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Live and kicking

Soundcraft K1

Article from The Mix, June 1995

Live mixing console


The new Soundcraft K1 offers the sound quality and durability that is synonymous with their range of live sound reinforcement mixers. Steven Streater finds out whether it's performance lives up to its looks...


Soundcraft have been making consoles now for a good many years, and have built up a reputation during that time for good sonic performance and flexibility, at very reasonable prices.

But technology moves on, and as digital technology in particular continues to develop at an almost breathless pace, it forces us to re-evaluate performance versus price. With new entrants like Yamaha's ProMix 01, any manufacturer entering the sub-£2000 console market will be taking on some formidable opposition.

It is into this market sector that Soundcraft pitch their latest K1 console, bringing with it traditional values in ergonomics and design, coupled with the very latest in analogue technology. The K1 is basically a modular, four bus analogue desk aimed at the sound reinforcement market, and designed for flexibility in a wide range of applications.

Spec inspection



With this in mind, the console is available in various free-standing frame sizes of all-steel construction, coming in either 8, 16, 24 or 32 channel guises, which are configured in modular blocks of four. In addition to the standard mono channels, there are two full stereo modules, four sub groups and both a stereo and mono output bus.

Inputs are provided in the shape of both balanced XLR and 1/4" jack connections, with balanced direct outputs and unbalanced channel inserts also occupying the rear panel. Prices for the consoles range from £1850 to around four grand, depending on how many channels are specified, while a fairly comprehensive range of optional extras is available, including a flight case for all frame sizes, designed to house both the desk and external PSU.

There's also a rack mounting kit for the smallest 8 channel console. Being of all-steel construction, the K1 looks exceptionally well put together, and surprisingly, weighs less than you'd expect, 19.2 kg to be precise (for the 16 channel console reviewed here.) The quality construction extends also to the positive action imparted by all switches, and the long throw faders, which feel good to the touch, and an seamless in their operation.

Each of the 16 mono channels has an input sensitivity adjustment, from -70db to +15db, with what is effectively a pad which Soundcraft have chosen to mark as 'RNGE', on the K1. When depressed, this allows for line level signals to be used, and vice versa for low level mic sources. There is also provision to invert phase, and independently supply 48v phantom power to any given channel. Below the gain stage is a switchable four band equaliser, incorporating high and low frequency shelving, centred around 12khz and 60hz respectively, and sweepable high and low mid EQ ranging from 60hz to 10khz, with all four bands giving 15db of cut or boost.

Finally, there's a switch that inserts a high-pass filter into the signal path, fixed at 100hz and with an effective slope of 12db per octave. There are six auxiliary sends in total, although only four can be assigned to a channel at any one time. This is due to the fact that only four auxiliary level controls are provided for each input, with sends 3 and 4 doubling up to become sends 5 and 6, when the relevant switch is depressed.

This can prove slightly inflexible, as can having only one pre-fade switch per two sends. Some internal links are fitted, however, to enable sends 2 and 4 to be disconnected from their pre-fade switches, and linked independently to the pre or post-fade signal, which helps redress the balance somewhat.

On the busses



Each fader is routeable to the stereo mix bus; the mono mix bus and four group output busses adjusting the pan pot left and right, to send the routed signal to odd and even numbered groups, respectively. There are also switches provided for PFL monitoring and channel on/off, the latter being a simple but useful function. When used, all post-fade auxiliary sends and routing outputs are also silenced, helping to keep noise to a minimum.

Located next to the group faders, on the right hand side of the console, are two full stereo input modules. These are fitted as standard to the K1 master module. Should you require more stereo modules at a later date, or indeed like to specify extra modules at the time of purchase, it is worth knowing that they can be added in blocks of four, to replace existing mono channels. This could prove invaluable to anyone working with a plethora of stereo keyboards and modules.

There are two switchable stereo inputs to each module, labelled A and B, the latter of which may be internally jumpered, to offer RIAA equalisation for phono cartridges. Other than that, and the omission of the sweepable mid frequency equalisation, the other functions remain essentially the same.



"Being of all-steel construction, the K1 looks exceptionally well put together"


Moving further to the right brings you to the group outputs, which are all routeable to the stereo bus, and also appear on balanced XLR connectors on the rear panel. In addition to this, the four groups also provide a useful matrix function, enabling various output mixes to be used in a wide range of applications, such as multiple speaker systems or cue mixes.

Finally, on to the master module, where the stereo and mono output buses appear, co-habiting with the six auxiliary outputs, talkback facility and the two track replay section. For the purposes of this review, the K1 was taken to a nearby rehearsal studio, hooked up to the house PA, and put through its paces with a five piece band incorporating drums, bass, two guitars and keyboards/vocals.

In use



Bearing in mind the cost of this desk, which in this case is just over two thousand pounds, the sonic quality can only be described as first rate. With a substantial amount of gain available, allowing for even the least sensitive of devices to be used, the desk never got in the way of the signal presented to it. And noise levels were kept well under control, with a wealth of detail resolved from a broad stereo image, thanks to some above-averagely accurate pan pots.

The equalisation sounds very natural indeed, centred around 12khz, unlike the 10khz of the competition. The HF boost/cut is high enough up in the frequency spectrum to give sparkle and vitality to the sound, while at the same time avoiding the somewhat harsher, coarse-sounding frequencies located lower down the register. The LF cut/boost is equally sensibly-placed, avoiding the upper bass register and allowing a full-blooded tone which becomes bloated only in extreme circumstances.

My only minor quibble is the lack of variable bandwidth on the high and low mid-sweep. It's not a disastrous oversight, but I have to admit that variable 'Q' has proven to be my saviour on many an occasion, and is a feature I find especially attractive in a live situation. This aside, I found much to praise in the K1, the modular design meaning that as your needs change, so can the desk ("if only I'd have known how many stereo keyboards he was going to bring....").

There are some nice little touches, such as the PFL LEDs doubling as peak indicators, and the versatile matrix section, which I found useful to feed independent cue mixes to various destinations in the room.

Verdict



If you're interested in investing in a console for sound reinforcement at the moment, get along to your nearest Soundcraft dealer and check out the K1 in the near future.

No matter which configuration you specify, I think you'll find it represents good value for money, in a compact frame that inspires confidence from the moment you first set eyes on it.


The essentials...

Prices inc VAT: 8 channel - £1850, 16 channel - 
£2462, 24 channel - £3331
More from: Soundcraft, (Contact Details)


Spec check

Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz, +0/-0.5dB
THD (at +20dBu) Less than 0.004% @ 1kHz, 0.02% @ 10kHz
Noise (22Hz-22kHz bandwidth) Less than -128.5dBu (150Ω source)

Input/output impedances
Mic inputs (XLR) 1.5kΩ balanced
Hi-Z and stereo inputs (jack) Greater than 1llk52 balanced
Inserts (jack) 750/10kΩ unbalanced
Aux outputs (jack) 75Ω gnd compensated
Group and mix outputs (XLR) 75Ω balanced
Mono and matrix outputs (Jack) 75Ω balanced
PFL output (jack) 75Ω gnd comp

Input/output levels
Mic input sensitivity (XLR) -2dBu to -70dBu, +15dBu to -40dBu
Line input sensitivity (1/4" jack) +15dBu to -40dBu
Insert send/return -2dBu nominal
Aux outputs +4dBu nominal
Group, mix and matrix outputs +4dBu for 0VU



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Machine head


Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...

 

The Mix - Jun 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Control Room

Gear in this article:

Mixer > Soundcraft > K1

Review by Steven Streater

Previous article in this issue:

> Beast master

Next article in this issue:

> Machine head


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