The music industry is full of paradoxes. We're told that the future of 'paid-for' music is via internet downloads in the comfort of our own homes, and yet live gig attendances are higher now than for years. Equally, we're told that the future of the studio is software-based and yet hardware seems to be springing up everywhere, with new synths aplenty, channel strips selling like hot cakes and control surfaces a 'must-have' accessory for many a studio. Alesis have been building a solid foundation for their mixer range over the last few years but they've just infused their various offerings with some 21st century spice. Last month, I perused the impressive 'record to iPod' iMultiMix8 console. This month, it's the turn of the MultiMix16, fresh from a ﬁne tune in Alesis' top secret lab.
A heavenly host
In case you're unfamiliar with Alesis' mixer product line, I'll start from the top. The MultiMix16 is a small format console mixer, with direct-to-disc recording via USB2.0. The mixer features 8 mono input channels and an additional 4 stereo ones. Each of the mono inputs feature XLR mic and 1/4" jack inputs with individual gain controls and a high-pass ﬁlter to roll off frequencies below 75Hz. The stereo channels offer a pair of 1/4" jack inputs and all connections are made at the back of the top panel. All channels also feature a ﬁxed 3-band EQ, two auxiliary sends, a pan control, a mute switch, a solo button and a volume fader.
The mute switch features an extremely useful secondary function, in that rather than simply switching the output off, it routes the signal to an alternative buss output, labelled 3/4. If this buss isn't connected to a physical output such as a second pair of monitors, the channel is muted, or you could drive more speakers, record a sub-mix or feed an alternative processor for any signals you route here. Clever and useful stuff.
The master section features faders for both Main 1/2 and Alt 3/4 busses, alongside monitoring switches that let you route the output pair of your choice to the Control Room speakers and headphone feeds, including the audio stream returning from your computer, of which more shortly. Above this, you'll ﬁnd master auxiliary level controls and the built-in effects sections, whose charms you can discover in the 'Effects and Software' box. Alongside the inputs, all output routings are made along the top section where a small green display also indicates the presence of a USB signal. A power switch, one for phantom power and the USB connector are on the back panel, which will bring us neatly onto...
The ace poised up the MultiMix's sleeve is its USB audio functionality. You might expect a mixer of this type to be able to ship its master output to the computer for real-time audio capture and you'd be right. Additionally, however, every single input channel can also be recorded direct-to-disc, totalling a whopping 18 channels of simultaneous audio recording. So
you can plug in and monitor the whole of your band, with multiple inputs for drums, for instance, and record just these by arming only the channels you wish to capture in your DAW software. The MultiMix will support audio up to 24-bit/96kHz, so there's no shortage of quality on offer. I found the pre-amps to be clean and eminently useable. The only aspects missing from a channel strip signal sent to the computer are its auxiliary returns - because auxiliaries are shared, there would be no way to prevent returns from other channels bleeding into your chosen channel. Obviously, this means that if you want to capture the internal effects, you'll only be able to do so by recording the main outs on channels 17 and 18. The only operational issue I did encounter was that when I reduced the I/O buffer size within Logic to ensure zero latency monitoring, the MultiMix stopped communicating with Logic altogether. When I rebooted Logic with the new buffer size, normal service was resumed, so this isn't too big a deal but worth noting for those 'heat of the moment' sessions.
What a ﬂexible mixer! It's great to ﬁnd products like this as, at risk of resorting to cliché, they keep on giving. To discover that each channel can be fed to the computer individually is the most signiﬁcant feature, as this genuinely means you can patch all of your gear to this mixer and you're ready to record anything at the drop of a hat.
However, even smaller details have been really well thought-out. The additional outputs accessed via the toggled mute switch is a useful bonus, as is the summed 2-track, USB audio return. With this, audio streams from USB or the 2-track RCA inputs are grouped together, so if you're using this mixer live, with audio playing back from a laptop as well as pre-gig PA music, you don't need to re-patch. The mixer oozes ﬂexibility and, as a result, will appeal to many, whether they intend to lock it up in the studio for recording, or take it on the road for PA duties and gig recording. If you need a mixer, audio interface and effects unit in one package, look no further.