Recently Braemer College in Mt Macedon, Victoria acquired a Soundcraft Ui24R digital mixer to replace their analogue mixing consoles. Music Dept head, Shaun Evans wrote us an extended product testimonial on why they chose the Soundcraft and what makes it perfect for Braemer College.
Like many vibrant and performing music programs, our school had a standing roster of analogue desks in our stable — everything from little 8 to 12 channel Behringer mixers to 24 and 32 Mackie and Yamaha channel rigs for large format events. The winter concerts and college musicals would involve the usual rigamarole of hauling out one of the bigger mixers, untangling the giant 32m snake that’s never put away properly and proceeding to hook it all up. This was a great, classic learning experience for our VCE VET Music Industry students. A snapshot of what musicians and techs have been lugging and dealing with for decades. Then an issue of Sound On Sound arrived in my inbox with a review of the digital revolution — a wireless, 24 channel rig that made so much of that laborious gear redundant. It was a must have as part of our upgraded systems for our school.
In early 2018 I began looking at new equipment to update our audio reinforcement options. We were in a situation that was familiar for some schools — more and more gigs on the calendar balanced with gear that needed to be in situ to support rehearsals and in-classroom performances. Throw in the need to have a pop up recording studio, assemblies and all the rest and you all know how stressed a limited inventory of equipment can get. At the same time we were gearing up for the opening of a second campus on a site at the bottom of Mount Macedon which presented it’s own unique challenges. It was time to look at an all new, drop in solution that would allow us to deploy to either campus quickly and efficiently. Incorporating a wireless, digital mixer would tick those boxes and present our students with a window into the future avenues for live sound reinforcement including digital mixers and stage boxes.
We hit the research hard and a number of competing units within the price range ($1500 to 2000 AUD) all had a great feature set but the killer features that set the Soundcraft Ui24R aside were:
Interface: I’d had the opportunity to borrow a Midas MR18 and kick the tyres on a few gigs. The unit was a fantastic value for the money and offered a similar channel count to the UI24r, but (like it’s less spec’ed sibiling, the Behringer XR18) was tied to an iOS-based app for interfacing with the unit. That was a killer for us as our Senior School was moving away from iPads to a selection of laptops. The Soundcraft UI series of interfaces are all HTML5 based and run in a browser window. The whole interface is responsive, meaning that it will resize and reconfigure based on the device you use to connect to it. Phones have a simpler, compact layout. My touch-screen Chromebook was fantastic with the full screen connection. The best part was that I was able to give the interface a test drive online through their demo here: https://www.soundcraft.com/ui-demo/mixer.html.
Ins and Outs: As mentioned above there were a few competitors in the price range we were considering including the Midas, the Allen & Heath QU-16 (probably on the higher end of the scale) and the old, trusty Behringer X32. The input count and the 8 combo XLR / TRS inputs on the Soundcraft seemed the best balance for our ongoing gig and event needs. The 24r includes 8 Aux outputs (and the headphone outputs are configurable as additional Aux mixes) so we’d never run out of monitoring options. For bands (possibly more for professionals) you have the option to assign access to a particular Aux mix to a user on the wifi enabled interface so that they have fine-grained control over their own monitor mix. This option is available in some of the other mixers we considered, but the Soundcraft implementation seemed to be the most accessible.
Bells and Whistles: Lexicon and dbx effects on every channel. Digitech amp modeling on the first two channels for those DI electric and acoustic guitars (and don’t forget Violin and Harp pickups!) were just icing on the cake. The ability to throw a compressor or gate on any given channel and individual multi-band eq with real-time monitoring of the frequency spectrum were all just bonuses. The tools also presented our students with a great playground when they were shedding their mixing skills — they could throw an input on a channel and play with the multitude of parameters with a set of cans and their laptop.
Recording: This is where the UI24r really shined for me. As with most digital mixers the UI24r includes a USB-B port so you can plug the unit into your laptop and use it like any other audio interface. Every channel, including the Aux mixes, masters and individual signals are available through Core Audio or via their ASIO driver on a Windows machine. But the real kicker was the USB ports on the front — one for playback and the other for record. The playback accepts a USB thumb drive for playback of media files (ie. backing tracks or break music). The record port is your backup or quick solution for either the usual 2 channel dump down of the master mix. This is present on a number of analog and digital mixers, but the best part comes in the settings for that function: when you pair the port with a high speed USB thumb drive you can save a multi-track recording of each individual channel in wither .wav or .flac format. If the laptop crashes and you lose your session then you always have a backup. Likewise, for that quick setup at an assembly or lunch time performance we could pop in a USB drive and capture quality stems of a student performance for mixing later. This is an invaluable option and something the competitors may adopt in future releases.
So overall the Soundcraft Ui24R was a no brainer for our College. Paired with our new PA and additional FOH capability we have a scalable system that we can deploy for a variety of gigs. We can keep the cows rocking on the new campus site, set up a quick performance corner in our restaurant or use the rig for a quick, multi-track recording setup. A highly recommended product for any busy and varied music education program!
Luke Evans – Head of Music Dept, Braemer College