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Best digital mixer for recording and live use under $3000
Old 4th April 2019
  #1
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vientos00's Avatar
 

Best digital mixer for recording and live use under $3000

So here is my predicament. For the last few years I took some time off from playing live and concentrated on just recording. My setup was small but good.
New iMac, Apogee Duet 2 , slate ml1 plus software. I’ve been getting some great mixes for solo artist and some of my solo work too. However now my band is back together so I’m it’s time to invest some more cash into some live equipment also.
Here’s my problem. We have an older mixer, mackie, pretty old but still sounds decent. It’s a 13 year old mixer so Needless to say it’s time for an upgrade.
I’m hoping to kill 2 birds with 1 stone here. Is there a solid digital mixer out there that can record 12 to 16 channels of decent drums in my home studio, and that I can take with me to live shows for the band when we play at live venues. My first option and I’m still thinking about it was to buy a Focusrite interface and have it modded at Black lion audio. I’ve heard that this will get me close the digital clearness of an apogee interface after the mod is done, Or at least close to it. Then I could use my Duet for vocals and instruments. However if there is a Digital mixer out there that can that can at least get me close to the clean conversion sound of my Duet 2, I would love to go that route so that I could use it for live shows and for getting decent drum recordings. Ima realist so I’m betting that none of these digital mixers will get me the conversion quality of say the Duet 2 or the new Ensemble, but as long as I can get somewhere close to that i would be happy. I’ve heard of the Allen and heath QU series, the Behringer x32, and the Soundcraft SI Impact, but can any of these rival the digital conversion of apogee products or at least get close to some decent clean conversion for recording?
Keep in mind that the “workflow’’ issue hear is not a big deal to me when using it for live sound. We are a small band and don’t need too many features. At this point anything will be an upgrade from the 13 year old analog mackie board that we have. My main concern here is digital to analog conversion. I’m looking for a mixer that i can use live but with the main intention or main goal for it would be clean conversion into my DAW. I do all of my mixing in the box so I most likely won’t be using any effects from the mixer itself. Just clean digital conversion that I can take with me for when I have to do a live show every once in a while.
Any suggestions?

Last edited by vientos00; 4th April 2019 at 09:14 AM.. Reason: Spellcheck
Old 4th April 2019
  #2
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I suggest you look at the Presonus stuff. They have 16 and 24 channel models and they intergrade with a computer from what I've read.
Old 4th April 2019
  #3
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The advantage of the x32 setup is that it can easily work without a computer (with sd card option), easily expand it, and easily interface with an existing PA (provided they also have an x32). It’s a very self contained and easy to transport setup, especially if you go for the rack. The reason these are popular is because they are convenient and do a lot in not a lot space, relatively cheaply.

Downside is at this price point for this many channels conversion won’t be the same as apogee...but in a PA or live recording context, I doubt you’d notice.

I think down the line you probably would want to end up with two separate devices, when you are able to invest more.

Attempting to use an interface live as a mixer or whatever that can’t operate without a computer opens up a whole nother can of worms IMHO.

If you’re really set on buying an interface for these jobs, I would probably lean towards the MOTU camp, quality ranks in the ballpark of Apogee and UA, price is fair, and is designed to also work as a mixer.

I wouldn’t buy anything mediocre with the intent of sending it off to spend a fortune for “upgrades”, but that’s my own philosophy...
Old 4th April 2019
  #4
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Behringer X32 (=Midas M32) and the smaller XRx models all support only stereo recording to USB, not multitrack. Only Allen-Heath QU and SQ (as far as I know) support standalong multitrack recording.

Just looking at the noise of the preamps, the X32 is a little worse than my EchoAudio Audiofire (which has excellent preamp chips in it), but a little better than a Scarlett 6i6. I wouldn't use a Behringer XR18 for recording.

(it might be that the XR18 data is broken, will have to redo that measurement at some point)



The brown line is more-or-less the theoretical minimum you can reach (1nV/sqrt(Hz) amplifier on a room-temperature 200 Ohm source). dBU values quoted are non-weighted and non-filtered (0Hz-24kHz).
Old 4th April 2019
  #5
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grasspike's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vogelchr View Post
Behringer X32 (=Midas M32) and the smaller XRx models all support only stereo recording to USB, not multitrack. Only Allen-Heath QU and SQ (as far as I know) support standalong multitrack recording.
FWIW Both the XR18, X18, and all of the X32 models act as multichannel USB interfaces via USB right out of the box. I use a full size X32 several times a week doing live shows. I prefer it over the companies Yamaha digital boards. I can easily record 32 tracks to a DAW using a cheap laptop. As a value add to our clients we tell them they can give us a formated USB hard drive before the show and we will record the entire thing as a multitrack. I have done this hundreds of times now with zero complaints about sound

The X32 also has a built in USB recorder that allows you to record a stereo mix directly to a USB thumb drive. The XR12 and XR16 have the thumb drive recorder but not the built in USB multitrack interface.

There is also an optional card for the X32 mixers called "X-Live" it allows you to record and playback up to 32 tracks directly to SD cards without the need for a computer.

I use an X32 Rack in my studio with the X-Live card basically as a 32 track recorder being fed by an Analog desk. Each track has very clean EQ, Gate, and Compression. It also has a TON of onboard tools to analyze your signals and can run up to 8 Stereo Effects at once. I find the midas pres to sound great, certainly as good or better than Yamaha digital consoles that cost way more.

I use the Analog desk (a 25 year old Mackie 8 bus) because unlike the X32 it colors the sound a bit especially when you push the preamps and get saturation. The X32 has so much headroom and is so transparent I can't get that and it works well for my music and what I am trying to do.

To the OP if you only need 16 inputs right now and don't need a lot of physical controls I would spend $1000 and get an X32 rack. It has 16 inputs and 8 outputs.

It would have many great benefits as a live board for your band also. With all the outputs it's easy to have seperate monitor mixes and each band mate can control their mix live from the stage using any laptop, tablet or even a phone. Even if you don't record them the effects are really good and would work great live.

Also get the X-Live Card which is another $150. It will record your entire live show with no fuss as standard WAV files. It also has a built in battery back-up that saves your files in the event of a power failure.

It's also only 3U and rack mountable so its easy to take to gigs

Down the road you could easily add another stage box if you needed more inputs
Old 4th April 2019
  #6
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by vogelchr View Post
Behringer X32 (=Midas M32) and the smaller XRx models all support only stereo recording to USB, not multitrack. Only Allen-Heath QU and SQ (as far as I know) support standalong multitrack recording.
.
Presonus StudioLive 24 Series III does 32 track recording to SD card. Some nice vintage channel strips built is as well.
Old 5th April 2019
  #7
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Grasspike- so in your opinion the x32 does get some decent sounding drum recording into your home studio? If that’s the case and the X32 Rack is the same as the x32 mixer I might just go with the mixer to have the advantage of easy workflow for when we are playing live. Anyone else record drums with an X32 to your home studio that can chime in on how good the analog to digital conversion was on the X32?
Old 5th April 2019
  #8
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grasspike's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vientos00 View Post
Grasspike- so in your opinion the x32 does get some decent sounding drum recording into your home studio? If that’s the case and the X32 Rack is the same as the x32 mixer I might just go with the mixer to have the advantage of easy workflow for when we are playing live. Anyone else record drums with an X32 to your home studio that can chime in on how good the analog to digital conversion was on the X32?
My home studio is all electronic/synth based. I do ambient and don't use drums of any kind.

However I mix drums with it all the time live, and make recordings with it all the time in a live setting with the pro audio company I work for.

It's actually very good for drums. I have used it on everything from metal and rock to jazz and folk. It does more than just a decent job of recording drums. It does a great job.

You get EQ, Compression, and gate on every channel. Besides that you have built in emulations of a lot of vintage compressors and things like Gated Reverbs from the time of big hair and big snares

You also get a tool called "Wave Designer" this allows you to edit the attack and decay of kicks and snares (as well as bass guitar). I love this effect and insert it just about always on the kick and snare.

If you have any more questions about the X32 feel free to fire away. I have logged many thousands of hours on them maybe even ten thousand hours or more.

Also if budget and space allows the X32 full sized is a great desk. I can't say enough good things about it.

Old 5th April 2019
  #9
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Allen & Heath SQ
Old 6th April 2019
  #10
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I have an x32 rack with x live card and it is fantastic. Recently, I replaced my s16 stagebox with the Midas dl16 stagebox, and now it is beyond fantastic, the Midas preamps are noticeably better, and the x32 preamps already sounded great- if you can’t do a good recording with this board then your issue is not the board.

I would actually advise against the Xlive card for one reason though- it records 2,8,16,or 32 channel wave that must then be exploded in your daw, but because it is formatted fat32, each file can only be 4gb. You don’t lose any info, but it means you’ll spend some time importing and dealing with the tracks. I’m glad I have it and I use my laptop to track and the xlive as cards as a backup just in case. So not the most necessary purchase I’ve ever made. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s been flawless, but it doesn’t save me time because there’s a lot of work after to be able to work with the tracks. It also means if you are recording 17 tracks, you can only do it by recording 32, so that import into the DAW can take a while and you’re going to delete 15 of those tracks right away. Being able to use xfat or another format for the sd cards would make it a lot easier to deal with but it doesn’t seem like much attention to that is coming.

The Cymatic recorder does look cool and is not that much more, but I think that may have some similar limitations. I’m not 100% sure though.
Old 7th April 2019
  #11
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cjogo's Avatar
WAITING FOR DELIVERY --- soon be released ..


Liking the small foot print and 32 channels to SD -- about $2k StudioLive 32SC | PreSonus

Last edited by cjogo; 7th April 2019 at 03:48 PM..
Old 7th April 2019
  #12
Lives for gear
Happy Qu-24 owner. Regularly record 20+ concurrent tracks at 48/24 to DAW for weekly rehearsals.

Saving scenes is amazing for full recall.

Qu-You/App for total headphone mix control for all band members via their own Androids and iPhones.

Doing our album with it now.
Old 7th April 2019
  #13
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Happy Qu-24 owner. Regularly record 20+ concurrent tracks at 48/24 to DAW for weekly rehearsals.

Saving scenes is amazing for full recall.

Qu-You/App for total headphone mix control for all band members via their own Androids and iPhones.

Doing our album with it now.
I am seriously considering the A&H SQ mixers. I have a small A&H now and have previously owned the Behringer x-32 rack as well as an XR-18.
The Behringers are indeed good value for the money. IMO the A&H is miles ahead. I look for Behringer to update the x series digital mixers possibly this year - they are getting long in the tooth. I actually did not like mine but it IS the low-mid end standard.
Old 8th April 2019
  #14
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lightfire View Post
I am seriously considering the A&H SQ mixers. I have a small A&H now and have previously owned the Behringer x-32 rack as well as an XR-18.
The Behringers are indeed good value for the money. IMO the A&H is miles ahead. I look for Behringer to update the x series digital mixers possibly this year - they are getting long in the tooth. I actually did not like mine but it IS the low-mid end standard.
The Midas version of the X-series consoles is still a bargain and a much better option for his application due to the reduced noise floor.

Cheers,
Brock
Old 8th April 2019
  #15
Gear Nut
 
OHM GHOST's Avatar
 

Interested in this thread
I Currently own an XR18 and an Allen Heath Zedi10, the XR is in my drum room, I use the AH for vocals and guitar.
I really like both, the preamps are always my bottom line, I find both capable and recording worthy. I also have a static setup, not a live sound guy.
Am I missing something, should I spend more for nominally better results...?

Last edited by OHM GHOST; 8th April 2019 at 11:50 PM..
Old 8th April 2019
  #16
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by OHM GHOST View Post
Interested in this thread
I Currently own an XR18 and an Allen Heath Zedi10, the XR is in my drum room, I use the AH for vocals and guitar.
I really like both, the preamps are always my bottom line, I find both capable and recording worthy. I also have static setup, not a live sound guy.
Am I missing something, should I spend more for nominally better results...?
I have some character pres that I use for more hair where it calls for it, but for clean, I think honestly people should spend their money elsewhere unless they’re doing something pure and clean. I do not: it’s all heavy and hard.
Old 10th April 2019
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
vientos00's Avatar
 

I just saw the specs on the Midas M32R and so far after looking at the specs it looks like it can easily handle clear audio recordings into my iMac but also has the portability to use live. It looks VERY promising
Old 10th April 2019
  #18
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by vientos00 View Post
I just saw the specs on the Midas M32R and so far after looking at the specs it looks like it can easily handle clear audio recordings into my iMac but also has the portability to use live. It looks VERY promising
Digital opens up so many possibilities in a mixer too.

Scenes are just so so handy to have: I have scenes for overdubs with headphone profiles setup; scenes for different overhead positioning/mics, etc.; scenes for shows, etc.

Digital control over parameters is so good. Level matching stereo pairs is set it and forget it: you're not fiddling around with a gain knob that may be out of spec by half a millimeter: if the (full-colour) screen says it's 21dB of gain, it is.

Full motorized faders, but honestly, I barely use them: the iPad app is way handier for me as I'm usually sitting behind my drums when making adjustments.

Plus all the routing and outputs are so handy for having headphone amps, but also PA and floor wedges, etc. for live rehearsals, reamping, etc. without having to re-patch anything.

Somewhere along the way, digital became a bad name around here, mostly unjustifiably.
Old 10th April 2019
  #19
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grasspike's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Digital opens up so many possibilities in a mixer too.

Scenes are just so so handy to have: I have scenes for overdubs with headphone profiles setup; scenes for different overhead positioning/mics, etc.; scenes for shows, etc.

Digital control over parameters is so good. Level matching stereo pairs is set it and forget it: you're not fiddling around with a gain knob that may be out of spec by half a millimeter: if the (full-colour) screen says it's 21dB of gain, it is.

Full motorized faders, but honestly, I barely use them: the iPad app is way handier for me as I'm usually sitting behind my drums when making adjustments.

Plus all the routing and outputs are so handy for having headphone amps, but also PA and floor wedges, etc. for live rehearsals, reamping, etc. without having to re-patch anything.

Somewhere along the way, digital became a bad name around here, mostly unjustifiably.
Couldn't agree more
Old 10th April 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vientos00 View Post
I just saw the specs on the Midas M32R and so far after looking at the specs it looks like it can easily handle clear audio recordings into my iMac but also has the portability to use live. It looks VERY promising
It is a fantastic mixer. I have the x32 rack but also the midas stagebox and the midas preamps are noticeably better, not that the x32 preamps are bad. I don't think you'd be disappointed if you got the m32r.
Old 11th April 2019
  #21
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foldback's Avatar
I've been recording with the X32 flagship model since 2013. I have two 16 channel remote input boxes and a 32 input remote input box.

I can record and mix 32 tracks with no problem to my Mac Cylinder. I have a mixing scene that lets me output 32 analog tracks to my Soundcraft/Neve hybrid analog mixing system. This gives me a lot of places to patch in compressors, ddl, reverb and other effects. I get 32 discrete outputs by combining the 16 out on the console with the 16 out on the 32-chl remote input box.

My other interface is the Apogee Symphony II Thunderbolt converter system. I flip back and forth between the Apogee and the X32 depending on what the project is. Tracks that were recorded with the X32 sound amazing through the Apogee converter system.

I don't notice any excess noise with the X32. I am careful when I set the preamp gain controls and I record with a lot of headroom. For critical ultra low noise recordings I set the X32 inputs to line level and use an external Grace m801 set of eight mic preamps. I also have been using 1073 external preamps feeding the X32 at line level. This works very well, sounds great and offers a lot of tonal color options.

I very much like having scenes in the X32. I have a scene just for recording our 7 piece DW drum set. With one button press my whole rig is reconfigured to record drums using up to 16 inputs (typically I use 10 tracks for drums). I've got a pair of AKG 414B-ULS overhead and they sound amazing. The rest of the kit is covered by custom EF86 LDC tube microphones, it all achieves a great drum tone and vibe.

I also own an X32 rack which I use for location recording and other studio duties.

The X32 system has been very reliable and dependable. It took me a while to figure out how to apply it to my workflow but I'm very happy with it.

Good luck and good music to all!
Old 14th April 2019
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vogelchr View Post
Behringer X32 (=Midas M32) and the smaller XRx models all support only stereo recording to USB, not multitrack. Only Allen-Heath QU and SQ (as far as I know) support standalong multitrack recording.

Just looking at the noise of the preamps, the X32 is a little worse than my EchoAudio Audiofire (which has excellent preamp chips in it), but a little better than a Scarlett 6i6. I wouldn't use a Behringer XR18 for recording.

(it might be that the XR18 data is broken, will have to redo that measurement at some point)



The brown line is more-or-less the theoretical minimum you can reach (1nV/sqrt(Hz) amplifier on a room-temperature 200 Ohm source). dBU values quoted are non-weighted and non-filtered (0Hz-24kHz).
What channel numbers you measure on XR 18? First two inputs have Hi-z inputs and are noisier than rest of inputs.
Old 15th April 2019
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Happy Qu-Pac user here - live gigs and recording of both Country AND Western, with some Irish trad and general folkie nonsense for balance.

Qu-Pac records beautifully but is choosey about which HD or thumb drive it will work with. I bought two on "good" authority before finding one which the A&H agreed to work with. Since then - seamless.

Then, HD connected to PC laptop for use in Reaper. Once auditioned, files to be kept are copied to another drive, if not then HD is formatted for next gig.
Old 15th April 2019
  #24
Gear Head
 
vogelchr's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digipope View Post
What channel numbers you measure on XR 18? First two inputs have Hi-z inputs and are noisier than rest of inputs.
You are right, the first two channels are much worse. Also, generally, the channels on the sides of the panel have some significant 50 Hz Hum and high frequency noise.

The middle channels (5,6 and 13,14) are the most quiet on my XR18.

I have to do this again, at some point, with the necessary rigor :-(.

Chris
Old 14th May 2019
  #25
Here for the gear
 

If you’re going to go the Behringer route, I’d recommend the M32 or M32R over the X32, just in terms of build quality and longevity. When I was touring frequently, most 200-300 cap venues had either the X32 or the M32 - never had a single issue with an M32, but I can count on one hand the number of X32s that DIDN’T have at least one broken knob or button.
Old 15th May 2019
  #26
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chaocrator's Avatar
it's strange that Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is not mentioned here, because it's designed for use cases like this.
Old 16th May 2019
  #27
Here for the gear
I have other zoom n2 n4 R24 recorders and I was hoping for an upgrade for my band recording, unfortunately I have the following issues with zoom livetrak l-12

After I have recorded a few tracks with dynamic and 48v mics:
I cannot play back more then one track at a time
in playback Fader volume does control the volume

Compressors sound distorted
EQ sound boxy to my ears
Channel low cut does not work
Channels 1/2 are noisy

Instead of the aggressive marketing, I wish Zoom have hired
actual musician to help them in the product development

Overall sound quality of Zoom R24 is better then the new Zoom Livetrak l-12 to my ears. Do you have similar experience or there is something wrong with this particular recorder? (any way it is going back)

Sorry guys I love my world unknown IS16 Phonic mixer
Old 1st June 2019
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
vientos00's Avatar
 

Fold back- So your saying that the X32 for recording drums straight into a Mac isn’t a super step down from using a decent apogee interface? I’m curious about this cause I’m thinking about getting the x32 for recording drums straight into my Mac, and using the Duet 2 for single track jobs like vocals, guitar, bass ect. If I do this, will the drums sound on par with the single tracks recorded through the Duet? If they will I’m on board. I just don’t want to have the conversion quality lacking in the drums while the vocals and stuff sound super clear and clean. I was thinking about getting the element just for everything, but if I do that than I won’t have a decent mixer for live gigs. But if the x32 sounds as good as you say for recording drums straight to my Mac, then this might be the solution. How difficult is it to record using the x32 straight to Logic Pro X? Is it as easy as plug in the usb 3 connection , have the iMac recognize it like any other interface, and just add tracks on the software like any other interface or do I need to buy any other accessories for this task. I’m thinking about buying the X32 as soon as next week so any more info you have will be helpful.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #29
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grasspike's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vientos00 View Post
Fold back- So your saying that the X32 for recording drums straight into a Mac isn’t a super step down from using a decent apogee interface? I’m curious about this cause I’m thinking about getting the x32 for recording drums straight into my Mac, and using the Duet 2 for single track jobs like vocals, guitar, bass ect. If I do this, will the drums sound on par with the single tracks recorded through the Duet? If they will I’m on board. I just don’t want to have the conversion quality lacking in the drums while the vocals and stuff sound super clear and clean. I was thinking about getting the element just for everything, but if I do that than I won’t have a decent mixer for live gigs. But if the x32 sounds as good as you say for recording drums straight to my Mac, then this might be the solution. How difficult is it to record using the x32 straight to Logic Pro X? Is it as easy as plug in the usb 3 connection , have the iMac recognize it like any other interface, and just add tracks on the software like any other interface or do I need to buy any other accessories for this task. I’m thinking about buying the X32 as soon as next week so any more info you have will be helpful.
It will work and sound great. Your DAW will see the X32 as a USB interface that you can assign to whatever you wish
Old 3rd June 2019
  #30
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Bstapper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by grasspike View Post
It will work and sound great. Your DAW will see the X32 as a USB interface that you can assign to whatever you wish
If the focus is for recording, as much as live sound, keep in mind that the M32 will be noticeably quieter. Not that you can't operate just fine with the X32, only that if recording is your focus I highly recommend spending a little more and going with the Midas version.

Cheers,
Brock
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