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Soundcraft Compact - the mixing console from hell!

Some mixing consoles don't work the way you expect. They take a long time to learn, and the experience you gain from them will not help you with any other console you use in the future...


Now don't get me wrong, I like Soundcraft products, and I have nothing against the sound quality of the Soundcraft Compact mixing console.

It's just that this model is the epitome of misconception; the ultimate conceit of the console designer who is so all-encompassingly clever about mixing consoles he forgets what it's like for people in the real world.

Firstly, the purpose of this console...

Quite simply it is to act as a front end for computer recording systems and to provide zero-latency monitoring. Can it do that? Yes it can.

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But the cost is that this console, pound for pound, is probably the most complex mixing console around. It is also counter-intuitive, and a million miles away from conventional mixing console practice.

In a normal mixing console, you route channels to outputs. In this console, all of the channels are always routed to the outputs. So how do you record from a single channel? Answer - there is a separate output specially for recording. You press the red button on each channel you want to record. Odd.

Then there's the solo system. Most mixing consoles provide each channel with a solo button. If you want to hear any channel individually, just press its solo button. Not so with the Soundcraft Compact - there is a completely separate monitor system. Those channels you wish to hear, you need to press down the monitor buttons for. And if you want to hear a combination of channels, you press down as many monitor buttons as you need.

This is very unlike normal solo, where you press one solo button for a moment, then when you know that all is well you release it.

If you really got your head into the manual you would find that the Soundcraft Compact does indeed work, and it provides every function you could wish for in this context. But it does it in such a roundabout way.

For example, I was using it with a Digidesign Mbox. After a struggle I got so frustrated I just unplugged the Compact - the Mbox has mic preamps and provides zero latency monitoring anyway.

And supposing you did master this console, what have you learned? Absolutely nothing that will help you with any console you will meet in the future! It's just too different.

The Soundcraft Compact mixing console is, unfortunately, not recommended.

By David Mellor Saturday March 4, 2006