteers who are transitioning from analogue boards, or who may not have a great deal of sound experience. The work flow and layout has fewer buttons and distractions that make it easier for an operator to adapt to (less intimidating), while still having the internal controls that give you a great deal of processing and flexibility.


    David Simpson
    Performing Arts Center Manager
    East China Schools
    East China MI

  • 9.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-04-2018 12:11
    One thing to look for is a board that has a built in FX engine. Being able to add reverb or pitch shift has come in handy multiple times (plus, it's fun for the kids to experiment with). My guess is that most boards you look at will have this, but it's worth checking.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 10.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-05-2018 15:43
    Lots of advice here that I would certainly echo.

    Most significant of them is that the board is a tool.  No matter how good the tool, a inept user will not help.

    Here's my two cents worth:

    Digital sound boards are great value for you and the students.  As analog systems are wearing out and being replaced in the industry the trend is toward digital systems.  This provides the built-in effects rack and numerous other features that others alluded to being important.

    Among digital systems, Yamaha seems to be the prevailing choice in the regional theatres I've visited.  They have a reputation for reliability and features.  Of course, this also comes at a price.  When shopping for a new system myself, I wanted this but had to look at another system that fit my budget.

    My personal budget also led me to the Behringer x32.  One of feature I liked about it as well in the transition from analog to digital was it could be operated like an analog board out of the box as you learned the digital aspects of the system.

    Jym Kinney
    Tacoma, Washington

  • 11.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-06-2018 08:38
    Ok now for my 2 cents worth ...

    Behringer X32 - probably the best value for money and it has a great auto mixing app that helps with keeping things balance.  Build quality isn't perfect. 32 mic pre-amps. Expandable. Price for full size - $2000. Limitd space the X32 Compact is $2500 and has 16 mic pre-amps built in, but can be expanded using Behringers Digital stage boxes.

    Midas M32 - same software as the Behringer, slightly better components and better build quality.  Midas an English company was one of the first to build digital boards for theatre.  In a very smart move Uri Behringer purchased Midas to improve his digital mixing products.

    Soundcraft Expression - currently my fave for theatre.  Extremely fast scene recall.  My pick is the Expression 2 - 24 mic pres built in and expandable to 96 (i thing) using Soundcrafts mini stagebox units.  This is a really compact console with 22 channel motorized faders. Price $2600, Expression 3 - price $3200.  Soundcraft also have the Si Performer Series which adds a few features better components and build, the best being integrated dmx control.

    Presonus - easiest desk to get used to if transferring from analog to digital, Was among my favorites except that for theatre the scene recall is too slow.

    My pick would be Soundcraft Si Expression 2

    Rod Reilly
    Owner, Bodymics
    Somerset NJ

  • 12.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 12-06-2018 14:02
    Hey Brad,

    In respect to sound quality and future proofing - I would say the *new Allen & Heath SQ line, is the current best option in bang for your buck the category. It has the Mic Pres from their flagship console D-Live and amazing on board FX that could also come in handy for you. Easy to expand with a wide range of stage boxes.

    SQ - Allen & Heath
    Allen & Heath remove preview
    SQ - Allen & Heath
    Digital mixing system for live touring, rental, houses of worship and installation
    View this on Allen & Heath >

    Kurtis Ewing
    GC Pro
    Woodland Hills CA

  • 13.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 11-12-2019 12:41
    Edited by Gwyn Eaves 12-12-2019 16:02
    Hi...I saved the scene on my XR12. Then I loaded it into my MR12. With that said, I used Midas app (M-Air) to control the Behringer and Midas mixers.
    I think X-Air can be used to control the Midas as well. From what I read, M-air is the same app as X-air but with a different cosmetic appearance.

    printed circuit board

  • 14.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 11-13-2019 09:09
    My personal favorite is the Soundcraft Expression series.  I would recommend the Expression 2 (24 channels on board, but there is an available "mini stagebox" that can add 16 or 32 more remote preamps.  The board can control a total of 66 inputs.  The Expression 2 has 22 "channel" motorized faders plus 2 output faders.  You access the mic preamps past the first 22 by switched "pages" so that any additional inputs come up on the next page to a max of 66 (3x 22).  Most digital mixers work this way.  My preference for the smaller footprint is thaat everything is right there!.  The Expression 3 has 32 on board mic preamps.

    The Behringer X32 is a terrific entry level product and it's Midas brother just gives you a small quality boost - better quality components, and build, but basically the same software.

    The Allen Heath Qu and SQ series are beautiful and can control up to 48 channels I believe.

    The biggest issue is is that  you should not think about a digital mixer as a plug in replacement for an analog board, as it opens up way more opportunities to rethink the entire audio system infrastructure.  It is common to place at least on set of remote preamps/outputs on nstage linked by CAT5 cable so that you have mic inputs at stage that are not travelling to the mic pre-amps over 100s of feet of cable (less noise) and it gives you local outputs,that are transferred to stage digitally.  Also you can lose almost all your outboard gear.

    The biggest change however is in how you use the board during a show.  Since the board can remember every setting to a scene, you will need to spend time during rehearsal building scenes and saving them in a sequential list so that come showtime you just recall the scene at the stage managers call, and then the most you need to do is tweek levels if some-one his singing/speaking louder or softer than in rehearsals.  The real work moves from show-time to rehearsal time.

    Rod Reilly
    Owner, Bodymics
    Somerset NJ

  • 15.  RE: recommendations for a mixing console

    Posted 11-14-2019 13:28
    Wow, a lot of diversity listed above and I love the discussion. We have a Yamaha LS9 (64 channels). We purchased it for the ease of use for our students. Whatever you decide, make sure that it is not too technical challenging that you find that you are spending a lot of time in the sound booth.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School