First gig with the X32
A day in the life of a live sound engineer and his new Behringer X32 (conclusion at the bottom of the review)
1. Wake up at 7AM to complete and repeat a couple of Behringer webinars to make sure I'm ready for the first show with my X32
2. Use the headliner's input list of 25 defined inputs to pre-build my channels, rough routing, basic channel inserts based on the input types, create the digital scribble script, and save the scene.
3. Arrive at the venue at 12:15 PM for integration into the house system (decided to run through the outboard EQs which were already set for the room), set up and test stage box and digital snake, test the integration between the X32 and the other gear (all monitors work and appropriately assigned, check FOH left and right are working correctly, verify house eq is good, and set up for 32-channel multi-track recording.
4. Done with all pre-show setup and testing at 1:15 PM (easy thanks to the X32 and already installed sound system).
5. Receive word that the headliner will not be arriving at 3PM as expected. ETA is 4PM.
6. Band arrives at 5PM (2 hours late), and turn out to be a great bunch of guys.
7. Band load in and setup, including tuning the Rhodes keyboard, finished at 6PM (one hour before doors open).
8. Engineer receives help from friends to run mics and cables, finished at 6:30PM.
9. Sound check commences with the following issues:
a) Monitor power dies due to someone stepping on, tripping over, or otherwise accidentally disconnecting the power cable from the outlet during band setup - had to trace the power cable from the amp rack on stage right to the appropriate outlet back stage to verify/find/fix the issue.
b) Band's input list is not current and so requires last minute routing and input configuration changes.
c) There are two drummers sitting next to each other on a modified drum riser and they want their own separate monitor mixes. Re-routing of monitor cables and connections is required to accommodate. It's now after 7PM (doors are open).
d) The cable going to one of the-now-two drum monitors found to have died, most likely due to cable damage sustained during the set up of the drums and monitor positioning. Replace cable.
e) Found snare mic or cable is probably bad on the #2 snare drum. Decide to fix between the 1st and 2nd band due to pressure to get the show on the road.
f) Thank friends for their help.
10. Complete sound check and save scene for recall. It is now 7:45PM (downbeat was supposed to have been at 7:30PM).
11. Add cables and mics to accommodate 4 vocalists and a 3-piece horn section.
12. Line and monitor check completed at 8PM.
13. The opener starts immediately at 8PM (no time for a full sound check... gotta dial them in on the fly, which takes about 1-1/2 songs).
14. Enjoy the heck out of the opening band... a funky, soulful, talented, high-energy, dance-your-socks-off experience.
15. Switch out the stage, fix the snare #2 issue (found to be a bad SM57), and re-load the opening band's scene.
16. Take a 10 minute break at 9:40PM.
17. Start mixing the headliner at 9:50PM.
18. Enjoy the talent and stage presence of this versatile jam band, but have trouble getting the mud out of the mix due to high stage volume.
19. Stage volume increases dramatically throughout the show, leading to intermittent feedback issues to be resolved. Eventually, the stage volume is so high that there is more bass guitar coming through the bass vocal mic than vocals. Near the end of the show, the drumming duo is (amazingly) in the back of the mix and the only inputs running to the FOH (main) speakers are vocals, drums, and one of the four keyboards.
20. At 11:45PM, I give up on FOH mixing and let the band finish their set out with me essentially just monitoring for issues like feedback and monitor mix adjustment requests, as the stage volume issue has made it impossible to fix the mix any more than I have. Riding faders for solos is no longer an option and there is no longer any dynamic range adjustments I can do as an engineer to bring the mix close to in balance.
21. At 12:20AM, the band plays its final note, and the promoter makes his last announcements from the stage.
22. Exit music plays until 12:30AM, at which time break-down and load out begins.
23. After packing up the X32, stage box, computer, microphones, and digital snake, I say "screw it" (with the promoter's approval) to dealing with the cables and re-integration of the house board until another day. It's 1:15AM, and since I don't have a radio in my truck, I stew over the issues I had tonight for the entire drive home.
24. Return home and unload at 2:15AM.
25. Have some food and a martini that's about 10 hours overdue at 3AM.
26. After unwinding with a little low-brow comedy shows on TV, I go to bed at 5AM.
After all of that, I am so happy I bought the Behringer X32, S16 stage boxes, and digital snake. Sure, the sound was a little compressed due to the D/A converters going to FOH. But that board saved my tush last night. Had I run the house board, which is a really nice 32-channel Allen & Heath, I would have been up the creek. There is no way I could have done all of the adjustments I needed to do to de-mudify the headliner with the house setup. I would have needed a full wall of rack compressors and other gear. And the ability to save the scene for the headliner was vital, as about half of the inputs between the opener and the headliner were shared with 30 inputs required (including the sharing) in order to accommodate both bands.
My conclusion is that I made the right decision to trust Behringer on this mixer. The X32 exceeded my expections on this first live run. It did so even with all of the positive reviews I read during my extensive pre-purchase research. It is, in my opinion, the best "under $20,000" mixer I've had the pleasure of using.