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What's the point of a digital stage box? Mixers (Digital)
Old 5th September 2018
  #1
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What's the point of a digital stage box?

I'm not trying to troll or be controversial, but am honestly asking: what is the advantage of a digital stage box other than you can run one network cable and not have to lug around a big heavy snake (or two!)?

I bring this up because I am looking at buying a Midas M32. If I were to buy a Midas stage box, wouldn't I in effect just be buying the preamps twice?

Am I missing something? Is a stage box for mixers that can handle more channels but only have a limited number of on-board preamps?
Old 6th September 2018
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpaldridge View Post
I'm not trying to troll or be controversial, but am honestly asking: what is the advantage of a digital stage box other than you can run one network cable and not have to lug around a big heavy snake (or two!)?

I bring this up because I am looking at buying a Midas M32. If I were to buy a Midas stage box, wouldn't I in effect just be buying the preamps twice?

Am I missing something? Is a stage box for mixers that can handle more channels but only have a limited number of on-board preamps?
Using a lightweight/compact is a massive benefit compared with a heavy/bulky analog snake.

Digital stageboxes allow soft patching. Take the M32 as an example, you can have up to 96 connected input channels, albeit with the standard M32 limit of 32 full DSP channels. So, you could have two 32 channel acts fully connected, and swap between the two by a quick soft patch. Not massive for me, but could be for some.

Ability to provide a FOH/monitor split without the need for bulky/expensive analog splits.
Old 6th September 2018
  #3
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So there's a bunch of things that you can do with digital stageboxes, depending on the desk, the mix engine may be capable of processing more channels than it has physical io for (although I don't think that's the case with M32),

the catX/BNC cables you use to string things together can be significantly smaller, lighter and potentially cheaper than traditional copper multis,

Splits can be done on the network rather than requiring external splitters, and can often be made whilst the system is live,

Most digital stageboxes systems also support some form of redundancy in case a cable gets damaged
Old 6th September 2018
  #4
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You can also run P16M personal monitors from the stagebox instead of having to run a cable from FOH to the stage.
Old 6th September 2018
  #5
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imo the biggest advantage of using digital stageboxes is the higher signal quality due to shorter cable length
Old 6th September 2018
  #6
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Is the audio quality noticeable better using a digital snake? Considering replacing our analog snake at our venue.
Old 6th September 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
imo the biggest advantage of using digital stageboxes is the higher signal quality due to shorter cable length
*Biggest* - really...?

While digital stageboxes do reduce the distance that the analog signal travels, I don't think I've ever heard anyone reference this as a significant driver away from analog.

Can't say I've noticed any detriment using a 100m snake...
Old 6th September 2018
  #8
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...you then either use stellar quality snakes, have all terrific mics in front of it or (more likely) didn't take the time to compare/measure side by side?

on larger festivals cable lengths from stage to foh (and especially to broadcast trucks) can become much longer than 100m (from mic to preamp): that's why many brodcasters started using remotely controlled preamps a long time ago so they could at least drive their signals down the snakes with higher levels.

if massive mic splitters and tons of analog snakes would give me better sound, i'd keep on schlepping them around - i'm glad they don't!
Old 6th September 2018
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
on larger festivals cable lengths from stage to foh (or especially to broadcast trucks) can become much longer than 100m (from mic to preamp): that's why many brodcasters started using remotely controlled preamps a long time ago so they could at least drive their signals down the snakes with higher levels.
Fair enough - that's outside my league.

The OP was talking about M32, so presumably shorter runs - after all, AES50 is recommended to be no more than 100m.

Quote:
Originally Posted by azlan121 View Post
So there's a bunch of things that you can do with digital stageboxes, depending on the desk, the mix engine may be capable of processing more channels than it has physical io for (although I don't think that's the case with M32)
Take the Soundcraft Si Expression 1 - 16 inputs, can become a 66 input desk with the appropriate stagebox - that's some expansion.
Old 7th September 2018
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
...you then either use stellar quality snakes, have all terrific mics in front of it or (more likely) didn't take the time to compare/measure side by side?

on larger festivals cable lengths from stage to foh (and especially to broadcast trucks) can become much longer than 100m (from mic to preamp): that's why many brodcasters started using remotely controlled preamps a long time ago so they could at least drive their signals down the snakes with higher levels.

if massive mic splitters and tons of analog snakes would give me better sound, i'd keep on schlepping them around - i'm glad they don't!
As technical director of two big festivals the biggest advantage for me especially at the high channel count, big venue end is the convenience and the cost, which far outweigh any difference in quality. It is a lot easier and faster to run 300 feet of digital snake than it is to run 300m of 64 channels of copper snake which will require a forklift. It also costs a lot more to maintain a copper patch and snake...and they are less flexible than digital if/when you need to make changes on the fly.

Yes, long runs affect the performance of the microphones, but sound quality was not on the list of reasons when we switched over to a digital stagebox and snake, plus, no touring outfit was going to switch to a digital console and still cart around a big, heavy copper box and snake...wouldn’t make sense. Obviously, if you carry an analog console you will be stuck with copper.
Old 7th September 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue439 View Post
Is the audio quality noticeable better using a digital snake? Considering replacing our analog snake at our venue.
Depends on the length of the copper snake...for relatively short runs copper is still used in even the best recording facilities in the world. For short runs under 100m I’d be more worried about the mechanical condition of the snake or the quality of the console than the general performance of the snake or stage box.
Old 7th September 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
As technical director of two big festivals the biggest advantage for me especially at the high channel count, big venue end is the convenience and the cost, which far outweigh any difference in quality. It is a lot easier and faster to run 300 feet of digital snake than it is to run 300m of 64 channels of copper snake which will require a forklift. It also costs a lot more to maintain a copper patch and snake...and they are less flexible than digital if/when you need to make changes on the fly.

Yes, long runs affect the performance of the microphones, but sound quality was not on the list of reasons when we switched over to a digital stagebox and snake, plus, no touring outfit was going to switch to a digital console and still cart around a big, heavy copper box and snake...wouldn’t make sense. Obviously, if you carry an analog console you will be stuck with copper.
of course other benefits (which you mentioned) mostly 'outperform' the aspect of signal integrity; however in the two fields that i'm working (classical music recording/mixing and broadcasts) besides live mixing, things sometimes get weighted in somewhat different ways (hence my comment that using shorter cable lengths in front of remotely controlled stageboxes/preamps/converters to me is the most important aspect) - guess we're all after optimum sound, so this development can be viewed very positively!

now i'm waiting for a major manufacturer to come up with system that would allow for use of different types of preamps in one stagebox - to some extent, this is possible but i'd like to see it more often and with more variety...

more importantly, i'd like to see that manufacturers would team up and develop/use a universal/common approach which would allow to use/combine stageboxes of choice from any manufacturer with any desk (as long as audio gets packed into one if the most widely used formats) - i assume this not gonna happen anytime soon though...
Old 7th September 2018
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
of course other benefits (which you mentioned) mostly 'outperform' the aspect of signal integrity; however in the two fields that i'm working (classical music recording/mixing and broadcasts) besides live mixing, things sometimes get weighted in somewhat different ways (hence my comment that using shorter cable lengths in front of remotely controlled stageboxes/preamps/converters to me is the most important aspect) - guess we're all after optimum sound, so this development can be viewed very positively!
Almost everybody in the industry would like to get away from big, heavy and expensive copper systems for mobile use. A properly built and maintained installed copper system works well and is still a bonus because it allows the venue to cater to bands that use an analog console.

Quote:
more importantly, i'd like to see that manufacturers would team up and develop/use a universal/common approach which would allow to use/combine stageboxes of choice from any manufacturer with any desk (as long as audio gets packed into one if the most widely used formats) - i assume this not gonna happen anytime soon though...
This would be the sensible thing to do of course, bit I think your assumption is correct...not gonna happen anytime soon.
Old 8th September 2018
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpaldridge View Post
is the advantage of a digital stage box other than you can run one network cable and not have to lug around a big heavy snake (or two!)?

Is a stage box for mixers that can handle more channels but only have a limited number of on-board preamps?
Yes and yes and you can’t share your mixer inputs with another mixer. You can only fit so many connectors on a mixer obviously.

Imagine giant tour. No one is carrying a 128 channel analog snake; that’d be crazy.
Old 8th September 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlecSp View Post
The OP was talking about M32, so presumably shorter runs - after all, AES50 is recommended to be no more than 100m.
For the record 100m is the general consensus for any balanced cable length analog or digital. Obviously analog will work longer than that, but with potential for increasing HF loss.
Old 8th September 2018
  #16
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Anyone who has ever lugged a big roll of copper snake around will agree that the size and weight difference alone is more than enough reason to go with a digital stage box.

That aside, having the ability to do multiple band setups with stage boxes and switch scenes to determine which set of stage boxes you are using for inputs is crazy convenient for shows with either multiple stages, or multiple acts on a single stage.

Adding channel count is also a pretty good reason to do it, though as pointed out, this is not always the case with every mixer.
Old 9th September 2018
  #17
Gear Nut
 

One group I mix has a long, 24-channel copper snake which packs in a huge rolling box almost the size of a VW Beetle. By the time I've unpacked the thing I don't have much energy left for setup. Packing the thing takes three people and lots of sweat.

Another group uses a digital stage box running Dante. Category cable on a small reel I can carry with one finger. For insurance, make that two reels. The ability to do network splits onto a computer for recording or whatever. After setting this one up I'm not even breathing hard.

For small setups one can make a case for cost, but for the advantages and extra function it's not much of an argument. The technology is mature and well-tested.
Old 9th September 2018
  #18
S21
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The end of an analogue snake is easier to fix in the field. The middle of a digital snake is easier to fix in the field...
Old 9th September 2018
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 View Post
The end of an analogue snake is easier to fix in the field. The middle of a digital snake is easier to fix in the field...
You can carry two digital snakes so you won't have to make repairs in the field...
Old 9th September 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpaldridge View Post
Is a stage box for mixers that can handle more channels but only have a limited number of on-board preamps?
Some people have said yes to this and while it can be used in this way technically, I've never actually seen or heard of anyone doing this because it does not make practical sense in the real world.

For bigger gigs/tours and festivals if you need 128 channels, you are going to have a console that can process 128 inputs...sub-snakes going to each group of instruments (drum drop, guitar drop, horns drop, keys drop etc.), with a multi-pin connector which can be reconnected on the appropriate riser/position in seconds. There is no real gain to having a 128 input stage-box on a console that can only process 32 inputs.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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If this is in a theater with an M32...yes get the digital stage box. Yes your buying more mic pres but you gaining mic pres. You can plug everything on the stage in the stage box and still have channels at FOH for your playback, wireless rack, and video if needed.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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Digital stage boxes are the harbinger of the new paradigm in digital audio protocol that separates capture from processing. It greatly increases functional flexibility while reducing labor and expense in a major way. The ability to scale your gear to fit an 8 channel to 64 channel capture with the same small cat 6 connected processing controller is delivery on the promise of digital audio production. This is the range of channels 99% of our forum readers will need to have available to meet their work opportunities. We spend a lot of time kibitzing massive 100+ channel console activity of major touring productions however the real question is what is the best solution for a professional business model that accommodates a 3 mic Q & A, a 6 mic business conference, an 8 to 64 mic live music performance. Sensible scaleability is the answer to the OP's question.
Hugh
Old 1 week ago
  #23
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In one of the venues I work the FOH is in an undesirable location. Often a touring engineer will ask if we can move it. Digital snake is much more mobile in cases like this.
Old 6 days ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brew View Post
For the record 100m is the general consensus for any balanced cable length analog or digital. Obviously analog will work longer than that, but with potential for increasing HF loss.

Who told you that? Mic level will run for hundreds of meters and line levels will run for kilometers. Cable quality starts to matter of course, HF loss due to internal capacitance as well as level loss due to resistance will become issues after a certain length. Same goes for any hum and RF related noise.

For digital standards, rather accurate limits are given either by manufacturer or protocol developer (often the AES). An important difference exists between copper and optical systems.



Dutchy
Old 6 days ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wpaldridge View Post
I bring this up because I am looking at buying a Midas M32. If I were to buy a Midas stage box, wouldn't I in effect just be buying the preamps twice?

Am I missing something? Is a stage box for mixers that can handle more channels but only have a limited number of on-board preamps?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samc View Post
Some people have said yes to this and while it can be used in this way technically, I've never actually seen or heard of anyone doing this because it does not make practical sense in the real world.

For bigger gigs/tours and festivals if you need 128 channels, you are going to have a console that can process 128 inputs...sub-snakes going to each group of instruments (drum drop, guitar drop, horns drop, keys drop etc.), with a multi-pin connector which can be reconnected on the appropriate riser/position in seconds. There is no real gain to having a 128 input stage-box on a console that can only process 32 inputs.

Seems like you might not be understanding each other fully.

No, it generally does not make sense to have more physical inputs (and outputs) than available processing channels like SamC mentions. However, many high-end digital consoles these days have very little in terms of on-board I/O (also called local I/O). With desks like the Digico SD series, Avid S6L, Midas Pro series and many other there is little use in buying the desk without digital stage boxes since the local I/O is generally somewhere in the range of 8 to 16 mic/line I/O and a handful of digital AES3 I/O. In these cases protocols like MADI, Optocore, Dante, AVB or proprietary protocols are used for multichannel signal and data transfer between desk and stagebox(es).


When buying a new M32 I'd consider the following:

- A suitable analog multicable (32in, 16out) of useful length with a nice stagebox and multipin connectors on either end terminating to Neutrik XLR's will cost about as much as a pair of DL16's and a reel of touring grade CAT5.

- An Allen&Heath SQ6 (or 5 or 7) is about the same price as an M32 but it's twice the desk when it comes to flexibility (patching, fader assignment) and ease of use. They sound great, have a few more input channels and the SQ6 is a fair bit smaller whilst sporting the same amount of faders. Go check 'em out and thank me later.



Dutchy
Old 4 days ago
  #26
hsk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutchy15 View Post
- An Allen&Heath SQ6 (or 5 or 7) is about the same price as an M32 but it's twice the desk when it comes to flexibility (patching, fader assignment) and ease of use. They sound great, have a few more input channels and the SQ6 is a fair bit smaller whilst sporting the same amount of faders. Go check 'em out and thank me later.
Hey Dutchy,

I was recently looking at the SQ6 vs the M32 and noticed the SQ6 certainly looks better on paper. However, a handful of different people advised that the M32 would probably be a better option to get. Why do you think anyone would say the M32 is better?

The sound is definitely more important than the tech specs and without being able to play with both mixing consoles side by side it's challenging to determine which one sounds better and is easier to use. I will say the M32 seems to be more popular.

Thanks for any insights you might provide.
Old 4 days ago
  #27
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Dutchy got it right!
Hugh
Old 4 days ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hsk View Post
...I was recently looking at the SQ6 vs the M32 and noticed the SQ6 certainly looks better on paper. ...
Thanks for any insights you might provide.
Now that I'm tiptoeing into video, I pay attention to the 48kHz native sample rate of all of my cameras. I checked through the SQ6 spec sheet, and it shows that the USB port runs at a single speed of 96kHz.

That now brings a challenge to me regarding workflow of new projects and pre-existing projects. In macOS, I know Logic Pro X is tolerant/agile with the hardware being at a different sample rate setting than the project. On the Windows side, I think I remember Reaper being tolerant too, but I know for sure CbB (Sonar) isn't agile in that way.

I routinely bring home the multitrack audio and create a 48k stereo mix for import to the NLE, and then multi-cam align everything. In the context of the SQ, help me think through this:

If my multitrack venue capture is also at 48k, then with the SQ, I think I'd have to upsample all the multitrack, and then *also* upsample the audio of the camera audio so I can work in the NLE. I imagine that means splitting off the camera audio (assuming the NLE tools are tolerant/agile) performing the upsample, and the stitching it back together for the multi-cam alignment within the NLE.

Is that correct? Please tell me there's a cleaner way through this.
Old 4 days ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
Now that I'm tiptoeing into video, I pay attention to the 48kHz native sample rate of all of my cameras. I checked through the SQ6 spec sheet, and it shows that the USB port runs at a single speed of 96kHz.

That now brings a challenge to me regarding workflow of new projects and pre-existing projects. In macOS, I know Logic Pro X is tolerant/agile with the hardware being at a different sample rate setting than the project. On the Windows side, I think I remember Reaper being tolerant too, but I know for sure CbB (Sonar) isn't agile in that way.

I routinely bring home the multitrack audio and create a 48k stereo mix for import to the NLE, and then multi-cam align everything. In the context of the SQ, help me think through this:

If my multitrack venue capture is also at 48k, then with the SQ, I think I'd have to upsample all the multitrack, and then *also* upsample the audio of the camera audio so I can work in the NLE. I imagine that means splitting off the camera audio (assuming the NLE tools are tolerant/agile) performing the upsample, and the stitching it back together for the multi-cam alignment within the NLE.

Is that correct? Please tell me there's a cleaner way through this.
what do you mean by being 'tolerant' to other sample rates?! no way: you need a sampling rate converter for any audio signal to be sent between gear running at different sampling frequencies! some gear has built in src on (some) i/o's which can be enabled or bypassed: you want to use src on the output of your desk and downsample for the video feed - dunno about the sq's options though...
Old 4 days ago
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post

If my multitrack venue capture is also at 48k, then with the SQ, I think I'd have to upsample all the multitrack, and then *also* upsample the audio of the camera audio so I can work in the NLE. I imagine that means splitting off the camera audio (assuming the NLE tools are tolerant/agile) performing the upsample, and the stitching it back together for the multi-cam alignment within the NLE.

Is that correct? Please tell me there's a cleaner way through this.
If your multitrack is 96k and your finished product must be 48k, I’d downsample the multitrack and start working.

Your workflow above has you going up then down again, which is literally twice the work.
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