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Behringer's DDX3216 Digital Mixer

A 16-fader unit at around the price of an eight-fader controller By Glenn Bucci
When recording with a DAW, there are two popular ways to work. The first is to use a controller and analog mixer combination. The second option is using a digital mixer. The advantage of the digital mixer is that it can be a basic controller, a full function mixer with built in effects, and has A/D and D/A converters all in one unit. This can make one's work flow pretty simple. The advantage of the controller and analog mixer setup is you have more dedicated control of the DAW mixer. One can also buy higher end converters compared to what you're stuck with on the digital mixer. Depending on how you like to work, and what your needs are, will determine which way is best for you.

Behringer's digital DDX3216 mixer has 32 channels, 16 internal busses and 8 aux sends. Each channel features a fully parametric 4-band equalizer, sweepable high-pass filter, gate, compressor/limiter and phase inversion -- all simultaneously operable. The first 16 channels additionally offer a delay function. It also has four good-quality on-board effects processors. One reason why the DDX3216 is so attractive is its cost -- this 16-fader unit is around the same price as an eight-fader controller.

I found the all-metal casing to be very sturdy, and the assembly to be impressive. On Behringer's web site you can view photos of the internal section of the unit. It shows neat wiring, and soldering with very clean and organized components. The unit has 12 of their Invisible mic pres (JRC 4580s), as well as 16 line ins. There are inserts and -20 db pad buttons on the first 12 channels. The unit has two phantom power buttons, each affecting 6 channels. On the rear right rear side are RCA tape ins and outs. This can be handy if you have a song on cassette or CD that you want to input into your DAW. The mixer puts them to channel 15 and 16. There are also separate control room and headphone knobs on the mixer.

Next to the gain knobs, which go up to 60 db, there are two small lights on every channel. A green light shows when a signal being received by a channel, and a red light tells when clipping occurs. There are four fader layers on the DDX: Channels 1-16, 17-32, Bus out 1-16 and Aux/FX. There are no Send and Returns, as on the TASCAM DM 24 digital mixer. A big reason for the lack of this option on the DDX3216 is that the additional cost of extra converters would increase the cost. However, one can use the inserts to add outboard gear to different channels. With its superb routing capabilities, it is pretty easy to do.

On the back of the mixer are four Aux Outs. One way of using Aux Outs is to use balanced cables running to a four-channel headphone amp. (Behringer has a decent headphone amp as well.) Using the Aux controls, you can create four separate mixes for each headphone channel, which can be pretty handy. Ever notice how the bass player wants the bass to be loudest in his headphones, while vocalists want their voice the loudest? With this option on the DDX, you can accomplish both requests at the same time. The unit also has control room outs, XLR main outs, a MIDI I/O, coaxial S/PDIF, Word Clock, SMPTE, and two open slots for accessory cards. These slots allow you to install a 16-channel ADAT card, an 8-channel AES/EBU card, or a 16-channel TDIF TDF1616 card, which allows you to digitally transfer audio data to and from a TASCAM digital recorder. The unit I tested had two ADAT cards, which increases the mixer to a total of 32 channels.

On the front of the mixer are 17 100mm motorized ALPS faders. They have a good feel and move very smoothly. They are quiet, don't chatter, and they snap to attention fairly quickly. Above them are 16 mute and solo buttons. On the Master fader is a monitor -20 db button. This is helpful when you need the level of the music lower without affecting your levels. There are also 17 lighted encoders which control such things as Pan and Aux effects. What is impressive about them is they let you know where the Pan or Send level is on each channel without pushing buttons or looking on the screen. This is a feature lacking in the TASCAM DM 24, and in Yamaha's 02R96, DM 1000 or 01V96 mixers. Above the encoders are Auto/Rec and Select buttons. As soon as you touch the faders you can set it so it will go to that channel. There is automation with the unit, as well as the standard Copy, Pair, and Group buttons. Another special feature of the DDX3216 is you can save settings on a Flash card, as well as in the unit's internal memory.

Each channel has a compressor with a side chain to allow you to set up ducking effects. The compressor has variable threshold, ratio, attack, release, knee and gain controls. The display screen centered on the mixer can show the curve and gain reduction. The gate has similar features and can also be side-chained as well.

The converters on the unit are 24-bit Crystal converters (Delta-Sigma, 128x oversampling). I found them to give very respectable results. One disappointment is that the DDX sample rates are limited to just 44.1kHz and 48kHz. However, most project studio owners will not see this as a problem, since you would have to dither down to play back your music on a CD. I was impressed that Behringer had chosen four SHARC DSP chips for floating-point processing. This provides a large dynamic range, which would help prevent any internal clipping, even at extreme EQ settings.

The mixer comes with four onboard effects processors based on the Behringer Virtualizer algorithm. I would not put them in the same category as Waves or UAD-1 effects, but they are above many effects that come with DAW software. I personally prefer the reverb on the DDX3216 to the Reverb A in Cubase. A nice feature regarding the Behringer effects is that you can add a stereo effect such as chorus or flanger to a mono signal. This creates a fuller sound compared to using the mono version of the effect. The unit has libraries to store settings for the effects, EQ and dynamics. Plus, you can save settings for individual channels. There is an A/B compare function that makes it easy to compare one setting to another as well.

The effects include eight reverbs, stereo and mono effect on chorus, flanger delay and phaser. There is also pitch shifter, tremolo, auto pan, enhancer, graphic EQ, LFO filter, Auto filter, Lofi and Ring Modulator. The manual explains in detail what each knob does for each effect, and is pretty straightforward. One effect that is pretty nifty is the Lofi effect. This can give your recording a sound similar to recordings done from the 40s or 50s.

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Related Keywords:Behringer, DDX3216, DAW, mixer, digital mixer, A/D, D/A, converters

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