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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Product Review - Behringer X32 Field Test

Behringer X32 Field Test

Article Preview :: Live Sound

Behringer’s new digital mixer and snake system are impressive on paper, but how do they fare under real-life gigging conditions?
Mike Crofts
The newly released X32 digital mixing console from Behringer has generated enormous amounts of interest in the live-sound world, mainly because of its incorporated technology from Midas and Klark Teknik, and its low launch price compared to rival products from other manufacturers.
Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns reviewed the console in last month’s SOS, but I was asked to take the X32 out on a real-life gig and report back from a user’s point of view. What you are about to read is therefore very much my own take on using the X32 live, rather than any kind of technical commentary — for that, you can read Hugh’s review at www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug12/articles/behringer-x32.htm.
As well as the desk itself, I was given the new Behringer S16, a 16-in/8-out digital snake based on Klark Teknik technology, and Powerplay P16M personal monitor mixer.
Desk Job
I didn’t have much time to find my way around the X32 before taking it out for real, but I thought I’d better sit with it for an hour or so, get the feel of the controls, and set up the channels I was going to need for an outboor band gig the next day.
It was a little bigger than I’d expected, although still nice and compact considering its functionality. It’s easy to pick up, as there are good deep handles built in on either side (which also contain the headphone output sockets, one on each side), and it’s a manageable 20.6kg, so by no means a heavyweight.
In practical terms, the most noticeable feature of the X32 is that it has a full complement of 32 local XLR inputs and 16 outputs on the rear panel, so it can be used as a live desk without the need for a digital snake, which would be a good option if your venue already has stage feeds and returns plumbed in. In many cases, you could simply put this in place of an existing analogue desk without replacing a single plug or lead.
Digital Snake
The Behringer X32 and its accompanying digital snake system, the S16, were put to use at an outdoor gig, where the requirement was to mix a total of 13 channels, with four independent monitor mixes going back to the stage wedges.
One of the most appealing aspects of a portable digital live-sound mixer such as this is the ability to use a digital stage box and Cat 5 cable instead of a traditional multicore. The X32 is intended to be partnered with the S16, which has 16 analogue ins and eight analogue outs, built into a 2U metal rackmount enclosure. Two S16 units can be connected together by a local data cable, allowing 32 inputs and 16 returns to be carried over only a single Cat 5 connection — which is a blessing compared to having to roll out a heavy analogue snake and painstakingly plug in all the tails and returns. This feature alone should be enough to make anyone turn to digital! The S16 has a pair of standard ADAT optical outputs, which can be used for connecting suitable external devices, and which also allow the S16 to work as a stand-alone digital snake in conjunction with an analogue-to-ADAT converter. Input parameters such as the head-amp trim and phantom-power switching can be controlled either from the S16 or from the X32 surface, and there’s also a dedicated Ultranet connection for use with the Powerplay 16 personal mixing system (see ‘Powerplay Monitoring’ box).

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