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Old 02-10-2011, 09:45 PM   #12
Human being with feelings
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,012

This product still does not seem to be for sale anywhere, but I had a couple of recent experiences that are relevant:

I got a chance to try a Presonus StudioLive console, and it was frankly awesome. The integration and thoughtfulness of capability-to-price ratio is outstanding. The two things I would have thought of as limitations on such a piece of kit turned out to be well-addressed:

- Having only one channel strip to work on at a time was actually fine, as the switching was very easy and intuitive. You can have independent settings for all channels operating in real-time, you just highlight the channel you want to adjust and do all your effects, dynamics, and eq tweaking in one corner of the console, on one channel at a time.

- Non-motorized faders are almost a complete non-issue. The recall system is brilliantly integrated with LEDs that tell you where the faders were.

Presonus seems to have nailed the 80/20 approach in terms of achieving large-format, expensive console functionality with a minimum of expense by pushing most of the functionality into software and using only the components necessary to give easy and intuitive knob-and-fader tactile control. It works and "feels" like a true mixing console, but it's really a control surface/interface. As per usual with Presonus, the sound quality was fine, while the build quality seemed a bit questionable for genuine "live" use (especially if taken on the road), but it's a pretty impressive piece of kit, especially for the price. (The included StudioOne DAW software is not half-bad, either).

The other relevant tidbit is that I also saw a Behringer control surface with motorized faders that absolutely sucked, for one primary reason: the faders were noisy. (they were also slow, which negates a ton of the purpose of automated faders IMO)

I never even thought of this, but having the equivalent of 16 or 32 motorized dimmer switches in a recording studio is potentially a serious problem. No wonder good automated consoles are so expensive! You not only have the acoustical noise of motors, but also each of those motors is an inductive source of EMF to seep into your patch cables, guitars, etc. The more those faders are flying, the more little magnetic fields you are generating.

We all know that the weakest links in any audio chain are knobs, faders, interconnects, etc. Anything mechanical and not soldered down is subject to noisiness, scratchiness, intermittent weirdness, HF loss from capacitance between pieces of metal, and so on.

Think about anything in your studio or instrument collection that involves knobs, and then consider how much it would cost to install motors behind each of those, and then consider how much it would cost to buy and install motors that were silent, fast, smooth, reliable, and thoroughly shielded for EMF... suddenly it starts to make a lot of sense that Penny and Giles motorized faders cost $100+ apiece-- these are precision components.

Great software might be expensive to develop, but you only have to build it once. Mechanical components still have to be manufactured one at a time, and 32 flying motors in a recording studio is potentially a huge problem unless the manufacturing specs and tolerances are very precise... you can't just stamp that stuff off a sheet-metal machine and expect it to operate with silent precision for ten years.

The Presonus approach seems to basically minimize the mechanical components down to the bare necessities to achieve the tactile interface and functionality of a full-featured mixing console, while pushing the hard work into software. It does a very good job of this, and manages to skip a lot of knobs and components without much impeding the workflow: it's a control surface that feels and works like a mixing console.

The Behringer approach here leaves me extremely skeptical (although I would be happy to be surprised)... it seems to be the typical Behringer approach of packing in the biggest nominal feature list possible at the lowest possible price. Sometimes that works, and Behringer does achieve some very capable gear at very low price points. But sometimes it sucks, and Behringer also produces a lot of worthless garbage that has a great feature list at a very low price, but that is essentially unusable.

$2500 is a significant amount of money, and is enough to buy competent but less-fully-featured digital mixing consoles from other vendors. Sound quality and audio functionality has been getting cheaper and cheaper over the past couple decades, but this Behringer device seems to have an awful lot of moving parts.
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