Thursday, October 15, 2009

Presonus StudioLive - First Impressions

A soundman's mixer is his musical instrument. For the first time I have an instrument of my own. After much research (but sadly, no hands-on research) I ordered a Presonus StudioLive 16:4:2. Today it arrived. I chose the StudioLive mostly because of its price/feature combination. It seems adequate with regard to sound quality to meet my needs - will be a major step up from the borrowed gear I've been using. And it offers some features that really expand my capabilities. I can't say it's the last console I'll ever buy. Actually, I hope it isn't. But I think it will serve me well for some time.

My first impression is almost not worthy of a review. I didn't give it an honest chance. I haven't used the preamps yet and I don't have any loudspeakers worth plugging it in to. So I used the tape outs and plugged it into my simplified stereo system :-) It is very easy to set up. I had sound coming out in a couple of minutes and most of that was spent looking for RCA cables. A few minutes later and I was streaming multitrack from Logic Pro into 8 channels and doing some actual mixing. Very nice indeed.

At first I was not impressed by the sound. Then I remembered the stereo speakers. On with the headphones, and oh yeah, there's the rest of the sound. Much better. I'll reserve further judgement on the sound quality until I can hook it up to a real system - hopefully in a couple of days. The main output channel seems to run really hot. It was getting close to clipping with the fader at unity and fairly conservative levels in the mix. Again, I'll reserve judgement and check on that further. There's a level attenuator knob on the back panel that I need to read up on. It could also be related to the meter ballistics. I will educate myself and hope for improvement on that front.

The usability is pretty good. I had very little problem finding the features I needed. One annoying thing is that I wish the "selected channel" would automatically follow the channel being edited like it does on the M7CL. It's annoying to start adjusting EQ only to discover you are working with the wrong channel. Maybe there's an option somewhere. I'm especially glad for the tap button and the easy access to different kinds of metering. I found myself switching to output metering a lot. I've not done that on other boards - probably because the button was not so accessible.

The mixer is not really suitable for rack mounting. At least I was not able to find a good rack for it. I ordered a custom case for it which hasn't arrived yet. But this makes me wonder why they tried so hard to fit it into a rack-mountable size. I like the layout of the board and the fact that the fader panel is angled at a flatter plane than the Fat Channel controls. But I might've gone ahead and made the board wider and/or shallower. It would be nice to have the EQ controls more vertically oriented, similar to the M7CL - or at least give some separation between the dynamics and EQ. With my poor vision I had to look pretty hard to ensure I was editing the right parameter. I'll get used to that soon enough. Also I find the feel of the faders and other controls to be a bit fragile. I don't think they necessarily *are* fragile, they just feel that way a bit.

So that's not a glowing review of my recent upgrade, but again, I haven't really given it a good test yet. And I have to admit going from zero to the StudioLive is a pretty good jump! Even if it turns out the headroom on the main mix bus is lacking it will still be a much better board than I typically take on gigs. And it has a 16-channel recording interface built right in. I can't wait to put that to the test!

1 comment:

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