Moving the bar - up!
The Behringer XR12 comes at an amazing price point for the powerful features inside. I almost couldn't believe what they were claiming, but everything was true. To start with, the unit itself is really nicely sized and looks great. As soon as I dropped it behind our main mixer, everyone was "ooh and ahh" every time they saw it. It definitely sets itself apart from other equipment. I love that you can have three modes to connect with, although the bootstrap to get up can be a bit clumsy at first. In the wifi router mode, you can connect directly to the unit from multiple different apps (Android and iOS) and feel secure that no one is going to muck up your settings. When connected on an existing network, the password is key, as you want to keep it private. I didn't try the direct ethernet connection, but I'm sure it's great.
There are plenty of inputs and outputs, and all of them are solid. The USB connection is stable and solid once you connect to the XR12, but I noticed that upon booting up, if you don't go looking for the USB device, it will sometimes act like it's not there. Not a huge deal, and easily worked around, but I hope they fix that in an upcoming firmware upgrade.
The jewel of the device, though, is the applications. I tried three version: iOS on iPad, Android on tablet and phone. All worked fine, and honestly, both have their own strengths. The iOS app looks the best and is probably my main work machine. It is easy to understand and use, and all the controls are conveniently located where I would expect them to be. The Android versions may not look as nice, but they have a couple of different features that make Android more useful in some cases. For example, the RTA waveforms are far more easy to read and differentiate on Android (due to color and such) than they are on the iPad. However, depending on the size of your Android device, you may have to switch between banks of channels in the app, which isn't the case in the iPad version. I know Behringer is working hard to bring the two apps into parity, and when they do, none of this will matter, but for now, you might prefer one interface over the other. I did notice a lag on the iOS app between when you hit the control for the EQ and when it appears. This lag wasn't present on the Android versions.
Feature-wise, you're MORE than maxed out with this unit. You can adjust gain, cutoffs, insert effects, assigns sends and busses, set EQ's and more, all from your tablet. You can save and restore specific scenes and settings, and even customize the interface. For example, I wanted to show channels 1-4, and then my two effects channels, one send and another input channel, all with custom colors and labels on the scribble strips. Doable? Absolutely. It looked (and worked) great. Really, this device brings you into the realm of a full digital mixing station, and that's pretty darn impressive for this price. The options for effects, applied to channels or inserted into mixes, is astounding. Not only can you choose from a 30+ library of effects, but you can tweak every setting on each effect, and use it on the channel insert or effects send. Seriously, this is pretty amazing technology. A perfect example of where this mixer has raised the bar (up!) is when I had this inline for HoW and I was getting some ringing on the lapel mic of one of the actors. I was able to pull up a True EQ, find the ring and bring it down. Then, because I knew it would be happening every time the actual production was going, I saved that setting and was able to recall it later each night. Completely ringed out with nada a concern about other settings. Sweet!
The USB recorder (two channel, assignable) is sufficient, but the apps need work here. It would be easy for them to add additional functionality around playback and recording options, and I suspect Behringer will improve this at some point. It's enough for now that I can record off the unit, and playback pre-loaded tracks in my HoW setting. Later, I'm hoping for things like queuing up playlists, setting A-B points, and transport controls with greater granularity. As frequently as Behringer has been issuing updates, I'm hoping they'll get to this in the next six months to a year.
I gave this review 1/2 point less than perfect ONLY because I know there is a couple of really great features that I feel should be in this model, as opposed to the XR18. Specifically, ability to record more than two tracks (based on my electronics and firmware background, I believe this unit is capable of handling at least four track recording), and the oh-so-delicious auto-mixing feature. Man, I sure wish that I could auto-mix with the XR12 or XR16. I suppose Behringer does this to differentiate their line a bit (and it clearly works to some extent, because I lust after the XR18), but I feel these are upgrades that could make the XR12 the defacto standard for this new breed of device. In the meantime, there's not much more than Behringer could add here without just giving us the whole farm; it's impressive. I highly recommend this product, and the entire line in particular. I don't know that I'll be using any other equipment, in our application, except maybe a full-line digital mixer going forward. Kudos Behringer!