This is the second article of a two part article designed to be a feature overview of the X Air XR18. This is not written to be a review. An article in that style will come as a flow up to this one when I have had more experience with the X Air XR18.
Software Feature Set:
The X Air series is the little sister of the X32. In fact, the X Air runs on a cut down version of the X32 hardware and software. This means that you benefit from many of the same features the X32 has. During the lifecycle of the X Air series Behringer have added several new features and refined the current feature set. Here are the most notable features:
- All the Digital Effect Units that appear on the X32 are also present on the X Air however unlike the 32X you can only run four of them at a time instead of eight at once. All the effects emulate real effect units so they all sound and act like the real effect units they emulate. The 4 effect units can run either as an effect bus or on a channels insert.
- If you don't want to waste one of the 6 buses for use as a sub group you can instead use one of four DCA groups. Behringer give the best explanation of what a DCA is: A DCA "is similar to a normal group, except that the signals of the underlying channels are not actually combined into a single audio path. Instead, channels are assigned to a DCA group (short for 'Digitally Controlled Amplifier') and when a single fader representing the DCA group is moved, it has the effect of adjusting the level of all the underlying channels assigned to that DCA group." (See Reference 1)
- You can save various parts of the mixer and recall them later. Things like the EQ, input stage, compressor, gate, FX settings and routing options can be saved individually. You can save a Snap Shot of the entire mixer as a save file or onto a slot on the Snap Shot Control List. Snapshots stored in the Snapshot Control List can then be loaded in a linear order or you can jump to a particular one that you need to load.
- The 16 mono channels each have a 4 band EQ with low cut, gate and a compressor. Channel 17/18 only have a 4 band EQ. Each band on the EQ has an Attack, Frequency Sweep, and Attack Size dial.
The control software:
The mixer control software runs on Linux, Windows, MacOS, IOS and Android. If you have a Windows Phone or a Surface RT you're out of luck because there are no control application for those platforms.
The PC version of the control software is fairly easy to use but it has two problems with the current build:
- If you scroll past the sixty-fourth Snapshot in the Snapshot Control Manager the control software will crash. Luckily the mixer keeps working without a device controlling it so all you have to do is restart the application to get right back to where you were.
- The Db meters don't look the same way they would on an analog console so setting the Gain can be difficult. This is not the case with the Android or IOS app â so to get around this problem I connect a PC and my phone at the same time and use my phone as a meter bridge.
It is likely both these problems will be fixed the next time Behringer release an update for the PC software.
The MacOS version is much the same as the windows one but I haven't used it enough to know if it crashes if you scroll past the sixty-fourth Snapshot.
The Android app works well with the biggest problem being that you can't configure the mixer as some of the settings are missing. I can't say the same for the IOS app but it has been around for longer so I assume it has got more features.
I haven't used the Linux version of the control software but it should be the same as the Windows one.
For all the ease designed into the control apps you still need to know how audio mixers work in order to use the mixer. Yes, you can preconfigure the mixer and train a baby sitter to run the mixer but to really use it you need to know how audio gets routed and how to use various effects.
Other things to note:
- The biggest question I have had so far is: how do touch screen faders feel? The short answer is they feel odd at first but it's something that you need to get used to. If you use a touch screen then make sure that it is a 10 point one so that you're not restricted by the amount of channel faders you can move at once.
- The drivers for windows work on windows 8/8.1/10 and are easy to install although the first time I installed them I had a little issue with getting my DAWs to recognize the mixer as a 18/16 channel interface. I'm not entirely sure if it was the drivers fault but I reinstalled the drivers and selected the correct interface mode in my DAWs and everything worked correctly.
- If your mixer is from an earlier production batch than I'd suggest that you upgrade the mixer to run on the latest firmware otherwise you won't be able to use all the features that are included in latest versions of the control software.
X32 PRODUCER: Mix Buses, Sub Groups and DCA Groups - behringerwiki. 2015. X32 PRODUCER: Mix Buses, Sub Groups and DCA Groups - behringerwiki. [ONLINE] Available at: http://behringerwiki.music-group.com/index.php?title=X32_PRODUCER%3A_Mix_Buses,_Sub_Groups_and_DCA_Groups. [Accessed 24 August 2015].
Zach Radloff lives on the Gold Coast and is studying IT and Multimedia at university and is also a qualified Live Production, Theatre and Events Technician.
Zach Radloff's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/zach-radloff.html