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Soundcraft ui24R mixer – 1 year review (part 3)

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Not everything about the ui24R is perfect (tomorrow’s post!) but there are plenty of things to celebrate about it and here are a few of its capabilities that I particularly appreciate.

One is the sheer range of information that it presents to help the sound engineer and the ease with which you can switch between different views. As you learn to interpret the screens, you can see the input level of muted channels and the output level of open channels clearly indicated per channel rather than having to switch the mode of one or two sets of lights. You can customise which channels you view and in which order they appear and there is also a master view that puts everything on one screen so you can spot a hidden channel that might have been left unmuted or other potential causes of trouble. If a noise gate is kicking in or compression is taming the edge of a signal, both of those are subtly but clearly indicated. Meanwhile, you can switch on a full ‘real time analyser’ with the per channel EQ, which (combined with listening and knowledge of where useful sound energy sits for a given source) helps making decisions about where to make adjustments. A traditional desk lets you see where the knobs are set but a digital one like this also helps indicate what effect those settings are having.

That is a lot of detail to master but fortunately you don’t have to set everything up from scratch each time. What we have done is establish master templates for the different types of services and other events we might use the desk for and then also save the details for a particular event as we are working on it. Combined with being able to clearly label each channel (much better than marker pen on sticky tape) it helps stay on top of the complexity.

Another feature I particularly value is multitrack recording and playback. I now record most of our services both on a video camera but also as a set of .wav files. When I get home and work on the editing, I can remix the output of the different channels and get a result which is much better for voices and half-way decent for the music. That also allows a bit of a post-mortem if something was particularly problematic and you can replay saved recordings allowing experiments with mixing without having to get a group of musicians to come in and play through things again and again. As a bonus, other tracks can easily be played back. For weddings and similar events, we now ask for special music to be provided on a memory stick rather than balancing a stack of CDs (and much reducing the risk of the wrong track being called up).

As I mentioned yesterday, you can use a mobile device to log into the mixer so you don’t just have to sit at the sound desk position to work it. Just as I’ve seen engineers do at other gigs, you can move around the room to check it sounds good everywhere and monitors can be adjusted while standing with the people who are listening to them. It doesn’t solve every problem (for example, if musicians want so much monitor volume it compromises the house sound) but it gives a lot more flexibility.

The final thing I want to note is the overall sound of the system. It is easy to lose sight of that, especially if you aren’t regularly using a range of different devices, but I remember how much clearer things sounded after we switched from the old system and even before we’d dug too far into the finer levels of control. It is probably unfair to expect the previous, well-used system to live up to a brand new one but I don’t want to forget that, alongside all the clever things on offer, this box can produce a good, clear sound and, if that isn’t what comes out, the issue may not be the mixer.

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