Hello. It’s Tom Chianti again. We haven’t seen each other since I scootered my way thru last year’s AES convention in NY. It was a fun and fruitful day. Looking at all of the digital opulence started me thinking that it’s time to go back to the future. To be that retro-renegade guy. So I said to myself I want an analog board again!
Most of what I saw while doing my research pointed me toward the 3 to 4 thousand dollar range. Not exactly what I wanted to spend, but as all studio owners know, there’s a time to tighten the belt and just jump in. Part of my disappointment came from the fact that in the digital world prices are now going up (some of the prices for plug-ins are getting a little too close to their analog counter-parts).
Then a friend hipped me to the Behringer Eurodesk SX4882.
This is a new board in the Eurodesk series. It is an ultra low noise board with 48 total inputs and a stereo eight buss sub group. It also features the Xenyx mic pres and British styled EQs with an integrated LED meter-bridge. It retails for 999.99. That’s right, just a penny less than a grand. I thought I’d be foolish to not at least check this out.
So, with the help of Bob from Live2Play and SoundProLive, the people at Behringer and my good friends at Sweetwater, I managed to get my hands on one—after several disasters involving shipping and routing problems caused by an over-stretched delivery carrier. I really must thank the teams at both Behringer and Sweetwater for coming through and managed to get a new board to me in record time.
And was I surprised.
What I got was a very quiet large format console with a small footprint. This board just looks serious. It seems to say, “OK let’s just get to it”. The ingenious design is at home in the studio, or a small to mid-size live venue, a House of Worship or as a great extra for any rental company with an eye to client satisfaction at a low cost. I could also see this board showing up in some Audio Schools. It is a great way to introduce this new generation of engineers to the analog world. Especially with it’s full functionality and exceedingly versatile routing.
Here is a short list of the boards features.
It is a hybrid in-line/split board design.
It has 24 XENYX Low Noise Mic Pre’s.
A total of 48 inputs.
24 channels each with a Direct out and Inserts.
24 Tape or DAW returns.
Six mono send stereo returned Auxes.
Two separate and assignable stereo cue sends.
Four band EQ with swept Hi/Low Mids on each main “A” mix channel,
With each switchable to “B” mix independently as needed.
Low and High shelving EQ for channels 25 thru 48, each also switchable
from A to B mix independently as needed.
Eight stereo Sub-Groups switchable to mono for 16 sends to Tape or DAW.
Solo in place or pre fader listen.
An easy to read well thought out manual that makes sense.
I have had the board up and running now for a week or so and these are the first things I’ve noticed.
Sonically it is very strong. A solid bottom with a clear and present top end. None of the digital hashness that you can get with the low cost digital boards. Just a smooth and warm wash of well defined audio.
Keeping in mind the price is still a penny less than a thousand dollars and your eyes start to widen even more in surprise as it continues to unfold more and more big board features.
When checking out the XENYX mic pre’s, I decided to use a nice ribbon mic. These are known to be very particular about their power source. You must have enough gain to drive them so that they can catch the quick transients without overloading or distorting the signal. Needless to say the SX4882 passed this test with flying colors.
I then invited some close friends over to do a very quick dump to the computer of just a jam or two while using the extensive routing of the SX4882. I had no complaints as I was able to send separate headphone feeds to everyone using cues and auxes keeping everyone happy.
The British styled EQs seem to be the “in” thing these days. But, even so, these are very powerful. You can really push them and give someone a haircut and a shave. Or take little steps and gently walk a soft musical phrase in and around your mix.
I happen to agree with the two shelving picks. 12k is nice and airy without being too glassy or as I call it gushy sounding. Using 80Hz as the low filter really makes sense to me also. It’s mostly solid muscle and not much woof or rumble there.
One of my favorite things about the SX4882 are the 8 stereo sub-groups. These can be run in mono and then you have the ability to dump 16 tracks to tape or your DAW. Mostly you’re lucky to get 8 groups to tape and sometimes only four without spending 10 grand or more.
In this split record mode I used channels 1 thru 24 ( mix “A” ) for sends to computer and the potentiometers, (small rounded knobs on the lower front of the board) as my tape monitor returns. Everything ran quick and smoothly. With even extra time to fool around and hook up some of my cool outboard gear to experiment with getting different sounds.
Channels 1 thru 24 are considered mix “A”. While channels 25 thru 48 are mix “B” and accessed on the board as potentiometers instead of small faders. The best thing about the split/in-line design is that the faders, auxes and EQ’s are all swappable between mix “A”, or mix “B”, as are the entire channel sections can be independently swapped. This means that when you’re tracking you can use the long faders as send to tape or DAW and the mix “B” knobs as tape returns and have independent level control over everything you’re dealing with and a choice of which auxes or EQs you feel the need to use. Hence the split board feature. This then allows you to quickly go right into mix mode with just a few minutes of planning and just a swap, skip and a jump to get started.
When mixing, all the channels are there in front of you to use as you please. You can assign your drums, guitars and vocals or whatever you like to be controlled by the sub groups. This makes it very easy to keep a growing mix in check and enable tweaks in levels as your mix blooms. All of the Groups and main mix outs plus the tape two returns also have inserts to further help you sculpt not only your mix but how and what you want to listen to it through.
There are separate volume controls for “studio levels” and for “control room” levels. This allowed me to dump my speaker switching set-up and now I know exactly that what I’m hearing is not colored in any way. There are also inputs for n external source such as a CD or some other sound source for reference if you want.
The biggest and best thing about the Behringer Eurodesk SX4882 is that it can shave time in mixing and tracking. Let me explain.
When mixing in the box, or on a digital console, you can use many plug-ins or features that rely upon a limited amount of processors or algorithms. And eventually they all get stuffed thru the same converters. Thus in the end, all your sound is passing thru a very limited amount of the same type of electronics. This means that unless you’re going to drop well over $15K on, let’s say, a Pro Tools or other type of industry
standard hi-end system you get to the point of diminishing returns. As you add more and more tracks and plugs you’re just putting more of the same stuffing in the Turkey. In my opinion this is because every sound just keeps going round and round thru the same digital i/o. Yes it’s all nice and clear but it is all the same coloration and you’re just making it harder to get depth and separation.
Now in the analog world where you would be using the SX4882, everything you pass your sound thru alters it. Just a little. Yes the board is built to very strict and demanding specs so that it all works the same, but it’s just one of those amazing things about passing signal in a linear pathway. You don’t loose any of it due to sampling and every little piece of gear including the different channels and EQ’s on the board it’s self all contribute their little changes to the overall sound. This makes getting depth and definition much easier as the accumulated differences help to separate your tracks from one and another right from the start for you.
You have the mix taking shape and the sounds defining themselves very quickly as the inherent quirks of analog slightly alter each sound as you bring it up on a different channel thru a different piece of outboard gear. You see where I’m heading don’t you. It’s like, because the Behringer SX4882 is built so well and so far above it’s price range, it just can’t help but make your job as a recording or mixing engineer easier.
Now let’s say you’re tracking vocals or better yet stacking back grounds. Just choose your main channel and assign it to your processing chain, send it to all your subs and just by muting and panning you can drop 16 tracks as fast as your singer can sing. Excellent!! Again the Behringer SX4882 proves it is worth tree times the money.
So, now you have an awesome sounding fast tracking and mixing board for $999.99. Are you going to complain.
Since I am a freelance engineer/producer I never really know what kind of room or gear I’m ultimately going to be working on or in. Of course the budget is a big give away. But sometimes you can be surprised. This is why I went with the Behringer SX4882 in my project studio. It helps keep the overall cost to the client down because it takes less time. And time is money as they say.
Let’s not forget that as digital gear has been advancing, so has it’s older analog brother. Cleaner circuit boards and better all around chips and circuitry helped to bring the cost down for both of the strategies over time.
Many major engineer producers are using this combination of in the box and going thru a good analog board for warmth and size along with some choice outboard gear to help re-define the boarders of what a good mix is, and push both themselves and the gear to grow.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the Eurodesk SX4882 has to offer. The manuals and tech specs are all included with the board and when you get a look at them I’m sure that you’ll agree that Behringer has started something big here and I hope it’s a trend that continues.
In the end it is still those that use the tools that make the big difference in any trade. But a reliable, versatile and time effective tool can’t hurt.
No matter where you are in your career in audio, if you are making the decisions on what gear to use, you owe it to yourself to take a good long look at what may change many things in the years to come in audio.
Thanks for the read and I’ll see you around.
Tom Chianti is a freelance engineer/producer who has been in the industry for thrirty years working with artists like Moss deff, Eric Sermon, Redman, Method Man, producers Rockwilder, Tony Moran and through them has worked with artists like Janet jackson Cher, Gloria Estefan, Jon Secede Lisa Left Eye Lopez and many other amazingly talented artists and major labels.
AlanaTomiC Productions and Publishing (ASCAP)
The Behringer Erodesk SX4882