Focusrite Control 2802 Dual-Layer Mixing Console Review

Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barry Rudolph

VERSATILE, COMPACT UNIT PRODUCES CLEAR, VIVID AUDIO

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MIC PREAMPS
The 2802’s mic preamps feature a hybrid design with a discrete front end and chip line driver. They each have switchable +48-volt phantom power; a smooth-sounding 75Hz, 12dB/octave highpass filter; and a polarity/phase-flip button.

While recording male vocals, I compared one of the 2802’s eight mic pre’s with my RTZ Professional Audio 9762 dual-combo mic pre. I used my transformer mic-splitter box (Jensen JT-MB-E inside) to route a large-diaphragm condenser mic to both pre’s at the same time. I used the 2802’s superclean Channel mode preamp output and then ran the RTZ’s line out into an adjacent line-input channel on the 2802; in this way, I could match levels and route both signals out the direct outputs to Pro Tools|HD.

It was amazing how close both pre’s sounded: quiet, warm and solid, and exactly as I remember the sound of the pre’s in the Audient Zen console—fantastic! I would only say that the RTZ had more gain available and was more open-sounding. On the 2802, there is up to 15dB additional gain available using the Channel Trim control if you select the post-fader direct output path. Over the course of the nearly three weeks that I had the Control 2802, its mic pre’s performed perfectly for recording all sources.

MONITORING
About one-third of the 2802’s surface is dedicated to professional and comprehensive monitoring facilities. Between the mix bus and other signals, there are main monitoring and cue source selection, plus external sources such as an 1/8-inch jack for an iPod. There is a headphone cue level, main volume with adjustable dim and cut buttons, alt/main speaker select (two pairs of XLRs) and a built-in talkback mic with level control or you may connect an external mic (XLR).

The Channel Solo button, along with the Solo mode button and Solo/Mix Blend control in the monitor section, designate the four analog solo modes: AFL, PFL, SIP (Solo-In-Place) and SIF (Solo-In-Front). There is also SIP Safe, a way to isolate any channel from muting. In the DAW layer, the eight Channel Solo and Mute buttons follow the bank selected in Pro Tools.

I found the monitoring section to be transparent. The mix playing through my KRK ERGO monitoring-correction unit sounded the same whether connected directly to the 2802’s stereo bus outs or its stereo monitor outs.

THE SUM OF ALL CHANNELS
Using two Avid Pro Tools|HD 192 I/O boxes (with 16 output channels each), I took an existing “in-the-box” mix in Pro Tools and stemmed it out to 32 outputs. For the first 16 outputs I wanted panning facilities, so I used the channel and alternate input cue paths, each of which have pan pots.

For the next four stereo pairs, I used the 2802’s fixed-level summing input (DB-25), which equally sums the odd-numbered tracks to the left side of the stereo bus and the even tracks to the right. This was perfect for stereo tracks in the mix that rarely changed, such as effect returns, synth pads or for a one-time piano solo during the song’s bridge.

For the last eight tracks, I used the 2802’s two effects stereo returns for two stereo stems, and I enlisted the fixed-level DAW mix input (XLRs) and main mix insert return (TRS) for the last two stereo pairs.

Actually, the DAW mix input is for playing out a stereo mix directly from your DAW. That way, when tracking or overdubbing, the channel faders are free for riding mic levels and the cue mixer will provide a zero-latency mix of those channels' recording inputs.






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