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 Stephen Pattison

Stephen Pattison uses an iPad app during soundcheck.

Digital mixers with app control communicate with the iPad by creating a closed Wi-Fi network. A router is connected to the mixer’s network port or to a USB port using a USB-to-Wi-Fi adapter, and creates the Wi-Fi signal.

“You do need a strong router for the desk/app to get maximum coverage,” cautions Woods. “It would suck pretty hard if you weren’t near the desk and planning to mute an effect on the app, and all of a sudden it dropped out or disconnected. I always bring my own router so I can ensure that it stays stable. I go for stability over range. The other reason for using my own router is I can have it locked with a password, to be sure that nobody else can access my console.”

Pattison also takes precautions so that nobody can log onto his network during a show. “The main things I do to a router,” he says, “are to make sure it doesn’t broadcast the SSID [network name] and that it only broadcasts on 5 GHz, which can’t be seen by most people’s telephones, so they won’t try and connect to get their emails or the sports scores.”

Millward says that interference can be an issue, and that he, too, uses a 5GHz network. “The only real problem would be when there is interference from a lot of other networks in the building,” which can cause a slowing down of the network, sluggish response, and sometimes dropouts in the iPad connection.

There’s also the issue of interfering with other wireless systems in use for the show. “I find a 5.4GHz router works best,” Franks says, “as it doesn’t interfere with wireless mics like a 2.4GHz router might. Additionally, with my own router I control security, so I don’t have to worry about that. I’ve been using a Cisco E2500 router that costs under $40, and it works great.”

These digital mixer/app combinations are relatively new, or in some cases brand-new systems, and they’re still evolving. It’s hard to imagine that the integration between app and mixer won’t become even better as these systems get more use in the field, and more needed features are identified and implemented. Indeed, virtually everyone I interviewed for this story mentioned “wish-list” features for the systems they worked with.

In a relatively short time, the iPad mixer control app has become an indispensable accessory for the live digital consoles that support them. It’s clear that remote control apps, in combination with the touchscreen and convenience of the iPad, have streamlined the workflow of the live engineer, and made it possible for them to do their jobs even better.

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