Recording Mixer

SPIRIT DIGITAL 328($4,995)The explosion of digital mixers over the past couple of years has given us a lot of wonderful choices, especially because different
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SPIRIT DIGITAL 328

($4,995)

The explosion of digital mixers over the past couple of years has given us a lot of wonderful choices, especially because different companies have their own design approach. We had a tough time picking a winner this year, with Mackie's powerful Digital 8-Bus in the running at the high end (as personal-studio products go) and Roland's new VM line at the lower end. But like Goldilocks, that immortal advocate of moderation, we decided that for our money, Spirit's Digital 328 was just right.

Let's start with the sonic story: this is a clean, great-sounding board. Its 3-band parametric channel EQ is smooth and understated, and you get two Lexicon multi-effects processors. Although the mixer has only two channels of dynamics processing, the processors are assignable, and they sound much better than most digital dynamics processors we've heard. You get extensive scene automation and MIDI-based dynamic automation.

When it comes to making connections, the 328 is a lovely mate for a 16-channel MDM or hard disk recorder, offering 16 channels of ADAT Optical and 16 channels of TDIF digital I/O stock, stereo AES/EBU and S/PDIF, and a third ADAT output that carries groups or sends. You also get MIDI ports, word-clock I/O, RS-422 for Sony 9-pin control, and SMPTE In ports. All of this comes with the unit; with most digital mixers, you have to buy optional cards to get comparable features. All 16 mono channels have XLR inputs with mic preamps, line inputs, and inserts. And of course, the faders are motorized.

Finally, the main features of the 328 are easily learned, thanks mostly to the unit's innovative E-Strip control strip. We were able to start mixing after a few minutes of feeling our way around. This is one heck of a fine mixer, and it's a great value.