Compact Powerhouses | Live Sound Digital Consoles 2009

Jan 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By George Petersen



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The Innovason Eclipse can handle up to 320 inputs.

The Innovason Eclipse can handle up to 320 inputs.

A decade ago, this article would have been very short, but in that time, live digital consoles have come into their own. Today, they are not only being accepted by the live sound community, but also truly dominating major segments of the touring market. As the technology has matured, several trends have emerged. Greater numbers of channels are being controlled by increasingly smaller controllers; plug-ins are being accepted into the FOH and monitor “racks”; and as ever, software upgrades can expand the feature set of existing products without fear of obsolescence or bankrupting the sound company.

That said, there's a whole lot of product research going on in digital consoles for live applications. We checked in with manufacturers (listed alphabetically), asking about developments over the past year.

Available in standard formats or customized to user requirements, Allen & Heath's ( iLive modular mix system combines a central iDR10 Mix-Rack loaded with the iDR-64 mix engine (offering 64 mix inputs and 32 configurable mix buses) and an iLive Surface controller. The flight-cased control surfaces are now available in four sizes, each with four layers: iLive-80 has 20 faders (x4 layers for 80 assignable strips); the iLive 112 has 28 faders for 112 strips; the 36-fader iLive-144 has 144 strips; and the 44-fader iLive-176 has 176 strips.

The iLive V. 1.3 software update features engineers' fader strips for wedges and in-ears, for separate fader control, and dedicated outputs to the operator's listen wedge and IEM personal system. Optional processing and aux monitor mixes can be assigned to wedge or IEM strips. A new onboard Real Time Analyzer (RTA) lets users quickly identify feedback, tune room acoustics, tailor wedges and view the frequency content of any input or mix — or the spectrum of the main mix. Other pluses in V. 1.3 include two new FX presets — Symphonic Chorus and Hypabass, a sub-harmonic synthesizer — and the ability to control iLive from A&H's range of PL controllers for remote adjustment of mixes, mutes, levels and scene presets.

New iLive Editor software provides access to iLive's key facilities, with the convenience of viewing multiple information panels simultaneously. The Java-based program lets users configure show settings, or make changes to existing shows online or offline to save for later uploads. Besides the convenience of designing console setups from the tour bus or hotel, TCP/IP connectivity allows live channel mixing and processing over via Cat-5 or WiFi for tweaking console settings from anywhere in a venue using your laptop.

Cadac ( has announced Q2 2009 shipping for its much-anticipated S-Digital live theater desk, which reflects the surface architecture of Cadac's J-Type analog board, offering a familiar mix environment, but with the benefit of digital control. The board combines a low-latency proprietary High Speed Digital (HSD) communications system with a core busing system based around FPGAs with dedicated SHARC DSP devices within the DSP rack. This handles all input and output channels with fiber-optic or co-ax interfacing to the Stage Rack/preamps. A unique feature is scalability. Additional control surface frames can be brought in during rehearsals (for single- or multi-operator use) and then removed/relocated to reduce the mix footprint during performances.

After extensive testing on major tours, CIA Digital Console Systems ( announces the System 32 — a 32-input/output, software-driven virtual console powered by RML Labs' ( SAC application. This FOH mixing solution can be internally split to 24 separate monitor consoles, utilizing a legacy console strip GUI that approximates the look of an analog board. Each of the 24 monitor consoles in this 6U rolling rack (now with a shock-mounted ATA case option) can be remotely controlled via a TCP/IP connection. Standard features include parametric EQ, compressor and gating on every channel, 16 DCAs, six stereo aux sends, eight master outs (and 16 virtual outputs) and 7.1 mixing capability. In addition to the 32-channel model, 48/64/72-channel versions are also offered.

The SD8 from DiGiCo ( provides the major features and remote preamps of its D Series in a small-footprint package. Stealth digital processing in its Tiger SHARC FX engine offers effects, reverbs, dynamics, output matrix and more. Features include 37 moving faders, multifunction control knobs, electronic labeling and a 15-inch touch-sensitive hi-res TFT display. All 24 channel faders and 12 assignable aux/master faders can be instantly assigned as channels or masters, allowing 36 main faders to control inputs, if desired.

Even with the SD8's compact footprint, there's plenty of horsepower. Sixty mono or stereo channels — the equivalent of 120 channels — can run full DSP simultaneously. Also standard are 20-step LED bar graph meters next to each channel fader and the same snapshot automation control (with removable USB storage of sessions and setups) as the other D Series consoles. Besides a full-function 48×8 Stage Rack with remote control of its studio-grade preamps and 100m MADI digital snake, the SD8 has onboard local I/O with eight mic/line inputs, eight line outputs and eight AES/EBU inputs/outputs.

Digidesign ( expands its VENUE digital consoles line with the D-Show Profile Mix Rack System, an all-inclusive system that provides a size-conscious alternative to the larger and expandable D-Show control surface. Shipping since last April, the $39,995 package provides a compact 24-fader VENUE control surface, D-Show V. 2.7 software,VENUEPack plug-in bundle and the Mix Rack with DSP and remote and local I/O. Mix Rack has two Mix Engine cards (expandable for more TDM plug-in processing), 48 analog XLR mic/line inputs, 16 XLR analog line outs (expandable to 32), eight analog TRS line-level I/O (assignable as discrete I/Os or insert pairs). 2-track analog/digital (AES or S/PDIF) I/O, MIDI I/O and an analog aux/com input. The system supports up to 64 tracks of Pro Tools record/play integration, and modular card slots allow various analog or digital outputs and Aviom A-Net personal monitoring options.

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