Soundcraft Si Expression Digital Mixer Overview
Digital mixing consoles have been dominating the field of audio engineering for the past few years. More venues have begun implementing them into their live sound applications, and consumers are loving the versatility of being able to take a digital desk from the stage to the studio. What makes these consoles so accessible is not just the ease with which you can perform EQing, level assignments, and FX control, but more importantly their incredible value when compared to the similar designs of yesteryear. The advancement in digital technology has made the existence of racks of FX and dynamics nearly obsolete and these desks are small and lightweight with most of the construction centered around the mic preamps.
Soundcraft has been making live sound and recording consoles since the 1970s and they were one of the first companies to incorporate a live sound mixer into a flight case, which made it perfect for the touring band. They were very popular amongst artists looking for that “British sound” which is typically characterized by a smooth natural midrange and a sweet, but not prominent, treble sound. Fast forward to Winter NAMM 2013 where Soundcraft unveiled their brand new line of digital mixing consoles called the Si Expression Series. Building off of their previous line, the Soundcraft Compact Series, the Si Expression line comes in 3 models that host the same functionality, but vary in terms of the number of mic pres and faders including 16 on the Si 1, 24 on the Si 2, and 32 on the Si 3.
It’s important to note that the Si Expression line are live sound mixers and built specifically for live sound applications. While other digital consoles are able to go from the stage to the studio, the Si Expression is built for the rigors of the venue which may make it limiting to some folks. But what it lacks in portable stage/studio versatility, it really makes up for in terms of how it functions for controlling everything with your mixes. So in an era where there are multiple digital consoles to choose from, how does the Si Expression stack up against the competition? Instead of going over all the features that are fairly typical on most digital mixing consoles, here are a couple of the features that set the Si Expression apart from the rest.
Motorized Faders/Fader Glow
Because this is mostly a desk for the live sound engineer, it’s important to have scenes which you can store and recall later. This is crucial for doing mixes very quickly when transitioning between a group of bands or performers, as well as being able to recall tight mixes night after night. The motorized faders on the Si Expression make this incredibly easy by giving you enough faders to eliminate having to bang through pages to get to the channel you want. This is also useful for doing monitor mixes where you don’t have to match the faders when changing between mix buses. Instead the faders move with you, making stage and front of house mixing very easy and intuitive. This is typically on more expensive consoles, but Soundcraft are able to keep the price point relatively low while incorporating motorized faders. It’s also worth mentioning that the encoder which rests atop the each channel can be either gain, filter, or pan. This allows the board to be as functional as possible while also limiting the amount of real estate.
The obvious advantage to having illuminated faders is for working in a dark environment like a night club or venue. But what Soundcraft have done is color coded the faders to represent changes in fader assignments. For instance your auxillary sends on a particular bus are illuminated yellow to indicate that you are now controlling the mix of that particular bus. Similarly if you want to mix your FX sends, the faders will illuminate blue so you know which function you are controlling. The faders glow very bright and for me this one of the features that make the Si Expression the most appealing for front of house engineers.
Built in Lexicon FX
Built into the Si Expression are four Lexicon effects engines for adding things like reverb and delay. A nice addition to the FX control is the tap tempo button located beneath the LCD screen. This allows for tight control over a particular effect like a delay or echo, where you want that effect to be synced with the performance’s tempo on the stage. Having the FX on the Si Expression as a hardware based installation makes it useful for not impeding the performance of the other processing selections on the console. This way all your dynamics, like compressors and limiters, or EQ selections for instance do not get affected in any way when assigning the Lexicon FX.
Assignable Channel Strip
The first thing you will notice about the way in which you apply EQ, dynamics, and FX with the Si Expression is that there is a central section which rests atop the board for controlling all of those parameters. Soundcraft calls this the Assignable Channel Strip or ACS. This is nothing new or innovative on a digital console, but Soundcraft have made this functionality very clean and easy to control. There aren’t a whole lot of switches and buttons to be encumbered by and everything is very logically laid out for the engineer. The encoders are all lit very brightly and they have dedicated control for things like compressors, gates, and the included four band EQ.
There are of course plenty of other features to talk about on the Si Expression consoles, but those were the features that stood out most prominently to us as being interesting, innovative, and appealing. The Soundcraft Si Expression is definitely a board worth taking a look at if you or your venue are looking for an affordable, digital solution that is easy to setup and mix with. If you want to read more about the Si Expression then visit the Soundcraft website at Soundcraft.com. They also have a plethora of instructional and demonstration videos on the Si Expression and other products by Soundcraft.
TranscriptHi I’m Katy with Soundcraft and I’m going to give you a quick run through today of the Soundcraft Si Expression. The Si Expression is our newest digital console. We are standing here at the Si Expression 2. This is one of three consoles in the Si Expression range. We have the 1, the 2, and the 3. The main difference between the three different models is the amount of local mic pres that we have on the back. I’ve got sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-two, and also the amount of surface faders as well. Those go up in scale, in coordinance with the mic pres as well. In every single one of these consoles has an identical feature set. They all have the same DSP chip in which means that they all do sixty-six inputs to mix regardless of how many local mic pres. For example with having the twenty-four mic-pres here on the Si Expression 2, I can break out on the back to an additional I/O perhaps using a compact stage box, one of the new mini stage boxes perhaps, or maybe I’m brining something in or sending to some kind of workstation or DAW. On every single channel we have full processing. Right here is our channel strip, it’s what we call our assignable channel strip or the ACS. And the way that the operation works is my channel strips are in line from here to this encoder, and then I use the select key, which is sort of like a talk-to-me button, and this engages the ACS up here. So within the channel strip I have my input section that includes my phantom power, my phase inversion. I have my dynamics, I have a gate, and I have a compressor, and I also have a parametric EQ. On the output of the input section I also have five hundred milliseconds of delay, I have my stereo panning, and my assignments into my main busses. With regards to the busses, I have 14 assignable busses. I also have four dedicated matrix buses and I also have four dedicated effects buses. So these matrices and these effects buses don’t eat into my fourteen standard auxiliaries. You can use these for any general purpose. With the effects buses, I have full built in Lexicon effects. Each one of those effects units has twenty-nine presets in them. So I can just scroll down and select whichever it is that I want to assign. If it has some kind of delay on it, tap tempo will be assigned here in the main tap key. And then to send myself into the effects bus, I select the effects master, and after selecting the effects master you see I get like a sends on faders. These are my channels in line levels to that effects bus. So this is channel number one contributing to the effects bus here the effects bus number one and this is the master of that effects bus. So that’s the same whether I am assigning a matrix or if I am assigning a general auxiliary bus as well. That’s a quick overview of the bussing. As you see I have these four assignable layers. Each one of these layers they are all motorized with one hundred millimeter faders. And on each one of these layers you see we have coloring. This is called fader glow. The fader glow lets me know what type of function these particular faders are accountable for. So for example anytime it’s an input channel, there’s no color on the surface. Anytime I have a stereo return it’s purple and FX return is blue. Anytime I have yellow this is a pre-fader bus, green is a post-fader bus, and then if they are amber then they are my matrix masters. So this makes a lot of sense as again going back to if we are doing sends on faders. So if this is bus master one and I want to build this bus, I go to mix number one right here and you see everything shows up yellow and that master resides here. So I know the surface right now is only working within a pre-fader bus because of it being yellow. If you want to dig more we have lots of videos online at Soundcraft.com. You can also find us on YouTube, and also follow us on twitter and also on facebook so look us up. This is Katy with Soundcraft, you are watching UniqueSquared.com.