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What's the difference between Large, Medium, and Small Format mixers?
Old 24th January 2013
  #1
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What's the difference between a Small, a Medium, and a Large Format mixer?

What's the difference between "Large Format", "Medium Format", and a "Small Format" mixers?

Clue: I've just put it down on my technical rider as "Rum to Coke ratio"

... is there an actual difference or is it just nonsense jargon?

Last edited by Trad Anon; 24th January 2013 at 06:26 PM.. Reason: xxx
Old 24th January 2013
  #2
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It's the same difference as Tall, Grande, and Venti.
Old 24th January 2013
  #3
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Thanks for that brew.

I'm still a bit confused however ...

What do you get if you cross a Small Format Mixer with Large Format Features?
Old 24th January 2013
  #4
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All those 'large format' features in a 'smaller format'. How small are you actually talking?
Old 24th January 2013
  #5
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Well, that's a good question mijome07, I don't know.
Old 24th January 2013
  #6
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Aside from the size differences, a few of the differences that jump out at me are:

  • Most LFAC's have a dedicated monitor return a.k.a. "Tape Return" section coming back from the "tape machine". Small format mixers usually don't have this feature.

  • Most 'modern' LFAC's have an In-Line architecture which means that if you have 48 Mic inputs, then at mix-down you would have a minimum of 96 channels for returns. This is excluding aux inputs and stereo FX returns.

  • Most LFAC's have built in TT patch bays pre-wired usually terminated to EDAC's. Most mid-format desks do not have this and I've never seen a small format console come with a pre wired patchbay.

  • Most Mid-size consoles have either an 8 or 16 buss architecture which means they have anywhere from 8-16 dedicated outputs (in addition to direct outs) that can be hard wired to the "tape machine" or DAW. Most of the LFAC's I've worked with come with a 24 buss architecture. Small format mixers don't usually have these output busses but tend to rely on Direct outs or Inserts for sending signals to tape.

  • On LFAC's the monitor section will usually be pretty extensive allowing the use of at least two sets of discrete monitors with individual volume controls as well as 2 sets of 2track inputs and maybe even a dual set of stereo headphones you can use as another driver for a set of speakers. My mid-size desk has this layout so the monitor facilities are really dependent on the design of the particular desk as well.

  • Most LFAC's have discrete insert send and returns points, whereas most mid and small-size consoles have combo inserts which must be used with Y-cables.


Those are just a few that come to mind. That being said there are many mid-size consoles with similar features to LFAC's.
Old 25th January 2013
  #7
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Thank you really very much for your kind reply Funny Cat, and yes, that accords with my own general understanding of the territory!

You post a few rules of thumb used in generally defining an LFAC (Large Format Analog Console):

1) Dedicated monitor / tape return
2) In-Line architecture
3) Built in tt bantam patch bays and/or terminated to EDAC's
4) Bus Architecture
5) Two each of: monitors outs / 2-track returns / headphone outs
6) Discrete insert send and returns points

So, in-keeping with the spirit of the thing I've gone off and found some small format mixers which break these rules!

1) Allen & Heath GS1
2) Allen & Heath GS1 again
3) Calrec Broadcast Line Mixer (re EDAC's), and glensound GS-GC25 (re Bantam tt)
4) Allen & Heath GS1 again
5) SSL Matrix 16 (I mention this one because half way down the source page [below] it mentions that this mixer won the 2009 TEC award in the small format catagory)
6) TL audio tubetracker m1 (In the summary to the left of the source page [below] it is defined as “small format”)

And so I still can't really understand what people mean when they say "Large / Medium / Small Format", the terms are still quite nebulous.

Help!

-----------------------------------------

Sources:

1) Allen & Heath GS1
2) A&H again
3) EDAC: Analog Recording Console Forum • View topic - Calrec Broadcast Line Mixer, Info and Project Plans and Bantam: Glensound Electronics Ltd
4) A&H again
5) SSL Matrix 16 Channel 40 input 6 Aux DAW Controller & Analog Console
6) TL Audio M1 Tubetracker
Old 25th January 2013
  #8
PDC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trad Anon ➡️
What's the difference between "Large Format", "Medium Format", and a "Small Format" mixers?
The larger you get, the greater the crosstalk, noise, heat, power consumption, and in some cases the less phantom power you have available.

I would not call any of your consoles listed "large format" except for certain models under no. 3. Large format consoles do not have to have patch bays attached.
Old 25th January 2013
  #9
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Thank you PDC!

Exactly, none of the mixers I provided links to could be considered "Large Format"! (or did you misunderstand me?)

(I've edited post 7 in bold to make it clearer. The mixers I listed are all "Small format" with what might be called "Large format features", not "Large format" with "Small format features"!!!)

I could try it the other way round for example the Cadac E-series is a "Large Format" but is not inline. Maybe I'll try that another day ...

-

Regarding your other points;

Power consumption and heat yes, they generally go up, but are these defining features?

Crosstalk and noise generally go down in larger mixers don't they, since they are generally better constructed?

Phantom could drop if there's too much hanging off it I guess, but that wouldn't vary with the format would it, only the available current drive and whether there is separated or grouped phantom wiring? I'm not too clear on it but not a format defining indicator surely?

Regarding attached patch bays, you're right, the Allen & Heath GL3800 is quoted by A&H as "Large Format" and has no external patch bay.
Old 25th January 2013
  #10
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The "F" in LFAC can stand for "frame" too. Then it makes sense as it's refering to the size / weight. The "number of busses" mentioned above is a fairly good rule of thumb as small desks usually have 8 busses where the large desks have 24 busses.
Old 25th January 2013
  #11
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Thanks for the heads up Bassmankr!!

....

The Allen & Heath GL3800 is quoted by A&H as "Large Format" but has only 8 busses!!!

Weight is of course a consideration but if Behringer put a brick in the back of their ub2442fx (and yes there is room, I looked) would that suddenly make it "Large Format"? Actually I shouldn't give them any ideas! (only kidding behringer I love you really! )

But seriously, quite a close example I'd agree but:
TL audio M1 tubetracker: 35 KG (Source 1) "Small Format" (Source 2)
Allen & Heath 3800: 33 KG (Source 3) "Large Format" (Source 4)
Also the "Large format" (according the their site) EURODESK SX2442FX at 8.6 KG (according to their manual).

------------------------------

Sources
1) http://gpointstudio.free.fr/Studio%2...ubetracker.pdf
2) TL Audio M1 Tubetracker
3) GL3800 | ALLEN & HEATH // WORLD CLASS MIXING
4) See the manual, i.e. same as (3)
Old 25th January 2013
  #12
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How is the Tubetrack M1 not small format? It's a Mackie 1604 with valves in. Definitely small format.
Old 25th January 2013
  #13
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I think the main requirement for a LFC is it has to be huge, and look like the control panel from a space rocket.

Because the number 1 reason we still have a LFC in our place is because the clients see it and go "yeah! we're in a proper studio". If a rack of Focusrite 428s could please the clients I assure you, we would do that.
Old 25th January 2013
  #14
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Thanks tc live!!

----

Yes the TL audio M1 can only be considered small format - if you thought I was saying otherwise then you misunderstand my intended meaning in Post 7 ...

Reference 6 provided at the bottom of post 7 is a link to a sound on sound article where they, the professionals, designate the M1 as small format; but yet it has discrete inserts which was one of Funny Cat's "Large Format" indicators from post 6.

So which is it Large or Small?

If it is, as you say, "small format", then the "discrete inserts" rule does not tell me if it's "large or small format" and so unfortunately does not give me a definitive answer.

----

Re the spaceship control panel thing, yes I'm down with that too but it's not a definitive indicator ... exactly how like a space ship does it have to be in order to be designated "Large Format"?

1) How many knobs and buttons?
2) How many flashing lights?
3) Does it have to have a Radar type display screen?
4) Is the adjacent 2 inch tape obligatory?

Etc
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trad Anon ➡️
Thanks tc live!!

----

Yes the TL audio M1 can only be considered small format - if you thought I was saying otherwise then you misunderstand my intended meaning in Post 7 ...

Reference 6 provided at the bottom of post 7 is a link to a sound on sound article where they, the professionals, designate the M1 as small format; but yet it has discrete inserts which was one of Funny Cat's "Large Format" indicators from post 6.

So which is it Large or Small?

If it is, as you say, "small format", then the "discrete inserts" rule does not tell me if it's "large or small format" and so unfortunately does not give me a definitive answer.
Well it needs to have a combination of lots of 'professional' features not just any one. Discreet inserts are part of the picture, but you can't put discrete inserts on a Mackie 12 channel mixer and call it an LFC!


Quote:
Re the spaceship control panel thing, yes I'm down with that too but it's not a definitive indicator ... exactly how like a space ship does it have to be in order to be designated "Large Format"?

1) How many knobs and buttons?
2) How many flashing lights?
3) Does it have to have a Radar type display screen?
4) Is the adjacent 2 inch tape obligatory?

Etc
I think when, like us, you're LFC sits there mainly because the clients think it looks cool and sets us apart from home studios and small project studios trying to pass themselves off as pros; then the more flashy features you can get, the better. We only really use the first 16 channels of our 40 (well, it's 80 but in-line, you know... so we sort of use 32 of 80) but the rest does look good for show. We still have the automation computer and the CRT screen sits next to it all day switched on but doing nothing (although the computer is in the machine room because it's so loud!) with it's green writing on black background, haha. You know how it is. To be honest, when clients are paying £300 a day to be in the studio, this is half the fun to them. Big desk, big speakers, big pro tools rig, tons of mics that they'll never use. It's of bugger all use but for the non-signed clients who basically do music because they like it, being surrounded by all the stuff they see in the classic rockumentries is all part of the fun and that's why we still have it, and don't resent the satanic power bill that the desk runs up.
Old 25th January 2013
  #16
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Well, first off, large format mixers tend to be large.............no, wait....


Funny cat basically nailed it.

There are a few other details, but you get the idea.

.
Old 25th January 2013
  #17
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How about this:

A LFAC will certainly utilize multichannel conectors (EDAC, DL, Dsub), whereas a mixer will not.

A LFAC will have 2-4 monitor speaker outputs, a mixer does not.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trad Anon ➡️
Thank you PDC!

Exactly, none of the mixers I provided links to could be considered "Large Format"! (or did you misunderstand me?)

(I've edited post 7 in bold to make it clearer. The mixers I listed are all "Small format" with what might be called "Large format features", not "Large format" with "Small format features"!!!)

I could try it the other way round for example the Cadac E-series is a "Large Format" but is not inline. Maybe I'll try that another day ...

-

Exactly. None of the "mixers" you listed could be considered large format because a. None of them are large and b. They need to have most (if not all) of the features I listed above. There are exceptions to the rule but in general, LFAC's have at least a majority of the features I outlined. See TC's post below.


As far as an in-line architecture is concerned please note that I used the term "Modern LFAC's" because before there were in-line designs there were split-designs which includes manufacturers like Cadac, who make excellent consoles by the way. Many of the older LFC's are in fact split-designs. I believe in-line consoles were created to save space. I could be wrong but that's what I have been told in the past by older engineers, many of whom worked primarily on split-design consoles.


My mentor trained me on an in-line console but used to use it as a split-design console when tracking because he was so used to working that way in the 60's. My mid-size mixing console is a split-design. It has 32 channels and 16 busses, i.e. it is a 32x16x2. So if you are wondering, that's what those numbers designate when you see them listed in a console's spec sheets.




Quote:
Originally Posted by tc_live ➡️
Well it needs to have a combination of lots of 'professional' features not just any one. Discreet inserts are part of the picture, but you can't put discrete inserts on a Mackie 12 channel mixer and call it an LFC!



...
Old 25th January 2013
  #19
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LFAC is just a general term so that when we see it used we generally know what someone is talking about. We don't really need a definitive set of rules for that term.

The smaller sized desk of the two I have is a digitally controlled analog Otari Concept 1. While being only 6 feet wide it's over 900 pounds in weight. Maybe it fits the LFAC term however it's the smallest option of three they made available (32/40/48 input modules).

The desk layout has 32 dual path inline input channels with both upper and lower paths having it's own dedicated full EQ and long throw motorized faders (basically 64 inputs in 32 module spaces). Typically "inlines" may have one long fader and one knob controlling path gain or one long fader and one short fader, also inlines can share EQ or have the secondary signal with limited EQ though this description is far from being set in stone. The "dual path inlines" are more like two separate channels on one input module strip though with my desk the two paths share the 10 auxes and inserts which through digital control in the master section gets routing assigned and automated. Again with terms like "inline" and "dual path inline", they are grey general terms and it's best to not get hung up on the term specifics and just look closely at what each desk does and how it does it. If you must get specific maybe it's best just to classify desk layout into two types, the "inline" type and the "split" type (those with separate moniter input modules, typical of the older desk layout).

Continuing on, the desk has it's own separate computer for routing automation and recall, 24 busses, a built in patchbay, three separate 4 rack space power supplies (one of which is just for dynamics automation), and extensive separate controls with it's monitering to nearfields - mains - studio speakers - cues - talkback. It has all the above posts listed traits and then some. One more trait you can add to the list if you really need a list is signal HEADROOM and is why you can have so many inputs going to the 2 buss at mix time with less problems (you better gain stage properly and really watch yourself with lots of inputs on that Mackie).

You are going to need to add quite a few bricks to get that Behringer up to fighting weight lol. Then again given the Otari's original selling price of $90k you better get something extra for it other than weight.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trad Anon ➡️

Regarding attached patch bays, you're right, the Allen & Heath GL3800 is quoted by A&H as "Large Format" and has no external patch bay.



Not all LFC's have pre-wired patch bays. Some do not. Remember, sometimes consoles get scavenged or reconfigured when they are decommissioned and resold. I have also seen LFC's that come without patchbays to keep the cost down. Sometimes the bays are removed and sold independantly. When I bought my console (which is only mid-sized by the way) I looked at a Trident desk that did not come with a patch bay. I'm assuming it was removed at some point before it went up for sale.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Trad Anon ➡️
So which is it Large or Small?

If it is, as you say, "small format", then the "discrete inserts" rule does not tell me if it's "large or small format" and so unfortunately does not give me a definitive answer.


If you re-read my initial post carefully you'll see that In that list I made sure to use the word "Most" before each line item. Most means "Not all...but a majority". Again, these are not hard and fast rules but just some features that most AE's expect to see on a Large Format Mixing Console. so not having discrete insert points does not make a console small format or mid-size. It is just a feature which "Most modern LFC's tend to have". Making sense now?



P.S. When you see a Large Format Console in a control room....you will know. There will be no doubt in your mind regardless of the feature set .
Old 27th January 2013
  #21
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To the OP:


Here....is an LFAC.





.
Old 27th January 2013
  #22
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Here ...is a NON-LFAC...






The quality of the parts is not the ONLY difference here (although, those Behringer trim knobs are SLAMMING )...


.
Old 27th January 2013
  #23
S21
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If you daisy-chain the little Behringer 602A's together to make a bigger console you get better audio than if you cut up the LFAC with a grinder to make small mixers...
Old 27th January 2013 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➡️
If you daisy-chain the little Behringer 602A's together to make a bigger console you get better audio than if you cut up the LFAC with a grinder to make small mixers...
.

Bwuahahahahaha!!

My next project is to build a 64 foot long Behringer 602A - but only 2 channels - and use it as a mix bus for my 8078.

.
Old 28th January 2013
  #25
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Thank you for all your contributions:

TC live (post 15)
Sqye (posts 16, 21,22, and 24)
Brew (post 17)
Funny Cat (posts 18 and 20)
Bassmankr (post 19)
S21 (post 23)

---

For the sake of brevity I hope you will forgive me here if I do not respond to each and all of your points individually, I HAVE read, and I hopefully understood, ALL OF THEM and thank you for your time.

I did in fact get your “Most” and “Usually” from post 6 Funny Cat - In my post 7 I used the phrase “rule of thumb” in order to try to signify the loose nature of the 'rules' - in post 14 however, for brevity, I did paraphrase this as 'rule' ... for clarity I should have kept to the full phrase “rule of thumb” rather than this shortening “rule”, sorry that as a consequence of that this became unclear.

I would fully agree with your comments in post 15 TC live and Funny Cat post 18: “you can't put discrete inserts on a Mackie 12 channel mixer and call it an LFC!” and so I personally wouldn't, however plenty of people it would seem are unfortunately doing very nearly just that (the full sources are listed at the bottom of this post):

1) Rubber Monkey online shop listing the 12 channel Samson L1200 as “Large format”.
2) (Along with the the Fostex LM16)
3) Inta-audio who have the Mackie 1604 VLZ3 in their “Large Format” category.
4) (Along with the Mackie Pro Fx 16)
5) The Alto Cyclone (16:4:2) being marketed as “Large format”.
6) Church Sound with an A&H 16 channel GL series.
7) Acclaim Music selling the Allen & Heath PA20 as “Large Format”.
8) (Along with the Allen & Heath ZEDR16)
9) World Music Supply with the 16 channel Soundcraft LX7ii
10) Direct Pro Audio with the 16 Channel Soundcraft GB4 16
11) Vintage King with the Neve 5088 – (16:8:2)
12) (Along with the API 1608)

(11 and 12 would be nice, and 6 ok right but Large Format? Well, maybe ...)

None of these mixers break the 16 channel mark!

Behringer also market many of their products as “Large Format”

The list, believe me, goes on.

It would seem that there is lots of flexibility in the term “Large Format”.

---

From what I have understood from your answers the term is not fully defined - some mixers hover on the border of being “Large Format”? It's a grey area - everyone seems to have their own definition of it, there are at least no hard rules.

Where did we originally get these terms anyway? Photography? Why are the sizes Large, Medium, and Small suffixed by "Format"?


S21 / Sqye, bespoke "Large Format" behringer 802:



22 mic inputs,
Flexible routing,
11 independent auxiliaries,

---

Sources:

1) Samson L1200 Live 12 Channel Mixing console - RubberMonkey.co.nz
2) Fostex LM16 Live Mixer - RubberMonkey.co.nz
3) Mackie 1604-VLZ3 Series Compact Mixer - Large Format Mixers from Inta Audio UK
4) Mackie ProFX16 Mixer Live USB Mixer (pro fx16)
5) http://legacy.altoproaudio.com/admin...5452441145.pdf
6) Church Sound Systems Audio Equipment Installations
7) Allen&Heath Pa20 console mixer :: Large Format Mixers :: Console Mixers :: Allen & Heath :: Brand Search :: Home - Acclaim Sound & Lighting
8) Allen&Heath ZEDR16 :: Large Format Mixers :: Console Mixers :: Allen & Heath :: Brand Search :: Home - Acclaim Sound & Lighting
9) Soundcraft LX7II 16 Channel Live Mixing Console
10) Soundcraft GB4 16 GB4 Series 16 Channel Large Format Console
12) Rupert Neve Designs 5088 Standard Mixer - 16x8x2 - Large-Format Consoles - Consoles & Mixers - Recording - Vintage King Audio
12) API 1608 16-Channel Console - Loaded - Large-Format Consoles - Consoles & Mixers - Recording - Vintage King Audio
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