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Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK Review - April 2016

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Re: Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK Review - April 2016

Postby Wacka » Tue May 07, 2019 12:15 am

Just stumbled upon this post.
I myself have owned the Signature 10 for about 6 months now and I'm struggling with the effects.They just dont sound very good.
it's either swimming in reverb or not enough and rather muddy, I just can't get them right and I am constantly tweeking, often on stage.Don't know what i'm doing wrong.
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Re: Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK Review - April 2016

Postby SonicMaverick » Wed Jul 08, 2020 5:21 am

Well this is an interesting thread and no mistake!

So I am a totally blind audio producer, and as such, the 22MTK should be ideal for me because it gives me full hands-on control of mixes in a way digital boards simply can’t match!

Boy have I been on a journey with mixers though! My first was Tascam’s FW1884. It was a great control surface and built like the proverbial tank, but the integrated mixer was basically an afterthought and not really very useful.

Next came the Yamaha N12 which was absolutely stunning and rock-solid! Apart from it’s pretty poor routing options, this was probably my favourite console until the FireWire card died. if Yamaha had released a refresh with USB interface instead at that point I would almost certainly have bought it without question, but they didn’t, and the series had been discontinued a couple of years before mine finally gave up the ghost.

So what to do now? I am blind, and by 2017 most multitrack mixing consoles had gone digital. for those of you who don’t know, digital mixing consoles present very interesting and unique challenges for blind users. All screen and no knob as we say! well perhaps a few knobs, but working with a digital fat channel if you are blind is very tricky as you can never be sure what channel you are working with at any given moment.

Eventually I decided to try out the Presonus SL 16.0.2, The simplest of the digital mixers at the time, and quite bright multicoloured LED buttons which I have just enough vision to work with. I think I could’ve kept the desk if it weren’t for the absolutely appalling USB driver implementation. Missing blocks of data in the middle of recordings, weird artefacts, dropouts and so on. The struggle for a stable USB connection wasn’t worth the extra effort and eyestrain required to work with the desk, and of course it does have a screen which is required for some operations though these are largely housekeeping.

I thought about trying it’s bigger brother the SL 16.4.2, but I decided that since it used the same USB driver, I would probably experience very similar problems in the end. Also, Presonus was moving on to the series 3 digital mixers by then, and I realised that support for the older models would run out eventually.

I looked at the Allen and Heath Zeedi 10 FX, but what I really wanted was lots of DAW returns. Most small format analogue/USB desks only have a 2-in/2-out interface, or at best a bias for DAW inputs. For example, Behringer‘s UFX16, 16-in/4-out. Presonus AR16C, the same and so on.

But what I needed was the other way round, because I work with sample libraries and electronic instruments a lot so I wanted to bring back lots of returns and mix them to give that final analog warmth before printing the final mix. I even thought about keeping it all in the box and going for something like that mother of all control surfaces, the Sonicstate logic nucleus. But then I saw the pricetag, had a heart attack and gave up on that idea immediately!

And so enter the Soundcraft signature 22MTK. Way more inputs than I could ever use, but plenty of USB audio returns! Even more spectacularly, Soundcraft have done something pretty astonishing with the USB driver for Windows. normally with a multichannel USB interface, you find all input/outputs are exposed to your DAW if you are using the asio part of the driver, with your options often being presented as left/right or stereo for each pair of inputs, 1/2, 3/4, 5/6 and so on. however you never see this if you go to the Windows Sound Control Panel which uses WDM drivers. however that’s not true for the MTK boards, either of them!

This means that you could send a microphone on channel one to your DAW over asio, run the signal through a bunch of fx plug-ins, bring the processed signal back on say channel 3 via asio, use the comprehensive routing of the desk to send that channel to a sub-group, create a recording bus by patching the sub-group bus to a stereo channel, and send that to any software on your computer that requires a WDM input. for your information, I do this all the time! The software I use to record audiobooks only excepts WDM input, and does not allow you to run VST plug-ins of any kind. So I use Sonar as an fx rack using asio send and return, and then the routing capabilities of the MTK to feed a WDM signal to my audiobook recording software. It works a treat! It’s just such a crying shame the signature MTK series doesn’t!

Sadly, I am now on my third 22 MTK, and even more sadly, that too has now gone wrong! I am about to receive my fourth unit in two years! every unit has gone to the scrapheap with a different problem. The first one had a weird electronic wine on start-up. Sometimes it would disappear over time, but in the end it didn’t go away at all. The second one appeared fine at first, but then all of a sudden audio playback would become super distorted. This would happen at random, and the only way to clear it was to disconnect the USB cable and reconnect it. The current desk went wrong five days ago. I became aware of a funny clicking noise. It was a bit like the patricians clock in the Discworld novels for any of you who know them. It would tick regularly, but then every so often there would be a tick slightly out of place. in the Discworld novels, this clock was designed to put people in the waiting room on edge, and it’s certainly had that effect on me when it started happening on my MTK!

I am sitting there editing an audiobook for Amazon. I suddenly hear a click in my headphones. Was that the mixing desk, or a click in the actual recorded audio? stop the playback, jump back a couple of seconds, play again. No click. But you can imagine how annoying that became very quickly! and it took me hours to work out what the problem was. I tracked it down to the second of the two on-board fx engines eventually. I hardly ever use the on-board engines but they are useful to provide a little bit of comfort reverb for a singer, that kind of thing. of course I don’t need two engines to provide comfort reverb, so the second engine never got used. imagine my surprise then, when I pushed up the second fx fader, and the clicking suddenly became deafening! I don’t know what has happened, but the second engine has completely failed. You cannot change or prevent the deafening clicking/banging from happening. It’s so loud by the time you slide the fader to unity that you simply cannot do so with headphones on!

And so I have told the company, and I am waiting for them to agree to send me yet another unit! Of course in the meantime, I am unable to work!

But I am not sitting idly twiddling my thumbs. Oh no! I have now reviewed practically every mixing console without a touchscreen under £2000, and just cannot find any comparable product with the possible exception of the Tascam Model 24 that will enable me to do all the things I am trying to do. To be fair, the Tascam does come very close, and in fact has some advantages over the 22 MTK, but I already know that the windows drivers will not allow me to use the asio/WDM combination I need to use when recording audiobooks, so unless I can find software suitable for recording narration that is fully accessible for a blind computer user, the model 24 is not an option for me.

That isn’t to say however, that any of the Model series wouldn’t be perfectly acceptable for those of you with a more standard use case. By all accounts, the Tascam desks are pretty dam good with excellent preamps, so maybe worth a look.

In summary... The Soundcraft MTK mixing desks are fabulous to work on, and the USB driver implementation is 2nd to none! Unfortunately however, the electronics inside the desks are appalling. You may be lucky and get one that doesn’t have any faults, but based on my experience, it’s more likely that you will encounter a problem at some point sadly.

On the other hand, you guys have quite a few options to look at these days.: the Tascam Model series, the Zoom Livetrack series, the Presonus Studiolive and AR lineups, Behringer’s X series, Mackie’s range of tablet controlled desks and so on.

Unfortunately, I have very few choices as a blind producer. At this point, I really don’t know what to do. I thought about switching to an audio interface instead, and purchasing something like the Behringer X-Touch One, but the sad reality is most audio interfaces with on-board DSP for things like compression require the use of computer-based software to edit parameters, set up different routing parths and so on.

I can’t think of any digital mixes that are completely accessible, with the possible exception of the Behringer X32 which I know some blind producers are using. However I think this console is massive overkill for me! On what planet would I ever need 48 simultaneous inputs? And of course although the company made some interface choices that have made it more accessible than most digital mixing desks, the reality is there is still a screen involved, so some functionality will not be accessible. Anyway, to anyone still interested in this thread, good luck on your mixing desk journey. As far as The MTK series goes, you may be lucky. You may get a desk where all the electronic components are fine and will last a good few years as it should! However I personally think it’s more likely you will have one problem or another at some point. But hey! Knock yourself out! Or don’t, and pick something more up to date.
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Re: Soundcraft Signature 22 MTK Review - April 2016

Postby Folderol » Wed Jul 08, 2020 1:48 pm

@ SonicMaverick
I don't have anything to add, but I'm seriously impressed by your determination and persistence with this :clap:
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