QSC’s little baby does more than touch the insides.
Preview: Christopher Holder
We’ve had the much-anticipated QSC TouchMix16 in the office for a few days prior to our print deadline and without the time to give this baby a thorough field test (like we normally would), we wanted to at least provide some first impressions this issue.
First up: Wot, no faders?
I’ll ’fess up to my prejudices about mixing consoles without faders. How’s it possible to mix without them in a live context? Increasingly the answer is: via touchscreens and iPads. My reaction to this is: only if I really, really have to.
Turns out Touchmix almost has a fader, only it’s disguised as a continuously variable pot. The big, fat encoder really runs the show and feels great. The idea is you make your selection on the touchscreen with your left hand and tweak with your right hand — coarse (1dB increments in the case of fader moves) in normal operation and fine (0.1dB) when pressed and turned. You’d be a bit daft to try and mix with the virtual faders.
My second impression of Touchmix is: it’s tiny!
It really is about the size of an iPad with enough extra real estate for I/O. The size is reduced because there aren’t any customary ‘fat channel’ controls. Most small-format digital mixers will have a Select button per channel which opens up the world of EQ, routing and processing with attendant knobs and switches. TouchMix does something similar via a Select button on screen which opens up a tabbed display that allows you to move to pages dedicated to EQ, Gate, Compressor, FX and more.
So the success and failure of the mixer is really dependent on the touchscreen and what it’s like to use. It’s big enough and it’s responsive enough. I won’t go the next step and tell you it’s outstanding — there are times where you could swear you pressed the right spot without luck and there are times where there’s a split second wait-time which, although not a deal-breaker, can be unsettling.
My third impression of TouchMix is: They’ve thought of everything!
This mixer really is packed with every conceivable feature any live sound mixer could want in a compact device. In no particular order you can tick these boxes: four FX engines, gate and comp on every input, 35-band graphics on every output, talkback section with dedicated momentary switch, mute groups, scene memories, eight auxiliaries, including two stereo auxes for IEM… TouchMix truly is a pocket powerhouse.
My fourth impression of TouchMix is: It can do what?!
There’s a full-blown recording/playback section. Plug in a (FAT32-formatted) USB stick (or external drive), arm the channels you want to record, and then hit Record. Upon playback you can choose which recorded channel you’d like to hear. It’s not quite a multichannel ‘virtual soundcheck’ but it’s close and certainly a lot more sophisticated than a digital tap off the L/R outputs.
Filling the other USB input is a supplied dongle which allows you to control TouchMix via an iPad — which is kinda de rigueur these days. Download the app, and then set up TouchMix to discover your wifi network. The app looks and operates like the touchscreen. But, usefully, it doesn’t override the touchscreen, so you can be tweaking the foldback graphics on stage, while your compadre can simultaneously be doing a line check at FOH.
There are a couple of aspects to TouchMix that gave me cause to go ‘hmm’. The power supply is a cord lump to keep the control surface weight down, but the console end has an oddball proprietary power input that on one hand is pretty sturdy, but on the other, difficult to replace.
I also found myself scratching my head at times getting around the UI. There were moments when I wanted to hit a button again to toggle between two pages rather than having to hit the ‘Home’ button and then Setup again. Ditto with the jog wheel. I found myself wanting to press the wheel in to open up a channel Setup rather than having to press the magic spot on the touchscreen. If enough people agree with me then perhaps QSC might make a few alterations in the next firmware.
To round out my first impressions: TouchMix is a genuine live sound mixing console. It’s not a ‘near enough’ mixer, it packs a full complement of pro features. With that in mind, it’s simply about how you get on with the interface. I think QSC has done a creditable job balancing usability and portability. Like I mentioned I found a few aspects of the workflow a bit irritating but that’s in no way a sleight on the sound or functionality — TouchMix goes remarkably deep for something you can slip into your laptop bag.