Eagerly awaited and now a reality, Soundcraft's first large-format digital live sound console, the Soundcraft Vi6™, is in fact already technically ahead of the pack by being a third-generation digital desk thanks to a joint development with sister console company Studer. Extremely sleek and inviting in appearance and stunning in terms of sonic performance, the console is heralded as the first in a wide range of digital desks to come from Soundcraft over the next two years.
The Soundcraft Vi6 has been designed using the proven reliability of Studer's Vista Series and OnAir 3000 consoles, and, perhaps more importantly, uses a derivation of the Vistonics™ user interface (Vistonics II™) to allow the engineer to very intuitively operate the desk. Like its predecessor, Vistonics II utilizes the same type of touch-screen color TFT monitor with integral rotary controls and switches mounted on the glass to provide a 'where you look is where you control' working philosophy.
This user interface is so intuitive that engineers who consulted on desk's features during its development all felt very familiar with its operation in literally no time. In fact, Soundcraft reckons that even die-hard analog console fans will feel resoundingly comfortable with the Vi6's worksurface within only ten seconds of stepping up to the desk for the first time.
Despite featuring a smaller footprint than many other large-format digital consoles, the Soundcraft Vi6 boasts an impressive input-to-mix capacity of 64 channels mapped out on two layers under the control of 32 faders, which are, of course, motorized. These can be assigned to 32 outputs (plus a stereo and mono mix) that can be any combination of group and aux buses. Furthermore, up to 16 matrix outputs can be configured from the pool of 32 buses.
Every channel strip has all of its respective functions simultaneously on display, so no time is wasted searching through menus or moving back and forth across the desk looking for anything. Selection of channel function is as simple as touching the required element on-screen, then adjusting the controls and switches to implement changes. This approach affords faster and easier operation than probably any console on the market.
Adjustment of EQ, aux levels, routing and dynamics all takes place in line with the channel, and color-coded sections are enhanced by the patented Soundcraft FaderGlow™ system. Soundcraft FaderGlow uses a multi-color LED with a unique diffuser alongside the fader track to indicate which function is currently active on the fader. For example, when used to control aux or monitor sends, the faders will illuminate orange in line with the corresponding function on the screen.
The input channel has four-band fully parametric EQ, gain and routing facilities, aux send level controls, and integral dynamics on the Vistonics II screen, leaving very few additional controls on the channel surface (e.g. solo and mute).
The hardware system architecture of the desk is equally simple yet elegant. Inputs from mics and instruments route to a stagebox containing all the connectivity for I/O, and then connect down a Cat5 cable over a MADI link to the local DSP rack, which sits with the console surface. A second Cat5 cable link provides for redundancy in case a cable is damaged. Alternatively, the second cable can feed a Soundcraft Vi6 desk being used for monitor duties.
Soundcraft is taking the digital market very seriously; so seriously that the company has recently completed a seven million dollar factory upgrade to ensure that the desks can be manufactured to the highest possible standards of reliability and performance. The new factory houses the most advanced surface-mount PCB line currently installed in Europe, complete with several stages of thorough board testing, including in-line X-ray inspection.
Harman's proprietary network system, HiQnet™, is, of course, an integral part of the Soundcraft Vi6 console, which means that the desk becomes a central control point for a complete HPro system of wireless mics, signal processors, amplifiers and loudspeakers.
Expected to begin shipping in May, US list pricing for the entire Vi6 environment (desk plus the stagebox and local rack with I/O and 'SCore Live' DSP core) is anticipated to be set somewhere in the highly attractive vicinity of $80,000.
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