We’ve been working with the world’s leading mixing consoles since the 80’s. I mean, some beautiful specimens of wonderful sound mixing and near rocket-science design. But large format consoles, thanks to modern DAWs, have become irrelevant for the most part – and certainly for the independent media creative. But there still needs to be a hub for wires, sound, recording and gear sexiness – and Soundcraft may have won the battle with their unbelievably useful Ui24R. Read on for our review of this mixer.
It’s like a microwave, your cell phone and even your smart phone: you can’t imagine how life was without them. Well, the Ui24R is the same. I promise you.
When we were first introduced to this 4-space 19″ rackable box – and that’s what it is: no sexy faders, no beautiful meters, no color coordinated knobs to drool over – we were sort of non-plussed. “What’s this?!?” and “How can this be a 28 input mixer with 22 track recorder and playback?” “WHERE ARE THE FADERS!?” Now, it should be noted that I’m a little old skool – and I’m never going to get over the love affair I have with giant SSL and Studer consoles’ aircraft carrier sized layouts and beautiful design. But like with most things, judging a box by it’s cover is as silly as judging your Birthday present by it’s wrapping. You don’t know until you open it up.
And in this case, opening up the Ui24R is done in any browser on any smart phone, PDA or computer. Any browser. All of the functions of the mixer are found easily and effortlessly via wifi – no cables, no fuss and COMPLETE mobility for the engineer. Of course you can connect via ethernet, but the low-latency response from an iPad is more than adequate for live and studio use.
And that’s the thing: you’ve got all the capabilities of a modern mixer out to its full 24+ XLR/1/4″ inputs – all
with phantom power and line/mic selection, all of its 12-odd outputs, a HOST of effects, and smartly contoured EQ, Compression and Limiting available on every channel, massive Aux/routing matricies, Reverbs, and the ability to page between all functions – including the smartly designed input stage – with a touch of a screen. There’s also near infinite snapshots, full-mixer show storage locations, the ability to store them all on USB flash cards so you can go from one unit to another with your “shows” and pull them up in a giff – and the ability to daisy chain them together to have MASSIVE input capability.
And then, the killer part, 48kHz/24bit recording capability of the stereo output AND 22 inputs straight to a USB flash card. We’re talking discreet channel recording to independent files. With clever internal routing, you can even play back all of these tracks live and create complex workability for the modern show with discreet outputs. It’ll also play back from a second flash card any stereo music you want. In fact, the hot-swappable nature of the Ui24R flashcard implementation makes a completely new set of recordings, pages and shows available in a simple matter of about 5 seconds.
Lastly, the preamps which Soundcraft did not cut corners on, are smooth, quiet and have plenty of headroom and dynamic range – especially given the hack of switching to line/mic level depending on the input to get better gain structuring when things aren’t quite getting the right voltage on stage.
Oh. Did I forget to mention this thing is under $1k?
The Strate Dope
It’s true: a blue box isn’t that sexy. But everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – I show the iPad interface to goes
slackjawed. Then they try to figure out how they’re going to shoehorn one onto their credit card after they use it for about 5 minutes. The ability to audition your mix anywhere in the room and have full control of all channels and plugins cannot be understated. And although a 128 channel SSL console is like the Second Coming, the UiRs are like the parting of the Red Sea when you can record, play back, and manage all aspects of a mix from a simple pad connected via the airwaves.
Not All Users Welcome
One of the brilliant implementations of the UiR series is the ability for multiple users on multiple browsers to access the mix simultaneously. That’s right: you drag down channel 18, and half a second later someone raises it back up from their computer. And while that example is sort of a bummer if you’re the master mixer, imagine the ability to have multiple people working a 96 channel virtual console in a dub session or a large live mix. And then imagine the ability for an admin to lock out certain users from certain channels and functions.
If you can imagine that, then you can quickly realize that you can give the band or artist limited access to the mix to manage their own monitor mix from an iPad next to them. You simply give the artist their own log in, and they can make their monitor mix any old way they want – while you and the mix crew do what you’ve got to do without having to deal with the artist’s diva requests.
While this all sounds great for music people, what about the independent creative? Well, you have to have a mixer to blend all of your wires anyway, right? Your NLE, your audio interface, your microphone, your ADR booth/room/closet, your foley mic…et al. In this case, you can even bypass your audio interface since the Ui24R connects directly to your computer via USB and your DAW will happily access it as a giant 24-in 10-out audio interface. And the Ui16R is under $400. The Ui12R is under $300. What?! I know. It’s crazy. And amazing. In fact, I think everyone who has one of this in their studio should get a percentage of sales of these things, because everyone wants one when they see them. And, I gotta say, I’ve taken one on a plane in my luggage, and because it’s basically just a “box” it travels easily in its supplied box.
If you haven’t fooled around with one of these Soundcraft UIRs, you owe it to yourself to bring your own iPad and head to your nearest music store. And leave enough room on your credit card – because you’re not going to walk out of there without having bought one.