So... Analog or Digital

Spectre7

Member
After my last post concerning sound equipment, I'd like to get a more specific answer for one of the questions posed: Do I want an analog or digital console?

As many if not most people in sound, I started my education on an analog console, an Allen & Heath ML5000 at one of the theatres I work for. It was a beast. We have since replaced that with a Yamaha LS9-32 and I was the first employee to ever use if for a performance, and I'm growing fond of it.

I want to upgrade the console I currently use for myself and smaller gigs (24 channels tops), and I had only intended to spend around $2500 on the console, and I was going to get an analog one from A&H or Yamaha. But after I told my boss at my theatre, he basically told me thats a dumb idea because that console and all of the outboard processors, effects, and EQ would be obsolete in a year or two at most. I feel like he is correct (he is a little nutty, but very knowledgeable) and know that if I buy analog equipment now, that I will never be able to sell it if one day in the future I do want digital.

So would it be probably the most feasible and cost effective (in the long run) to just cough up the $5k and buy something like a Yamaha 01V (studio console, I know) or Yamaha LS9-16? Opinions?
 
Last edited:

Spectre7

Member
The fact that it is a studio board does not make a difference with the live sound aspect does it ? Or does the 'live' part in StudioLive mean it works for both applications?
 

DuckJordan

Well-Known Member
After my last post concerning sound equipment, I'd like to get a more specific answer for one of the questions posed: Do I want an analog or digital console?

As many if not most people in sound, I started my education on an analog console, an Allen & Heath ML5000 at one of the theatres I work for. It was a beast. We have since replaced that with a Yamaha LS9-32 and I was the first employee to ever use if for a performance, and I'm growing fond of it.

I want to upgrade the console I currently use for myself and smaller gigs (24 channels tops), and I had only intended to spend around $2500 on the console, and I was going to get an analog one from A&H or Yamaha. But after I told my boss at my theatre, he basically told me thats a dumb idea because that console and all of the outboard processors, effects, and EQ would be obsolete in a year or two at most. I feel like he is correct (he is a little nutty, but very knowledgeable) and know that if I buy analog equipment now, that I will never be able to sell it if one day in the future I do want digital.

So would it be probably the most feasible and cost effective (in the long run) to just cough up the $5k and buy something like a Yamaha 01V (studio console, I know) or Yamaha LS9-16? Opinions?


I would say look at the other threads that have covered this, although i dissagree with your boss, Analog consoles will always have a place in theater, they are cheaper, easier to use in most cases, and can be used on the fly. Unlike many digital consoles that i have worked with...

That said its a very, very situation specific reason why you would prefer to use a digital console over an analog. If you see yourself not wanting to haul all the outboard gear (if you use a ton) and if you would find it easier to use scenes and need to have some pre-setup time with mic checks and other things involved then i would say probably get the digital. If the normal use of your console is for events where its very unlikely to get a mic check before the event, if you have limited time to setup, and you don't need very much processing or effects then i would say go with analog. Consoles are like cars the moment you walk out the door they lost about 15% of their value, it continues to drop over the years but you will still be able to sell the consoles off.
 

Footer

Senior Team
Senior Team
Premium Member
What kind of shows? Who all will be using it? How many inputs do you need? Etc....

I work with a bunch of guys that will probably never go digital... but for a good reason. We have a Heritage 1k. Until you get to the big leagues of digital consoles nothing sounds close.

The 01v can work in a live environment. Its what I bought for my theatre. I would not want to mix a band on it, but it works great in a situation where everything repeats night after night.

Digital and analog both have their strengths. Analog is not going away in the foreseeable future. Digital is getting better every day. Yamaha is the defacto standard for the lower priced digital boards. Its not until you start looking at the 50k and above range that other manufactures really come into play. Mostly everyone knows how they operate Yamaha consoles. I have yet to be convinced that anything but Yamaha in the lower priced consoles are ready for live show operation.

So the real question is... Yamaha digital or analog.
 

MisterTim

Active Member
The fact that it is a studio board does not make a difference with the live sound aspect does it ? Or does the 'live' part in StudioLive mean it works for both applications?
It's a great live or studio board. Not having flying faders is annoying on occasion, but it doesn't really bother me.

Edit: I completely agree with Footer about getting a Yamaha if you can spare $5k or whatever the going price is for an LS9 nowadays. But if you can't spare the cash, I'd take a StudioLive over anything.
 
Last edited:

Spectre7

Member
Presonus StudioLive. Best lower-priced digital board out there, and I know I'm certainly not the only one who thinks this.

Okay. I was really against Presonus... And I have no idea why right now. I just looked into a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 and I believe this is the console I will buy. I have checked many sites and many reviews and all I have heard are good things. Obviously not the most amazing thing in the world, but for my purposes I feel it will do splendidly. Thank you.
 

jeffsw6

Member
Okay. I was really against Presonus... And I have no idea why right now. I just looked into a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 and I believe this is the console I will buy. I have checked many sites and many reviews and all I have heard are good things. Obviously not the most amazing thing in the world, but for my purposes I feel it will do splendidly. Thank you.
I suggest you buy it from a dealer with a good return policy, "just in case." I have read postings by dozens of StudioLive 16 and 24 owners on PSW, and there are a fair number of users who hate it / have returned it. This is not a good ratio given that they already decided it should suit their need, but had serious problems. I personally think the software needs more time to mature, as PreSonus seems to have no good explanation for users who have consoles that lock up or stop passing audio, with or without a PC connected. That's bad!

IMO the compelling feature of the StudioLive is the firewire multi-track. If you think you will use that often, it is worth your consideration. If not, the 01V96VCM is a hands-down better choice. Since you are already familiar with the LS9, you should be comfortable with an 01V quite quickly.

I do agree whole-heartedly with your theatre colleague, that small analog mixers and entry-level outboard will not be worth much in the near-term. There is already a pretty big gap in "new" and "used" price of all these items compared to just a year or two ago, as more entry-level users (like you and me) are adopting digital gear and selling their analog rigs. I am on the fence about whether or not I should sell my analog stuff before its value declines further, or just hang onto it. It's a vexing choice, to be sure.
 

FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
It all depends on what kind of shows you plan to do. There are big differences between analog and digital consoles, but obsolete SOUND? That's baloney. I'll put the sound I can deliver on a good quality, ten year old analog console and a few outboard devices up against any digital console you care to choose. There is nothing obsolete sounding about well designed analog consoles, analog EQ, or analog dynamics processors.

I will also put the reliability of an analog console against any digital one. Mistreat a digital console with so much as some dirty power and your show might get very quiet. If the analog console has an external power supply, chances are you could shoot a bullet or two into it and the show can still go on, with some work arounds of a dead channel or bus.

There are good reasons to employ both types, just understand what they REALLY are before you spend your hard earned money.
 

jeffsw6

Member
I'll put the sound I can deliver on a good quality, ten year old analog console and a few outboard devices up against any digital console you care to choose.
For one act shows, you can certainly be in the same ballpark; but if you have multiple acts to sound check, it takes more crew, more time, more channels, or substantially worse recall accuracy to change the stage over from one band to the next. I can do that quickly with an 01V and a crib sheet with nothing but head-amp gains on it. With a not much more expensive LS9, I don't need a crib sheet at all, just the scene recall button.

For my small one-act shows, my digital FoH footprint is much smaller than even my modest analog rig, and it takes less time to deploy and strike. It also uses almost no truck space and cost less money. The workflow is not quite as smooth, but the vastly superior EQ, more dynamics, more buses, and more flexibility easily offsets the button-pushing and occasional LCD-glancing.
 

mstaylor

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
I prefer an analog board but I'm not a sound guy. While I agree that programing and retaining a band is an advantage for digital, what difference does the type of board make to the number of hands or involved or number of imputs?
 

museav

CBMod
CB Mods
Departed Member
As you can see from the responses, there is no one right answer, only what works best for one's specific situation.

For example, scene storage and recall may be a big advantage of digital consoles in some applications, particularly theatrical applications. But digital consoles vary in how scenes are implemented and how they address what parameters are potentially involved. On one end you have consoles that let you potentially identify what specific parameters of just about all settings to save or recall for each channel and to then activate that with a single button push. On the other end, you may find consoles that are very limited in the flexibility of what can be saved or recalled or that may be more awkward in actually implementing a scene recall. How much any of these issues, from having scene recall to what it is, impact you will depend on the goals and use of the console.

There can also be related considerations in some cases, such as whether the console supports a digital snake or directly supports Aviom or any other specific I/O format. Is the potential of FOH and monitor or recording consoles sharing some of the processing and I/O a factor? Are you counting on the console to provide the house speaker system processing or will that be independent whether the console has processing or not?

There can also be details that matter to some. For example, the StudioLive has a high pass filter on each channel, which can be an important functionality for live sound. However, it is a 6dB/octave slope, not as steep a filter as most other consoles or as many would prefer to have for that use.

I'm old school and while I see the advantages in many situations of scene recall, I find it amazing that for years we managed to do just fine in terms of changeovers, etc. with analog devices. You listen to some people and you'd think that this was virtually impossible but it was what you did and it worked fine. I'm not disparaging the benefits of some of the technology, just pointing out that sometimes there are ways to function without some of the technology and that can be part of any assessment.

I'm in the camp that analog consoles and outboard effects probably represent no more risk of decrease in value or obsolescence than the equivalent digital consoles. It's just the way technology progresses now. One difference is that other than firmware upgrades from the manufacturer or modular I/O expansion you probably won't be able to update just part of an entry level digital console, rather if you want to update any individual aspect you update the whole thing. Want better or different reverb or comp/limiter, well unless you have a digital console that uses plug-ins then you get a different console or go back to outboard devices.

Digital console options just keep increasing. The O1V, LS9, StudioLive and Roland M-400 at the entry level. The Yamaha M7CL, Allen & Heath iLive-T, Avid/Digidesign Venue SC48 and Soundcraft Si Compact a step up. And so on. At the same time, there are also many good current analog and hybrid options to fit just about any budget. More than ever one can be a bit more selective in looking at what best fits their needs.
 

jeffsw6

Member
I prefer an analog board but I'm not a sound guy. While I agree that programing and retaining a band is an advantage for digital, what difference does the type of board make to the number of hands or involved or number of imputs?
If you are doing entry-level work with stage change-overs, you really need a stagehand to mic instruments and singers, and possibly re-patch the stage, move the wedges around to match up to the oncoming band's needs, etc. One stagehand has to keep moving to do this in the time it takes a small band to get on-stage at a fast-paced small fair/festival or similar event.

If you have digital, you can recall what you sound checked for that band with the press of a button, and maybe only need to adjust your pre-amp gain knobs, which you would have written down after that band sound checked. If your console has re-callable HA gain, you do not even need to do that.

If you have analog, you either need to have a large enough number of channels and outboard devices to accommodate the combined number of inputs from every band (so there is no recall needed) or you need to write down all your settings and recall them manually. This takes a significant amount of time when you are doing a fast-paced gig: to recall 24 inputs to PA and 4 to 6 monitor mixes for typical small bands, you are looking at 10 - 15 parameters per channel, plus the outboard devices. This will take you however long it takes, I found I averaged about 2 channels per minute of "manual recall." Plus, you spend time during sound check writing all that stuff down on your crib sheets, which takes just as long (but it is not usually under a time constraint since it is sound check time.)

So the 10 to 15 minutes I would have to spend to recall the mixes manually meant I had to have another stagehand to keep things moving on the stage. After you do gigs that way a few times, you quickly see the value of having enough channels to start doing your recall for "band 3" while "band 2" is still on the stage. Then you just wish you had enough channels for everyone. Then you realize digital recall saves you a huge amount of time and increases the accuracy of your recalls and eliminates mistakes.

I have done some fine work with crib sheets and manual recall, but once I realized that the time I sank into crib sheet "save/recall" is time I could have spent helping change the stage over faster or assisting the musicians with their equipment, I invested in a small digital. I am very glad I did. Its value should not be overlooked for entry-level work, in fact, this may be where it has the biggest advantage in terms of time=money savings.

EDIT: Oh, it is nice to be able to save a band and then have their mixes at another gig later on, it may shorten your sound check time and might improve results a little if the musicians get impatient during sound check, but for entry-level live sound work, the real value is time/labor savings and reduced floor/truck space requirements.
 
Last edited:

mstaylor

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
At the risk of being difficult, how many times do you see the FOH engineer on stage during a changeover, even in a festival setting. The monitor engineer, yes, the FOH engineer, no. Now, many guys are carrying inears so monitors are not the issue it used to be, if they are, spike tape fixes that. I supply hands for this very purpose and rarely is it more than four for show call, no matter if it is digital or analog, and whether there are seperate monitor rigs for each band. Where the number goes up is when you have to clear risers and a large amonut of band gear. Just my experience and I do festivals with local bands up to national acts. I do a battle of the bands with four bands in 90 minutes, each band gets 15 minutes of play time. It is all analog, we just just don't change the kit.
I agree that digital boards offer a tremendous advantage in certain areas but you still can't beat mixing a show with a Midas at FOH. I run into the same argument on the lighting side. I am perfectly happy to run a two scene preset or busk on an Express as opposed to recording cue stacks and pushing a button. There was a sense of pride in a well run show or knowing you had a good touch with a board.
 

bishopthomas

Well-Known Member
You never see the FOH guy go to the stage? Odd.... Guys working in small to medium clubs almost always do so solo. On my smaller gigs there are usually two of us and we both go on stage to handle changeovers. We both also mix at various points. When I was touring I ALWAYS went on stage to place microphones and make sure everything got repatched correctly. Sure, there was a stage tech, but he was busy tuning guitars, placing setlists, towels, water, etc. I would say that because of this 98% of times everything was reset exactly how it was at soundcheck.

I agree that analog consoles have their place. On a festival gig or for mixing monitors I'll take a decent quality analog desk any day. But for a touring band or any kind of show with recurrence a digital console is really the best thing since sliced pickles.
 

jeffsw6

Member
At the risk of being difficult, how many times do you see the FOH engineer on stage during a changeover, even in a festival setting. The monitor engineer, yes, the FOH engineer, no.
Keep in mind that we're talking about entry-level work. If you have a big gig and a big crew, the labor isn't an issue because you have a budget for it and you need extra labor for all the "just in case" stuff.

Also, the monitor engineer typically has more work to do recalling mixes from crib sheets than the FoH guy. Why? He has more than one mix, and he needs to be as accurate as practical because once the musicians take the stage, you want to be close enough that any further fine-tuning can happen with glances and hand-signs from the musicians. The monitor guy isn't going to remember what 8 mixes on 8 bands sounded like, and he can't do it by ear because what musicians ask for in their ears/wedges is very much based on their personal preference, and is often non-obvious.

The FoH guy, on the other hand, has a more obvious mix; and often times bands will have their own BEs at FoH even at entry-level gigs.

I agree that analog consoles have their place. On a festival gig or for mixing monitors I'll take a decent quality analog desk any day. But for a touring band or any kind of show with recurrence a digital console is really the best thing since sliced pickles.
I actually prefer digital at monitor world (for scene recall) and when I have "big for me" gigs, the digital goes to MW and analog at FoH. This gives me the advantage of a comfortable analog desk for entry-level BEs, the FoH guy has plenty of time to recall things, and the monitor world guy can recall quickly and then help on the stage (while the FoH guy might not have an easy time physically getting to the stage and back with a dense crowd.) This ALSO means the FoH guy is at his console, doing his job, when there are announcements, quick DJ interludes, event organizers coming up to FoH, missing children, etc. between bands.

Entry-level work is not the same as having all the crew and resources you want. Success at these gigs is about the right balance of professional and cost-effective for your customers.
 

museav

CBMod
CB Mods
Departed Member
Just wanted to point out that once again, much of the discussion regarding the role of the FOH operator and how that may affect the console goes right back to the potential application(s) involved. It usually not a matter of picking the 'best' tool but of selecting the best tool for that job.
 

mstaylor

Well-Known Member
Departed Member
I actually prefer digital at monitor world (for scene recall) and when I have "big for me" gigs, the digital goes to MW and analog at FoH. This gives me the advantage of a comfortable analog desk for entry-level BEs, the FoH guy has plenty of time to recall things, and the monitor world guy can recall quickly and then help on the stage (while the FoH guy might not have an easy time physically getting to the stage and back with a dense crowd.) This ALSO means the FoH guy is at his console, doing his job, when there are announcements, quick DJ interludes, event organizers coming up to FoH, missing children, etc. between bands.
I do see digital at MW and analog at FOH, even on small gigs. You're right, that's the best combination but analog in both places have worked for years.
I have said this many times but I am old school but enjoy the technology that available today. What I hate to see is young guys becoming a slave to it. Old technology is still very viable but too many guys are not learning it. This is not just in the sound world, it happens in the lighting world too.
 

bishopthomas

Well-Known Member
I actually prefer digital at monitor world (for scene recall)...

I agree that any time you have the opportunity to recall a scene a digital console is great. I do a lot of "throw and go" mixing, whether it's a festival or local acts, and an analog console in monitor world is great for that. Having said that, we only have a couple of small (less than 8 channel) analog mixers, an analog powered mixer, and the rest are M7CL and LS9's. So I'm usually working on digital. However, when I walk in to festival gigs I like to see an analog console. I can see everything in front of me and make use of both hands (and multiple channels) at once. I can build a mix from scratch much faster on analog than digital. This isn't coming from an "old fogey" sound guy who has been using analog since the dinosaurs. I'm quite comfortable on most digital desks and enjoy learning new ones, but I can also see the value in analog.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

jeffsw6

Member
I have said this many times but I am old school but enjoy the technology that available today. What I hate to see is young guys becoming a slave to it. Old technology is still very viable but too many guys are not learning it. This is not just in the sound world, it happens in the lighting world too.
I have no clue what the old way was in the lighting world, being pretty much a newbie. I have learned some clever-sounding old school techniques on this web site. I am very much used to my almost-any-color LEDs and I don't even know how many PAR cans or gel colors I would want if I had to give an LD a concept of what kind of look was desirable and what I thought was reasonable for a gig. I bet I have to learn this eventually.

I whole-heartedly agree that everyone should be comfortable on analog gear. That does not mean everyone should buy an analog console, often that is not a good business choice. It might surprise some people, but for entry-level work, I honestly believe there are exactly five current-series consoles worth consideration for live sound reinforcement applications:

  1. Allen & Heath MixWiz
  2. Yamaha 01V96VCM
  3. PreSonus StudioLive (with significant caveats; if multi-track recording)
  4. Soundcraft GB8 (when entry-level techs are likely to be around and need analog)
  5. Yamaha LS9
I think anything above the price of an LS9 is no longer "entry-level," and the above five consoles have compelling feature and value advantages over all competing products, once the specifics of a buyer's needs have been identified.

IMO if every console-buyer started off with those five choices, and only those, they would think hard about their needs. Then they might settle on, say, the GB8, but decide to go with a less-expensive LX7ii or GL2200 instead and give up a few things; however the user would probably end up making a much better purchasing decision because they thought hard about what kind of console suits their application, not just which brand they prefer or how many channels they are willing to carry around.

My $0.02 :)
 

Users who are viewing this thread