Views on the current crop of digital desks for live sound or broadcast/recording. - Gearspace.com
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Views on the current crop of digital desks for live sound or broadcast/recording.
Old 27th January 2009
Lives for gear
Roland's Avatar
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Talking Views on the current crop of digital desks for live sound or broadcast/recording.

I started this thread because the New Remote Truck thread was vearing way off course. Obviously there have been many new digital desks hit the market in the last couple of years and although many are intended for FOH live sound, I know that Steve Remote for one is using his M7 in a different scenario and I myself have bought into the Digidesign Venue for both live sound and location recording (it has a protools backend) scenario's.

Perhaps Steve Remote will chip in and tell us his experience and how he's using his?

To everyone else, what are you using, if any, and how, and what has been your experience, both good or bad!

Old 28th January 2009
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years
I'm firmly in the digital camp these days and don't think I could go back to dealing with analog boards. If for nothing else, the aspect of recall is what makes it for me.

I use pretty much the entire line of Yamaha consoles here with the most often used being the PM5D, M7CL, DM2000 and O1V96. Each fits a different need and do quite well. Yamaha is (unfortunately) not really known for sonics, especially on their lower end consoles. I find with all of them that I still bring outboard preamps of one sort or another and with all of them, I have to run an external clock as Yamaha's clocks are really lacking.

More recently, I've been playing with the Venue and the new Digico SD8. The SD8 really impresses me in a way that I have not been impressed with other boards. If they could just fix the "undo" bug, they'd be set. (The undo button can cause the entire console to reset- OOPS!) From a recording standpoint, you can take a MADI feed directly off the preamps which are quite good. Internal effects are also pretty fantastic as well. Had a couple shows spec'd to use this, but then the clients went under. Oh well. I'll get to use it seriously soon enough.

I was also pretty impressed with the Digi Venue system. My only complaint there was that the routing was not quite flexible enough. It was tough to get everything to route as needed for my more complex jobs. I liked the PT integration and the use of plugins for the system, though. That was very cool. On my less complicated shows, I'd really like to give it a run...

Old 28th January 2009 | Show parent
Lives for gear
🎧 10 years
Originally Posted by fifthcircle ➑️
On my less complicated shows, I'd really like to give [the Digidesign Venue] a run...
You nailed it there. I thought the Venue was laid out very strangely. Going back and forth between the channel section and the center of the console was rather odd. I would have rather seen things like 48V and pads above the faders rather than to the right of them. It would take some getting used to things like that and at this gig I didn't have time to get used to anything. Maybe I'm not being fair as the only gig I've ever used one was at a festival. I was mixing a large band with horns and lots of vocals, all on a thrown-together festival patch. So between the console not being as intuitive as I felt it could have been (I walked up to a PM5D for the first time and just went) the festival patch was hacked to hell. So I felt like I was switching between fader layers searching for things more than actually mixing. Real console tape would probably have helped too; I don't like to rely on the digital displays when they are not always displayed.

On to other consoles... I haven't had much experience with the VI6 but would love to work on it one (and probably many) day(s). I have watched people use it and it seems very easy to navigate. I've spent most of my time on the M7CL and LS9 with a little less PM5D experience. They all have their place, but if I were to buy a console to meet riders it would be the M7. Most people who have spec'd a 5D will accept an M7, so why not save $20,000? The touch screen is very functional with everything available at a glance; many basic functions are available without using the touch screen. The PM5D is much less "screen-oriented" and more single-function knobs are given such as compressor and gate settings. The 5D is a little easier to walk up to and mix. Too bad that it uses USB to access Studio Manager, making wireless tablet mixing hard.

I use an LS9 a lot, mixing both FOH and monitors. For FOH it does a decent job. Setting up your starting point can be a bit of a hassle because of the cursor keys and jog wheel. Doing simple tasks take way too long, such as setting a HPF on a channel. (Select channel, cursor to turn HPF on, cursor to adjust frequency, spin jog wheel until you've reached desired frequency, repeat per channel.) Using Studio Manager along with the LS9 speeds up some of these tasks, but it's kind of a pain to be going back and forth between laptop and console. The LS9 definitely has the best price. You can get a 16 channel LS9 for around $4000, add an expansion card and a pair of external 8-channel preamps, and you're at 32 channels for less than $5000. I use Studio Manager as the controller much of the time as a lot of my gigs require the console to be in a less than desirable FOH position. I've done corporate work, beach gigs (not putting a digital console in the sand), rainy days, etc. where the console stays on the side of the stage or even in the truck and I can walk around (or sit on the beach under an umbrella) and mix from a tablet PC using Studio Manager.

The LS9 for monitors is a different story, however. I like using an analog console for monitor duty and the LS9 is completely opposite from the reasons why. The number of buttons it takes to go to sends on faders, cue a mix, and access the graphic EQ is stunning. It seems that sometimes the cue follows the send that you're working on, sometimes it drops it and you're left going to another layer to re-cue your mix. It's odd that on the LS9 you can put the cue mix on the master fader whereas on the M7CL you have to use the stupid little monitor level knob. I will say that it is pretty amazing to be able to send 16 mixes, all with graphic EQ, and 32 channels in such a small footprint.

Well, that's about it for now. I have owned the O1V, O1V96, Spirit 328 and 324 Live, Tascam DM24, and Ramsa DA7, but those are all quite outdated except the O1V96. Let me just say about it that it's a great console for the money if that's your price point.
Old 30th January 2009 | Show parent
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audiothings's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I use an LS9 a lot, mixing both FOH and monitors. For FOH it does a decent job. Setting up your starting point can be a bit of a hassle because of the cursor keys and jog wheel. Doing simple tasks take way too long, such as setting a HPF on a channel. (Select channel, cursor to turn HPF on, cursor to adjust frequency, spin jog wheel until you've reached desired frequency, repeat per channel.)

lots of hours on the ls9 here. Can't complain about the sound quality or feature set myself... have not spent much time on the classic analog biggies, so nothing truly great to compare with. Quite a luxury for me to have per channel dynamics, all the 31 band eqs (for monitors), reverbs, delays etc. in such a small footprint... you hardly ever have to leave the sweet spot. But the need to use the cursor keys and jog wheel to control HPFs and dynamics are my big peeve. And VCA (DCA) groups are also sorely missed.

nevertheless, i think its a great console, fully expanded at under $10k... I'd heartily recommend it over any analog system in the price range...

Old 4th February 2009 | Show parent
Super Moderator
Remoteness's Avatar
🎧 15 years

I’m glad that you started this thread and I'm sorry it has taken this long for me to respond.
It seems like there hasn't been enough time in the day for me these days.

You’re right it seems like everyone is manufacturing a digital desk nowadays.

All I can say is, I wish the various manufacturers and their design teams contemplated creating a digitally controlled analog desk before leaping into the totally digital world. I come from an old school back ground; I love that thick (fat) analog sound, but presets and recallable features are a must in our fast paced world of live recording and broadcast production. Couldn’t we have held on just a little bit longer?

IMHO, a digitally controlled analog console would (have been?) be the best of both worlds.
I’m disappointed that this concept never caught on.

I’m using a Yamaha M7CL48 for mixing and its preset capabilities only.
We never tracked with it and would never consider doing so.
We’re using external word clock and analog mic pres.
When the client needs (wants) a more powerful digital desk or would rather go back to an analog state of mind we just swap it out.

Technologically and economically speaking delivering our facilities in any available configuration the client wants is the key to our longevity.

With all that said I’m also firmly into the digital camp and cannot consider going back to an analog desk during a multiple band live teleproduction or live concert recording…

Well, unless someone comes up with an awesome digitally controlled analog board that is to die for!
Whether you’re dreaming about the perfect digitally controlled analog desk or you’re going with a completely digital console the recall aspect is key and an essential part of our world today.

When we come up for air, I want to demo the DiGiCo SD8 desk.
DiGiCo desks sound awesome and their service is on point.
Setting up a demo in 2009 is a must do for us.
Old 4th February 2009 | Show parent
Lives for gear
Roland's Avatar
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
My experiences with Digico have also been good re sound quality and build. In the end I didn't go that way because of price, limitations with plugin's and footprint. If you get the chance check the Digidesign Venue out.

Irrespective of the price I found sound quality to be excellent, there were numerous pro's whom I really respected saying that quality wise it was as good as anything out there, the third party plugin's capability and the fact it directly interfaces with the industry standard pro-tools swung it for me. Price wise, the Digico was over my budget, however, I would have held off if I had found that the Venue wasn't IMHO as good sounding. I also like the fact that although it's a digital desk, the desk is in the box and the console is only a control surface, obviously not digital controlled analogue, but the next step on.


Old 4th February 2009 | Show parent
Super Moderator
Remoteness's Avatar
🎧 15 years
The DiGiCo SD8 starts about a much better price point.
I believe list price is around $50K USD.
Not too bad at all.

With that said, I totally hear where you're coming from with regard to the Digidesign Venue, but I'm holding off for a bit longer. I'm waiting to see what the next generation Digidesign desk will prove.

I'm the meantime, there are plenty of Digidesign Venue or Profile systems for rental, so options are still out there when the client suggests that type of recording system.

Talking about good sound quality the Soundcraft Vi6 sounds awesome and is one of the most user friendly desks I worked on.
I wish it had more outputs.
Old 5th February 2009 | Show parent
Lives for gear
Jim vanBergen's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Great Thread-

On the smaller end, there is the Roland, which is a great deal for a good number of inputs, and integral digital snake, and low cost...I really want to like this desk, but have had big problems working with it. Now, I could do a great 2-mix on this, and record to USB stick at the same time, for a cheap, easy footprint, if I could get past the sonics and user interface.

De facto standard: I use the PM5D-RH the most due to its availability and low cost...clocked at 96k, using outboard compression, this is a great deal. I've mixed tons of shows for broadcast on this...it's a fine desk if you don't have another 100k to spend.

digidesign: Profile is my fave over Venue for size and ease of operation. Since v2.2 software I think it sounds pretty decent. I hated Venue previous to v 2.14. For a software-based desk, it's good at most things, but great at NONE of them.

I'm a huge fan of DiGiCo. D1, D5, D5t are all solid desks that sound really good at 48k, are easy to operate, and have wonderful user interface and optic or madi snakes. The SD7 and SD8 are a joy to work with, the compact size and price on the SD8 makes is a HUGE contender.

The Studer Vista is phenomenal, and from the Vista 5 to Vista 8, I have had VERY good experiences on this desk. User operation, sonics, EQ, dynamics, ease of I/O, and scalability. Once you have used the Studer, the Soundcraft is an impotent baby brother with limited options. Now, don't get me wrong- the Soundcraft has a LOT of strengths from the Studer line, and if you have not mixed on a Vista, it's quite a desk, even with limited I/O. Now that this console is becoming a standard on many video trucks, I'm loving working there again.

My $0.02. Cheers!
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