“The X32 is immense, it has a host of powerful processing options, and its I/O capacity is staggering.”
An interesting and surprising thing happened in the last breaths of 2009. The German-based audio mega-giant, Behringer, bought acclaimed console manufacturer Midas along with Klark Teknik, from Bosch for an undisclosed amount. Gasps were heard across the globe. They then created a whole new holding company called The Music Group which oversees the three brands and seeing that Behringer has primarily offered entry level equipment to the audio industry, one could say that this was a giant leap in the right direction for the now omnipresent corporation.
One could also wonder whether this move would not so much as enhance Behringer’s reputation, or hurt that of Midas; the brand new X32 goes a long way to prove the former.
Behringer, while now a household name when it comes to affordable, entry-level audio gear, is no stranger to the digital console market either. Indeed, the now discontinued DDX3216 digital mixer has had its fair share of success and has been around for years, lurking in such places as small broadcast facilities to club installations. But truth be told, it did not make massive waves in the pro audio community as it was competing directly with the Yamaha O1V, which is a mighty mite of a console with many features that few brands could contend with.
Now, however, that’s all over. A new digital console from Behringer that is set to hit our market very soon is the X32 and there are many who are very excited to get their hands on one because it bares the magic words “Midas” upon it. This one word is enough to get most audio engineers coming out in hot flushes so let’s get into the nitty gritty of what’s on offer.
Behringer Digital Mixer X32 Features
On paper the X32 stands up to most other digital consoles many times its price and all the advanced features one expects from a professional desk are available. It has 40 processing channels, 32 local microphone inputs, 25 mix busses, six mute groups and eight DCA’s. It has MIDAS-designed, fully-recallable mic preamps, which is a huge selling point for this console as there are many fans of the Midas preamp out there, including myself. You can mix and match any of the 32 local console inputs or the networked digital snake on stage, which is a flexible option.
The channel strip section supplies 17 backlit buttons and 13 rotary controls with LED collars for full manipulation of the dynamics section, four-band EQ and aux sends. All parameters are reflected on the 7” day-viewable colour TFT screen for clear representation.
Probably one of the most notable features of this console is that it uses 40-bit internal precision which claims “no internal overload and near-zero overall latency”. Of course anybody who knows digital audio technology fairly well will know that there is no such thing as a 40-bit, or even a 32-bit AD/DA converter. This means that when the signal hits the output it still needs to be under 0dBfs in order to not clip the analogue stage of the console.
The only advantage to having a higher internal precision is to avoid truncation distortion on low level signals such as reverb tails. That being said, more bits are always better than fewer bits, from a noise point of view. Too bad you’ll never get a reading of more than around 20 bits on any given output, due to the thermal noise of the analogue components.
Moving on, the console also has 100mm motorized faders which allow for quick recall and DAW control. The DAW control function caught my eye most as this is a feature many will find useful and opens up a whole new door of functionality for the console. I might even consider one myself, given this feature, as this means the X32 can fit in nicely in both the studio and live domains. There’s also an iPad app that you can download free of charge, requiring no host PC, which you can use to control the console’s parameters remotely.
The X32 offers what it calls the Virtual FX Rack, which is now a common feature of most advanced digital consoles. All in all you get up to eight stereo effects (or 16 mono effects) and in a typical show application you can run up to four stereo reverbs and eight 31-band graphic EQs concurrently without having to plug in a single piece of outboard.
In terms of I/O you get the aforementioned 32 local Midas preamps, six balanced line ins and outs on ¼ “ TRS jacks and 16 balanced omni XLR outputs which can be assigned a feed from anywhere. As seen in many higher end consoles, there is also an option to run a single CAT5 network cable on the AES50 to the stage to connect up to the stage boxes on Ultranet for 48-channel bi-direction operation. Additionally, 16 monitor feeds are available which are all compatible with Behringer’s new P16 Personal Monitoring System (as featured in Muse Apr/May ’12 edition).
There are also two AES50 ports provided for connecting up to six S16 stage boxes, or for cascading multiple consoles all with low latency. The S16 stage boxes themselves offer a USB port, two AES50 ports, an Ultranet port, 16 ADAT outs, and MIDI in and out, which is impressive for such a small box.
A huge selling point for this console is the fact that as mentioned before, Midas was involved in its design. Another noteworthy fact is that Klark Teknik was also involved in designing the X32’s GUI. They also utilized their experience in FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) coding which enhances the low-latency digital channel patching, which gives the X32 the mind-blowing capability to handle up to 168 sources to 168 destinations, including the dual AES50 ports.
This is a massive advantage in their favour and no doubt a huge reason why many, including AV companies, will want to get their hands on one.
The X32 is exactly what Behringer needed to propel them safely into the future. Granted, they make a slew of gear that is used from everybody and their grandmother, but there’s only so far a brand like this can go on that ticket and it was clear they needed to make a well thought out move into something different and more substantial.
The X32 is immense, it has a host of powerful processing options, and its I/O capacity is staggering. I would say that Behringer has a game changer on their hands and I am, for one, interested to see how this digital console impacts on the market. A winner for sure!
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