You are here

Digital mixer for electronic instruments

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby jvq » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:51 pm

Hello SOS Forum (first post!),

I make electronic music as a hobby using synths and drum machines. I mix on analog mixers (AH MixWizard as main mixer, with a Mackie VLZ4 as a drum submixer). I sometimes read about fancy digital mixing desks (AH Qu, SQ, Behringer X32, Soundcraft Si, Presonus Studiolive etc.) but I get the impression they are no suited for what I do, because (apart from the AH Qu) they tend to only have XLR inputs which I don't quite trust.

I should add this is more about me developing my general understanding of this gear than about solving an actual need. The analog desks I have now work fine. The only advantage of digital for me personally would be to have compression and a parametric EQ per channel, which opens up some mixing/production possibilities compared to how I work now. I am aware that "use a DAW" is a more obvious way to have more EQ's etc. :)

Back to digital mixers with line sources. I don't have an issue with soldering XLR conncetors onto my cables, but I don't like the thought that accidentally enabling 48V phantom power is even possible. On a mixer that only has XLR inputs I feel like I'm a button press away from frying one of my synths. One can work around that with DI but in my case that would be quite expensive - if I had a 16 channel digital mixer, I would need 16 DI's or isolators to make use of its full track count.

This leads me to the conclusion that these digital mixers are fundamentally unsuitable for my use case: a mixer fully populated with line level signals. My question is, am I right? Or am I perhaps too paranoid in my distrust of XLR inputs for synths?
jvq
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:14 pm

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby jvq » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:07 pm

A related but different question. Some professional gear has line level XLR outputs. One may end up plugging such outputs into a mixer with XLR inputs and mic preamps. Can one expect professional line level XLR outputs to be protected against exposure to 48V phantom power?

For example a digital mixer like the Soundcraft Si Expression 1 has only XLR outputs. Would those be safe when exposed to 48V?

My concern about 48V frying other gear might be overblown.
jvq
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:14 pm

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:21 pm

Behringer XR18 has 16 combi TRS/XLR inputs (plus one stereo input on TRS jacks), is an 18 x 18 USB audio interface and costs €379/£330. No faders though but control is available using iOS, Android, Mac OSX or Windows apps. Behringer's DAW controller, The X-Touch, gives you 9 motorised faders, loads of dedicated buttons and a Jog wheel plus LCD scribble strips, can control the XR18 as well as the DAW and costs €349/£300.

I have an X32 Compact and, as you say, the inputs are mostly on XLR so a bal/unbal XLR/TS lead could end up with 48V on the synth outputs. Is there a simple way to make leads that can protect against accidentally applied Phantom power? If not you'd need to budget for a SD16 stage box if you went the X32 route (€499/£426).
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8680
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:24 pm

The Zoom LiveTrak L-20 has 16 combo XLR/Jack inputs too, but the manual is unclear as to whether phantom is passed to the line inputs as well - something to check with combos....

Bob
User avatar
Bob Bickerton
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3646
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2002 1:00 am
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
http://www.bickerton.co.nz

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:17 pm

I have checked that on my XR12 and can confirm the TRS input does not carry spook power when it is active on the XLR side of the combi socket. TBH I'd be surprised if any did, my Mackie DL1608 has four combi sockets which are designed to accept balanced or unbalanced ¼" jack leads, I'll check it next week.
User avatar
Sam Spoons
Jedi Poster
Posts: 8680
Joined: Thu Jan 23, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Manchester UK
Finally taking this recording lark seriously (and recording my Gypsy Jazz CD)........

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby The Elf » Sat Mar 09, 2019 6:13 pm

I'd say you're being too paranoid, but you do have some justification.

I have been using a couple of Zoom LiveTrack 12s with a rig of synths and now use a Behringer XR18. Both have combi sockets. I'll use an XLR-to-XLR whenever possible (a far better connection than jacks IMO), but if the synth has a jack I'll use a jack-to-jack. I use balanced cables throughout. I will not use jack-to-XLR cables.

I think that Behringer missed a trick not giving the X32 combi sockets. I know many synth players that have avoided the X32 range for this reason, and I'm now amongst them.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11918
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby James Perrett » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:19 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:TBH I'd be surprised if any did

One of the items reviewed in last month's SOS magazine fed phantom power to its jack inputs so it isn't unknown although it should be rare. I don't have my copy handy so can't check to see exactly what it was.
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7851
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:42 pm

You're probably thinking of the Golden Age Premiere preamp:

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/golden-age-premier-pre-73-preq-73

Although most equipment is designed such that phantom doesn't appear on the jack side of combi-XLRs, I've come across a distrurbing number that do... So I always test rather than assume!

I think the OP is right to be concerned about the potential for damage to synth's and other line-level equipment from phantom power. Some is robust and safe, but certainly not all and, once again, I'd never assume anything was phantom-safe (unless I knew it had output transformers!).

Having said that, I connect my synths to the XLR inputs of a Yamaha DM1000 without concern because I trust myself not to activate phantom on those channels. But if the desk was being used by someone else I'd consider connecting via passive DI boxes to be safe! :-D

H
User avatar
Hugh Robjohns
Moderator
Posts: 22671
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Worcestershire, UK
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby jvq » Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:43 pm

Thanks for all the replies everybody!

Nice to know that combi XLR can be safe.

While those new iPad-only mixers like the Behringer XR 18 have nice features the tablet experience is not my cup of tea.

It so happens that cats roam my studio and they can and will engage occasionally 48V on some of my MixWizard channel strips. Lucky for me the MixWizard has the luxury of TRS inputs.

I suppose some of these digital mixers are just strongly geared towards microphone-heavy use cases (live sound?). I think I'll stay with what I have for now. :)
jvq
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:14 pm

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby The Elf » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:22 am

jvq wrote:While those new iPad-only mixers like the Behringer XR 18 have nice features the tablet experience is not my cup of tea.
Not mine either. Happily the X32 (and X/XR derivatives) aren't iPad only! There's software for PC and Mac too.

I use an Ethernet cable safely connected to the same laptop for which it's providing a USB audio interface. I don't have much time for tablet devices, and I certainly wouldn't trust a WiFi connection for the stage.

So don't dismiss the X devices on the basis of requiring a tablet - that definitely isn't the case!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 11918
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby Mike Stranks » Sun Mar 10, 2019 11:27 am

... and as Hugh says, if you used some DI boxes as 'buffers' and went into mic inputs you'd avoid potential phantom horrors.

Check-out Orchid Electronics for very good and remarkably priced DIs. They have a a big fan-base here!

FWIW, I've experienced phantom into line outputs before - several times. Sounded horrible, but no permanent damage. But better safe than sorry!
User avatar
Mike Stranks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6135
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2003 1:00 am
Location: Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby OneWorld » Sun Mar 10, 2019 12:55 pm

The Elf wrote:
I think that Behringer missed a trick not giving the X32 combi sockets. I know many synth players that have avoided the X32 range for this reason, and I'm now amongst them.

I agree, I am ruminating over which digital mixer to get and the lack of combi sockets goes against the x32 which otherwise seems quite a capable mixer
OneWorld
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2475
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:00 am

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby CS70 » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:04 pm

jvq wrote:It so happens that cats roam my studio and they can and will engage occasionally 48V on some of my MixWizard channel strips.

Cathom power! :-D

Having a four years old child, I've found myself recently thinking why the 48v switches don't have a cap or something, like a "fire" button.. luckily one more year and I'll likely be out of danger. :)
User avatar
CS70
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 3336
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video  and the FB page

Re: Digital mixer for electronic instruments

Postby James Perrett » Mon Mar 11, 2019 3:03 pm

CS70 wrote:Having a four years old child, I've found myself recently thinking why the 48v switches don't have a cap or something, like a "fire" button

Studiomaster had the right idea when they used recessed phantom power switches on their desks. You had to use a pen or some other small implement to switch them on (although maybe a 4 year old's finger might do it).
User avatar
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 7851
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:00 am
Location: The wilds of Hampshire
JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration. JRP Music Facebook Page


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: ronmac