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Since it was first announced at NAMM last year, the anticipation for the new Behringer X32 digital mixing desk has been building. Since then Behringer (Music Group) have bought Midas - who make premium, tour grade live desks and Klark Teknik- known for their studio grade pro effects and processors.
Fast forward to now and the first Behringer X-32 desks have been rolling out to the stores - we were fortunate enough to get hold of one - and I must say I am impressed. This review is going to be split into parts - there is a lot to get around here and much of it is new.
First up, the build quality is something that Behringer’s low cost production has been criticised for, so how is the X32?
First impressions are good, it's not a lightweight thing, easily liftable by one, but not something I’d want to carry all that far, it has a heft that bodes well. There are 25 physical faders - all 100m motorized - Behringers own make, which presumably is one area the cost has been kept down. Behringer tell us that they have been rigorously tested with Ikea-like machines stress testing and not fogetting, the X32 comes with a 3 year warranty. That said, they do feel fine to me, as do the 20 rotary encoders and backlit buttons well over 100 of them!
Each channel also has an LCD scribble strip which you can edit colour, text and icon for easy visibility in a dark space. I haven't felt conscious of any lack of quality in my time with the desk and when you consider the cost of this thing (£2000 UK, $2,800) it's pretty astonishing.
The first 16 faders are switchable in layers, 1-16, 17-24 , Aux in USB and FX returns, Bus Masters as is standard with many consoles of this type.
There are 32 XLR inputs, each with Midas designed digitally controlled Mic Preamps, plus 6 Aux inputs on Jack. You also have 16 XLR outputs - assignable from pretty much any source, plus 6 Aux outputs.There’s also monitor out on XLR and jack for studio monitoring applications. An AES digital output (assignable) completes the regular audio connections.
What is incredible at this price is the addition of two AES50 Cat5E network ports, which can each handle 48 channels of audio IO, plus MIDI and remote mic amp control data. You can buy the S16 16 in 8 out stage box for around £500 ($800?).
Now 96 inputs is not something you can handle concurrently, but the possibilities for patching (all recallable) is immense. Additionally, there’s the included FireWire and USB audio card for hooking up to a host computer for up to 32 channels of IO. Incidentally, the console operates at 44.1kHz or 48kHz only and can be clocked from internally or via the Firewire/USB audio card - included in the basic model.
But looking at that, you can see just how many inputs can be accessed out of the box, with applications for both live and studio. I hooked up Reaper to the FireWire port of my Macbook Pro - with no driver I might add, and was off, mixing drum tracks in the console. Indeed any input (or bus) can be routed to any channel.
There’s also USB and MIDI connections for control, plus an Ultranet network port for hooking up the Behringer P16 personal monitoring system.
There are 16 of them, they can be configured either as standard subgroups, or as sends.
The centre section has eight faders with four layers and represents, DCA groups, Busses 1-8, Busses 9-16 and Matrix outputs.
Also when in Remote Mode - this section switches to emulate Mackie Control, HUI or plain CCs. Note, the channel faders do not send or transmit MIDI.
I had this working in HUI mode with Reaper in a flash and was able to view track names, faders and transport control to run the DAW for playback or record. Very impressive. Oh, also on the top, there’s a USB port for popping in a USB stick or hard drive to which you can record stereo output (assignable) and playback files too.
I suggest you watch the video here to see this overview of the hardware - if you have any questions or things you want me to address in the next part(s) of the review I will do my best to answer them either in the review or in the comments below.
What is amazing about this new console is the price - at £2099 /$2800 it's significantly less expensive than pretty much anything else with these features. The tagline for the campaign is, "Game Changed" - I think for once, the marketeers have it just about right.
Stay tuned for part 2....