Sound Board Recommendations

George J

Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2019
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Hello all,
My high school just passed a referendum that included money for the 605 seat performing arts center. We are looking for a digital sound board. Currently we have a 32 channel Allen & Heath GL2800. During the last few shows we have been filling all 32 inputs and all 8 aux outputs. The board is normally located in the booth. The 32 channel audio snake allows for a mid house position or booth position. If it makes any difference, we use 20 Shure QLXD4s and a variety of other wired mics. Anyways, we want something that can be cue based, have more input and output channels, remote connectivity, and preferably have and I/O box so the board can be moved around the venue.

Also, our venue is wired in mono with L being Mids/Highs and R being subs

If you could let me know any ideas, it would be much appreciated!
 

Jammer

Member
Joined
May 2, 2014
Location
San Diego California
Lots of discussion on this in other threads here. Also the Live Audio Board at ProsoundWeb here: https://forums.prosoundweb.com/ has a wealth of information and some threads specifically on theatre audio mixers. Offerings from Midas, Soundcraft, Yamaha, Allen & Heath etc. have a wide range of mixers and stage boxes, so best to figure out the requirements, e.g. 32 - 48 inputs, aux returns, etc. then balance that against the installed speaker system, then balance that against the budget. You need to replace the analog snake run with shielded CAT 5e/CAT 6 ethernet and you should be able to run that to both positions so you can move the board and they all have some wireless remote e.g. iPad, Android capability by adding a router as an option. Also consider the operator level if there is a lot of volunteer turnover expected to run the system. One very popular board is the Yamaha QL5 with Dante/RIO stage boxes, has a great workflow for theatre. Possible, but I wouldn't recommend moving it between positions. It's also not cheap and may not be within your budget. Of course if the speaker system is lacking there wouldn't be much point. There lots of discussion on the mono versus stereo, in many applications mono is fine, but if you are looking to say pan a sound FX from left to right this might be the time to think about running L/R and Sub, maybe even add a center fill to provide more mix output options.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Hi George-

You're looking at more than just a mixing console, as @Jammer indicates. All of the analog copper infrastructure that supports the GL2800 will need to be expanded or replaced (depending on what console you settle on).

Being realistic, how many inputs do you need? The new Behringer Wing has 48 mixable channels but can have over 100 inputs connected; all the inputs are stereo; all the outputs (matrix, groups, mains) are stereo. At MAP of US$3500 plus input/output snake boxes and you're looking at around $9k for 64 inputs and 32 outputs (Midas DL32) and the shielded CAT5e to connect it all. You can spend less, you can spend a whole lot more (Digico SD7T will reach into the 6 figure range, as will SSL; others just slightly less like Yamaha PM10 Rivage, Avid S6L etc) but you can mix theatre on a pair of X32 and use Palladium to slave them together and fire the cue changes.

If the school is doing extensive musical theater with "Broadway" expectations the other factor is "can the teaching staff teach the mixer and can the students reliably run it"? We ask a lot of theater teachers - we expect them to teach all the crafts of tech as well as dramaturgy, acting, character development, and house management. Buying a new whiz-bang console will only be as effective as the students are competent at operating it, and knowing *why* they are taking the actions they take as operators.

Note that I've not actually recommended a mixer? That's because it's not reliably possible to make recommendations on an internet forum that will live in you school for the next 10-15 years. The upgrade cycle (the GL was designed before you were born, if you're a student) is much shorter these days. We used to expect 20 years or more from an analog mixer, now the commercial market lifespan of a digital mixer is about 7-10 years.

You have system control issues, too, if you're having to pan L/R to route signals between the center cluster and any side speakers. Budget in more money for a proper controller, installation, programing, and hopefully some system tuning and optimization.

Welcome to rabbit hole, Alice will be with you soon. ;)
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
The GL series consoles really have been tanks and held up well especially given their price point. There is a reason many places got them back in the day.

As mentioned no matter which way you go, you'll be in for more than "just the console". However some of the consoles will get you started rather nicely depending on a few things.

One consideration I took in when I did my last install and looking at another in my other main venue is flexibility and how it will be used in the space. In both venues going with an extensive Dante network was a key part of how the new infrastructure was designed, while keeping a partial Patch Bay allowing for the Cat6A cabling to be repurposed in some cases for things like proprietary digital snakes if needed.

A LOT will depend on what you want to be able to get out of your system, how flexible you want it to be and how much money do you want to spend.

If you have a great local install company you can trust I'd get them to come out immediately and have a chat leading up to multiple quotations if you are unsure what direction to take.

I would CERTAINLY change from a MONO system when I have the opportunity as well.

Very much have to agree with Tim above. on all points BTW.

more than happy to chat about your requirements and what direction you might want to take, but as I mentioned it would be best if you can find someone local who can come out and have a physical look (and isn't just trying to "sell you stuff"). Please check in here along your journey and we'll be happy to make sure you are on track and not going to get "hosed". Trust me especially when it comes to schools and worship I've seen more than my fair share of places spend a bunch of money and not get what they really needed.

Cheers,
Steve.
 

mbrown3039

Active Member
Joined
Mar 20, 2018
Location
vegas, baby..!
Hello all,
My high school just passed a referendum that included money for the 605 seat performing arts center. We are looking for a digital sound board......If you could let me know any ideas, it would be much appreciated!
As mentioned above, the "teachability" of any equipment -- especially any console -- in an volunteer/amateur venue (I don't mean that in a derogatory fashion, just noting that your needs/standards are different than a Broadway/touring venue) should be considered. User-friendliness will not only impact your ability to get the most out of the console, it will also impact your ability to find people who already know the console and can A) help you teach it and B) fill in when the regularly-scheduled operator/s are not available.

Here in Vegas, the rundown is pretty much this:
- entry- to mid-level needs (Chevy): Behringer/Midas 32: decent sound, lots of options (including remote i/o), lots of people who know how to use it and the price point is hard to beat (especially since the recent demise of the LS9)
- higher level (GM): Yamaha or Midas
- top level (Cadillac): DigiCo
- damn, i wish I had one of those-level (Bentley): SSL

We are blessed with having training facilities here in town for both Music Tribe (Behringer/Midas) and SSL (although I am not certain if the SSL one is still open since Jay left the company) and TONS of knowledgeable operators for Music Tribe and Yamaha products, but your market may differ. Ask around, find out where the closest service center is for those brands, warranty details, educational resources (including online tutorials), etc. and THEN check feature sets. Good luck! m
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2019
Location
Lexington, SC
I'm going to be the dissenting opinion here and say that you DO NOT have to change out all of your existing infrastructure to take advantage of a new Digital console. Would it be helpful? Yes. Is is necessary? No.

I just replaced an old Allen and Heath analog board with a Midas M32 in a 20 year old theatre. We used a mix of old and new infrastructure. We ran a CAT5 line to the stage and placed a stage box in the stage managers rack because we had some bad channels in the existing stage inputs and it was easier and cheaper that way. We used the existing drive lines to the amps with no problem and the wireless mics were local inputs to the console. Had all of the stage inputs worked it could have been a drop in replacement.

If you are going to move the console from mid house to front of house then running shielded CAT5e would be a good idea. For the Midas DL32 box it has 2 ports that you can use as long as you are not cascading stage boxes. Use 1 for FOH and 1 for mid house. In the console you just tell it whether you are using #1 or #2.

This process can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be!
 

dflower

Member
Joined
Mar 15, 2010
Location
Houston
If you buy a digital mixer, it is important that the teacher be willing to make the effort to learn how to work the board so they can teach the students. Most of he 11 high schools around me bought Yamaha LS-9 boards several years ago, one has an older Presonis (sp?), one has a Soundcraft digital board. The five junior college theaters close by all have Yamaha M7-CL48s. Of these 16 schools, there is only one teacher at one school who knows enough about the board to teach anyone, and he just barely knows enough to get sound to come out. In a few cases where the teacher was not interested in learning the board, a specific student had enough interest to learn the board, but the student graduated a year or two later and the school was left with no one. It is a shame to see how much effort the students put in learning a show, only to have awful sound.
So, unless you have the right teacher, I highly recommend an analog board such as a Allen and Heath GL2400.
If you get to a point with a theatrical production where you have a lot of wireless mics (more than 5-10), and you have a lot of sound cues, you have to use a digital board to pre-program the cues.
The least expensive decent board is the Berringer X-32. I normally do not recommend it for schools because Berringer has added so many features to the board, it has become one of the more difficult boards to learn. If you have a few thousand dollars, I would recommend any of the Yamaha boards, and yes even including the TF-5. The TF series boards have every feature you need for basic theater, and are intentionally kept simple so they are easier to learn. If you have more money, then look at the Yamaha CL series. I would add the comment that the older Yamaha M7-CL48 has been the "go-to" board at many theaters. The big reason is, it has all 48 channels on the board - no layers to page through when you are trying to track down a mis-behaving mic.
 

syberjedi1999

Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2009
I've worked with quite a few Digital consoles over the years. We just got an Allen & Heath dLive system and it is by far the best I've ever worked with. That being said, it's not cheap. But the SQ series or the new Avantis may be closer to what you want. Many options to expand digital snake and also use existing.
 

Dionysus

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2009
Location
London, Ontario, Canada
I'm going to be the dissenting opinion here and say that you DO NOT have to change out all of your existing infrastructure to take advantage of a new Digital console. Would it be helpful? Yes. Is is necessary? No.

I just replaced an old Allen and Heath analog board with a Midas M32 in a 20 year old theatre. We used a mix of old and new infrastructure. We ran a CAT5 line to the stage and placed a stage box in the stage managers rack because we had some bad channels in the existing stage inputs and it was easier and cheaper that way. We used the existing drive lines to the amps with no problem and the wireless mics were local inputs to the console. Had all of the stage inputs worked it could have been a drop in replacement.

If you are going to move the console from mid house to front of house then running shielded CAT5e would be a good idea. For the Midas DL32 box it has 2 ports that you can use as long as you are not cascading stage boxes. Use 1 for FOH and 1 for mid house. In the console you just tell it whether you are using #1 or #2.

This process can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be!
I wasn't suggesting that all the infrastructure needed replacing, however, that you do need more than the console. Many digital consoles do not have enough physical inputs on the console so you still need to buy other equipment in order to take advantage of your existing snakes, etc. For example the Allen & Heath GLD (The Digital Console that replaced the GL series that the OP has) only has 4 physical XLR inputs on the console and 4 outputs. Without an AR2412 or such you really can't do much with the console! (not saying this for contention, however for clarification)

In purchasing my SQ6 which has 24 onboard physical XLR inputs, I originally had quoted 2 DT128 stageboxes, however, I later reduced to one for the time being. I still needed the second to get the number of total inputs I needed, and really putting some CAT6A cable in the walls did not cost me much more.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
If you buy a digital mixer, it is important that the teacher be willing to make the effort to learn how to work the board so they can teach the students. Most of he 11 high schools around me bought Yamaha LS-9 boards several years ago, one has an older Presonis (sp?), one has a Soundcraft digital board. The five junior college theaters close by all have Yamaha M7-CL48s. Of these 16 schools, there is only one teacher at one school who knows enough about the board to teach anyone, and he just barely knows enough to get sound to come out. In a few cases where the teacher was not interested in learning the board, a specific student had enough interest to learn the board, but the student graduated a year or two later and the school was left with no one. It is a shame to see how much effort the students put in learning a show, only to have awful sound.
So, unless you have the right teacher, I highly recommend an analog board such as a Allen and Heath GL2400.
If you get to a point with a theatrical production where you have a lot of wireless mics (more than 5-10), and you have a lot of sound cues, you have to use a digital board to pre-program the cues.
The least expensive decent board is the Berringer X-32. I normally do not recommend it for schools because Berringer has added so many features to the board, it has become one of the more difficult boards to learn. If you have a few thousand dollars, I would recommend any of the Yamaha boards, and yes even including the TF-5. The TF series boards have every feature you need for basic theater, and are intentionally kept simple so they are easier to learn. If you have more money, then look at the Yamaha CL series. I would add the comment that the older Yamaha M7-CL48 has been the "go-to" board at many theaters. The big reason is, it has all 48 channels on the board - no layers to page through when you are trying to track down a mis-behaving mic.
I think the problem was not exactly that the teachers 'didn't know digital mixer XYZ' so much as the teachers really weren't sound designers and technicians. The one that had audio leanings was also teaching everything else, too, and really couldn't devote new, additional time to production instruction. My observation is that motivated students teach themselves, under guidance. Unmotivated students must be instructed. In everything. That's a full plate. {quick story} I bought a Yamaha O1v on eBay. $400. It was my first digital mixer for this old analog guy and I considered the money to be tuition at the Skool of Digital. Once I figured out and understood the difference between 0 dBVu and 0 DBFS, it was just a matter of poking around on it, using RTFM, and I determined these devices were not an evil plot from a foreign power to corrupt our audio innocence, indeed these devices were our friends. In these small boxes were a big-ass box of tools, in qualities that Analogue Guy could only dream of. Parametric EQ? Yes. Compressors? Everywhere (metaphorically). FX? Built in. But I was already a sound guy and kind of knew what tools were useful to me, had some idea of how to use them, and could deliver an audibly better product because of them.

The GL2400 was a nice little analogue desk in its day, lots of clubs, civic halls and houses of worship had them. I like straight forward analoge mixers to teach signal flow, gain staging and trouble shooting. I don't like mixing musical theatre on them and I think some scripts/scores would almost impossible for one individual to operate.

The X32/M32 is a feature-rich ecosystem and yes, one can configure a *32 in such ways that it not pass audio. Out of the box, it works if you follow the quick start guide. Adventure off the beaten path and use bread crumbs... well, it didn't work out too well for Hansel and Grettle, either. :eek: Seriously, the same configureability sophistication is what makes it great for musical theater - the pit on their own "kind of like Aviom" mixers, for example. They can be controlled by Chris Hubbard's Palladium. And they're everywhere, like the Mackie 1604 in a previous century. Finding people that have already seen, touched, used and possibly cursed and/or praised these mixers shouldn't be too difficult. Uli has sold 7 million, world wide...

That said, there are mixers that are easier to use and have their own growth/expansion capabilities, like Soundcraft, whose main liability is being Soundcraft. I've never mixed a muscial on one, though. My experience has been music concert or small corporate talking heads and for the most part found the Si to be friendly, if unsophisticated.

For a tight budget for a "real" console, a Yamaha CL series surface with Tio boxes can pack a lot of value into a mixer, and Yamaha is about as ubiquitous a brand as you'll find in most civic centers, PACS, and AV shops. Disney just bought a number of the new big dog PM10 Rivage desks, so there's some brand "halo" now... but "Yamaha is everbody's *second* choice" says a lot, too.