# Digital Mixer w/o Digital Sources. Advantages?

#### Stevens R. Miller

##### Well-Known Member
I recently did a show where our stack of eight wireless mike receivers sat in the wings and fed their analog outputs to some kind of analog-to-digital converter. The converted output came up a data line from the stage to the control booth where it was decomposed back into eight separate signals by a PreSonus SLM244AI mixer. This worked great and eliminated the need for a traditional snake.

Now, a friend I've made in the local community theater sphere is eager to see his company buy a new mixer. As far as I know, they have no digital sound sources. They have a number of wireless mikes, as well as some wired mikes on stage and in the pit. They also use recorded sound effects and music, mostly played out of the analog jack on a computer. This fellow is very eager to buy a digital mixer, but I don't see a reason to do that. As far as I can tell, they tend to cost more than otherwise comparable analog boards. While I can imagine a bit less noise reaching the final amplifiers when mixing is done digitally, I'm not yet convinced that's worth a premium when he has no digital sources.

So my question for today is, if all of your sound sources are analog and will reach your mixer in analog form, what advantages does a digital mixer offer over a purely analog mixer?

Thanks!

#### jkowtko

##### Well-Known Member
There are volumes on the merits of digital vs analog sound consoles.

IMHO the biggest benefit that the digital mixer provides is all of the signal processing internally that in the analog world is done with outboard equipment ... so a digital sound setup tends to eliminate racks of equipment, or gives all of that signal processing capability to those who would not otherwise have it because they could not afford all of that extra equipment. Compressors and parametric EQ on each input channel, and built in reverb are some of the most popular signal processing features provided automatically by digital boards ... but there is a lot more available.

Secondary benefits for me include smart phone and tablet apps that let you control the board remotely ... the ability to record digitally directly to a thumb drive, and on many products this is a multi-track recording ... and the ability to playback directly from digital audio files. The noise floor on digital boards is pretty low.

Another benefit, as you have mentioned but I don't use yet, is the ability to have a snake box on stage that converts the signallocally to digital, then you only have to run a single CAT5 cable to your sound table instead of one or more thick snake cables.

So your equipment also starts to get lighter

Cost wise I think you can find either digital or analog boards at either end of the price range. Ignoring the high end professional models, digital starts around $200 for a small 8-channel mixer and goes up to$3-4k for popular 32+ channel consoles ... that's about the same price range that I see for analog.

#### TimMc

##### Well-Known Member
I recently did a show where our stack of eight wireless mike receivers sat in the wings and fed their analog outputs to some kind of analog-to-digital converter. The converted output came up a data line from the stage to the control booth where it was decomposed back into eight separate signals by a PreSonus SLM244AI mixer. This worked great and eliminated the need for a traditional snake.

Now, a friend I've made in the local community theater sphere is eager to see his company buy a new mixer. As far as I know, they have no digital sound sources. They have a number of wireless mikes, as well as some wired mikes on stage and in the pit. They also use recorded sound effects and music, mostly played out of the analog jack on a computer. This fellow is very eager to buy a digital mixer, but I don't see a reason to do that. As far as I can tell, they tend to cost more than otherwise comparable analog boards. While I can imagine a bit less noise reaching the final amplifiers when mixing is done digitally, I'm not yet convinced that's worth a premium when he has no digital sources.

So my question for today is, if all of your sound sources are analog and will reach your mixer in analog form, what advantages does a digital mixer offer over a purely analog mixer?

Thanks!

There is almost no justification for purchasing an analog mixer these days unless you need a no-features mixer. JK offers up the reasons why - smaller, lighter, feature set, etc and frankly there is no advantage to purchase of a cheap analog desk when a few dollars more gets you a vastly more useful device.

The use of CAT5e to carry signals from the stage to the console is, IMHO, less of an advantage than so many folks make it out to be. We substitute a smaller, lighter, cheaper cable that is more easily damaged or compromised than a traditional multicore. The big, fat multi has some physical robustness advantages that all but the most armored CAT5e does not. As for the weight, etc. I can only say that I've been slinging multicore for 35 years and it's the least of places I look to save weight or time. YMMV, of course.

Most of the resistance to using digital mixers is from Luddite folks who've never made the transition or the small handful of users who have very particular workflow or artistic requirements for which the digital mixer surfaces do not possess the requisite physical controls needed.

The Analog is Dead. Long live the Analog!

RonHebbard

#### jkowtko

##### Well-Known Member
The use of CAT5e to carry signals from the stage to the console is, IMHO, less of an advantage than so many folks make it out to be. We substitute a smaller, lighter, cheaper cable that is more easily damaged or compromised than a traditional multicore. The big, fat multi has some physical robustness advantages that all but the most armored CAT5e does not. As for the weight, etc. I can only say that I've been slinging multicore for 35 years and it's the least of places I look to save weight or time.
I will further qualify my answer to this section. I still use a 12 channel snake running from the sound table to the back of the auditorium, then XLR out to the mics. In addition to the 100 foot 12 channel snake I have a 50' 8 channel snake ... both of them in a sterlite bin. This bin is pretty heavy, so I would welcome a lighter alternative. I agree that Cat5 presents you with a single point of failure for ALL of your input channels should something happen to the cable, but as I've never lost an analog cable including all of my XLR, I would venture to guess that roadworthy Cat5 can take a beating, and the cable would still be much lighter than the snake cable.

The other heavy thing I have to carry around is a bin full of XLR ... another thing I would like to get rid of.

It would be really nice if wireless XLR mic adapters and wireless self-powered speakers became commonplace -- that would eliminate both the XLR and the snake!

With the recent transition of pro audio to the digital world, I'm sure this is all coming in a matter of time.

#### Stevens R. Miller

##### Well-Known Member
Excellent replies, all.

Regarding this, just checking:

The Analog is Dead. Long live the Analog!
Typo, right?

#### RonHebbard

##### Well-Known Member
The Analog is Dead. Long live the Analog!
Does this mean the "Luddite" is also dead or will we simply spawn a newer, vastly improved, feature rich, digital Luddite with latency?
Remember "Analog Tom" Hall, the entertainment lawyer from Los Angeles on the ProSound LAB?
Call me Analog Ron, Luddite to the stars.
I'm not dead yet but it's more imminent every day.
Thank you Monty Python.
If it wasn't for latency, I'd be gone already.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.

#### KBToys82

##### Active Member
I bought the PreSonus 32AI for our auditorium and use the RML32 mounted behind the proscenium with a Cat6 that they are running this summer over the drop down ceiling to the booth. I will be using the RML a lot during our talent show night. If it wasn't for the fact that PreSonus is coming out with new stage boxes for their new SL32, I would highly recommend getting both.

Fight Leukemia

RonHebbard

#### TimMc

##### Well-Known Member
Heh. You guys keep using the word "priceless." When I try to talk our non-profit community theater companies into buying new gear, if I use the word "priceless," they hear the word "expensive." (And then I hear the word "no" .)
Priceless in that, as Sound Designer (and typically the operator as well), I need the desk to have sufficient control over the inputs, busing, and outputs. If the mixing desk can't do that, it doesn't matter what the price tag was.

I *really* need (and use) 4 band fully parametric EQ on each input, with separate & sweepable HPF. I need that regardless of analog or digital. I need 6 audio groups in which I can insert 4 to 6 band parametric EQ, again regardless of analog or digital. Those capabilities are irrespective of input count, for the most part.

For some of the other work I do, I use a Shure SCM268, with no EQ or buses or anything else. It's a "horses for courses" thing, but in theater and music entertainment the technical requirements for consoles are greater than than were 20 years ago and the cost-effective way to get the needed capability involves ones and zeros.

The other alternative, having actors project and the manual creation of SFX seems like a quaint and dated concept.

RonHebbard