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Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

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Digital vs Analog Consoles

Justin

I would like to take a little bit of time and stir the waters up out there. I would like to hear what you guys and gals out there think of digital consoles for live sound as opposed to analog consoles. It seems like DSP has taken over in the world of EQs, cross overs, and amplifier management systems. It seems like the last part to go is the console. What are your likes and dislikes of a digital front end? What digital systems are you guys using out there?
March 12, 2002 @05:44pm
Ed Belknap

I haven't had the opportunity to mix on any of the dedicated large format digital live consoles (InnovaSON, Yamaha PM1D), but I've had enough experience mixing live sound on small format digital studio consoles (Yamaha 02R, 01V, & ProMix 01, and Ramsa DA-7) to know that that's *NOT* the way to go!
InnovaSON has the right idea: if you're going to build a console with a single assignable function strip, make it the BIGGEST, most EASY TO ACCESS and EASY TO COMPREHEND set of controls you can!
I love the convenience of scene recall in a digital desk, and I think the current Yamaha/Ramsa paradigm of using the main faders to control aux sends and bus masters would be incredibly valuable in a monitor desk...but IMHO small format digital consoles wind up being more of an impediment than an asset to live sound mixing.
July 20, 2002 @04:49pm
Dix

Isn’t that an oxymoron??? :D
The only place I’ve found digital mixers useful in live situations are as a sub-mix (friend of mine uses one for toms & keyboards in his small club system – works decent) or for in-ear monitors.
If I want to dial up a little more upper midrange on a guitar or vocal I like being able to just go directly to one knob & tweak… not have to fool with pulling up a digital setting.
July 20, 2002 @08:37pm
TeeCee

I've not done anything with digital mixers, and maybe my fears are unbased, but here's what I have against them and anyone feel free to allay these fears for me.
Why convert to digital only to re-convert to analog (this applies to live use mainly)? If there's only one thing that people can agree on when it comes to digital audio, it's that it isn't perfect. Of course analog circuitry isn't perfect either, but why do two conversions on audio that don't need to be done?
How do they work when it comes to headroom? When you see red with digital, that tends to be it, the end, you clipped. I guess if you worked carefully, you could adapt yourself to a physical and immediate ceiling. Or you could stick with an analog mixer.
July 30, 2002 @06:45pm
DAS

I don't think it's any different than using digital anywhere else. There are a number of "convenience" oriented benefits, and a few things that could cause problems (not the least of which is our lack of understanding of how to best utilize digital). There's nothing inherently wrong with them - it's just a matter of matching the capabilities with what you need.
July 30, 2002 @07:35pm
the 13 year old engineer

most times(for live) anilog mixers will be easier to work. like if the guitarest tell you to put some hi's and low's in his mix ,on a digital board you would have to hit eq,then hit,select,then find the channel,and then hit hi(you get the idea) but if your in a studio,you have a little more time on your hands so you can do that. with anilog mixers you just grab the knows.
August 2, 2002 @06:09pm
Ed Belknap

Originally posted by the 13 year old engineer
most times(for live) anilog mixers will be easier to work. like if the guitarest tell you to put some hi's and low's in his mix ,on a digital board you would have to hit eq,then hit,select,then find the channel,and then hit hi(you get the idea)

Actually you have to find the channel *before* you hit "Select"...
But when the guitarist tells you to put some highs & lows in his mix you have to find which channel is the guitarist's, regardless of whether it's an analog or digital board. Once you've found the guitar channel, you either A) identify that channel's particular dedicated and unique EQ knobs and then tweak (analog); or B) hit that channel's Select button and tweak the only EQ knobs on the whole board (digital). There really aren't any more mental steps in one than the other; it's just that they are distinctly *different* steps, and old habits die hard.
August 6, 2002 @05:15am
David Klausner

Actually, with an ergonomically designed console (the Sony DMXR100 comes to mind), once you get used to it, you can actually access things like EQ's more quickly than with an analog board. You know how when you go to adjust the volume of your car stereo, your hand just reaches for the knob and you don't even have to look for it? That's because you've developed a kinesthetic body memory for where that control is. If instead of dealing with 24 or more columns of knobs, you just had one knob field that was always in the same place, you can develop such a physical memory, and while your left hand seeks out the channel select button, your right is already going for the mid band frequency adjust because your body knows exactly where it is. It takes a while, but if the interface is done well (and some are and some aren't) it can be extremely efficient.
August 8, 2002 @06:14pm
Jeff Goldberg

Originally posted by David Klausner
Actually, with an ergonomically designed console (the Sony DMXR100 comes to mind), once you get used to it, you can actually access things like EQ's more quickly than with an analog board...

Hear, hear! As someone who has mixed a bunch of live sound before, and *dreaded* the notion of using a digital mixer in the context of a live setup, I can safely say that the one and only digital mixing console that I would even come CLOSE to considering using is indeed the Sony DMX-R100.
I would venture to hypothesize, however, that if Sony has successfully pioneered the idea of an [actually] useable live mixing board, that there will be a few more relatively shortly that will jump on Sony's bandwagon and follow-suit.
Right now, the biggest hold-back on the consumer market diving into the digital board realm is the perceived quality to price-point ratio. Interestingly enough, in reality, when sat-down and calculated out, one gets a much better 'bang-for-the-buck' when getting a digital mixing console.
Regards,
Jeff Goldberg
August 20, 2002 @10:20pm
psychomossel

I think fully digital consoles on live events isnt good at all.
If you want to go digital you better have a analog mixer that is digital driven. So its like a normal analog mixer but there is a micro processor for each little part of the system wich optimises sounds to the maximum but also empty's your pocket in the worst possible way.
Positive about this is you can store a setting from a channel into the memory and if you have done somehthing wrong you can instantly go to the last setting. The best console i have ever seen in this way is the XL4 of Midas. www.midasconsoles.com They use this on about every big festival here around.
August 29, 2002 @08:19pm
LSchugel

I guess I am in a slightly different situation. My application is Live Audio, but in a fixed venue (a church). I am the leader of the Praise Band at my church, and this year we installed a Roland VM-7200 digital system. I have not had any problems with headroom because it uses 24-bit converters. I like the fact that you have to "learn" how to use it, since in the church situation you get too many "knob twiddlers". We use 5 monitor mixes (Women Singers, Rhythm Section, Pianist, Keyboard, Drums) and the flexibility of the VM console is GREAT. It also has a split design with the "Console" connected to the "Brain" by two digital lines. All the channel inputs and mix/monitor outputs are in the rack near the band with the EQs and monitor amps. We make any modifications for specific songs at rehearsal on Wednesday nights and know that they will come out the same on Sunday morning.
Embrace the change!
Lee Schugel
September 7, 2002 @04:04pm
CaptainAnalogue

I still prefer an analogue signal chain. As someone else mentioned, there's no reason to go through converters twice to get the signal back where it started.
That said, I certainly appreciate automation and recall, but those features are available on anlogue desks. Automation is very nice IF you happen to be on tour with one show. However, that stuff is useless to the many of us who must deal with mystery bands and showcases of six or more acts we've never heard before. At those times I cannot deal with, "simultaneously press shift, select, option, EQ while waving a dead chicken overhead" to keep that idiot's vocal mic from squealing when he/she turns it the wrong way.
September 9, 2002 @01:57am
walkermedia

I have used a Yamaha ProMix 01 and a Yamaha 01v for several years now as live boards. It is true that these consoles require a different thought pattern than an analog board in some ways. But I have had TREMENDOUS success with them. In fact, I dumped a stereo house mix to tape one night, and the visiting band thought some of it sounded better than their CD. Once I became accustomed to mixing on them (the 01v especially), things were second nature - just as on an analog board.
No more hauling around reverbs, compressors, outboard eq's. No more crapped out patch cables. No more forgetting to add some delay on this song. No more fixed frequency eq. No more flying across the board to mute/unmute for the next song. I even set up an old Mac laptop running Vision and assigned patch changes to letters of the alphabet. It's pretty nice to have a mix ready to go in a tenth of a second or so. You can even mix from on stage pretty effectively if you take some rehearsal time to set things from a good mix position.
No more whining from the stage that "Last night I had WAY more in my monitor." Presets take care of that. I mixed a band for 4 years in all kinds of venues with the 01v. I don't think I was any slower than on an analog board, once I was familiar with the terrain. I could even store mixes by room or by song order. I also mixed a variety of "mystery" groups - you know - where they're playing just before you get set up. The first couple were... stressful. After that, no problem. In fact, I find myself cursing analog boards now for the tools that aren't right there.
So what DON'T I like? You can't roll them down the stairs and expect them to work. Other than that... uhhh... nothin'. I think they're an incredible tool for live sound.
Guess that puts me in a miority, huh? Maybe I'm just better :-)
September 9, 2002 @08:52pm
CaptainAnalogue

Originally posted by Ed Belknap

Actually you have to find the channel *before* you hit "Select"...
But when the guitarist tells you to put some highs & lows in his mix you have to find which channel is the guitarist's, regardless of whether it's an analog or digital board. Once you've found the guitar channel, you either A) identify that channel's particular dedicated and unique EQ knobs and then tweak (analog); or B) hit that channel's Select button and tweak the only EQ knobs on the whole board (digital). There really aren't any more mental steps in one than the other; it's just that they are distinctly *different* steps, and old habits die hard.

Perhaps there are no more "mental" steps, but there definately are more phsical steps to digital consoles. That takes time. When I'm subduing feedback BEFORE it becomes obvious, I don't have the time to select anything!@!!@ I barely have time to reach the proper channel EQ. Get out of the studio and try it sometime!!!
October 2, 2002 @07:41am
cmchamp

I've used Mackie, Allen & Heath, and Yamaha alalog boards in live situations. No problems, when you need to do something, you can do it.
Digital, however, I've only had the experience to use a malfunctioning Yamaha O2R. It's been to the factory, but 'there's nothing wrong with it' or so we've been told.
Yes, you need a different way to think when using a digital board, however, the biggest restriction on a board that's not dedicated (designed) for live sound is the limited mic inputs.
EQ, Routing, Dynamics I don't have a problem with on the digital board, however, the Aux busses, no way to eq them for use as monitor sends without outboard processors.
The learning curve is steap, which is OK for fixed installs such as churches, where inputs are mainly the same week to week.
After doing some research for a client, the Yamaha PM1D, or the Roland VM 7200 series boards look like the best options depending on your budget.
I've not quite made the decision to go digital yet for two reasons. 1: $$$$, 2: Haven't reached the point where my analog equipment is obsolete.
October 7, 2002 @04:33pm