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Digital Sound Boards

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by tenor_singer, Sep 10, 2004.

  1. tenor_singer

    tenor_singer Active Member

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    I have a question for those professional sound engineers out there...

    I have a friend who showed me a sound cue program he purchased from a brilliand sound engineer from Australia. I like the versatility of how it drives cue lists.

    My question...

    I am planning on purchasing the program and would like to upgrade my sound system. My dream is to have a digital sound board with pre-set cues so my tech director... a very meaning and talented young lady... doesn't get whip-lash trying to mix our load of lapel microphones.

    Any ideas on what I should be looking for?

    Any brand better than another?

    What kind of price range should I expect? I don't want to get hosed.

    I am not very technical, so layman's terms would be highly appreciated :D .

    Thanks!

    Tenor
     
  2. The_Guest

    The_Guest Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Let's start off by clarifying digital consoles are pretty expensive. You can buy 24ch analog consoles for have the price of low end 16 ch digital consoles.

    Could you be a little more specific about your needs and apps. You say your mixing lavs, about how many? Mixing lavs is a pretty hecktic duty, even on a digital console. Just because yesterday's level was good doesn't mean today's level is good. In professional theater it's not so much an issue because the actors project (it's a major skill) enough so a lav will pick them up beautifully. Which really lowers the amount of reinforcement needed, thus improving the entire system's gain structure. Just imagine an actor decides to work a scene a bit futher downstage than normal, and right before the scene you cue up the console and it throws up the lav, and you suddenly get feedback. Another thing to be careful with digital consoles is you have to learn the interface, if a monitor suddenly begins to feedback most likely you'll have to dig thru some menu to turn it down. Most digital consoles require a bit more training than normal, the average HS tech cannot mix a digital console well.

    My guess is that your organization is a public high school. Like everywhere else in the world, your equipment is not determined by needs but by budget. I'm guessing you can't afford a Digico D5, or even a Yamaha PM1D (or it's little brother, the PM5D). These consoles are currently the most popular touring consoles, and they're choosen for usually the most advanced sound reinforcement applacations. For example, the PM1D is currently being used on broadway to mix a full musical in 5.1 surround sound. Imagine figuring out all the panning needed to mix an orchestra pitt in 5.1, and realizing what works and what doesn't. The Digico D5 is currently being used on Eric Clapton's tour, it was also used all summer on Ron Stewart's tour. Anyways, I think you get the point. BTW, let me know if you can afford these consoles. If so, I'll see if I can move to attend your school.

    I personally really like Yamaha's digital consoles, I think they make the best ones out right now. Mackie, ehhh, I have not used one yet, too early to call anyways. They have not even shipped yet, mackie has a history of shipping products a good century after they launch them. Hell, people are just barely getting the onyx now. Many SR companies are waiting for their TT24s that they paid for probably 6 months ago when it was launched, and they are pissed. Anyways, I think the Yamaha 01V96 (V2 if you want all the packages and new software stuff) is your best bet. It has surround panning, built in effects/compression/gating/processing, cueing, and just about everything you could want from a 16ch console. Beautiful digital 24bit/96kHz sound, you can even down grade if you want more channels. If I had the cash, I'd personally buy one. Check out the 02R96 if you have the dough.

    Another great digi console is the Soundcraft 324 live. It has an incredible small footprint it's 32ch does it all design. It's been used for years, so it's one of the more reliable digital consoles. Many engineers (most notable Jim Warren, Radiohead's FOH Engineer) use it in large scale sound reinforcement apps to submix effects (fantastic for heavy outboard processing) and various midi devices. It has so many routing options, it's fantastic.

    Digital consoles have insane routing options, they have so many options you'll honestly question why the manufactuer even made it possible. Tons of them have expansion cabablities. You can actually purchase modules seperately and throw them in the machine and add on anything from fiber optic cababilities, to cat5 personal monitor mixing, or simply add on a few extra channels. Like you said earlier, digital consoles work with software, and boy do they do. You can literally control anything with a computer.

    As far as prices, you're going to get hosed no matter what you buy. The 16ch yamaha O1v96 will put you about 2 grand in hole, if you shop around. Now I realize, 2k really is nothing when it comes to purchasing a console, but it's shocking you can buy 24-32ch consoles for half the price. This is why you don't find a digital console in 99.9% of high schools. Even 5-8 grand really isn't spending much on a console, that's not even the creme of the crop. But my school sure can't afford that, my goal is to get rid of the mackie 24.4 before I graduate in '07. If you put a Mackie sr24.4 next to a Digico D5, you would understand that a grand invested in a console really is nothing. You can get the SC 324 Live for about $3,270 on average, you can shop around and get them cheaper. All these relatively compact digital consoles I've named are not loaded with channels. You can find larger yamaha digital consoles for a bit more. Either than that, it's a huge margin. The prices sky rocket when you want more channels, less integration more actually control (ie: 24/32 faders and up). If you currently have a 40ch analog console, don't complain, you'll have to make some sacrafices when you go digital. You trade in your knobs and faders for a series of menus. Which is not always the greatest for a high school, people are only there for 4 years at time, students come and go.

    Sounds like you don't really need all the options of a digital console, seems more like you just want to simplify a common case of the cues. There are low-tech solutions to this such as using software to GUIDE you, or simply get yourself a prompter to assist your tasks.

    This past summer I mixed a formal 80-100 member musical (14 lavs, 3 boundary, 3 overhead, CD, and 1 effects return). I had to deal with some old crummy shure fixed frequency wireless and a song with lots of extremely loud screaming/screatching, and boy was it hard to keep things from peaking. It was too late to use compression/gating/limiting, didn't get to reherase with it or anything. Things could go wrong using that stuff without practice in a live situation. So for the scene I had my assistant prompting me with an enlarged photocopy of the script's scene with all the lyrics/screaching highlighted, he also continued to prompt the regular lav cues during the scene as well. I had to be able to follow along, watch the stage, and mix the other lavs as well. All the loud noise and dancing in the scene weren't ideal for the ambinet mics (floors and overheads) used, but the chorus also sung in the scene. My designer would actually ride the ambinet mic levels in this scene while I delt with all the lavs and the crazy vocals to make things run smoothly.

    Anyways, back on-topic, you could ease your case of cues by looking into a better analog console. You should really take ergonomics into consideration. I've found a good layout can really simplify things. Getting a console with snapshot memory and/or even mute groups could help you out. Mute groups can be extremely beneficial in theater to keep up with your cues. A midi console (or RS232 will work too) interface is probably exactly what you want/need. You can DIGITALLY control your ANALOG console via a computer, which is what you're looking for. No menus to get barried in, but you won't have all that onboard processing like you have on digital consoles. You can get full fledged monster consoles with 128 (scenes) snapshot memories around 10 grand (most notable the AH GL4000, it has mute groups too), lower if you shop around. Add on a few grand and you can be getting into highly ergonomic VCA consoles with tons of memory and (mute) grouping functions (AH ML3000 or SC MH series). Some even have true LCR panning which is great if you have front/center fills.

    As you can see, you have a wealth of options. Your budget will determine what will work and what won't the quickiest, that should be your main consideration. Find out what you can afford and study it, pick out what features you must have and what you can live without. Your gut feeling will be the best choice, often times people pick something because of influence from an outside factor. If the console is the coolest thing, but you know your going to run into problems with it. Then don't get it. Just because it's not in the latest issue of FOH doesn't mean it's bad. Good luck. My apologies for any typos in this long manual. Let me know if something doesn't make sense.
     
    chausman and (deleted member) like this.
  3. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    Excellent reply, Jeff. I think you covered everything in there. Are you related to ship? ;-)

    I tend to agree that digital consoles are overkill for a high school theatre. As Jeff pointed out, if an actor does something stupid and moves closer to a speaker, and the board is set for him/her to be 10 feet farther back, then you have a problem. With a digital console (unless you know it *really* well) you have to go digging to get the right control. With an analog console, all you have to do is grab the right knob or fader and turn it down fast. And chances are, you know exactly where that is if you're mixing the show.

    Therefore, I would definitely recommend buying a really good analog console with mute groups. One possibility is the Spirit Live 2-4, which I use and love in our theatre. You might also look at Allen and Heath, Yamaha, and similar brands.
     
  4. The_Guest

    The_Guest Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Yeah if your budget is tight and you want mute groups sound craft is the way to go. They have mute groups in many of their medium frame consoles. If you are planning on getting a console under 10k go with soundcraft, you'll have it all, best bang for the buck. And there are a select few AH consoles that will work out for you too (GL series). SC Sprit and AH GL have great ergonomics and grouping functions, they should be more than suffeciant for dealing with cues.

    An analog console is better to learn on too. How are you going to ever learn how to mix if it's all automated? Too many think mixing is just a set and forget deal similar to the light board, but it's actually all on the fly. So may argue that lights can be on the fly, yes it is, but usually it isn't. It's all about putting in the work ahead of time and just baby sitting your creation during the show. Getting a good mix is knowing your sources and keeping things comfortable, consistent, and balanced. But they are both equally as difficult.
     
  5. tenor_singer

    tenor_singer Active Member

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    Hi Jeff...

    Thank you for the response.

    Here is the further information you requested:

    1. I normally run about 20 wireless lapels, 3 boundary microphones, 2 upstage hanging pin source microphones, A mini-disk player, CD player, Four synthesizers and ( rarely ) a synthesized drum kit.

    2. My mixer is currently a Behringer Eurodesk 24 channel 4 bus mixer. I then rent a second mixer to handle any "overflow".

    3. My Booster group is very active with fundraising. Our high school drama program is the only source of live theater education in our school. Before I took over the program, it was truly painful to watch any theater production at my school and capital equipment was non-existent. Now that we're having success and that there is a director willing to spend the time necessary for successful productions, my parents are willing to work hard for money. All they want is a goal to shoot for.

    4. I am not very sound tech proficient. I require that all techies in my school take seminars on many different, sound tech necessary topics. They are taught by an area technical director. I started this last year, after my tech crew blew their third set of speakers in a short period of time (see the post tech crew blowing speakers too frequently, posted last April-May sometime). I want them to be intelligent technicians and not just the kind that I was in high school... turn it up... turn it down... because nobody was able to show me different.

    5. I am not a theater teacher (actually I teach calculus and physics throughout the school day). My theater program is extra-curricular. What theater knowledge I have was gained through my experience as artistic director for an area community theater. I am well aware of my limitations on the technical side and really want to be sure that I expose my kids to as much "current theater equipment" as I possibly can. I have an ex-student who went on to major in technical theater at Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland, Ohio. He does a lot of regional work during the summer and was talking, with affection, about his new digital board. The way he described things, I thought it would be an educational experience for my kids.

    My friend, who is offering the seminars, has a digital board and if we decide to go that route, one of the seminars he will teach is the proper application of them. He has told me that he will more than happily lend it to me for a production to be sure that I truly use it to its best potential. I am definately going to do that before I commit any big money.

    I'll be honest... what I am trying to stop is the struggling student at the desk trying to get everybody's microphone up to level. Even with excellent cues, I still have times where a line goes by before the microphone comes up. It wouldn't be an issue, but we do our shows in a gymnasium and the acoustics are horrifying.

    Thanks again for your response. I hope this information helps you with further advice.

    Yours in theater,

    Tenor.
     
  6. Nephilim

    Nephilim Active Member

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    Form what I've seen the TT24 is a surprisingly easy-to-use live digital mixer. It doesn't really exist, but it looks good :D

    But this isn't an issue of automation, it's an issue of paying attention.

    Anecdote time:

    Last year I had to take a show I worked on to CETA Festival; we had to restage the show in a much bigger theater. In our house I hadn't had to use any lavs at all, in this house I was going to have to use 22 lavs and 7 set-rigged mics, as well as learn how to run a Soundcraft Europa.

    I spent the week before we went up going through the script marking mute and unmute cues. I then gave these to my assistant the day before and we were good to go. Not a single line was missed in the house.

    What helped me out? Knowing the show inside-out, having someone else cue lav mutes and unmutes (with decent warning time), and mute groups :)

    So that's my advice. Whoever's FOH for the show needs to be able to recite the show as it's happening, needs to make mute and unmute cues *on paper* beforehand, and it would be really helpful if they had someone else cueing them.
     
  7. fosstech

    fosstech Active Member

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    We're looking at putting a TT24 in our theatre, and the price is about right at a estimated street price of around $7000. And remember, you get compressor and gate on every channel, and 4-band true parametric EQ, plus countless other things that are usually thought of as being an outboard box. Take a look at Mackie's webiste and go to the TT24 page, and watch the videos. They do a really good job going over the board and all its features. I think Mackie has a winner once they finally do come out with it.

    "coming really soon, really"
     
  8. Nephilim

    Nephilim Active Member

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    You're gonna love it.
     
  9. blsmn

    blsmn Member

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    Tenor -

    The learning curve and accessability of functions on a digital board are definitely something to think about. I also had thoughts recently about digital vs. analog when purchasing a new console, and when it came down to it I went for analog. The points made concerning actors volume, placement, and the general difference betwen shows from night to night (especially high school productions) are very valid - I just felt that digital would put me too far away from functions that I knew I would need instant access to. I ended up getting an Allen & Heath GL4000, which I think you should take a look into because of your above statement. The GL4000 not only has mute groups, but it has 128 mute scenes also. Need to mute 6 lavs, unmute 12 others, mute the boundries and unmute the hanging mics? Program it into the mute patch before the show (same as a light cue), push one button, and it is done. I have done theatrical sound for 15 years and struggled at times with the muting/unmuting of mics during large shows, and after the first show I did with the GL4000 it was like a major weight had been lifted off my shoulders - I don't know how I ever lived without it :) Now I can concentrate more on how the show sounds than gearing myself up and worrying about the next 16 channel mic mute sequence. One button - done. Life is good :D
     
  10. tenor_singer

    tenor_singer Active Member

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    Thanks for the advice. I will look into that board.

    Tenor.
     
  11. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    I second this notion, definitely look at the ML4000 - it's a very nice board. I've never worked with one, but I have seen an ML5000 in person and would love to work with it.

    Btw, I love physics and calculus (I'm in AP Physics C and AP Calculus AB this year). :p Sorry, had to throw that in.
     
  12. Inaki2

    Inaki2 Active Member

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    Whats the brand on the TT24?
     
  13. blsmn

    blsmn Member

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    Mackie..
     
  14. soundman1024

    soundman1024 Active Member

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    The ml5000 really is awesome. The faders on it just glide. If you are looking for something w/ automated mutes it is really nice.

    Jeff
     
  15. Inaki2

    Inaki2 Active Member

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    Consider though, the ML series are NOT digital consoles. They are dual purpose, VCA consoles with some degree of automation.
     
  16. ksb3904

    ksb3904 Member

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    here is my personal opinion i completely agree with all these guys but i feel that digital boards are great for bands i have mixed on them many times but for theatre i love my analog board for theatre i find alot easier for mixing personal body mics let me know if you have any questions
    thanks
    gage johnson
    sound design director
    st louis community theater
     
  17. metti

    metti Active Member

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    Necropost. This is a 6+ year old thread thus the fact that people are complaining about how long the TT24 was taking to come out.
     
  18. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Not so breaking news......the TT24 came out and proceeded to fail miserably.
     
  19. jsusfrk100

    jsusfrk100 Member

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    As a high school student, I would have to argue that comment. My church uses one of the more advanced digital sound boards out there(not sure which make/model as I don't operate that particular board). And most of the operators of that board are high school students. And they mix extremely well. It all depends on your training. On are equipment we shadow for a couple weeks, then we let them operate under supervision for a while, and THEN we let them run a service.
     
  20. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Don't take the comment as a personal insult, [user]jsusfrk100[/user]. Also, remember that [user]The_Guest[/user] wrote that in 2004, when digital consoles weren't nearly as available or as user-friendly as they are today.

    (Besides, arguing with him is futile, as he hasn't logged onto CB since Sept., 2011.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2012

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