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In The Mix: The Live Mixer Market in 2019

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • May 2019
  • Roundtable
• Created: May 7, 2019

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This month’s Roundtable feature is an intimate affair, with representatives from three major suppliers of live concert mixers sharing their thoughts on this market segment.

Ever-increasing technological and interconnective power is the name of the game with popular live consoles defined as feature-rich, flexible, and often fairly portable. As Jeff Hawley of Allen & Heath notes with regard to that last factor, “Small is Big.”

Have you been noticing any significant trends with respect to concert mixers – emerging technology, purchasing preferences on the parts of end-users, features, sizes, et cetera?

Jeff Hawley: We’ve seen trends emerge around compact mixing surfaces and “surfaceless” systems. It is becoming commonplace for festivals and high profile shows to be mixed on gear that can squeak in under the airline baggage limit. For example, a number of our dLive C1500 consoles were hand-carried from Southwest flights to stages supporting SXSW headline acts. Small is big. As most audio professionals and dealers know, the iPad is well established as a go-to tool in the engineer’s toolkit for roaming around the venue to check levels from the audience or stage monitor vantage point. A cool new trend we’re seeing takes this a step further for road-ready, touchscreen-only rig, with 128 channels of full mix processing and not a physical fader in sight. Touring engineers are also taking a hybrid approach with large touchscreens for most mix functions and a smaller remote fader bank for key “money channels.” An Allen & Heath dLive MixRack, an off-the-shelf mini-PC, a couple of touchscreens, and an IP8 motorized remote combine to form one of many popular hybridfly-rig configurations.

Samuel Greene: Customers always want more. Today more than ever end-users expect their purchase to be power-packed with features, and to utilize the latest technologies. In response, Zoom developed its LiveTrak consoles. The Zoom LiveTrak series of digital consoles is a hybrid of music production technology. Preferred by many for their outstanding recording capabilities, for which Zoom is known, many musicians are finding the LiveTrak consoles to be a great solution for live mixing. We find that versatility, portability, recording ,and remote mixing capabilities, as well as having an intuitive user interface, is a big factor in customer purchases.

Ray Tantzen: One of the more exciting trends we’ve noticed is with networked audio. The technology has grown so much and there’s now a lot more flexibility in terms of routing and connections. With the rise of AVB and Milan for interoperability, it really opens up a lot of cool possibilities. Technology has also allowed a lot more processing power in a smaller, more affordable package. With this trend we’re seeing more end-users becoming interested in some of the more advanced mixing tools and processors. Our new StudioLive 64S capitalizes on both these trends as we strive to be at the forefront of what end-users want in a mixer.

For your brand, what are currently the top-selling concert mixers?

RT: Our current StudioLive Series III digital mixers are definitely our top sellers. Historically the 32-channel, 33-fader StudioLive 32 with 32 local preamps has been the top seller. Now with the introduction of the Series III S consoles, we expect to see the smaller format StudioLive 32SX with full 32 preamps in a 25-fader frame and the super powerful StudioLive 64S rise to challenge the historical champ.

SG: We currently offer two LiveTrak versions, the L-12 and the L-20, with a rackmount version of the L-20 (L-20R) available later this summer.

JH: The big hit has clearly been the SQ Series, with dealers honoring it this year as the MMR Dealers’ Choice Award Product of the Year. Sales have continued to be astounding and we saw another recent bump as we added a 16×8 96kHz Dante-native stage box option, the DT168. Our entire flagship dLive range has also been growing at an amazing rate, with a particularly nice buzz around the compact C1500 as more and more engineers pick it for fly dates, bus tours and space-constrained applications.

How would total live mixer sales break down, percentagewise, for your brand in terms of whether they’re analog, digital, or powered?

JH: The rough breakdown in the U.S. would be 80 percent digital, 20 percent analog. We’ve sold hundreds of thousands of analog mixers over the years and we continue to do well there. The classic MixWizard and the hybrid ZED series are great choices for rental companies and live venues looking for an analog option.

RT: Right now our balance is strongly in the digital side with the StudioLive mixers. PreSonus has just started selling analog mixers in the last couple years compared with a legacy of over 10 years with digital mixers. Over time we expect the analog mixer sales to grow in terms of overall percentage of mixer sales but given our software and digital technology within Engineering, the digital mixers will always command the larger share for PreSonus.

SG: The LiveTrak consoles are all digital.

What are some habits and practices of MI retailers who are especially successful at serving this market segment?

SG: Seeing and touching is believing for many customers. Therefore, the retailers that do the best tend to have the product on display and powered, so customers can experience it. For online retailers, web presentations that include detailed images and informative videos see more success. For both online and in-store, the product knowledge of the sales staff can be the deciding factor.

JH: The most effective bit of brick and mortar merchandizing we’ve seen is simply to have a full system out on display. We always welcome and support listening tests and mixer shootouts. It is obvious customers are hungry for these types of hands-on experiences. Expecting customers to make their purchase decision based purely off of the spec sheet or the box graphics is asking a lot. To borrow the classic saying, “Reading about a mixer is like dancing about architecture.” Sometimes there is no substitute for feeling build quality and hearing the audio quality of different mixers. There is also a good correlation between our top retailers and those who regularly present the entire Allen & Heath product ecosystem. Our plug and play ME personal monitoring system, the connectivity between our product lines, and our support of multiple popular audio networking standards (like Dante, Waves, et cetera) all present easy paths to grow and expand a system over time. We’ve seen many dealers get creative with product workshops to show off this compatibility and expandability across the line.

RT: You have to be knowledgeable about the products and helpful to the customers. With so many options of where to buy a mixer, it’s the personal interaction that will make a retailer successful. Live mixing systems now include more than just a mixer. You need to know about the stage boxes, personal monitor mixers, network cabling, remote software, recording software, plug-in options. It’s a lot for many customers. They need help navigating what all is available and, even more so, what is right for their needs.

Any info on upcoming or recent product releases that you’d like to share with our readers?

JH: We have a few interesting things in the works and just released four new products which happen to all be Dante-related. I mentioned the compact and surfaceless mixing trends before, but I’d also like to note a big uptick in the interest and use of Audinate’s Dante protocol. With Dante, common network gear can be used to send and receive high channel counts at high sample rates for recording and virtual soundchecks and digitally splitting signals as needed. Of course we’ve also been busy with a number of major updates on the firmware and software side of things and will continue to respond quickly to user requests and feedback to support engineers at the bleeding edge of mixing methods and tech approaches.

RT: We’re really excited to share the newly shipping StudioLive 64S. This our new flagship digital mixer that was designed to be one of the most flexible and powerful mixers at an unheard of price. We outfitted it with our Quad-core FLEX DSP for an unprecedented 76 total mixing channels, 43 mix buses, and 526 simultaneous processors – including 8 stereo FLEX FX, and Fat Channel plug-in models on every input channel and mix bus. We also made it a true recording and network mixer with 64×64 USB and 64×64 AVB. We’re breaking a lot of new ground with this mixer and look forward to all the ways it will be used in the field!

SG: We soft-launched the L-20R at the NAB show in April. We anticipate it being a big hit for those who want mobile recording and mixing solutions without dependency on FOH equipment and sound personnel.

What are your expectations for sales of live mixing consoles in the coming months?

RT: This is a great time for live mixers. There are so many great amazing things you can do with the systems that are available today. With the new lineup of mixers and new firmware for the StudioLive Series III, we expect to see sales going up in the coming months.

SG: Being a relative newcomer to the live mixer world, Zoom has been extremely happy with the response we have received so far and expect sales to continue to grow in the coming months.

JH: We’ve all had to weather macroeconomic storms with tariffs and fluctuating consumer confidence numbers, but industry-wide the pro audio category appears to have had modest gains in 2018. Based on the historical strength of the category, live concert industry forecasts, industry surveys, dealer forecasts and our own internal planning and research, things certainly seem bright for 2019 Allen & Heath live mixing console sales. If every dealer reading this could add a couple more SQ to their next purchase order, that’d certainly help my prediction for a nice sales increase.

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