The studio live console from Presonus is an interesting console. While I’m more of an X32 guy my self I have had some time with the SL3 and in this article, I want to share my thoughts on the console.
The particular SKU I’ve been using is the SL3-24. This is the 24-channel version of the SL3 console but a 16 and 32 channel SKUs are also available. The initial things I liked about it were:
- The custom layer that allows you to place any channel to a custom position on the control surface is super handy. It means you can set up all the important faders on one layer without having to physically repatch anything.
- The 4 band eq is nice and unlike the X32 you can access all 4 bands at once without having to go through layers (well for the most part).
- The easiness of set up. Once you figure out where everything is on the console it’s super easy to set up.
- The faders feel good which is nice.
- The reverbs and delays sound super nice and are quick to set up. The biggest problem I have on the X32 is that the reverbs and delays can be a tad too complex as they have too many controls.
- The ability to hook up waves multi rack or real time processing through a DAW (over AVB) looks like a lot of fun but I haven’t had the time to try it yet.
- The routing is super easy to configure on the companion app. It’s also possible to soft patch any input to any channel.
- The Sl24 and SL16 are full 32 channel consoles and can be expanded over AES or AVB unlike the B grad offerings from Soundcraft vs A&H.
- There is a 31 band eq and parametric eq available on each buss which is super helpful for killing feedback.
The Bad and the Ugly
The first problem you run into is getting the firmware updates and the control app (which includes the USB & AVB driver). All the software for the SL3 mixers is locked behind a “My Presonus” account. Why? What’s the point? Yes, it allows you to get other pieces of software (like cutdown version of studio one) but why do I have to give Presonus my information to get two simple peace’s of free software?
As cool as the fat channel is, why are there only 8 rotary encoders? The channel eq has 12 parameters so you’ve got to page over a layer to get to the attack size of each eq band. The high pass filter is also on the input layer instead of the eq layer which is super strange.
The LCD scribble strips are helpful but they don’t change colour. The select buttons on each channel change colour instead which is confusing from a user experience standpoint. The only time a button should change colour is to indicate a change of state.
I can’t seem to figure out how to place DCA or sub group on to the custom user layer. I’m about 80% sure that it is impossible.
The touch screen doesn’t support gestures and as such scrolling up/down in menus is done though a rotary encoder dial.
The back-space button on the on-screen keyboard can’t be held down to continue deleting characters. I can do that on any another on-screen keyboard; why isn’t it a thing on the SL3?
There isn’t a way to quickly jump to the sub groups or DCAs layers. Who thought not being able to jump quickly between subgroups, the DCAs and channels 17-24 was a good idea?
The effects library is locked down to just four of the fx busses. This is super annoying. What if I want a wave designer or guitar amp as a channel insert? I might only have 8 slots on the X32 but at least I have all the fx unit types I need right out of the box. While you can insert a set of different compressors (an LA and a Fairchild) as channel inserts you don’t get any other options out of the box. You can do channel inserts over AVB but that requires extra hardware and software.
There aren’t at this time any real stage boxes available. You can connect an SL3R mixer through AVB but that is an entire mixer! What a super expensive way to do digital snakes.
Outputs 7 to 16 are all quarter inch RTS sockets which is super frustrating because all my gear and churches gear has been standardised around XLR as it’s a more reliable connector locking connector.
The SL3 has a lot of nice features but I don’t feel that the design team put enough effort and time into the consoles usability. The SL3 feels like a generation one product that would have been welcome during the early days of B grade digital consoles hitting the market. The work flow is good and it’s quick to use but as soon as you want to do anything remotely complex the entire experience and feature set just falls apart.
Zach Radloff is the Press Service International IT young writer from the Gold Coast