(first published in CX magazine – January, 2016)
It may come as a surprise to some readers The Mill’s website that I play live gigs pretty regularly in two different bands: one as a singer/guitarist, the other as a drummer. I’ve been playing live for over 30 years, on and off, and in that time everything (and somehow nothing) has changed.
The same problems exist today that troubled me 30 years ago. There are always issues of feedback in venues, foldback is always difficult to predict until you hit the stage, and then you really need a good engineer to help you through the rough patch.
But one thing has changed radically – consoles. Digital variants are now far more capable than anything that four people once lugged into venues back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. For their size and weight, small digital consoles are a dead-set revolution.
I’ve been a reluctant convert it must be said, but the new QSC TouchMix-16 has changed all that forever.
I’ve played dozens of gigs and rehearsed countless times now with the TouchMix-16, and frankly, I’m hooked. I must therefore apologise in advance if this review comes across sounding like it’s been written by a TouchMix fanboy… but I really dig several aspects of this console, even if it could have been a whisker larger.
Onboard this pocket-sized marvel are more features than I could possibly cram into this space, but here’s a snapshot.
There are 16 mic pres on XLR – the last four on speakons – 20 inputs in total. There are eight aux sends (7/8 and 9/10 are stereo), and the first six of these feature XLR output – brilliant. There’s a phones cue and monitors cue on ¼-inch outputs, below which sit a small group of illuminated switches that control things like talkback, phantom power, aux sends and mute groups. There’s a global ‘FX Mute’ switch, monitor and phones cue level switches, and even quick access to a user manual and setup wizard, neither of which I’ve ever needed to consult. Last but not least there’s a multitrack mixer for recording your gigs via USB!
On the bottom right corner of this laptop-sized console are four smaller user-definable buttons wrapping around a large, peripherally illuminated rotary control knob that performs countless tasks relating to anything that’s ‘highlighted’ on screen.
That’s right, the whole box and dice revolves around a six-inch touch-screen that shows you everything, though not all at once. There’s a main channel fader/mixer window – note that there are no physical faders anywhere on the console – that’s visible by default, or easily reinstated by hitting the large ‘Home’ button immediately to the right of screen. There are clear and dedicated windows for phantom power arming, the eight auxiliary sends, mute groups and FX, and the multi-track record/playback system.
There’s a menu button that gives you access to everything from scene saving (up to 100), remote control settings for manipulating the console via devices like iPads, MIDI connectivity, and much, much more.
There are four really tasty sounding stereo FX engines per channel, giving you access to far more powerful mixing options than any analogue console equivalent could ever hope to provide, and somewhat incredibly, there’s even pitch correction per channel, which actually works better than half the advanced plug-ins I’ve worked with over the years. There are also dedicated de-essers per channel that work brilliantly. And all of these features offer a ‘simple’ mode to help minimise your confusion if you’re vague about how any of this stuff actually works.
The beauty of all of this is that none of these advanced features get in the way of a simple setup requiring almost none of them.
So if you’re looking for a new compact, phenomenally comprehensive digital console that even the most staunchly analogue simpleton can learn to use in no time flat – and which even has its own carry case – look no further than the QSC TouchMix-16. If you can afford the price tag it’s a total winner.
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