Midas PRO2C - Audio Media International

Midas PRO2C

Midas PRO2C
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Compact it may be, but the
PRO2C looks set to run rings
round any competitors,
says BEN BURNS, as he gets
his hands on Generation-II
software.

To anyone working in live audio, Midas
consoles need no introduction. The latest digital
offering may be the smallest, lightest, and least
expensive digital Midas console to date, but it
packs enough punch to feel at home in many demanding
live environments. The review unit was a PRO2C (C =
Compact), but these words could apply equally to the larger
standard PRO2, except where the slightly larger surface is
concerned. The console is sold as a package, complete
with a flight-case, DL251 stage-box, cat5 connections
good for 100m, plus an illuminated computer keyboard.
It’s impossible to mention everything
about the console in this short review,
but I hope my observations from using
it will provide some insight.

Capabilities: I/O

As standard, the console comes with
a DL251, giving you a stage box with
48 analogue XLR mic inputs and 16
XLR line outputs in a fixed architecture.
Two pieces of cat5 are required to link
this stage-box to the console. You can
add further I/O box units, multi-track
recorders, and other options to the
remaining four AES50 ports on the
console, if you can afford it.

The console provides eight
analogue mic/line audio inputs and
outputs, plus three digital AES/EBU input and output
pairs. Eight additional outputs are labelled as master
outputs, talkback I/O, and local monitor sends. A very
much appreciated and highly professional touch is how
the default state of the console has all these outputs prerouted
to do exactly those things.

In addition to the audio I/O outlined above, MIDI is
available at the stage end of things, whilst wordclock and
further MIDI is provided on the console itself.

It is possible to share the stagebox inputs with a second
Midas console, but this means one console will have no
analogue gain controls, as there is only one pre-amp per
channel in the DL251. It is possible to trim the digital gain
for each input , -40 dB to + 20 dB, on the ‘listening only’
console, which affords you enough control to line up the
console input channels as required.

Network

As far as I understand it, you can do point to point routing
from anywhere to anywhere on the network, without
going ‘through’ the console in the form of channels and
outputs – a handy feature. For the price
of an iPad and a wireless router, you get
a fully integrated remote control system
– see every input and output meter at
once, change basic mix levels plus MCAs
and graphic EQs, and other useful things.
I don’t have an iPad so didn’t play with this,
but I did get a personal demo of it working
and it looked very slick and easy to set up.

New Features

The software under review (generation
2) includes some new effects units of
worthy note. In fact, the effects just got
very expensive sounding and much easier
to use than before.

All of the six effects ‘modules’ can be
set up to sync to various subdivisions of
the global tempo. The dedicated tap tempo switch can be
set to flash all the time, or self cancel after a few seconds.

Other features include the ‘extend to mix bay’ feature
– having some inputs on the left side of the console and
pressing this very purple button ‘extends’ the inputs to
continue across all 16 faders. The three master faders can
also be used as the ‘area b’ section, giving you a maximum
of 20 input faders at once.

MCA, or mix control association is a fantastically
powerful concept – basically enabling your VCAs
to be adjustable for each mix buss. Say a
musician wants more drums in a monitor mix,
simply choosing the relevant mix and pushing
up the ‘drums’ VCA will do the job very fast.
There are more features to the advanced navigation
mode, which make routing anything to any mix
very quick and easy – once you get used to it.
If you are looking after someone who is not
familiar with these concepts they can be disabled
in the preferences.

Other modes of navigation let you select a mix,
instantly bringing up the faders being sent to that
mix and displaying the effect unit (or graphic EQ)
on the screen ready for editing with eight pots or
faders. Once you get the hang of these concepts
(a few minutes for most engineers) it is the fastest
way of doing things I have ever seen.

First Impressions

I like to learn a system once and then apply
that knowledge to any product in the series –
something that Midas does very well. If you have
used any Midas digital system, then the PRO2C
will seem familiar as the main controls are the
same – the hardware controls that have vanished
from the control surface still exist in the software.

Having immediate access to all the outputs
on the console, including mute, meters, talk, and
solo is essential. Midas beautifully integrates very
clear information with uncluttered layout, and
the ability to instantly select any output buss and
work on it immediately.

By leaving room for PVC tape, all the console
outputs masters can be labelled clearly, as you like.

In Use

Before I got my hands on the actual console, I
decided to try out the PRO2 editor software –
which only runs on Macs as the Midas desks are
Linux based. The few bugs in the offline software
will be ironed out very soon, but you can still get
a good grasp on things before you walk up to a
console for the first time.

Patching inputs and outputs on the console
is very easy, it is done graphically using pictures
of virtual XLR sockets – a
mouse driven assignment
system boasts various modes
to make quick selections of
multiple channels possible.
I found this quick and easy
once I got used to it – selecting
the entire stage box and
patching 48 inputs to the
console 1:1, for instance, takes
under three seconds.

You can assign anything
anywhere you like, a matrix
direct output to gate key
filter for example. As with
everything on the console,
there is a preset library, so
you can store and recall
your own custom patch files,
compressor settings, EQs,
effects set-ups, etc.

One undeniable fact
regarding the entire PRO
series, is that they simply
sound fantastic.

The converters and mic
input amps are wonderfully capable of being
slightly abused, whilst producing transparent
results. Output D/A converters also sound top
notch and are designed to drive long cable runs
with ease.

The EQ is able to sound as sharp or as musical
as you like – a real joy to use and listen to. Simple
things like the instant response time of the
controls (and the graphics) give the console a
real analogue feel. The transparency in the high
end sounds beautifully clear and open (if you
have a nice room and speakers to listen to it in!).
The low end is fat, warm, rich, and very smooth.
When sweeping through the frequency ranges
it sounds like a posh studio toy, not a live mixing
desk. You get a four band parametric EQ on each
input channel – that’s in addition to the two filters,
which each have a dedicated hardware control
and various db/octave settings.

Each input and output hosts a compressor,
switching between modes gives you the same
compressor settings applied to the different
compressor models – there is an output
compressor called ‘shimmer’, great for IEM or front
fill processing for example. Subtle differences can
be hard to notice in horrible live environments,
but in the studio these modes make a massive
difference to the style of compression being
applied. Using the creative compressor gives you
‘studio’ sound possibilities for instruments like
snare drum and guitars, whilst the vintage version
is warmer and great on things like bass and keys.

Configuring the console to your needs is
obviously essential – one setting you want to
get right is the delay compensation feature.
The problem, as you are no doubt aware, is that
any digital audio process takes a finite amount
of time to complete, delaying the audio signal.
This in itself is not a massive issue, the real
problems start arising if you combine this delayed
signal with the original slightly-earlier signal.
Comb filtering will create massive holes in the
frequency spectrum of the summed signal, or, to
give it the technical name, ‘robot voice’.

The way round this problem is to delay
anything not processed by the exact amount of
time it takes to process anything else in the same
summed mix. All Midas consoles know about this
stuff, and have a clever way of dealing with it – so
long as the settings are correct for the processing
you want to compensate for, the system works
everything else out.

The only other thing you really have to know,
is how to save a scene and a show. You MUST do
this or there will be an embarrassing silence if
the ‘safe’ scene is recalled at the wrong moment
or by mistake. Nothing on the desk exists until it
is in a scene and a show, save a scene then save
the show, always.

Graphic EQs

Editing onscreen graphic EQ controls is a bit
tricky. Purchasing the the DN9331 remote fader
unit gives you dedicated hardware controls
for each of the 31 frequency bands, but watch
this space for an affordable controller option.
There are several ways to adjust the graphic EQs
– the eight faders in the middle bay can control
(and scroll) blocks of eight frequencies, or you
can use the navigation keys and assignable rotary
controls to edit blocks of virtual sliders.

Editing graphic EQs on the ipad was a bit tricky,
with small on-screen controls demanding the use
of a stylus pen – this is purely a software change
and will be addressed at some point. The graphic
EQs sound good – running a transfer function
reveals the phase shifts created by using the
EQ are nice and low. As well as 31 1/3rd octave
band sliders, there are two notch filters and
two filters, ideal for ‘shaping’ the output EQ to
your requirements.

FX

With six ‘rack spaces’ available
for effects units, each able to
have eight inputs and eight
outputs (modules are not all
eight-channel), there is plenty of
scope for onboard digital effects
here. The digital version of the
square one dynamics module
uses all eight I/O ports, whilst
the dual stereo delay uses four.
Reverbs at the moment are
all just stereo – again, these
things are easily updated via
software. The possibilities of
multi-channel effects engines
are far reaching. By freeing up
effects slots you can get more
into multi-band compression,
or how about an eight channel
matrix mixer, assignable on the
network without eating into the
console’s channel count?

Automation

Powerful automation features include a recall
scope (which you can change in every way for
each scene) and also a store scope. This enables a
show to be programmed to only affect the items
you are concerned with, whilst not changing
anything else on the console. In addition to this
software-based recall scope are hardware safe
switches for each input and output on the entire
console – engaging any of these six switches will
guarantee that item will do nothing when you
recall another scene or show file.

One of the best things I’ve ever seen on a
digital console is the way a new show is loaded.
When you load a show, Midas PRO2 consoles
will keep the current scene loaded, active, and
fully controllable until a new scene is recalled
from the newly loaded show. Not only this, but
the active scene can then be saved to the newly
loaded show as a scene. This is a very important
feature, allowing the seamless uninterrupted
recall of different shows, and an easy logical way
to copy scenes between show files. Other desks
really do this very badly, with some of them
taking ages to mute everything, reboot, and then
load something.

I was particularly interested in the automation
system, which boasts some clever features that
make it very quick to do things. The show editor
allows any parameter(s) from the loaded scene
to be copied to any other scene(s) very quickly.

You can configure the desk to output MIDI
or GPIO signals when scenes are recalled, as
well as internal cross fades, text messages,
and other things.

Conclusion

It would seem as though every
different system on the market
has its own quirks, good and
bad. Midas has created a beast
that I hope will be popping up
in venues of all sizes. It does
however take a little getting
used to: anyone wanting to feel
confident walking up to a PRO
series console could download
the software and go for a training
day. There are concepts that,
once grasped make the console
an absolute joy to work with – as
well as being incredibly quick.
The sonic openness and clarity of the system
should really be compared to anything else to be
believed. Even without this comparison handy
you can hear how good this thing sounds.

There is not much to dislike about the console
– when comparing any other digital desk with
similar capabilities any minor gripes I have soon
fade into insignificance. I would like to see AES
outputs on the stage rack, but anyone with
this requirement can easily add digital I/O by
purchasing a modular I/O unit. I reckon this little
desk is going to give the competition something
to worry about. The PRO2 and PRO2C consoles
are fantastically powerful little systems that can
easily run sonic rings around the competition.

INFORMATION

PRO2 TP (Tour Pack): US29,400.00

PRO2C TP: US22,700.00

Midas, Walter Nash Road, Kidderminster, Worcs,
DY11 7HJ

+44 (0) 1562 741515

www.midasconsoles.com

THE REVIEWER

BEN BURNS is a London-based
freelance engineer – both live and
studio – with credits including Blur,
Dido, Embrace, Happy Mondays,
and more.

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