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More Than Live Sound: QSC's TouchMix-30 Pro Digital Mixer in the Recording Studio

QSC is quite well regarded for its loudspeaker, amplification, and networking products, but in recent years, the company has expanded into previously untapped territory with the TouchMix-8 and -16 compact mixers, which are controlled exclusively via touchscreen.

The QSC TouchMix-30 Pro marks the latest evolution of the series, and includes many well-thought-out features that make it an outstanding choice for a myriad of live sound applications.

But while many current digital mixing platforms cater specifically to live sound, some also offer USB recording or DAW interface capabilities. In most cases, these seem more like a “convenient add-on” rather than a dedicated selling point; however, QSC is touting the TouchMix-30 Pro’s recording capabilities as a major feature, and I must admit to being rather impressed by its potential as a studio centrepiece.

One of the most striking things that sets the TouchMix-30 Pro apart from other similarly sized desktop or rackmount consoles is the fact that there are, in fact, no physical faders. The console features a built-in 10-in. TFT capacitive multi-touch display in their place, with the option to control the mixer remotely via tablet, or to use your tablet as a second add-on screen to see each channel's EQ, dynamics, etc.

I found the screen to function very smoothly, with just the tiniest lag between a finger move and the corresponding “virtual” fader(s). I have little hesitation in saying I could mix a live show effectively with it; in the studio, where “lightning response” is not quite as critical, it would be no issue at all to set up mixes for headphones and the control room from this screen alone. I think I could also really get used to walking around the studio and dialing in gain structure or cue mixes by tablet, or even letting artists access and adjust their own cue mixes using their smartphones!

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The user interface of this mixer was clearly well planned and researched. I found myself effectively getting around on the TouchMix within minutes, which is not the case on every digital console I've found myself working on. The screen layout is clean, intuitive, and augmented by a set of carefully considered buttons and scroll wheel that make two-handed operation a joy.

In a recording situation, those well-chosen function buttons will give the user instant access to levels for control room headphones and monitors, talkback mic (from phantom powered XLR), aux sends, FX mute, and several user-assignable buttons as well. The large “Home” button lets you jump right back to the main L/R mix page from anywhere, and there's a dedicated play/record button to trigger the TouchMix’s stand-alone recording system. Simply plug in a compatible portable hard drive via USB, and you're off and running with 32 x 32 tracks direct recording. These can later be shipped to your DAW for further editing or mixing by using QSC's file transfer app.

You also have the option of using the TouchMix as a recording interface, supporting Core Audio for Mac or via a Windows driver for PC users (which is still technically in beta, according to the QSC download site). As a primarily Windows user in my studio, I found the current driver to be reasonably stable with acceptable latency and easy to install, although over the course of my testing, there were one or two occasions where I had to restart the mixer to reconnect it to my DAW. That said, Core Audio functionality on my MacBook Pro was flawless during my testing.

The TouchMix-30 Pro offers more than enough I/O for the average project studio, with a total of 32 inputs (including 24 mic preamps) and 32 outputs. The mic pres are all on XLR jacks (four of which are “combi”) with analog adjustable gains on the front panel (up to +60dB analog, plus a further 15dB digital). Having tracked a number of instruments with them, including transient-heavy material such as drums and horns, I found them to be clean, quiet, fast, and practically indistinguishable from my “higher end” clean preamps. All 14 auxes are available on rear XLR connectors, as are main and monitor L/R. Six of the inputs are accessible via balanced 1/4-in. and there's also a stereo 1/8-in. that’s handy for easily plugging in a smartphone's headphone output.

Having used the TouchMix-30 Pro as the main hub of my own studio for a while, I found the quality of the AD/DA conversion to be colourless and accurate, and in no way a step down from my usual audio interface; in fact, my ears couldn't tell the difference. The TouchMix simply did what I asked of it, no fuss, with studio-grade results.

In the “conveniences” category, I was delighted to see a total of three headphone amps built into the unit: a “cue” output for the control room and two additional headphone outputs tied to stereo aux buses, making quick work of providing headphone monitoring to studio musicians. This would be extra convenient in remote recording situations.

The console offers a total of 14 auxes, which can be configured in stereo pairs as required. Should you choose to mix your tracks on the mixer itself, you'll have plenty of horsepower at your disposal, with fully featured and a very useable EQ, compressor, and gate on each channel, plus six effects engines for reverb, echo, delay, chorus, and pitch shift. The effects are all very straightforward but did their jobs well, with bonus points going to the reverbs, which sounded spacious and natural.

All in all, I don't see how you could go astray in choosing the TouchMix-30 Pro as the centerpiece for your project studio, rehearsal space, or live rig. It'll give you all the tools you need to get creating, with the added benefits of a gentle learning curve and the potential to deliver professional, top-notch results. I think it's a winner.

Jon Matthews is an acclaimed producer and studio and live sound engineer based in Charlottetown, PE. He is the owner/operator of The Sound Mill and a 2018 East Coast Music Award nominee for Producer, Studio Engineer, and Live Sound Engineer of the Year. For more information, visit www.thesoundmill.ca.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thesoundmill
Twitter & Instagram: @redmudmusic or @thesoundmill.
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Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of Canadian Musician Radio and NWC Webinars’ series of free music and entertainment industry webinars.