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Compact line / rack mixers


mate stubb

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Now that I know I am going to be carrying at least a small rack with my power amp in it, I'm looking for a compact 1 or 2U rack mounted mixer.

 

There doesn't seem to be much out there these days, mostly real low end stuff. Enlighten me!

 

I need 4 stereo or 8 mono line inputs, basic EQ would be nice to have, don't care about effects sends, separate volume control for FOH out would be nice, input on the back not front.

 

I'm aware of: Behringer whatever (not interested), Rane SM82 (had one, thought it had a real low output), Rolls RM203X (inputs on the front), Alesis Multimix 12R (featureful, but big @ 3U tall, durability is always a question with Alesis).

 

Anything else I am missing. And don't bring up the Speck Xtramix, it's out of my league!

Moe

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Actually, there is more out there now than a few years ago, but it sometimes takes some hunting to find it all. Regretably your post is a few days too late for me to have a vivid memory of two "surprise" products in that category that I chanced upon, which are mid-priced and likely to be high quality.

 

I borrowed the Rolls and the Behringer from friends before settling on the Ashly LX308B. I am very picky, and maybe you are not, but as a bass player I am especially attuned to the low frequencies and how well preserved they are (the usual thing that happens is that they start sounding phasey). Neither unit passed muster, and it only took a few seconds (though I spent far longer just to make sure I hadn't done something wrong) to verify how crappy the circuitry is in both models. They both heavily coloured my sound and degraded both bass and high frequencies. You'd be better off going straight to FOH!

 

I also owned the Alesis rack mixer years ago, but generally feel their equipment is not very reliable and also is biased/hyped (as is Mackie's stuff -- though the newer/cheaper Tapco small-format mixers are a very good buy).

 

I never had a chance to check out the Rane SM82 and expect it is likely to be as good as the Ashly or maybe even a bit better, but it also has a somewhat different feature set. You should download the user manuals and see what you think in terms of your needs, as either that or the Ashly will give you studio quality with no degredation or colouring of the sound (I can verify this in the case of the Ashly, but am only repeating trusted feedback from colleagues w.r.t. the Rane mixer).

 

I have also heard good stuff about the earlier Roland rack mixers which I think are discontinued, but they are likely to be unbalanced if that matters to you (check the specs). The Ashly is fully balanced and has a mono-sum output available at the same time as the stereo outs, a separate headphone out, and an additional aux out for effects processing (send/return) and/or separate FOH monitor feed (I use the main outs for that currently).

 

I do still notice a slight difference if I feed my synths directly to my octal True Precision 8 preamp during recording vs. keeping my setup simple by just line-switching from the Ashly LX308B, but for synth patches I don't tend to care so much as it's nothing I can't tweak later with minimal tracking EQ.

 

The LX308B recently went through a minor revision (change of face plate colour, and a few other changes I forget -- maybe Neutrik plugs). All of the info is at Ashly's website, and the older rev that I have is often on blowout as a result.

 

I bought mine from proaudiosolutions.com in Nashville, who are one of the few sites to actually discount it substantially. Knowledgeable people and excellent service, and they seem to carry the most Ashly gear of anyone.

 

If I remember that other brand I encountered recently that surprised me, I'll post here. You've pretty much already lined up the most common models though.

 

I don't miss EQ for the keys as I tend to do that at home anyway when I set up my Performance splits/layers. There's always the FOH mixer for EQ on the line mixer feeds anyway, if needed.

 

Ironically, Ashly is best known for their EQ, yet the LX308B has none :-). They also make a few models that combine line and mic mixing (the LX308B's first two stereo inputs can also serve as mono mic inputs, for that matter, with additional gain available), but those tend to get very pricey (though they occasionally show up for cheap on eBay -- especially the previous rev, as some people seem to be upgrading).

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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Speck makes the Xsum which is a 16 stereo channel line mixer at about $1500. 1 space. Speck is top of the line in terms of line mixers.

 

I have the Behringer and it's really not bad. Based on my past experiences with both Behringer and Alesis mixers, I'd take Behringer.

 

Ashlys a nice compromise between the low-enders and Speck. I had an Ashly mixer for years during the 1970s and it was 100% reliable. www.ashly.com

 

In my studio I have the Edirol M16-DX. This is a single space digital mixer with a separate remote control surface. It works well for me in the studio but the control surface is plastic and I'm leary that it won't hold up to gigging. It does sound very good at 96KHz. It has full EQ and a fair amount of routing options. But it only takes up on rack space.

 

I would LOVE it if someone did blind testing on true line mixers. No mic pres, no EQ, just gain and a simple signal path.

 

Busch.

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One feature to look out for is individual channel mutes. The Ashly has this; many of the others don't. I remember this being one of the main deciding factors in my final choice. It gives me the flexibility of avoiding MIDI channel switching at gigs and just letting every module receive MIDI and muting the ones I don't want to be producing sound at that moment. YMMV, but I'm personally better with visually-obvious analog switching than embedded/hidden on-the-fly MIDI messaging.

 

Take a look at the Gearslutz forum and search on "line mixer" to see if there are any shootouts, but take everything with a grain of salt as not all of the posters there are helpful and some have an agenda. I have not joined that forum lest I be tempted to actively participate and create a Black Hole in my schedule :-).

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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I should have specified that this is for a live rig.

 

I DO have an ancient Roland M-120 already, and want to avoid taking it out live again - it is currently serving as the line mixer in my recording setup. My only complaints with it are the jacks, which sometimes fight you when plugging in, and a hissy monitor output (although the main output is clean.)

 

I had the Rane briefly, and bought it used real cheap (was that from you by any chance Eric?) Compared to my Roland, the output level was very wimpy and I had trouble driving other things with it. Also it had a weird power supply lump with a telephone jack connector.

 

I will have to check out the Ashly. Their MX 508 looks pretty sweet also.

Moe

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I am very picky, and maybe you are not, but as a bass player I am especially attuned to the low frequencies and how well preserved they are (the usual thing that happens is that they start sounding phasey). Neither unit passed muster, and it only took a few seconds (though I spent far longer just to make sure I hadn't done something wrong) to verify how crappy the circuitry is in both models. They both heavily coloured my sound and degraded both bass and high frequencies. You'd be better off going straight to FOH!

 

I don't know how picky my ears are at this point in my life, but the new rig I am putting together is pretty high end - Accugroove speakers powered by a nice QSC. I want the low end to be all it can be!

Moe

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The Ashly has a standard IEC cable. I didn't realise the Rane uses a line lump -- although they might have revved that model (SM82) since you had yours.

 

I bought the Ashly mostly for live use, but it has also helped me minimise rewiring in the studio, and thus has improved productivity. Stereo crosstalk is negligible with this unit.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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Moe, this is a little off topic here, (and maybe you have these) but I also run top quality XLR cables from the mixer in stereo to the QSC amp - it makes a big difference in warmth and bottom, and the AC's handle it all in stride. (like there's one MORE thing you need to get!) :)

 

Of course the good news is: eventually, there's nothing left to buy.

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For keyboards that Ashly LX308B would be a good choice if you don't use any eq. I need the dedicated mic pres/phantom power for the vocal. The MX406/508 would probably be the way I would go.

 

I had the Rane SM82 as well awhile back, later I went w/ the Mackie 1202 because I needed a dedicated compact PA mixer. I've never A-B'd the Rane and an Ashly, but after asking a lot of questions when I'm on gigs, I've never heard a negative word regarding any Ashly products.

 

There is one small company here in town that does the sound at a local park for the bands. He uses the MX508 for these gigs. The sound quality is great!

 

The MX406 might be an option over the 508...less eq, 2 rack spaces, no XLR outs though and only one send. I was told that the mic pre's and eq are the same on the 406/508.

 

I spoke w/ Mike Bow @ Ashly...800-828-6308 ex.140. He was very helpful and said call anytime for questions.

 

 

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I currently use a Yamaha MV-802, which is my personal favorite. Very clean mixer. Eight stereo channels, two aux send/returns, nice dual-LED, pad/clip button for each channel, headphone jack. I've been using it live since the mid-1980's. None better, IMHO.

 

Also, now that you've opened Pandora's box, have you thought of an external EQ, EFX unit, and rack? I use a Rane ME-30 (30-band EQ), but the Rane EQ's can be pricey. Alternatively, Ive used a dbx 131 EQ which is nice as well. For EFX, I've been very pleased with my TC Electronics M-One Effects Processor. Forgive my tangential ramblings, but do you have a rack? The SKB roto racks are really cool! Here's one I use:

 

http://www.skbcases.com/music/products/proddetail.php?f=sku_rack_space_units-8-80&id=140&o=&offset=1&c=80&s=80

 

IIRC, you have a QSC amp so you are not in need of power. I've been cautiously eyeing those QSC amps as well.....may pull the trigger sometime soon! Good luck!

 

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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This Rolls probably meets your feature requirements:

 

http://www.rolls.com/products/rm65b.php

 

I have the older model (RM65, no B) and I like it just fine. Haven't noticed it coloring my tone or anything. Although I freely admit that my ears are far less picky than some guys I know, so YMMV.

 

--Dave

 

Make my funk the P-funk.

I wants to get funked up.

 

My Funk/Jam originals project: http://www.thefunkery.com/

 

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I have Korg KMX-62.

If you use effect returns as inputs you have 8 inputs.

 

I used effect send for monitor (mono), so I had separate volume control for FOH, but this works only for 6 inputs and you probably need stereo monitoring.

 

Matej

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I should have specified that this is for a live rig.

 

I DO have an ancient Roland M-120 already, and want to avoid taking it out live again - it is currently serving as the line mixer in my recording setup. My only complaints with it are the jacks, which sometimes fight you when plugging in, and a hissy monitor output (although the main output is clean.)

 

I had the Rane briefly, and bought it used real cheap (was that from you by any chance Eric?) Compared to my Roland, the output level was very wimpy and I had trouble driving other things with it. Also it had a weird power supply lump with a telephone jack connector.

 

I will have to check out the Ashly. Their MX 508 looks pretty sweet also.

 

No, the Rane did not come from me...the only mixers I have owned include the Yamaha MV802, which I got way back in about 1986 or 1987 and used for 7 or 8 years until I slimmed down my rack to not need a rack mixer any longer. I also had a Mackie mixer a few years ago.

 

I've been thinking about rack mixers myself, as sometimes I like to use more than 2 keyboards and I don't always have an easy way to sent this number of sounds to FOH. Lately, I have been using a Radial Duplex DI box.

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Lately, I have been using a Radial Duplex DI box.
Interesting looking DI box. So it has a maximum capacity of two inputs?

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

- George Bernard Shaw

 

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Lately, I have been using a Radial Duplex DI box.
Interesting looking DI box. So it has a maximum capacity of two inputs?

 

It will actually merge two stereo sources (plug one keyboard's left/right into the input jack on each channel, and the second keyboard into the thru jack on each channel, and hit the 'merge' button.). Pretty slick solution... but given the forum's propensity to skimp on accessories like stands, not sure how many folks would spring for the cash for this box.

 

I would, especially now that I've seen the specs and capabilities of this little bugger! Thanks for mentioning it, Eric! :thu:

 

http://www.radialeng.com/images/duplex-slice.jpg

 

Radial product website

 

(Google cached version of the Radial website because the Radial site seems to be down as I write this... :thu:)

 

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Moe I think the SM82 you had was either a bum unit or there was a mismatch problem with the output.

 

I have three SM82s and they are all great. I started out with the first one back in '89 and added them as my arsenal expanded. The EXPAND I/O is handy when chaining SM82s because it doesn't consume a stereo input. They are very clean and pristine units, very practical for live use, and none of them had weak outputs.

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Also, now that you've opened Pandora's box, have you thought of an external EQ, EFX unit, and rack? I use a Rane ME-30 (30-band EQ), but the Rane EQ's can be pricey. Alternatively, Ive used a dbx 131 EQ which is nice as well. For EFX, I've been very pleased with my TC Electronics M-One Effects Processor. Forgive my tangential ramblings, but do you have a rack? The SKB roto racks are really cool!

For a rack I am going not with the roto racks but the "next step up" SKBs, the ones with aluminum valence. Partly because they are a few pounds lighter, and partly because I already have a couple and I want them to stack securely.

 

I am currently thinking a 4 space rack - 2U for the QSC, 1U for a mixer (thinking Ashly at the moment), and 1U for the Furman Power Factor Pro rack version. I don't think I need external FX, as my Nord Stage has it covered. I've gone my entire career without a graphic EQ in my rack, and hopefully the new speakers will be accurate enough that I can continue to do without.

 

There will be a second 4U rack containing a Speakeasy AMA, and if I need to expand something there will be a couple spaces to spare. Maybe I'l stick a Receptor in there sometime in the next couple of years. The organ goes to the AMA and into two Roadboxes, so it's covered for now.

Moe

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Lately, I have been using a Radial Duplex DI box.
Interesting looking DI box. So it has a maximum capacity of two inputs?

 

It will actually merge two stereo sources (plug one keyboard's left/right into the input jack on each channel, and the second keyboard into the thru jack on each channel, and hit the 'merge' button.). Pretty slick solution... but given the forum's propensity to skimp on accessories like stands, not sure how many folks would spring for the cash for this box.

 

I would, especially now that I've seen the specs and capabilities of this little bugger! Thanks for mentioning it, Eric! :thu:

 

http://www.radialeng.com/images/duplex-slice.jpg

 

Radial product website

 

(Google cached version of the Radial website because the Radial site seems to be down as I write this... :thu:)

 

Sven I have this exact direct box and it rocks the house. I have to watch out though or envious sound men tend to end up with it in their box after a show...

Moe

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Lately, I have been using a Radial Duplex DI box.
Interesting looking DI box. So it has a maximum capacity of two inputs?

 

It will actually merge two stereo sources (plug one keyboard's left/right into the input jack on each channel, and the second keyboard into the thru jack on each channel, and hit the 'merge' button.). Pretty slick solution... but given the forum's propensity to skimp on accessories like stands, not sure how many folks would spring for the cash for this box.

 

I would, especially now that I've seen the specs and capabilities of this little bugger! Thanks for mentioning it, Eric! :thu:

 

http://www.radialeng.com/images/duplex-slice.jpg

 

Radial product website

 

(Google cached version of the Radial website because the Radial site seems to be down as I write this... :thu:)

 

Sven I have this exact direct box and it rocks the house. I have to watch out though or envious sound men tend to end up with it in their box after a show...

 

'Tis a great DI box - I've been using one most of this year and it is awesome...you have some options to merge signals and use it for more than just 2 boards if needed. Those Jensen transformers are supposed to be some kind of magic, too. It is a bit pricey, but I shopped around and found a good deal on a new one.

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I DO have an ancient Roland M-120 already, and want to avoid taking it out live again - it is currently serving as the line mixer in my recording setup. My only complaints with it are the jacks, which sometimes fight you when plugging in, and a hissy monitor output (although the main output is clean.)

 

I have a couple of those too, and I've used it as my stage mixer for the last 14 years. I never had one single problem with either of them. I would suggest to pick up another one used, they should go very cheaply there days. As you said, the main (balanced) ouputs are very clean, and the frequency response is quite good. The monitor output is not particularly hissy on mine - certainly less noisy than the Behringer/Samson-type stuff.

To me, having a quality 12-channel mixer in one rack space is ideal for live playing.

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Roland has always made excellent and robust rack gear (the MKS series comes to mind) and contrary to some of their cheapening choices with chrome/etc. on their keyboards/workstations, they seem to prioritise quality components in the rack stuff. I had an Edirol MIDI patchbay a few years ago that was rock-solid and way outperformed any of MOTU's MIDI modules (as well as being more flexible and being a TRUE patchbay with 100% standalone capabilities).

 

They had an interesting "digital line mixer" a few years back for all-S/PDIF-and-ADAT-inputs as well. But all of these units get canceled very quickly as they don't market them very well and also keep confusing the Edirol and Roland brands. This also means it is easy to find these things on eBay, and many owners didn't really appreciate what they had (Roland's notorious user manuals probably didn't help with the less informed users). Just make sure you know what you're getting in terms of conditions/etc.

 

As for the Radial stuff, make sure you examine their entire catalogue before making a decision, as you may find one of their newer rack modules or even another of the set-top boxes to better address your long-term needs. I'm currently looking at their various units for a good AB-Y solution but still haven't concluded which unit would best address those needs (for two separate bass/preamp inputs going to a single mono-bridged power amp and speaker cabinet combo). Also make sure it has Jensen transformers, as not all of their stuff does. The product recommended above does use Jensen however. The smaller boxes can be housed in a special rack enclosure taking up to six(?) units.

Eugenio Upright, 60th Ann P-Bass, USA Geddy Lee J-Bass, Yamaha BBP35, D'angelico Bari, Dano Bari

Select Strat/Tele, Am Pro Jazzmaster, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, T64, PM2, EXL1, XK4, Voyager

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