Future of live audio mixing is very soon?

Dane Wallace

New member
Nov 17, 2019
6
0
1
Australia
After days of reading and thinking and looking at available products, here are my thoughts on where the live sound mixing industry might be going.

I think the industry hasn't quite realised the potential of digital mixing yet, especially with the rise of Dante and audio networking. This is how I see it...

Live audio mixing is now physically separate from 3 elements in traditional mixing consoles. Those 3 elements are physical input routing, physical output routing and mixer control. This means that the only physical thing that a mixer essentially needs for a live show of any size is a powerful, low latency processing module with 1 Ethernet connection (or 2 for redundancy) and a small power supply. And the most important part of the mixer is the software. The future is in the software and it has to be powerful but simple at the same time. Software and processing hardware for 128 or more dante channels would enable the mixer to scale up to any performance size.

So what about inputs, outputs and mixer control? Inputs and outputs can be simply I/O modules connected on the network. This allows for the purchasing of only the necessary hardware for any particular application. Control is from hardware that connects on a computer network, the most obvious being tablets and large touchscreens. Traditional physical mixing desks could still be used but they are really just a fancy and expensive computer controller with limited layouts, and they are the only hardware that will need to be customised to the mixer engine, although there may even be development of a standard to enable third party desks to talk to a mixer. There is no reason a large touchscreen controller couldn't display the same thing as an analogue mixer if so desired, and it allows switching between unlimited views and control setups.

The input and output modules (and A/D D/A converters) can be provided by any manufacturer because they simply route channels to and from the dante network. Screen based control hardware can also be by any manufacturer.

I like the idea of platform-independent browser-based software. I don't like the idea of iOS only software.

There will be great competition in the software arena. Tablets and phones will enable mixing from mobile locations and could control the mixing at the same time as physical desk controllers or fixed touchscreen controllers.

This will also enable the number of DAC conversions to be kept to a minimum. Ideally music will either be born digital or created in analogue and quickly converted to digital and not converted back to analogue until it reaches the amplifier.

Low latency is critical to the audio stream and important but less critical for the controller. So generic computers may not be ideal for the actual mixing engine hardware, but may be fine for the controller. For a large live show, I'm picturing a powerful control computer connected to 1 or more large tv displays which could be combined with large desktop touchscreens. There is no need for the main signal to go through this computer. The actual mixing engine could be on the stage, or anywhere on the network.

Therefore I tend to think all current analogue and digital mixing consoles will soon be irrelevant.

The implications are massive and the market is open for innovation. Companies who choose to 'protect' their hardware investments will risk going the way of Kodak. The future leaders will be those who provide quality, robust, powerful and user friendly software along with the quality minimum hardware. Of course there will be a market for mixers with some physical connections but that would be extra real estate that buyers choose to buy and may save smaller gigs from needing separate modular I/Os.

Just my thoughts. What do others think?
 

Dane Wallace

New member
Nov 17, 2019
6
0
1
Australia
To follow through a bit further, I think the mixing manufacturers should team up with good IT companies to produce outstanding results. The web pages for mixers will no longer have a one-liner on the bottom to the effect of "software control available". Instead the website will be a demonstration of how powerful, flexible, reliable, user friendly and good value their software is..
 

Dane Wallace

New member
Nov 17, 2019
6
0
1
Australia
Sounds like you're speaking of the dLive or LV1 system.
I hadn't seen that, but Allen and Heath are starting to think. I'm picturing the flagship core system being 2U size and the lesser one (without redundancy) being 1U, and I/O modules being non- manufacturer specific so the mixer company can focus on the software. So for a small duo they could use the 1U one and add a 1U I/O module connected via Ethernet dante. A world class tour could use the 2U version and simply add more and larger I/O modules.

The software should be platform independent and as intuitive as an analogue mixer yet still flexible and powerful for any need.
 

Dane Wallace

New member
Nov 17, 2019
6
0
1
Australia
It looks like Waves have taken it a step further and separated mixing/processing from inputs, outputs and control, and their Soundgrid network (a hybrid computer/audio network?) allows all components to connect via ethernet. However every network component has to be Soundgrid which means $$$$.

Either Soundgrid will take over the industry or Dante will and I think most people would seem to agree that Dante is about to do this. In that case, Waves should abandon Soundgrid and adopt Dante instead. Then they can focus on their software and plugins, which is their main product, and it will allow their software to reach many more people because, as I understand it, Dante means hardware companies can focus on the hardware and compete to provide quality, universal and good value hardware instead of niche proprietary products that lock customers into their whole 'package', and software companies can focus on good quality, intuitive and user-friendly software.

I have no stakes in anything. These are just my thoughts after a week of reading and catching up on where live sound is at. And I don't fully understand Dante yet either...

What are others' thoughts?