Behringer X32 by sunland records
So this is it, I thought, when unboxing my first Behringer product, the console that everyone's talking about (but didn't find it's way to the Gearslutz forum reviews yet, so here I come with my first review :-)). I was quite impressed with the box that weighs some pounds more than I expected (the box alone!). Plus there was a nice life-size poster of the illuminated X32 in it which I thought would be doing very well in my 1-year-olds child's room. j/k ;-)
Anyway, enough with the kid's stuff, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. :-) The first thing I noticed about the console were the externals, of course. I found the build quality to be exceptionally well, regardless of its price. It could compete with a Tascam digital mixer without any problems, actually I thought that the X32's buttons had the same feel as the DM-4800 (although it has been a while since I last played around with that one).
Knobs and faders
Some people complained about the faders feeling a little cheap. I don't think that way! They are very smooth-running, but then again that's what I would expect from motorized faders. Having plastic faders doesn't need to be a disadvantage as well (read: static discharge anyone? ;-)). The knobs are some of the best I've ever seen, though some may complain that they are very smooth-running as well. For those of you: you can still resort to the knobs underneath the display for precise and fine adjustment.
Speaking of it, the next thing that's catching your eye is its 7 inch display. While I do think it's great in terms of maximum brightness and contrast, I do also think that it's lacking a little when it comes to the viewing angle which means that you have look down on the console (=stand up) when you want to see everything on the display nice and clear. Plus the resolution is rather high for a 7 inch screen which is a good thing as you can pack lots of pixels/information on it, but rather bad if your eyes are beginning to show signs of decay. ;-)
Rest of hardware
So to the rest of the hardware: the metal casing seems to be very sturdy and able to take a beating or two, the plastic end cheeks are solid as a rock and all the switches and connectors on the back side are of high quality as well. One thing to note when wanting to use the console in the studio: there is a fan inside it which albeit being silent is audible and can get annoying, I guess.
Now to its handling: the configuration can, once you know where every setting is located in the menu, be done quickly and intuitively, although some with only modest knowledge of digital mixers might find the manual lacking some details. It did take me some time to figure out how sends were to be configured (pre-/post-EQ/fader or mix bus) as there's a menu for pre-setting it globally, a setting on the channel and a setting on the mix bus. After thinking about it it does seem logical, but as I said, the lesser experienced will have to dive deep into every menu before they are really able to comprehend the console as a whole (but I guess that's the same with every digital desk).
Once you know how to configure stuff, the first thing you should do in my opinion is save channel presets as there are none pre-configured like on Presonus consoles. You can also save those on an USB stick (and in theory share it on forums like X32 User Net • Index page which is dedicated to that but still lacking content). Once you're done with that it's very easy to set up a show, but once again Presonus have the lead in this as their software allows preset dragging on virtual channels in software.
With the X32 the XControl software is basically the console layout coded with no adjustment to a PCs possibilities (except keyboard input). Plus it's not even adjustable in size, it seems to be "optimized" for resolutions of 1024x768. If your computer is running anything above that, there's the problem of tiny text and GUI elements again, but you can of course just lower your display's resolution... And there's hope for a better software in the future, if not from Behringer itself, then maybe from some other software company, as the OSC protocol the console is communicating with is available freely for everyone.
So what else is there to say... For those of you that are asking "how does it sound?": I can't really compare it to much except my studio equipment, but with this in mind I can say that the console doesn't sound bad, especially considering the vast number of inputs and outputs available. I wouldn't have a problem tracking drums (or actually anything else) with it for some serious recording. Actually I did record a choir in a church and it sounded amazing, so I guess there's nothing left to be desired sound-wise.
Which leaves me with finishing my review and coming back to where I started: as much as I hate buzz words, this console truly did change the "game", market, whatever. If you compare it to, let's say, a Yamaha LS9, there's not much you get more than with a Behringer X32. Especially not considering the nearly triple-fold price tag! The X32 even has some features that the more expensive boards don't have like 32-channel multitrack recording via USB and Firewire or AES50 support for running up to 48 tracks via a single Ethernet cable!
So as you probably could imagine by now, I can't speak highly enough of this device. If you're thinking of getting one and you would have to decide between say a Presonus, a Phonic or even a more expensive board, get the X32, you won't regret it.