Behringer X32 Compact, S16 Stage Box & P16 Monitor Mixer
Behringer has stretched out the X32 concept by cutting it to size and letting you expand as needed. Plus, personal monitoring just got a whole lot more affordable.
The X32 caused quite a stir when it was released over 12 months ago. Its price to performance ratio had the opposition scrambling. Now through the settling dust Behringer has emerged with the expanded X32 line of consoles. Beginning with the standard X32 and progressively shrinking down through the models: Compact, Producer, Rack and finally the Core which is a single rack unit device with very limited hardware controls, designed to be operated via an iPad. The expansion leverages the effort Behringer put into the X32 system to reach into all segments of the market, from live and home studio recording to all levels of installation. The first cab off the rank is the X32 Compact.
Based on the same 40-input channel, 25-bus digital mix architecture as the X32. The Compact is exactly that, a more compact X32 aimed at people that have less space and I/O needs. Nothing has changed internally, just the control surface and I/O configuration has. As I recently covered the X32 in detail in AudioTechnology Issue 91 this review will focus on the general feature set and on the X32 Compact changes.
The internal processing of the X32 Compact is identical to its big brother and, in short, comprises a 40-bit DSP engine with 40 input channels (32 input channels, six aux and a stereo USB input) and 25 mix buses (16 internal, six matrix and LCR). Input channels 1-32 feature four-band parametric EQ plus a low cut filter, gate and compressor/expander, the six aux inputs are the same minus the compressor. The effects returns lose both the compressor and EQ section. All 25 mix buses have an expanded six-band parametric EQ and compressor/expander sections. The eight stereo effects processors emulate units from industry stalwarts like Lexicon and Roland, there’s even an onboard guitar amp simulator. The first four slots can be used as send-return effects whereas the last four must be used as inserts.
THE INS & OUTS OF THE MATTER
I/O-wise, the Compact is essentially half the X32. On offer here are 16 inputs and eight outputs on XLRs. These XLR inputs are 12kΩ, so will accept signal ranging from mic to line level. Six extra line level inputs and outputs are available on TRS, one pair are duplicated on RCA for convenience. Referred to as Aux I/O in Behringer parlance, they can be used for just about anything from analogue inserts to aux sends or as local input channels for playback from sources such as CD or iPod. The remainder of the X32 Compact I/O is identical to its bigger brother. Two AES-50 ports are retained for further expansion through Behringer’s S-16 digital stage boxes (16-in/8-out) although, as with the X32, you are limited to a maximum of 40 inputs by the DSP processor. Also worthy of note is that you can only assign inputs and outputs in blocks of eight, so the X32 family of consoles is not as flexible as some other, albeit more expensive, digital consoles in this regard.
An onboard mic is provided for talkback, as well as the option to connect an external one. Stereo monitor outputs are also supplied for studio use and two headphone outputs are available on either side of the console positioned in the carry handles. Remote control over Ethernet or USB is possible with Behringer’s X32 Edit software on a laptop (PC or Mac) these ports can also be connected to a wireless router and control of the X32 Compact can be run from an iPad. Digital output is by way of a single AES/EBU connection whilst this is far from comprehensive there is a card slot that promises further expansion options. At the time of writing the only card available is Behringer’s own XUF FireWire/USB audio interface card providing up to 32 channels of I/O and MIDI over either USB 2.0 or Firewire. It also transmits HUI and Mackie Control data so you can use the group faders to control your DAW (this card comes pre-installed in the X32 Compact which is a bonus!). An Ultranet port can also be found for use with Behringer’s Powerplay 16 personal monitoring system. MIDI I/O rounds out the rear panel on the X32 Compact.
In the quest to ‘Compact-ify’ the X32, Behringer engineers decided that in this rendition of the product the full size 800 x 480 pixel TFT screen and six rotary encoders were to be kept. Which meant some other control surface niceties have had to go. Most obviously the fader count has been reduced to 16, the right bank of eight is assigned to bus, DCA and matrix duties while the left bank takes care of channel inputs in four banks. Aux inputs, effects returns and bus masters each have their own dedicated bank. The entire bus sends section which comprised four rotary encoders switchable in four banks has been removed and replaced with a Bus Mixes View button which is a shortcut to the sends view on the TFT screen. These encoders were a luxury on the X32, and no functionality is lost on the Compact as these functions are duplicated on faders when the Sends On Fader button is pressed. Next to get the lean treatment is the Assignable controls section. Once again the four rotary encoders have been sacrificed leaving just eight assignable buttons and gone are the three bank selection buttons also. Initially I felt this was a large loss until I came to realise that there are still three banks of eight buttons available, you just have to hit the View button and make the bank change via the LCD — no great loss. The surface has been re-jigged positionally but the rest of the tactile surface features of the X32 remain intact.
The X32 Compact once again ticks a lot of boxes and appears to be outstanding value for money. The Compact’s smaller package affords users a gradual expansion path via an S16 at a later date yet sacrifices little in functionality to its bigger sibling the X32.
Maintaining the same DSP engine across the X32 range makes a lot of sense. It ensures user familiarity throughout the entire range, and the ability to import shows created on any console in the X32 family. A look through the firmware updates since the X32’s release shows additional effects have been added free and new features have been added or improved to suit monitor engineers, theatre FOH operators, etc. For example, Butterworth, Bessel and Linkwitz-Riley EQ filters have been added so you can use the X32’s matrix outputs as crossovers for use with subs or top boxes, removing the need for external processors. Handy! It seems that Behringer has been listening to user demands, and more importantly, implementing them.
I used the X32 Compact on a range of shows from duos to six-piece bands, and it didn’t miss a beat. Having used the X32 before, the stripped back control surface features were missed briefly but after 10 minutes or so I felt completely at home on the X32 Compact and was happily adjusting effects parameters on the rotary encoders below the TFT screen rather than in the Assign section as I usually do on the larger X32 control surface.
The layout is intuitive and, with its simple concept of a View button for each section, navigation is a breeze. It truly is one of the simplest digital consoles to step up to for the novice user. I would have to say the X32 Compact, with features like DCAs and mute groups, really feels like a much larger console. I can’t fault the X32 Compact. It seems Behringer is going from strength to strength.