QSC throws another hat into the crowded ring of portable digital mixers, and Alex Wilson makes a call on whether the TouchMix-16 stands out from the competition.
Touchscreen and tablet technology has forever changed the world of mixing equipment. Venues, artists and manufacturers have embraced designs that assume and necessitate ownership of an iPad or similar device. This is not a terrible thing at all, but it does present its own set of problems. What do you do if your iPad breaks or can’t communicate with your hardware? What about those situations where a touchscreen just doesn’t feel as good as a real pot or fader?
LESS IS MORE...
The TouchMix-16 by QSC is an attempt to answer these questions without curtailing the flexibility of a digital mixer by a tablet. It’s easy to see that competing product lines like Soundcraft’s Ui, Mackie’s DL and Behringer’s X Series are all quite similar – your preference just depends on which specific take on the boxy rack‑of-analog‑ins-’n-outs design suits you best. QSC read the situation well, instead offering a unique take on digital mixing technology.
Rather than being reliant on a tablet, the TouchMix-16 is only more flexible and intuitive with one. No more, no less. And for when your tablet fails (because let’s be real here, your tablet is bound to screw you over at some point in a task), the overwhelming majority of the mixer’s detailed and intelligent control system are still accessible via a built-in touchscreen and hardware controls.
Anyone who is familiar with Murphy’s Law will immediately sense the benefit here. The 16 is QSC’s midrange product, sitting between the 8 and the 30, and they appear to be fairly similar apart from the obvious channel count. And it’s true that the TouchMix’s 20 input channels are a little less than similarly priced units, but that’s a feature, not a bug. At this price point, there are legitimate reasons for favouring accessibility and reliability over channel count.
NEW AND IMPROVED
Despite being around since 2014, constant firmware support keeps the TouchMix up to date with industry standards. The latest 3.0 update rehauls the GUI with some more modern graphics, as well as a slew of new features that will be covered below. What remains unchanged is the unit’s compact design. It’s 35-by-30 centimetres, with a slant that pushes the back end up by a meagre five centimetres. The touchscreen takes up just under a third of the device’s real estate, but uses this amount of space well without feeling too small.
Tap a parameter on the screen and you can shift it using the control knob off to the right – this tap-and-tweak workflow is really smooth. When you factor in that the knob allows you to press down to activate fine adjustment, it’s also easier (and simply put, better) than using an iPad to wrangle some mixing tasks.
Having the tablet on-hand takes usability to another level. Apart from the obvious mobility benefit, I really liked having my mixer display set up on the tablet and being able to play around with the channel adjustments using the in-built controls. It’s a marvellous feature.
POWER IN SIMPLICITY
The GUI itself approximates a modern digital console. The EQ is a full-featured SSL-style parametric; onboard are hi and lo filters, switchable hi and low shelf/bell controls and a real-time analyser. The comp can be set to either pre-EQ or post-EQ settings, graphs the action of the algorithm for you, and includes a de-esser. The gate is controlled like an inverse of the comp, again in the SSL style.
You also have a useful channel overview to control all of the above, your FX and AUX sends, and input delay. Routing of the sends can be set to pre- or post-fade settings as well. There’s nothing remarkable here; it’s all just powerful, sensible and easy to use.
...BUT THERE’S MORE, AND MORE, AND MORE, AND... YOU GET THE POINT
And speaking of ease of use, one of the biggest selling points of the TouchMix series are all the awesome workflow perks that belie the unit’s humble appearance. You have DCA and mute groups available. You have a talkback line built in. You have two user-defined buttons, and two that can be used for copy-pasting parameters.
You have a ‘simple’ button on most channel controls, which is as useful for a veteran working on a time crunch as it is for a beginner just starting to figure things out. You have scene‑based mixing capabilities, but also the ability to lock certain channels out of scene‑based changes. You have AUX and FX ‘wizards’ to get your routing up at a glance. You’ve even got in‑built pink noise for testing systems.
And you have two USB ports, which can be used for connecting WiFi gear, multi-tracking to HD, playback of audio files or DAW connectivity. There’s even more to be uncovered, too, should you choose to really dive deep into the manual.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Despite its unassuming looks and lack of big name recognition, the TouchMix-16 is a serious contender when stacked up against well-known products like those from Mackie, Behringer and Soundcraft. And it’s a notably versatile piece of kit: whether you’re an audio engineer who needs a portable rig, an artist looking to control their own mix, or a small venue looking for a system, the TouchMix-16 is certainly worth a serious look into.
OSC’s product offers a high degree of control, is very portable without sacrificing features, and deeply integrates tablet synchronisation without being reliant on it. If this was a piece of cake, you truly would be able to have it and eat it too.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• 12 mic, four mic/line and two stereo TRS inputs
• 14 outputs: Main L/R, six AUX sends, two stereo TRS, phones and monitor cues
• Built-in touchscreen
• Hardware control knob and control surface
• Two USB ports for device connectivity
• Well-considered design and software
• Fewer channels than some similarly priced competitors
• Multitouch doesn’t work on the built-in touchscreen
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