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.


1 November 2013

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.


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.



    X32 Compact – $3399 


    Galactic Music: (08) 9204 7555 or info@galacticmusic.com.au

  • PROS

    • Complete X32 engine
    • New features for monitor engineers 

  • CONS

    • A little bit of control lost


    You don’t lose a whole lot by going with the X32 Compact, and any I/O requirements can be scaled up easily with additional S16 stage boxes. Don’t be afraid to start smaller.


Behringer’s S16 Stage box is something that many X32 family owners will be aspiring to. Losing your big heavy analogue multi-core can be a very liberating experience. Each S16 provides 16-in/8-out functionality featuring the very same Midas-inspired preamps as featured on the X32 series of consoles. Two S16s will fill the I/O complement on the X32 Compact or any console in the family. Two AES 50 ports utilise Klark Teknik’s SuperMac technology allowing two S16 units to be cascaded for 32-ins and 8-outs of 48k data over a single Cat-5 cable with latency under 1ms. The rear panel of the S16 also boasts two ADAT ports for an additional 16 outputs, which can be configured as splits of the local inputs for live recording or can be configured via a connected X32 to function as any of the available 25 Mix Busses. The split feature also enables the S16 to be used as a standalone ADAT converter. Front panel controls allow the S16 to be switched between 44.1 and 48k sample rates, and the S16 can be clocked internally or from AES 50 allowing the stage box to be master or slave. The S16 is not limited to X32 use and will interface with any console featuring the AES 50 protocol. On the back of the S16 is an Ultranet port allowing connection of Behringer’s Powerplay Personal Monitoring System. MIDI I/O is also provided. And there’s USB connection for easy firmware updates from PC or Mac.

Front panel controls on the S16 are stripped back. A single LED ladder and rotary encoder allows gain to be set locally by stepping through each input, a 48V button allows phantom power to be set in the same manner. A headphone monitoring output with volume control is also provided to allow for line checking or fault finding. The S16 can be addressed by two consoles in a FOH and monitor setup, the only caveat being that only one console can control head amp gain. All in all, the S16 is a well thought out product. Setup is a doddle and build quality seems robust. Once you have used an S16 I’m sure you will never want to lug an analogue multicore ever again. What’s not to like!



    S16 – $1499

  • PROS

    • Affordable expansion
    • Low latency
    • Works as standalone
    • 16-channel ADAT converter

  • CONS

    • Only 48k


    Not just an X32 expansion box, the S16 can split the signal to ADAT or be used as a standalone 16-channel ADAT converter. With sub-1ms latency over Cat-5, the S16 can be used with any console using AES 50.


In-ear monitors have changed the foldback landscape considerably, and control over those mixes is increasingly being handed over to the artist with personal monitor mixers. It’s been a godsend in the studio too. Like the S16, Behringer’s P16-M digital personal mixer and P16-D Ultranet distribution system helps expand the reach of the X32 family. Designed to be connected to an X32 family console or S16 Stagebox via Cat-5 cable, this system allows users to control their own monitor mix on stage from the P16-M mixer. The P16-D is a network switch that connects and powers  up to eight P16-Ms, though up to six can be combined for a total of 48 digital mixers. The P-16D is not essential for use, as you can daisy chain the P16-M mixers, though in this configuration you must use the supplied wall wart power supply for all P16-Mixers beyond the first. So the P-16D will provide a tidier stage set up.

The P16-M allows user control of up to 16 mix channels with the unique feature of having a three-band (high and low shelf, and sweepable mid) EQ per channel as well as on the master. Solo, pan, mute and volume is available for each mix channel as well as a master volume and limiter which can be used to trim transients and protect your ears against accidental thumps through the monitoring system. Operation from the user end is very straightforward. Once output and main bus levels are set it’s a matter of selecting which of the 16 input channels you want to adjust from the Channel Select row of buttons then turn up the volume, pan or EQ to your heart’s content. There are options to link stereo sources and group channels together once you have set relative levels for instruments like drums. The EQ pots are not motorised so a system is used whereby you must sweep the pot through its range and the LED rim lights up when you pick up the control point. (It would have been better to have a ring of LEDs around each control.) There is also the option to save any of your scenes to one of the 16 memory locations provided.

Addressing the P16 from an X32 is achieved via the routing page, where you can select what to send to the P16’s available channels. If you only had 16 channels arriving at the console you could simply assign each channel’s direct output to the P16 and give the band full control. I found it preferable to provide kick and snare this way, then create a stereo subgroup for the remaining drums and send this down two channels along with direct outs for all other instruments and vocalists. I also chose to send my plate reverb direct out down Channel 15 and 16 as a ‘comfort’ reverb. In this configuration the band was nothing short of thrilled!

The Powerplay personal monitoring system proved to be a no nonsense product — simple to set up and operate, with good sound quality. The build quality seems fair, though the knobs are a little flimsy. If you were taking them on tour I would recommend making a case for them. I also found the P16 Mixer’s legending a little difficult to read in low light situations, though the layout becomes second nature fairly quickly.

From an end user’s perspective you do need to have a level of knowledge to get your gain structure correct but other than that it’s foolproof. The P16 Mixer does also provide TRS outputs that could be connected to a traditional stage monitor but personally I wouldn’t recommend this, as a user could just turn it up till it feeds back and there is nothing you can do from FOH! Too risky for me, but I guess if you are a solo or duo performer with moderate stage levels this could be an option. Lastly, if I was being really fussy, I would love to have seen a Neutrik Ethercon for the network connection at the P16 Mixer end as I have never trusted that plastic network clip!

Also for those without an X32 it’s worth investigating the P16-I, which is a rackmount box providing a combination of 16 analogue and ADAT inputs for use with the Powerplay personal monitoring system. It could be a good option in the recording studio regardless of console type.



    P16M – $399
    P16D – $329
    P16I – $549

  • PROS

    • Great price
    • Simple setup
    • 16-channel mix
    • P16D power units over
    • Ethernet too 

  • CONS

    • Knobs a little flimsy
    • No Ethercon


    A perfect way to give artists control over their mix. Easy to set up and leave them to play the game of ‘more me’. The P16D distribution units help clean up the cables, and if you don’t have an X32, try the P16I to integrate personal monitoring into any situation, including the studio.


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