I have a Venice f 32 and I'm going to review it.
I started a new thread as opposed to adding to a current one because they're getting long and it's hard to find something like this in a 100+ post thread.
I've had the desk about 2 months. I bought it new for about $2000 from a seller out of NYC with free shipping. Seriously. I know right? It's one of the best deals ever. Actually I wasn't even planning on buying it as I was getting by ok with my Profire 2626 which has good converters and some good outboard pre's and monitor controller but I just couldn't pass it up for that price. I figured I'd just sell it off at some point most likely for a profit (I've had lucrative offers but declined) but once I listened to it and put a mix together on it I really can't let it go.
You get 32 channels of quality warm punchy Midas mic pres. I'd put them in the category in between the Mackie Onyx and boutique outboard or boutique/vintage console pres. Fairly deep. Very pleasant and usable. Not my first choice for ribbons but they're clean enough that I think you could get away with it. Nothing to dislike about the pres. 24 are mono channels and 4 are stereo channels with concentric gain knobs. I don't see myself using these for much besides room mics but that's just fine. When am I going to need over 24 channels in a home studio? Even at mix down?
The EQ is a design based on the classic midas XL3 though they don't sound as good as the XL. It's always hard for me to to tell in a console what contributes what to the overall sound but I remember the XL3 EQ's to be more smooth and more refined. It's been a long time though and regardless these EQ are quite sophisticated. The EQ does sound very good. Very aggressive and the design is fantastically functional and useful in it's sweep and sound. I do have two things to nit pick about. There's no variable high pass filter. Just a fixed 80hz button. I come from a live background and I use those liberally. I know a lot of studio desks don't employ them but I've gotten to rely on them so much I don't like being without. However I can just use a plug in the DAW should I want so I can live with that. And honestly no console short of four times the street price has this that I've seen. Forgivable.
The other nit pick is the EQ is so cramped that no one short of an 8 year old girl can get in there and adjust with any speed. It's a trade off for having such a fantastically full featured EQ on a desk of this size. I wouldn't give up a single knob in exchange for room though. 4 bands of fully sweepable EQ with the center two bands having Q or bandwith knobs is heavenly! REAL EQ! LOTS OF IT! AND IT SOUNDS GOOD!
The summing buss in Midas consoles are thing of legend in the live industry. Even at large scale festivals I've worked a good portion of band engineers will prefer to run their consoles through the master bus in's on the Midas that's furnished by the sound company for support acts just to get the warmth and mojo of the summing buss. The one in the Venice doesn't disappoint. It doesn't splat or crackle when you hit it hard but it saturates and gives you a nice bit of compression and harmonic distortion that can be pleasant and not at all destructive until you really get into the red. Then it just sounds like overdrive. It sounds very good. I see no reason to ever need to add an outboard summing box with this console.
It's got 6 auxes that can be configured pre/post fader and EQ. The only thing they didn't fix from the previous Venice (which was a joke layout wise) is the configuration of the auxes. There are 2 that are labeled "monitor" switchable pre/post fader globally and pre/post EQ per channel. The others are labeled "aux" and switched pre/post fader only globally. Listen Midas.. don't presume how many auxes I need for wedges or cue mixes in your design. You just muck things up like you did the last time. Just give me the same controls on all 6 auxes and call them auxes! Once more they've built in some functionality by adding a fader flip function allowing you to make the group faders become aux master faders for using the desk as a monitor console. Problem is they only allow you do flip faders for the last 4 auxes and not the first 2 labeled "monitor"
??????????????? The $%&^????????????????
To review: They label the first two auxes "monitor" assuming you'd use them for wedges in a live situation and only those two. However they allow you to configure the desk as a monitor console but exclude allowing you to put the two auxes labeled MONITORS on master faders. Yup. I know. Exactly. So you can have all the monitor mixes on faders except the two labeled "monitors." WTF? This pretty much shoots using the desk in monitor mode in the foot. Having 4 of 6 auxes on faders but not the first two does me no good. NO GOOD. Obviously this isn't applicable in a studio environment anyway so who cares? Well I'd love to have bought one for the venue I work for for the monitor rig but that decreases the functionality over even the mediocre A&H desk we have already so OH WELL. Great job there Midas!
Back to the good stuff. 100mm faders in a flat tray. YAY! On a console of this price that's a great feature. They don't feel like P&G faders but they don't feel like cheap toy faders either. They're not bad. I like them. I'm not a fan of the new style fader cap/knob they've been going with on all their new consoles but you can change them if you want. The usual mackie style fader caps fit just fine.
The converters are really nice. Best ones I've ever owned. Right up there with Apogee. Seriously. And while the firewire bus and driver could be more feature rich and could allow lower buffer settings I feel it's solid as is and I've been running on 64 samples running Pro Tools 10 with not a single hick up once I got my PC configured right. I get 6ms round trip latency even through a Pro Tools session with no plugs or delay compensation on. More on that later. One of the only down sides I can see about using the converters is they only go up to 48khz. But honestly the desk and converters sound so nice and I don't work at 96 or 192 much anyway so I can let that go. Remember...$2000! 32X32! I feel the front end of the signal chain makes much more difference then the resolution of a good converter anyway. So just plug in your boutique pre's and don't sweet the resolution, It's gonna be an MP3 anyway right?
Monitoring and routing is a little different. This being a live desk there's no solo in place off the master buss. You have to use the separate monitor buss. However this isn't a problem for someone like me used to live sound working methods. I use the local monitor out section to feed my monitor switcher and the master buss outs to feed whatever outboard two track I want to bounce too should I not want to mix back in the box. The solo section is really nice for a console of this price so it's not been a problem at all. The solo buss is switchable PFL/AFL, it's stereo and stackable which are both huge. There's no "clear all" button or stack/defeat mode button and no separate solo level knob but that's ok. It's not caused any problem for me yet as there's a local monitor level control and phones level control. I found one oddity that's very indicative of Midas in that you have to solo the master buss to hear the mix or you hear nothing. On most live consoles if you have nothing solo'ed you get the L/R buss by default. But whatever just leave the stereo buss button depressed. It won't hurt anything.
It only have 4 groups. Kinda weak but I can live with it. I can group as much in the DAW and make steams so I don't think I'll use the groups that much anyway. It's the best spot to put my trackball on the console anyway.
Routing is very flexible using the on board routing switches allowing you to borrow outputs from channels 25-32 to use as outputs from the auxes, matrix section, groups and master busses. The only funky thing is since the firewire out of the master busses is pre fader and pre insert point you can't use outboard or do fader moves and capture that into your DAW. Remember this is a live console first and for most. There's a workaround though. Use groups or the matrix section to feed the DAW. The L/R buss signal at the matrix section is post fader and insert point. And if you can hear a difference with the matrix section in the signal path you've got better ears than me. This is only if you have some quality outboard buss compressor or EQ you want to use across the L/R buss. Most of us don't. I do wish there where some gain control of the returning firewire inputs at the channels though. There's not. You have to use the faders in your DAW if your levels are too hot coming in as the gains on the channels are bypassed. Which makes sense. Not a big a deal really.
All the inserts are single point 1/4" TRS unbalanced send/return so when interfacing a patchbay and outboard gear you'll have to deal with cabling and impedance issues. No big deal as long as you keep your wiring runs under control. The rest of the ins and outs are all XLR.
I'm not sure how the line in's are configured or if they bypass the pre. There's not mic/line switch per channel. Anyone?
I did have quite a time getting Pro Tools to play nice with the Dice firewire drivers. It's not really Midas' fault as far as I can tell. Lots of people with I/O boxes using the Dice chipsets have the same problem with Pro Tools and no other DAW. Good ole' Digidesign right? To get everything to play nice I used qualified firewire PCI and PCIe cards, put a fresh install of Win 7 with no updates on both my PC and laptop and configured them per Avids instructions. Since then the only problem I have is that PT can't handle any changes to the buffer size or resolution without restarting. It looses the clock sync. Annoying but not a problem since I work exclusively at 48k with this rig and haven't had to increase buffer size until it's time to mix and turn on delay compensation. There's no fix for this. However the whole thing is rock solid. I came in the studio to do this review and have had PT open with the desk on idling for about a week (I've been really busy.) I hit play and the session started rocking along with no problem! It even co-exists with windows audio from youtube and Spotify and such peacefully so far! Did I mention I get to mix on real faders with real EQ and real summing? SOOO worth it! And if I need to chart and recall a mix the desk is small enough that I can take a picture of it with my iPhone and fit the whole thing in one picture to be used to recall later with decent accuracy.
About the only real negative thing I can say about using it as a studio console is it has a cooling fan. It's quiet. Very quiet. But you can't turn it off. Maybe you could mod it though? It's not been a problem for me yet.
Well that's about it. It's the best 2 grand I've ever spend on studio gear. I'm back to mixing on a real console with real EQ, faders and summing like I've been doing since I was 15. I gave it up for the convenience of in the box mixing with a mouse but after getting a real desk back I can't believe I went without this long! I made about 6 records and several demos in my home studio mixing click at at time with a mouse or trackball. NO MORE. This thing makes everything sound better and I can put a mix together in minutes vs. hours. If I need automation it's in the box. If I need the recall accuracy that in the box mixing provides I can always set faders at unity and mix with a mouse which sucks but this would be for working tracks and not mixing so it's a mute point anyway.
All this quality hardware for that price? Freaking unreal! If you've been mixing in the box with a mouse do yourself a favor and whip out the credit card or sell off some converters or that 80's U87 or something and you can replace your mouse and outboard converters with a real console with real pre's, real faders, real summing and real serious EQ for less then the price of one serious mic! Not to mention it's a great live desk and built for the rigors of live use. Stout frame with zero flexing. Get a case and a split and go do locations work. I'm going to!
Ask any questions you like. If I don't know I'll try it out.
edit: I'll add a live audio review when I get a break in my crazy schedule to take it out and I have pictures I can post if anybody wants.