Digital mixing consoles can provide users with enhanced functionality in the broadcast studio, as well as in the home studio. They accept an ever-increasing number of inputs to expand users’ range, giving them the option of recording tracks on site and carrying them back to the studio for editing.
I used Mackie’s D8B console in conjunction with an HDR 24/96 hard disk recorder to perform edit, effect and mix-down tasks. I also used the HDR 24/96 to record and edit simple guitar tracks. The console has its own power supply and display window, and the recorder provides mouse, keyboard and SVGA monitor plug-in ports. Seamless integration between the units enables the console’s jog/shuttle wheel to be used to scrub the recorder’s audio tracks. It also works as a stand-alone 24-bit capture machine for Foley, sound design and remote recording applications.
I also ran a CD input through the mixer to get a feel for basic pan/assign features. A display shows EQ, gate, compressor and plug-in parameters for a selected channel and is controlled by four virtual potentiometer (V-Pot) soft knobs beneath the screen, corresponding to the console’s physical channel strips. Each strip features buttons for mic/line, record ready and channel select/assign, as well as a 100 mm motorized fader.
I switched between the various EQ types and opened a plug-in to add verb. The console allows users to switch between three EQ modes: low-band/high-pass filter with two mid-parametric bands, low-band/high-pass with three upper parametric bands, and standard four-band parametric EQ.
Surround enhancements such as surround LFE gain control per channel, surround-corrected bus/track assignments, front-to-rear pan control and a 72-channel overview surround GUI environment are useful in mixing for more than two speakers. The new surround software interface also provides visual orientation and control over multichannel mix-down modes including quad, LCRS, 5.1 and 7.1. Each of the recorder’s 24 tracks features a dedicated peak/VU LED signal level meter and a track-arming button. The transport controls, menu buttons, SMPTE/MIDI readout and 24-character/four-line LCD are all logically placed. The built-in 20 GByte internal hard drive is supplemented by a floppy drive and a second drive port on the front panel.
Full-featured editing software is built in and includes non-destructive cut, copy and paste; 999 undo levels with a real-time history list; 2x, 4x, 8x, 12x and 24x track zoom displays; and a continuously scrolling track waveform display. A 100 Base-T Ethernet port, nine expansion slots for optional audio, MIDI and sync I/O cards, and a remote controller connector round out the recorder’s back panel.
I was a bit surprised to find that the recorder requires three PDI-8 AES cards in order to achieve 96kHz resolution, but hardly daunted by it. The 24 tracks are supplemented by 192 virtual tracks, and the ability to operate the HDR as a stand-alone recorder/editor came in handy when the live recording mentioned before needed some tweaks. The band simply took the HDR home, connected a mouse and edited their performance.
I also checked out Mackie’s HR 824 speakers along the way. Each speaker has a power mode switch, low-frequency roll-off switch, high-frequency adjustment switch, input sensitivity control, ¼-inch phone, and XLR and RCA audio inputs on its back panel. They also feature 150 watt (@ 4V load) low frequency and 100 watt (@ 6V) power amplifiers, which handle a range of loads. Its 8.75-inch low-frequency driver transducer and 1-inch high frequency driver with edge-damped aluminum dome and ferrofluid-cooled voice coil perform well in compact enclosures, generating a wide and highly detailed stereo sweet spot.
Randy Alberts is a San Francisco-based writer, engineer and producer exploring music and recording technology. He is a regular contributor to BE’s sister magazines, Mix, Remix and Electronic Musician and has just published a book about the history of TASCAM for Hal Leonard Publishing.