Soundcraft Ui12 – review, hints and tips

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The Journey Begins
Almost 3 month ago at Conwy Folk Club we took delivery of this mixer and a x2 500 watt Behringer iNuke NU1000 Amplifier. We bought it as it was a pretty similar price to a professional grade “snake” that we would otherwise had needed to replace a damaged snake.
This unit was recommended by a friendly professional sound guy we know named Mike.

This unit, an amplifier and a tablet means that you don’t have to use a reverb, eq, compressor rack, mixer, snake, playback device, recorder, and you can lose quite a few cables. You’re not tied to a physical mix position. Shorter set-up time, and a lot less hassle.

Description
The Soundcraft Ui12 is an 8 channel digital mixer that can be remote controlled via Tablet/Smartphone/PC through it’s integrated WiFi / Ethernet. There are 4 other channels for line-in and playback.

It comes with all sorts of bells and whistles many of which we don’t require; Preamps and Soundcraft Mixer Algorithms, Lexicon Effects, Digitech Amp Modelling; as well as some good stuff we do use: dbx AFS2 Feedback Suppression, 2 Track USB Playback, Status storage, x3 effects: Reverb, Delay, Chorus.

The master output has 31-Band Graphic EQ, and Compression, and every channel has individual EQ, Compression and effects.

WiFi included
The unit is it’s own hotspot, some people have reported trouble with the unit’s signal not being very strong. The hotspot range is limited to about 45-65 foot radius.

Whilst we haven’t had a problem with signal strength, we did have a problem with the tablet losing contact with the unit. We replaced the small antenna that comes with the unit with a TP-LINK TL-ANT2405CL 2.4 GHz 5 dBi antenna for £5.90 from Amazon.

This seems to have dealt with the signal drop issues, but the problem could also be as a result of our Android tablet searching for WiFi with a “better” signal when moving it around the room, or other devices trying to access the unit’s built-in wifi router. This problem is the fault of the tablet, not the ui12, this is mostly solved by turning off all the WiFi seeking on the tablet settings, and then manually connecting to the ui12.

Control
Using an HTML5 browser on any system; iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, or Linux, you can connect to the mixer via its hotspot, (even with an external router if you are in an environment with a lot of WiFi signals) or using a laptop through a standard domestic CAT6 networking cable, and up to 10 remote units can have simultaneous control (Tablet, Smartphone, PC).

There is an accurate emulation of the mixer control on the Soundcraft website at:
http://www.soundcraft.com/ui-demo/mixer.html
Which allows you access to all the control pages on the mixer, and allows you to experiment in safety!

Manual
the manual can be accessed at:
http://soundcraft.com.s3.amazonaws.com/downloads/user-guides/Ui1216Manual_complete_v2.81_web.pdf

Playing Interval Music
Playback is from any attached USB flash drive, and the signal strength is mighty compared to the other mixer channels, so best to take care when using it!

Noise and Hiss
Initially the preamps were very noisy, hissing mightily after a couple of weeks of being irritated by this I tried a firmware upgrade. This mostly dealt with the hiss and additionally allowed the unit to record onto a USB drive.

Tips

  • Use a dedicated Tablet
    • Clear or disable all network capable apps
    • Don’t use the tablet to connect to the Internet
    • Use the Opera app without “data-saving”
    • Start the Ui12 unit first
    • Turn off all the WiFi seeking settings, and manually connect to the ui12
  • The first two channels are more flexible than the rest
    • They both have Amplifier modelling (which we do not use)
    • They both have Hi-Z capability
      • this allows guitars etc. without on-board preamps to deliver a stronger signal without increasing the Gain on the channel
    • You cannot use Hi-Z and phantom power on the same channel
    • Phantom power is controlled by the buttons marked 48v
      • Phantom power is required for certain equipment that draws power from the channel line rather than an independent power source
      • Phantom power is switchable per channel on the ui12, whereas it was “on” or “off” for all channels on our previous desk
  • Don’t move around the room too much after you have set-up and sound checked
  • Keep the tablet and the unit with a clear line of sight between them
  • Don’t try to use the connection with people in between
    (they seem to disrupt the signal somewhat)
  • Find and use the Feedback suppression
    (on the EQ tab of the Aux masters, select “Live”)
  • Control hiss on the DYN tab (Compression) of the individual channels – usually the microphone channels – by raising the [GATE] slider a little
  • Use the [GAIN] slider to compensate for any loss of signal created by the compression
  • Experiment as much as you can with the controls on the DYN tabs, they give a great range of control of the quality of the sound

Conclusion
I’ll be editing this post over the next few weeks/months, but just to say that as we are getting more proficient with driving this unit the better it seems. It was a steep learning curve for amateurs, but we seem to have the basics down now and we’re looking forward to fine tuning it week by week. It gets more interesting as time goes on!

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