New things are the spice of life. They shake up the monotony and give our brains fresh neuron building material. This is my first attempt at writing a blog. Recently someone asked me to share my opinions on things audio related. Since I was anticipating mixing FoH for the Aiken Bluegrass Festival and had the opportunity to try out the Behringer x32 for the first time, I decided to blog about my experience.
I must say that the release of the x32 last year caused quite a hoopla in my audio circles. Behringer has long been associated with low end club gear so when they announced their purchase of Midas, everyone was expecting the worst: more prosumer gear with short lifespans and questionable engineering. But I must applaud Behringer for their desire to produce professionally minded digital audio gear for ridiculously low prices.
Now for a confession. I’ve accepted many gigs knowing full well that I’d be using a console I’d never used or trained on before. The venerable PM5D, the Profile, the SD10, etc., were all learned while setting them up for my first show with them. With the exception of one obscure German console in Singapore, which shall remain nameless, I have been able to successfully mix each of my inaugural shows on them. I wanted to do the same with the x32 in Aiken, so the available M7CL, a console I already know, went to monitors.
I fired up the x32 and found the ergonomic layout familiar and easy to navigate. The controls for the channel strip are laid out in a logical manner reflecting signal flow. Each section has a View button that quickly brings the proper screen to the display, ready for edit. I prefer non touchscreen digital consoles for a few reasons, primarily the parallax error associated with them. I find that sometimes I miss what I’m aiming for. I prefer buttons like the clearly labeled ones beside the x32 display. Sadly I fear that the labels may fade with thousands of finger pressings, but a strip of label tape will save the day.
Since it was a straight forward bluegrass festival and most of my acts were 16 channels or less, setup and routing were a snap. The layout screens are well organized yet powerful. I had my rig setup and tuned in under an hour. Not bad for failing to read the manual.
Now for the $64,000 question. How does it sound? It sounds great. The preamps are neutral sounding, not hyped or hollow. (As long as they don’t clip the ADC. A clipped digital signal still sounds bad!) The EQ and compressors are simple, but very musical. I was able to broadly sculpt tonal requirements while still using narrow filters to eliminate resonances. The gates worked great for the one drum kit we had. Effects were also sparse, but I must comment on the smoothness of the reverb patches. I liked them a lot. Other cool features include on the fly recording to the built in USB port, multitrack recording via FireWire and a great iPad app.
So to wrap up my first blog, I think the x32 is a great sounding console and I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the available features. The x32 passed my anti-RTFM test with flying colors.