As usual, a digital mixer isn’t as easy to operate as the analogue equivalent, but it can - and does - give you more features for the price. As standard the DPS12 has digital EQ which can be globally configured as two-band high and low, or three-band parametric. If you choose two-band EQ then all twelve channels can use it. If you select three-band then only six channels can be so blessed. With 48kHz sampling these figures are reduced to ten and five respectively. Despite these limitations - Akai should find a way to allocate the different types of EQ on an individual channel basis - the facilities on offer are wonderful. In the two-band EQ you get LF and HF sections with both level and frequency controls. You don’t usually get a frequency control on the low and high sections of analogue mixing console EQs unless you pay a high price. In Akai’s three-band EQ you also get a mid section with level, frequency and Q. Lovely. These can be displayed as a 'channel strip’ and although operation via the cursor keys and jog wheel is a little fiddly, the results are worth it. I mentioned the two auxiliary sends earlier, both pre/post fader switchable, which can function as individual mono sends or as a stereo pair. When these are used together with the thru mix facility, the inputs can be used as auxiliary returns to add effects to the mix. Indeed the eight inputs can be used for other signals, perhaps controlled by an MTC synchronised sequencer.
The mixer of the DPS12 doesn’t have insert points so compressing or gating is going to be a little tricky. You may be able to do it while recording if you have a voice channel unit or similar, but if you leave it to the mix then you are going to have to use the auxiliary sends and thru mix inputs. I might be tempted to re-record the compressed signal to another track before mixing. The original can always be retained as a virtual track.
Since the DPS12 doesn’t have a separate monitor output the master fader is your level control for both the monitor speakers and mastering recording. Akai suggest that you can connect to a master recorder and monitor through that, but very often you can’t unless the machine is thrashing its heads wastefully against the same piece of tape in pause mode. It’s livable-with, but not ideal.
One of the bonus features of digital mixers is that they can often be automated. The DPS12 allows mixer states to be captured as 'scenes’. Unfortunately, scenes can only be changed while the DPS12 is stopped, so you can’t use them directly to automate a mix. All is not lost however since any changes you make during a mix can be sent to a sequencer as control change data. The DPS12 will respond to this as though you were making the changes yourself. Although this is useful and reasonably effective I would have preferred the DPS12 also to allow access to internally stored scenes via program change commands, or perhaps to have some internal form of automation and not rely on a sequencer at all.
Great home recording starts with a great home recording studio. It doesn't need to be expensive if you know how to select the right equipment for your needs.