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Avid S4: First contact

Last month, Avid’s S4 console made its first appearance in the UK since it was announced at Avid Connect Live in July. Matt and Saxon from our audio team were on hand for its first live demo, and managed to get hands-on with the kit. Here’s what they thought.


Liz Sunter

We’re excited about the S4 primarily because it brings the power, precision, visual feedback and expandability that you get from the S6 M40 to a smaller console.

While the S6 M10 needed a similar amount of space to the M40 but offered fewer options and features, the S4 is built around a compact new Channel Strip Module that includes all the channel faders, knobs and buttons in a single, compact module. That means all your core controls only take up one bay in its chassis, so the console is less deep. In addition to this, the S4 has many more expansion options than the S6 M10 had, and is compatible with the display, joystick, post and knob modules from the S6 M40.


Getting hands on

“When the console was initially announced, people weren’t sure where in the product range the S4 was supposed to fit,” said our Head of Audio, Matt Ward. “Once you're sat in front of it, it becomes clear that it has far more in common with the S6 than the S3; really it’s a sort of S5-and-a-half!

“Avid have gone out of their way to load it with high-end features, even in the three foot chassis. You can have up to four display modules and get all the metering and visual feedback you would from an M40. They've retained the focus functionality on the new compact CSM modules, and added the ability to install up to two dedicated S6 knob modules as focus knobs. This means it's easy to spread out all the controls for your plug-ins to make detailed parameter adjustment a doddle. Having joysticks and post modules available just makes the whole thing more versatile.”

Assessing the new module options

The ability to expand control options for the S4 with off the shelf S6 modules makes it easy to customise the console layout to suit your workflow.

“The joystick module allows ergonomic access to panning control (whether static or automated) to speed up mixing in surround and immersive formats,” said Matt. “The Master Post Module emulates a traditional film monitor panel to assist with feature film mixing workflows. It allows for rapid switching between input and recorded audio, an ability to punch in and solo/mute buttons for multiple stems.” 

As noted earlier, the S4 allows up to four S6 display modules to be installed (these were previously an M40-only option). These modules allow for channel or master signal metering, the ability to monitor functions like EQ and compression and also a realtime display of the channel audio.Finally, up to two S6 knob modules can be fitted, and channel plug-in parameters can be mapped to them. This gives 32 tactile knob controllers per module for real time, hands-on control.


Simpler integration and assembly

While all S6 consoles require on-site chassis assembly, which can get fiddly, the S4 comes with a pre-built and loaded chassis, which makes life more convenient and decreases deployment time.

“The chassis system makes upgrades a lot less intimidating, and integration is a lot easier,” said Matt. “To take advantage of this, we advise that you spec up your system with at least one spare bay so you’ll be able to expand ad hoc.”


The final verdict

“This is a really versatile console and a welcome addition to the top end of Avid’s lineup,” says Matt. “The S4 should absolutely be considered alongside S6 M40 and may be all that you need, unless you need multi-operator functionality, more than 24 faders, or more than four knobs per channel.”

We’re particularly recommending the S4 for studios and sound for picture facilities who are trying to keep their footprint small, or anyone who wants a secondary room to run alongside an M40-based mixing room. For more on the right config for you, or to pre-order your S4, get in touch with the team on the details below.


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