Padding the Mix

Jan 1, 2013 9:00 AM, By Michael Duke

iPad Control of Digital Mixers for Live Sound


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photo of iLive MixPad app

Mobile devices and Wi-Fi have become ingrained in our daily lives, so it’s not terribly surprising to see that these technologies have been adopted as tools in the pro audio world, as well. The Apple iPad has proven to be particularly well suited for this, with its generously sized touchscreen, wireless capability and the relative ease with which custom apps can be written for it.

Performers are taking iPads onstage in place of notebooks full of lyrics and bulky sheet music, while others are incorporating surprisingly powerful instrument apps into their live shows. Increasingly, iPad apps are controlling digital mixers for live sound. PreSonus, with its StudioLive mixers and related apps, was a pioneer in this area, and since has been joined by such companies as Yamaha, Allen & Heath, Behringer, Line 6, Mackie, Soundcraft and Roland.

From small-format mixers to large pro consoles, the latest digital mixers offer wireless connectivity, and most now have iPad apps that can control some or all of their functions. Mackie has even gone so far as to eschew physical faders and knobs on its DL1608, relying on an iPad (or iPads) running its Master Fader app as its mixing surface.

Having mobile mixer control has untethered front-of-house and monitor engineers, making it possible for them to move about freely while still maintaining control of their consoles. This freedom has spawned new workflows, and given live engineers an additional level of flexibility when doing their jobs.

I spoke with a variety of users of these mixer-control apps, mainly live engineers, to find out how they’re integrating them into their work.

An iPad mixer app provides freedom to tweak settings while roaming the venue. FOH engineers seem to be particularly enamored of this aspect; not only does it let them hear how things sound from different parts of the room, it also saves them from the tedium of running out front, listening, then running back to the console to make an adjustment, then back out front, etc., or having to relay such messages to a second party.

“Using the MixPad app has been very liberating,” says David J. “Milky” Millward, FOH mixer for Morrissey, as well as acts like Tindersticks and Tokio Hotel; he often uses Allen & Heath’s iLive digital mixing system and controls it with its accompanying MixPad app. “If possible, I try to break up each system I come across into as many usable zones as I can, using the many matrices available on the iLive. That way, when I do the initial system setup, I have full control and can switch zones on and off to listen to them individually and also balance the various elements as I walk around, without having to keep asking the local P.A. techs to go and make adjustments for me, or continually walking back to the console, which can be very time consuming.”

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