AN IMPRESSIVE ATTEMPT TO FIT VIRTUALLY ALL GIG PRODUCTION GEAR INTO 4RU SPACES. BY ALEX WILSON
The past few years have seen several companies touting integrated digital mixers as solutions for the multi-faceted technical requirements of live performance. The Ui24R is Soundcraft’s most extensive and full-featured offering to this market, and we reviewed its smaller cousin, the Ui16, last year. Even at 24 channels big, the Ui24R can only manage a smaller channel load than competitors from other brands.
For those unfamiliar with these kind of units, the Ui24R can look a bit daunting at first glance. But the concepts behind it are quite simple – the key is understanding how they fit together. The core technology is built around 20 analog inputs, which are kitted with high-quality Studer preamps. These allow the artist and their crew to take whatever signals required, from drum mics to vocals to bass and guitars. Two line level inputs and two channels of digital USB playback make up the 24 channels implied in the product name. The Ui24R allows for the sounds to be mixed on its digital console environment, powered by dbx, Lexicon and DigiTech processing. As well as having analog outputs for a front-of-house mix, there are also eight auxiliary sends for monitoring or other output needs. The unit also functions as an A/D converter, allowing simultaneous recording of all 22 inputs and the stereo mix onto a USB drive, a computer or both.
HAND ME THE REMOTE
The unit powers its own built-in dual-band Wi-Fi network, which allows for up to ten mobile devices to control the unit remotely. In practice, this means that all but the very largest of bands will be able to have both crew and performers control relevant parts of the mix from their device of choice.
This is made all the easier by the inspired decision to code the mix environment as a web interface rather than a mobile app. This eliminates some of the software issues that might come up when your FOH guy wants to work with a laptop and monitor, but your guitarist is addicted to his iPhone.
Each band member can also be assigned a personal ‘view’ of the the mix channels and choices that are relevant to them. With the right setup, the FOH mixer can have full purview of the mix while band members are restricted to controlling channels relevant to their monitor mix.
Soundcraft have put their web interface up on their product website, with some sample audio running in it, to give prospective customers a chance to get a feel for the unit before purchasing. Having spent a bit of time with their mix interface, I think it does the job fairly well. Anyone who has familiarity with the digital mix consoles found in most venues will be at home.
The quality effects processing from dbx, Lexicon and DigiTech will be found among the very clean and useable effect pool. This includes the standard EQs, comps, gates, delays and reverbs and then some nice extras like chorus, de-essing and even guitar amp simulation.
Sounds replicating big-name amp companies are included, along with some basic guitar FX. Your mileage will vary on whether you see them as appropriate for monitoring, as a backup/parallel rig, or the basis for the main guitar sound.
BANDS BIG AND SMALL
Ultimately, the Ui24R is best suited to touring groups that have some degree of control over the production specs of venues they are booked to play. Without time and co-operation from venue staff to patch a unit like this correctly, it would be hard to extract all the benefits from it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Ui24R is one of the units that tries to do everything and mostly succeeds. There has been little that has been left out, and it’s a very attractive proposition for serious touring groups with sophisticated live performance needs.