Field Test: Roland Systems Group V-Mixer Live Console

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka

24-FADER/48-INPUT DESK WITH DSP AND DIGITAL SNAKE

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EASY TO GET AROUND

The M-400 is all about workflow, with some great options that make it easy to get things done quickly. I especially liked how easy it was to copy a channel's settings to a single or a range of channels. By choosing Copy from the main channel display, I could choose which part of a channel's settings to copy. Most settings can be copied, excluding the pad — another option I'd like to have.

The Sends-On Fader button flips the aux levels to the fader, making it easy to jump through 16 mixes quickly when you're using the M-400 for monitor applications. There are also eight dedicated hardware buttons that can be set to almost anything you'd like. You can assign the button to snap to a scene, mute group, oscillator screen, effect bypass or graphic EQ, meter-peak clear, change meter point, or channel-select Prev or Next. This feature makes it easy to get to those buried functions quickly with a dedicated button.

The Group button makes multichannel control a breeze by bringing up eight DCAs and letting you easily assign a channel or aux send to that fader. You can also name and color the DCAs so that they'll show up onscreen with an instrument name and color.

However, there's some room for improvement. For instance, Scene recall takes about two seconds, and while it doesn't mute the audio, it isn't as nimble as it needs to be. Creating a mute scene would be a workaround but wouldn't involve anything but mutes.

STADIUM-READY

I tested the V-Mixer at the cavernous 63,400-seat University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Ariz., home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. On Easter Sunday, Glendale's Radiant Church rented the venue for its services, and the V-Mixer captained by engineer Keith Morris was at FOH. The input list was formidable and every possible input on the console was used, but the V-Mixer stood up to the task. There were 25 channels for the band and eight for the featured singers and choir. In addition, two opening acts were allotted a total of seven channels, and there was a mic for the pastor on one channel, another channel for video playback, two channels for walk-on music and two stereo effects inputs — a total of 48 inputs. All of these were routed to the appropriate channels via the V-Mixer's digital patchbay, which allows you to set up, save and recall various console configurations. All digital and analog inputs were used. However, if your setup is larger, it's possible to gang two units together, effectively doubling your I/O capacity.

The output setup in the venue was just as extensive as the input setup. There was a stereo digital out sent to a 2-channel recorder, one channel back to video and 40 channels were recorded to a PC using Cakewalk's REAC recording software via Cat-5. The board's stereo out was sent to six L-Acoustics V-DOSC loudspeakers facing front (left and right) — two auxes were linked, making a matrix that was sent to six V-DOSC arrays for left and L/L, and two more linked auxes created a matrix sending six outs to JBL VerTec 4088s L/L/L. The same setup was used for the right side, where six subs were used. The entire show went off without a hitch, and the V-Mixer easily jumped between setups.

A V-ANTASTIC SYSTEM

The V-Mixer had me doing a “reality check” over and over as I reviewed the product. This much usable functionality at this price is nothing short of astounding. I say “usable” because there is no fluff in the V-Mixer; the software gates, effects, compressors and EQs are musical and easy to use. In addition, the GUI is friendly, intuitive and gives you a lot of useful feedback as to what's going on inside the box. The educational factor is important because this system is perfect for house of worship and A/V situations where users aren't often audio pros and you have to get up-close and personal with the gear in a short amount of time. If you get stuck, the Help screen contains the entire manual, making it easy to query the “oracle” if you have a question. The manual is well written and takes nothing for granted. All of this is written in basic terms that any user could understand.

V-Mixer also provides a user-definable system lock for keeping some or all console settings out of the reach of unauthorized users. The system also carries some nice unexpected extras. The REAC multichannel recording and USB recorder/playback features add value, as does V-Link, which integrates the system with other Roland and Edirol gear. I saw V-Link in action at NAB 2008, where an Edirol video mixer controlled the V-Mixer's audio. As you crossfaded from one video feed to another on the Edirol, the audio faders on the V-Mixer that carried the corresponding audio would fade up or down — simple but slick.

All this for just around $10k is quite something and well worth a look if you're on a budget yet thinking of stepping up to a pro-quality digital live system.

Roland Systems Group, 800/380-2580, www.rolandsystemsgroup.com.


Kevin Becka is Mix's technical editor.

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