Time to take a fresh look at Digital Mixers

The technology trends of the last few years would indicate that, for those of us that run digital recording studios, our love affair with digital mixers has hit a decidedly rocky patch.

At the dawn of the age where the computer began to reign supreme in the studio, the most popular setup by far centred around a Yamaha 01v or 02r digital mixer, connected via a Korg 1212 ADAT card to the computer. At the time it was pretty much the only viable non-Pro Tools computer-based setup. It provided 8 channels of bidirectional I/O, the analogue-to-digital conversion happened outside the computer to avoid noise, you could monitor directly from the desk (monitoring off a soundcard at that time resulted in about half a second of latency) and the desks themselves offered the automation, effects and processing that was either not available in software, or would result in your computer grinding to a halt under the weight of the algorithms.

‘In the box’

As computers gained faster processors, the dream of being able to do everything ‘in the box’ grew more tangible. Extensive mixing effects and automation became available within recording software packages, such as Logic and Cubase, which replaced much of the workload of a desk. Audio interfaces began to offer more simultaneous inputs and sprouted mic preamps too, replacing the desk’s I/O.  And when Mackie introduced the HUI, a way to keep those lovely moving faders for more-than-one-thing-at-a-time operation, we waved goodbye to the consoles.

The typical modern digital recording studio follows this desk-free paradigm, with a computer at its heart, an audio interface providing all the I/O, mic preamps and DSP-driven monitor mixing and a control surface to keep the whole thing hands-on. DSP units, such as Focusrite’s LiquidMix or TC’s Powercore, even offer some extra muscle for heavy duty effects processing if we want it.

Tascam mixers

If you think about it, what we have really done is break our digital mixer down into components, (faders, I/O and effects/processing) and then purchased them all again as individual units – and quite expensive components at that. And that’s where TASCAM have been clever.

Their DM3200 and DM4800 units are digital mixing desks, but TASCAM have thought to offer an optional FireWire card, which allows them to stream audio directly to and from the computer, 16 channels in either direction. The faders of the desk can be toggled between controlling the desk and functioning as a 16 fader control surface (24 on the DM4800) for your software by emulating Mackie Control and HUI protocols). And all of the channels of audio going to and from the computer can be processed using the EQ, dynamics and TC-derived effects within the desk.

Attractive package

So on one hand, the TASCAM is a digital desk, but you could also view it as a comprehensive audio interface with 16 very high quality mic preamps, built in 16- or 24-fader control surface and additional DSP processor. Considering you could spend more than the price of the DM3200 just buying a 16 fader control surface, for anyone aspiring to a digital recording studio, these digital consoles form a very attractive package.

Written by Rob Holsman in association with Ade Leader, Jigsaw24’s copywriter.

Want to find out more about the TASCAM digital mixers? Get in touch with us on 03332 400 222 or email broadcast@Jigsaw24.com.

Rob H
Rob H
Call us: 03332 409 306