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Happy Jack

Wireless PA controlled remotely by tablet

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No idea if this is the right section to ask this question (see my suggestion under Site News) but what practical experience can the Basschat Collective offer?

I play in pub/club bands, audiences between 20 & 200, where Silvie and I do the sound. We have a very nice PA system (Mark Audio AC4 on each side) and we currently control the sound with a fairly standard mixer - we use Studiomaster, Behringer, Alesis, whichever unit is the right size for the band/venue.

Silvie does the sound engineer bit by yelling at the band between songs ... he's too loud, that needs to come up, etc.

If we want to go wireless and hand Silvie a tablet to operate from her camera position, what should we be looking at, what should we be worried about, how much should we be paying?

I can read articles and reviews for myself. What I'm really interested in is your practical, hands-on experience.

 

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7 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

What I'm really interested in is your practical, hands-on experience.

I don't have much experience, but I did do sound for a band last year using a Behringer XR12 and was pretty impressed. The app was a pleasure to use, my only complaint was that the wi-fi router built into the unit was very flaky - I'd be inclined to purchase a decent wi-fi router and use it with that. You can get the XR12 for about £200 - if you need more inputs then they do other models.

S.P.

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1 hour ago, Happy Jack said:

No idea if this is the right section to ask this question (see my suggestion under Site News) but what practical experience can the Basschat Collective offer?

I play in pub/club bands, audiences between 20 & 200, where Silvie and I do the sound. We have a very nice PA system (Mark Audio AC4 on each side) and we currently control the sound with a fairly standard mixer - we use Studiomaster, Behringer, Alesis, whichever unit is the right size for the band/venue.

Silvie does the sound engineer bit by yelling at the band between songs ... he's too loud, that needs to come up, etc.

If we want to go wireless and hand Silvie a tablet to operate from her camera position, what should we be looking at, what should we be worried about, how much should we be paying?

I can read articles and reviews for myself. What I'm really interested in is your practical, hands-on experience.

 

In situations like this, I would recommend three systems... of course, all driven by budget.

Mackie DL16S

XR12/16/18 

Touchmix 16

 

Here are the key differences...if you want a built in interface, Touchmix is the only one (although you can add on sliders to control the XR18 with sliders) But that's also the most expensive.

Touchmix is iOS. Mackie is iOS/Android (Mac and PC controller software coming soon - mid year apparently... although that has drifted from end of 2018). Behringer is iOS/Andriod/Linux/Mac/PC.

Interface wise, I'd say Mackie is the easiest to use straight out of the box, (especially if you are coming from an analogue desk) followed by the Touchmix, followed by the Behringer... although like anything, once you've got used to it, it's pretty intuitive.

FX and routing wise, Behringer is the most comprehensive... if you want to delve into that.

 

Most bang for buck is XR18 - but do factor in cost of external wifi router... as the built in one is fairly ropey. To be honest, I'd never trust any built in wifi... as it's just usually the cheapest 2.4Ghz that a manufacturer can find to tick a feature box. There's a reason why ethernet enabled pro mixers don't have built in wifi...

 

Personally, I think like this - 340 quid for the XR18 from Gear4Music... well, for the cost of it alone, it pretty much cements itself as the nobrainer choice out of the 3. Depending upon your requirements, you may even get away with a XR12 or XR16 - the key thing to watch though, is obviously how many inputs you need and crucially the number of auxes - as you only have 2 on the XR12, 4 on the XR16. (6 on the XR18).

However - £625 gets you the X32 rack... which I would defo take over the DL16s (£645)

£1099 gets you the Touchmix... and the same for the x32 producer (basically the x32 rack with some sliders to fit in a 19" rack).

 

So depending upon your budget... the X32 is more than most bands will ever need... but give you everything you could ever want... and the ability to run a large number of auxes (if stereo in ears ever becomes your thing).  If you can afford the X32 Rack and it doesn't take up too much room in the car... that mixer will future proof you whatever route you choose to go. There's also a raft of add on cards... Waves, Dante, etc... so from that point of view, it certainly cements itself as more of a pro mixer than anything else in the price range that it is at. The other thing which it really cool, is that you can utilise affordable digital snakes (SD8/SD16) that is run from a single ethernet cable... so cabling up things like mics on drums can be kept very, very neat. Nobody likes a rats nest across the stage.

 

Hope this helps... give a shout back if you want me to expand on anything.

 

Oh, or course, you can get things like the QU16 - which is a good mix of traditional faders... but also has wifi control... but you will be looking at more like 1500+ for that - similar for the fully physical fader loaded X32.

 

How much are looking to spend? 

Edited by EBS_freak
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Soundcraft Ui24R. Fair price, some extra channels when needed, lots of presets (eq, comp, reverb...). It takes just few hours to make all the basic settings to all channels, AUX' etc. You can control it with your phone and tablet via Wifi or use a (big) monitor, a mouse and a keyboard.

The only issue so far has been with wireless monitors: If they get too close, the Wifi network will not connect. Around three feet / 1 meter seems to be more than enough to keep it alive. The system itself keeps working but the access was temporarily down.

There are two channels for guitar, too. Our guitarist was impressed of the sound. The price was around 700 € / £620 from a local shop. Our main speakers are JBL PRX735.

https://www.soundcraft.com/en/products/ui24r

http://www.jblpro.com/www/products/vintage/vintage-portable/prx700-series/prx735

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That's amazingly helpful, Russ, as always. Many thanks.

The aim is not to do anything particularly 'clever' ... no IEMs, no personal mixes, no live streaming of gigs, no use of Midi or patches or pre-recorded parts.  I've never yet used a DAW and I'm not hugely enthusiastic about starting now. I play pub rock & similar.

Most of the bands I play in have maybe one person under the age of 50 and we tend to be pretty old-school.

Fundamentally what we're after is the ability to have the PA controlled by our FOH gal Silvie in situations where that's necessary or appropriate. We're talking vocals x4 (max), mic'd up backline x6 (max), mic'd up kick drum, and (in exceptional circumstances) a pair of overhead mics for the kit. A 16-channel mixer should be more than fine ... that's what I use at the moment and I've never run out of channels yet.

The XR18 (https://www.gear4music.com/PA-DJ-and-Lighting/Behringer-X-AIR-XR18-Digital-Mixer/18DJ) looks like a very competent piece of kit and, as you say, at that price it's a bit of a no-brainer. When you say the built-in wifi is ropey, is that in the context of playing big venues with serious bands, or an all-embracing "forget it"? If it's at least adequate for pub/club gigs, then starting with the in-built would obviously simplify the transition process.

The other big question is controlling it all via the tablet. This is not an Apple household - we're strictly Dell & Windows, Samsung & Android. Should I just Google for software/apps that will control the XR18, or is there anything else I need to know?

 

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25 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

When you say the built-in wifi is ropey, is that in the context of playing big venues with serious bands, or an all-embracing "forget it"? If it's at least adequate for pub/club gigs, then starting with the in-built would obviously simplify the transition process.

If you're looking to simplify the transition process then you can start with the built-in wifi. However, be prepared for occasional outages of a couple of minutes where you can't control it. I should hasten to add that during these outages, the thing will still produce sound - it's just you won't be able to adjust any of the levels.

25 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

The other big question is controlling it all via the tablet. This is not an Apple household - we're strictly Dell & Windows, Samsung & Android. Should I just Google for software/apps that will control the XR18, or is there anything else I need to know?

The Android app for controlling it is here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.behringer.android.control.app.xair&hl=en

If you want to control it from a laptop then there is also a Windows version but I don't have the link for that to hand.

S.P.

Edited by Stylon Pilson
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2 minutes ago, Stylon Pilson said:

I should hasten to add that during these outages, the thing will still produce sound - it's just you won't be able to adjust any of the levels.

Now that's a fairly crucial piece of information! Thanks.

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With the xr18, could you use it without wireless? - ie:

xr18 - sub cable - tablet/phone.

Edited by la bam

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32 minutes ago, la bam said:

With the xr18, could you use it without wireless? - ie:

xr18 - sub cable - tablet/phone.

You can control it via the ethernet port, so if your tablet (unlikely) or laptop (very likely) has an ethernet port then you don't need the wireless.

 

I have the XR18 and it's beautiful piece of kit. Digital mixers are as much of a revolution in gigs as class D amps or neodymium cabinets IME. They save time at soundcheck (as 90% of the levels and eq are the same, there's just tweaking for the room to do), they are smaller than most analogue mixers, not to mention they can replace about 50 rack units worth of outboard gear aside from the mixer itself. I use mine in two bands, each band is saved as a scene so when I get to a gig I just pick which band it is and everything is just as it was left last time. I have the mixer in a 4-space shallow rack with a media player and it's wired into a Mikrotik hap mini. I'd like a 5GHz router as 2.4GHz gets increasingly congested, but honestly I've never in hundreds of gigs had a dropout with the Miktotik and (perhaps crucially) I already had it sitting around the house. The mixer can also be a wireless router itself but then I did experience dropouts. An extra side benefit of the mixer having it's own wifi is that, when at home, you can switch the mixer using the front panel switch to being a wifi client and then it automatically connects to the home wifi.

 

In one band we have a soundman. The drummer met her boyfriend at music college and he's damned fine soundman, so that's that. He tends to bring his laptop and then runs a very long ethernet cord from the router in the mixer rack (which is always beside the drums as that's where the most mics are) to where he sits on a table in the venue. Sometimes that's a proper FOH position, sometimes it's just a pub table where the audience are. The other band we don't have a soundman. I walk the room with the tablet during soundcheck (whilst sporadically playing bass, which isn't ideal). For changes after that during the set, the guitarist's gf has the app on her phone and she's only allowed to move faders if someone is far too loud or too quiet.

 

Control: tablet control works very well. With both bands we set everything up in a room for the first time and sat with a laptop for ages as typing and controlling will always be easier on a laptop but we only did that once. You can do everything on a tablet and they're fine for quick tweaks at every gig. Having said that, if someone is static at a camera position then maybe laptop would be better? They have bigger batteries, bigger screens and ethernet ports compared to tablets. If you go for a tablet then any second hand Android tablet would do, and I do believe there's a third party (unofficial, no idea how good it is) on the Amazon store so you could use it on a £30 Kindle Fire. I have (because I already had) a Samsung Galaxy 10 that I use. The one thing to note is that, for the Behringer mixers, there's Android phone and tablet apps, and an ipad app, but crucially there's no iphone app.

 

An example brand new XR18 setup like mine costs:

XR18 £340 (they've come down SO MUCH, I paid £450 for mine second hand when they were £550+ new!)
Kindle Fire £30
Rack £50
Mikrotik router £15
Power strip £20
 

So that's around £450 give or take for a full setup.

 

I think if I was buying again I'd have the A&H Q-USB as it records proper multi track to a USB memory stick, but I'm in no hurry. Being a Behringer I keep expecting the XR18 to crap out on me, but it hasn't happened yet...

IMG_20180601_182901.jpg

IMG_20190219_163650.jpg

Edited by Jack
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I use what was our wireless router that came free from plus net with my XR16 after we moved to talk talk, faster to load the scenes, never dropped out once yet, free and secure where with the built in version four devices can log in without a password.

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Nice one Jack, that's exactly the sort of detailed insider gen that we really need to know. 

When I retired last year the firm gave me a reasonably top-of-the-range Dell laptop as a retirement prezzy and - frankly - it has been largely gathering dust for nine months. I'd say it has now been re-purposed.

What's really sold me on the XR18 is the option to ditch the wireless angle and just run an Ethernet cable. It's not so much that that's what I want to do ... more that this means that the option exists in an emergency where the wireless/router/network/cloud completely f***s up just before a major gig.

I love the cabling for the outputs. Did you cut the hole and fit the grommet, or was that already part of the rackmount kit?

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47 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

What's really sold me on the XR18 is the option to ditch the wireless angle and just run an Ethernet cable. It's not so much that that's what I want to do ... more that this means that the option exists in an emergency where the wireless/router/network/cloud completely f***s up just before a major gig.

Totally. I'd still use a router anyway so you've got seamless tablet or laptop use, whichever is best for the gig. That's why my router is wired in backwards, so that there's easy access to the ports when we use a laptop. I have a 50cm ethernet extension on my helix, I really should get one for the router. If you're buying a router just for this then I can't recommend the mikrotik stuff enough, one of my other hobbies is computing and those routers really are the business. There's rack mount options too.

47 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

I love the cabling for the outputs. Did you cut the hole and fit the grommet, or was that already part of the rackmount kit?

Thanks, I'm a real cabling nerd! You should see my other rack... One of the advantages of going digital was to have an easier setup, so I didn't see much point plugging everything in every gig. Unfortunately the rack ears don't have a hole in as standard, you can still see evidence of my cack-handed attempt at cutting the hole before I wimped out and asked our guitarist to do it as he's a machinist in his day job. There are now cad files online of xr18 rack ears with either holes or proper neutrik punch sockets if you can be bothered to find a 3d printer.

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Thank you all for your replies! Here's hoping I will be able to stop having to shout at the band and instead be able to sit and move sliders directly from my camera position. That'd be particularly useful with the volume on lead vocals vs backing vocals, and to balance the guitars (if applicable). :)

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We use the XR18. We run a wired laptop on stage and our soundman use a wireless tablet (android) outfront, so we're covered if one way or the other packs up. We do our own individual mixes with our own wireless tablets, if you wanted (soundman doesn't need to get involved in that). I just use a wedge monitor now, no amp. 

One thing that is really handy which I don't think has been mentioned yet, apologies if it has, is the ability to save venue settings. If you play a fairly regular rotation of venues you can save a venue once your happy with the sound and recall it next time you're there, particularly useful with problem venues where it's a pain getting a good sound. 

It's as complex or simple as you want it to be and probably does far more than any pub/club would ever need it to. 

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I'd also say a larger tablet or even laptop is easier to use than a phone or 7" tablet. Some of the buttons can be quite small and the sliders easy to over adjust if the screen is small. 

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Not a problem for yours truly's tiny hands! :D I am also very good at using those horrid-but-handy mini-pens with the soft rubber tip. 🙃

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I should point out that if you are considering going the wired rather than wireless route, from personal experience standard CAT5 ethernet cables are not suitably robust to withstand the rigours of a gigging environment. They are fine in the home or office where they are going to be used to connect a piece of static computer equipment to the network and never be touched again until said equipment is replaced.

However don't expect them to last very long if you are connecting and disconnecting them at every gig, and even less time if you intent to coil them up with the rest of your leads. Most cheap CAT cables aren't designed to be coiled and eventually one of the conductors will break rendering the whole cable useless. Unless the retaining clip on the plugs breaks first. This clip is the only thing holding the plug properly in the socket and without it the electrical contacts between cable and equipment will not be properly maintained.

There are two solutions to this problem. Either carry plenty of spares and throw out any cable that exhibits the slightest sign of unreliability. Alternatively get them made up with special coilable Van Damme CAT5 cable and heavy duty shrouded plugs (and carry a spare). From personal experience cheap cables being used twice a week for gigs or rehearsals lasted a maximum of 6 weeks before something broke. The Van Damme versions are good for a couple of years of careful use.

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13 hours ago, Jack said:

If you're buying a router just for this then I can't recommend the mikrotik stuff enough, one of my other hobbies is computing and those routers really are the business.

Apologies to Happy Jack for the small thread hijack, but I have a question to Jack about the hAP mini. Can I run this as a wireless client, so that it can act as an adapter for an ethernet-only device to jump on my home wifi? Is there something else you'd recommend instead?

S.P.

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Hi,

 

We use a Soundcraft UI24R. If we don't have my son as a sound man we just use a laptop connected via wifi (through an external router) to control FOH. We have two Android tablets connected vi wifi to manage our FB.

We used to have a Soundcraft UI16 but the extra facilities on the 24R are definitely worth the extra. I'm in Bicester if you would like to try one out.

 

Regards,

 

Doug

20170609_192352.jpg

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This is 'the new wireless' ...

 

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Yeah this was a 'check everything works' pre gig event so no cable tidying done at the time in case I needed to strip wires out.

When we gig it is (a bit) tidier! Honest.

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27 minutes ago, Stylon Pilson said:

Apologies to Happy Jack for the small thread hijack, but I have a question to Jack about the hAP mini. Can I run this as a wireless client, so that it can act as an adapter for an ethernet-only device to jump on my home wifi? Is there something else you'd recommend instead?

S.P.

It can and to be honest it's cheap enough but there are simpler devices that can do the same job. What's the ethernet only device? If it's a PC then there are USB adaptors or PCI card adaptors. If it's a dumber device like say a media player then you might need something like the hap to fake a 'proper' ethernet connection.

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17 minutes ago, EBS_freak said:

Argh! My eyes. All those cables!

 

5 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

This is 'the new wireless' ...

 

Yeah. We went from an 8-channel Yamaha board that only ran vocals into two tops (5 xlr cables), to the XR18 that has everything through it with tops and subs (16 xlr). Going digital and wireless gave us...more wires.

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