Behringer Digital Mixer X32 Overview
Behringer is well known for making rather, well let’s just call them affordable, mixers. Their build quality is usually pretty solid but people have generally had issues with their sustainability and general prolonged operation. I am no stranger to Behringer myself owning some of their mixing consoles, using their amplifiers on tour with my band, and even using their 4 channel mixer in our video production studio. Their stuff is usually pretty low on the cost front (cheap is not a good word because they actually make pretty solid gear) but like some other companies out there with similar legacies, Behringer is stepping up their game and putting out more professional gear while maintaining that level of affordability that makes them the go to company for the band, sound engineer, club, etc. on a budget.
Enter the Behringer X32 Digital Mixer. As its name implies it’s a 32 channel mixer with 16 mix buses, 6 mute groups, and 8 DCAs (digitally controlled amplifiers) on board. The cool thing is the versatility of the X32. You can take it from stage to studio and call up the scenes you used from the show into your DAW. While this is not a new technology, it is the way digital mixers are headed and it’s good to see Behringer did not omit this functionality on their digital board. In addition you get an onboard digital effects section which replaces the need for large racks of compressors, equalizers, reverbs, or anything else a sound engineer could ever need. Behringer calls these “studio quality virtual FX racks,” but without a true testimony or auditory examination, that is something left to be questioned. Generally when any company tells me all the virtual FX can mirror that of any proprietary rack mounted gear, I have a bit of skepticism.
With that said, I was able to get a real in depth look at this mixer. On the surface it’s designed incredibly well and intuitive to the sound engineer. Nothing looks out of place, its lightweight, small enough to fit most any desk space, but not so small that it can’t act as a functional mixer for the traditionally analog engineer. There are so many features to go over (most of which are generic on any mixer) and it would be redundant and pedantic to go over every single thing here. For that kind of in depth analysis I would go to Behringer’s website and read the specs as they are listed in great detail. Instead I will go over five things that really stood out to me as features that make the X32 a viable transition from traditional analog boards at a price that most of us will find reasonable for a 32 channel mixer in a tough economy.
MIDAS PREAMPS: THE BIG BOYS CAME TO PLAY
The big thing that sets this mixer apart from other digital mixers in the market is the incorporation of Midas preamps. If you are not familiar with Midas, they are one of the premier manufacturers of large desk mixing consoles. They have been making consoles since the 70s and more than likely if you go to your local venue, they will have a Midas board for front of house mixing and for stage or monitor mixing. Everything including the analog to digital (A/D) converters have been ported over from some of their most popular preamps.
What does this mean for the audiophile? Everything! This is a great leap forward for a company like Behringer to step out of the shadow of their former selves, but it’s also rewarding to the sound engineer who wants a clear signal for their mixes. The timidity of a lot of engineers with digital consoles is the potential for noisy signals but with the Midas preamps powering this beast, you can feel confident in your signal which is a great feeling.
iOS CONNECTIVITY. EVERY DIGITAL MIXER’S GOTTA HAVE AN iPAD RIGHT?
It seems like every digital mixer has some sort of iOS connectivity with their mixing console and Behringer is no different in this regard. Like a lot of digital consoles making their way to the market place, Behringer has made it easy for you to connect your computer, iPad, or iPhone to the mixer for multiple applications. They are developing an iPad App that should be available soon. I have not seen the app yet so more to report on that when it comes out. It should have all of the functionality of apps developed by similar app designers partnered with digital mixing console manufacturers. You can expect things like the ability to do your front of house and stage mixes from anywhere in the venue. Hopefully they will give you control of all the on-board FX but this is of course all speculative at this point until I see the app in action.
CAT 5 INSTEAD OF A SNAKE. NOW YOU CAN MAKE SOME EXTRA CASH ON ALL THAT COPPER WIRE.
Remember the days of lugging that snake around to the gig and trying to figure out the best way to get it from stage to desk? Well I do. The operative questions were always, “Do we tape it down or do we run it through the rafters?” Both methods looked junky whenever you played a venue without a proper snake installation. The Behringer X32 has AES50 connections on the back of the console which act as the routing for their digital snake the Digital Snake S16. These little boxes are pretty cool because you can place one near the desk and the other on the stage and all you need is a CAT5 cable (standard Ethernet cable) to connect the stage to the mixer. The great thing about the X32 is you don’t need the second S16 because the CAT5 will go directly into the board. This cuts down on the cost of an extra digital snake and per Behringer’s previous trends, you can rest assured it is a lot less expensive than the competition by almost a thousand bucks.
VIRTUAL FX RACK: NO MORE RACKS.
Here is what Behringer says:
The onboard virtual FX Rack provides access to eight true-stereo, multi-effects processors (16 mono) including delay, chorus, dynamics—and it can run 4 production quality true-stereo reverbs concurrently with 8 channels of 31-band graphic equalization, all without the need for expensive, space-consuming external hardware.
The video in this blog will give you a better idea of what the screen looks like and how it functions but yes, essentially you have a replacement for your rack mounted gear. This is always a strange thing for me but I guess that’s because I am used to being around outboard FX processors, compressors, gates, and the list goes on. In any event this is great if you don’t already have all of these things in your arsenal. But I have a feeling most sound guys will use their outboard FX if they already own things they like and feel can’t be mirrored with the X32.
It’s still a great feature to have and has become general practice for digital mixers with slight improvements from desk to desk. The big thing that Behringer wants to say is that it reduces the clutter of knobs from previous digital mixers which I do love. Dennie shows this off in the video where the analog functionality works with the digital interface very intuitively once you get up to speed on the mixer.
SCRIBBLE STRIPS: LOSE THE TAPE, KEEP THE FUNNY NAMES FOR BAND MEMBERS.
This is probably one of my favorite features on the Behringer X32. You can go into the LCD screen and write your own channel names that appear on the LCD scribble strips. They are also backlit with whatever color you choose. This may seem like a superfluous add on to the seasoned veteran, but think of all the fun you can have with this. You can permanently label the lead vocal “pretentious” or label all the drums “better than the rest of the band.” The possibilities are endless and believe it or not there is actually some functionality to this.
Being able to assign a color will be helpful when pulling up different scenes on the fly and there are label presets so you don’t have to spell out all the different instruments in a laborious process when setting up the board for the band. The ability to recall these scenes is exceptionally important and makes it easy to take the kick you used for one band and dump it into the next band because you named it “bad ass kick” and colored it red (rawk fist raised in the air). I am sure you can think of other applications in your own head but the key here is that the ability to label channels, store them, and recall them later is pretty cool and invaluable to an engineer. It makes the job more streamlined and allows you to have consistent mixes, show after show.
At the end of the day you have a quality mixer with tons of options that make it a great investment. If you already have an existing desk that needs a serious update, the X32 is something to consider. Lets say you are someone that has never owned a big mixing console like this and you need something that is professional but you also want learn on it, then this desk is for you. If you are looking to overhaul your entire setup whether that be a house of worship, your venue, or a touring desk, then you need to ask what you or your engineer would value in a mixing console. Sound techs have preferences and if you have been around some of the ones I have, they are very particular about almost everything in the venue they work. It’s about taking pride in your work and the tools you use to do the job you were hired to do. If you are an engineer and this looks like a desk that would help you do your job better, then its no question it will provide a return on the investment.
These setups are an investment for anyone who does or doesn’t understand why it costs the way it does. What Behringer really has going for it is the affordability. Especially when you consider all the things they are offering and the price they are offering it for. Now that makes sense to anyone. It won’t take much convincing the club owner, tour manager, event promoter, congregation leader, etc. that this is a great value for the short and long term.
It seemed for a while we were just going to see digital desks piled on top of each other and having more and more venues stick to their trusty analog or the sad digital mixer they bought in a haste to keep up. Companies like PreSonus, Mackie, Yamaha, Roland, Midas, and now Behringer are starting to think of ways to meet the needs of the engineer, or at least the guy with enough know how to operate the thing with a minimal level of competency. That’s why you see these companies making these streamlined all in one packages that store easy, transport easy, and setup even easier. I like where this is going for the techs on tours, the former techs on tours who now run corporate events or houses of worship, and even the local pub sound-guy (or girl) who wants to enjoy the music and get a killer mix out of their favorite local artist. Working smart and not hard. Who doesn’t want that?
I’m Dennie Edwards. I am the southeast America product specialist for Behringer. This is the X32. It is a 32 Channel input mixer. It has 16 and more outputs, it has motorized faders, it has a designed by Midas preamp, and lots of other tricks. FX, Mute Groups, programmable buttons and more. It does have 16 inputs, 2 banks of inputs here. 1 through 16 then 17 through 32. It has DCA’s Digital controlled amplifiers. I call them magic fingers. So you have 7 mics for your drums and you want to record, you want to keep those in relationship but you want to turn up just the drums, you select the DCA button then you come here and you select, I am going to control all of these channels with this one fader.
It has 16 aux groups. You can select a channel and then you can use the faders or these knobs so you have this one right here controlling it. Programmable buttons to do what you’d like to do. They can just call up a separate page like this one is an equalizer.
Designed by Midas. Very key on a digital mixer is the gain stage, the mic preamp. All of the EQ settings compressor, they’re all memorized in the scenes.
Theres two different applications of CAT5 on this mixing board as you see on the back of the mixer. We have the AES50 A and B inputs and interfaces. That is part of the KLARK TEKNIK merger onto this product. It is the ability to take 32 inputs and 16 outputs and go back and forth with just a single CAT5 cable. So it eliminates the need to have a ground isolated snake and all these stage boxes and very expensive copper. Besides the AES50 the ultralink, we have AES/EBU for digital 2 track out. The mixing board is at 44.1 or 48k you can select that. We have MIDI in and out as well. Allow you to do controling of selecting scenes remotely with a foot controller or the traditional MIDI in and out control stuff. If you look right here on the mixing board we have the remote control that will do the Mackie/Pro Tools protocols. You press this button and it becomes a control surface. And then we also have remote control options with USB and you can use a computer with the software that we will provide at no charge to control what’s in the mixer. It allows you to use like a bigger screen on a laptop or a desktop computer to see what’s going on inside the board. The ethernet port is really amazing. You can plug it directly into a very cost efficient network wireless router. You don’t need a computer, you don’t need any other interface, then you can use an iPad. We are developing an iPad app that will be of no charge as well. So now while you are on stage whether you’re the band, you can adjust all of your mixes, the monitor mixes, the inputs, and not have to run back and forth to the sound board to make that adjustment.
The scribble strips are a great way instead of using mixer duct tape and marking and doing everything, you can tell it what it is, Is it a drum, is it a snare drum, is it blue for drums that can coordinate with a blue output and those are also remembered in the scenes. So that if you are a sound man and you are doing a show with five different bands you’ve done five soundchecks you can program those ahead of time, have em ready. Those all are recalled instantly.
Every channel of everything has this input section. It has gain, 48 volt phantom power, phase reversal, has a low cut filter, it has a gate or a ducker, it also has a compressor and an expander. It also has a multi band 4 band EQ ok on every channel. Now that’s not just an input channel thats also aux buses and outputs as well. I believe I added it up, it would take 17 stereo compressors to do what this does. Then we have 8 racks of stereo effects processors. We have 4 racks set aside for equalizers. you can use those for inserts. You can insert them on an aux bus, use it for a graphic EQ for a monitor mix that will go then to the power amp and then a floor wedge or you can use them as a stereo EQ on a output bus to go to mains or to different levels. You can also delay those outputs so if you have speaker stacks in different parts in the venune, you can time delay them as well.
What’s really good about the screen here is, while there is one, its not screen driven its mixer board driven. You’re the sound man what are you doing, you can see that quickly on the screen. I want to adjust the equalizer of channel one. You don’t have to paginate through this little screen. You simply select channel 1, then you hit view on the equalizer and now you will see the equalizer in full view to adjust. You’re now adjusting EQ’s and mics you don’t have to re go through and re select channels. All you do is select the subsequent channels and you are still viewing the equalizer. Same thing with the compressor and the gates they all have view buttons that are just for that. It calls up the parameters quick. Whatever you are working on there is a view button. I think that is one of the number one ease of use features of this mixing board.
Thanks for watching this video on the X32. You guys have any more questions or need more info you can check out the UniqueSquared.com website or Behringer’s website.