I need to set the stage for this review. When I started at the current church, they had just bought a brand new SoundCraft Si1 digital mixing console with an Aviom and MADI option card. To keep it short, we had a host of issues with the Aviom/MADI cards. SoundCraft was very good about providing us support, they swapped out the back plane board and ended up swapping out the Si1 with the Si1+ to no avail. Our issues were two fold, 1. The church was in a position where they never really had a fully functioning console that they purchased, 2. the console was not reliable for a volunteer staff. SoundCraft acknowledged the issues and explained that we were not the only ones having issues with the Aviom card option. It was a known issue. Again, SoundCraft provided really good support through the issues.
Once we came to the conclusion that these problems were not going to be resolved quickly, we began talking to SoundCraft about next steps. They offered us the Vi1 with a Compact Stage Box. We graciously accepted. We got word that the console had landed at our rep and we had it delivered. I installed it that same day. To preface this review… We have paid staff and volunteers running FOH. Therefore, I have setup the console so that it lends itself to volunteers and therefore, my review will be largely based on its user friendliness.
The console runs at 48Khz. It has, with the Compact Stagebox, 64 physical inputs, and 32 physical outputs. 16 input faders on 4 layers and 8 VCA/Aux faders on 5 layers. It has 24 Aux or Group sends with 8 Matrix mixes. This was plenty of busing for us. All good in this section
SoundCraft has many videos which are located on their website which really helped prepare me for the install. I read through the manual the night before. That being said I only had to go to the manual a few times during the install. We unpackaged the Vi1 and made room for it by sliding over the Si1+. Plugged everything in and flipped the switch. Because the Si and Vi show files aren’t compatible, I had to setup the console from scratch. Although it would have been nice to be able to use the same show files for channel names and other labeling, I wanted to start from scratch with all processing. I setup all the input patching channel names, Aviom systems, Aux sends and effect. All was fairly simple with little to no fuss.
I was a bit brave in setting the console up the day we received it as we had a youth service that night. We had the band show up 30 minutes early. They stepped on stage and started playing the first song. Immediately the upgraded studer preamps shined. The console sounded noticeably better, cleaner and tighter than the Si1+. As you would expect going from an $18K console to a $25 – $30K console. I was able to get all the parameters (EQ, Compression, De-essers, Etc.) pretty much dialed in, in the 30 minute span we had before the start of service. The first night went off with out a hitch, and sounded great. We had many people state that it sounded so much better than the other console. A successful show always makes it easy to sleep at night.
The interface going from the Si1+ to the Vi1 was, well, dreamy. You can actually see pretty much everything you need to see right on the Vistonics touch screen. The physical gain reduction meters are awesome. Coming from that angle, the upgrade was great. Now, if I look at all the other console options available, in what I would consider the same league, although maybe more expensive, I would say the Vi1 is a little bit cumbersome. Many console manufacturers are still in the mindset that the digital console they produce should be exactly like an analog console, that just isn’t true anymore. The interface is easy to use for an experienced engineer. I am finding it easier to train on than the Si1+ by a large margin, however, if I look at Digico or Yamaha, the interface just does not seem as simple for the novice. The user pages are hugely useful for me, but there are only 5 of them and volunteers are not really grasping the concept easily at first. Menus are in weird places, the hi and low cut filters are in the input section (which makes sense from a signal flow perspective, but a novice is going to look for these in the EQ section). This is all my opinion and based on the outcome of the training sessions I have given. Again, I have to think about the volunteer first. All that to simply say, the interface is easy to use once you find everything, but maybe this is not the console for the church that is mostly volunteer-based.
The console sounds great. No Doubt. I’m not going to give the typical, “it sounds just like an analog console”, it does not. The fact is, we are in a digital world. If you want an analog sound, buy an analog console. I’d like to hear it on a system with more resolution. It is clean and tight. There is not much more I can say.
We have had a few issues. The Aviom card was not recognized at a youth service. A volunteer was running the console at the time. There was no error reported. We are using direct outputs to the Aviom card, according to the direct output patch, everything looked perfect. When you went into change a direct output patch, the stagebox was listed with all the analog/AES inputs and outputs, but the Aviom patch options were missing. Just as if the card wasn’t installed. The only audio that was interrupted was the Aviom sends, which happened to be all of the vocalists on stage, including the worship leader. We power cycled the stagebox and the card was recognized again. The vocalists went without monitors that night, as we didn’t find the issue until I was able to get to the church to investigate.
On a separate occasion, the input patches from the stagebox disappeared. I was able to re-patch them and recover, however, we have been able to reproduce the issue and we are currently working with SoundCraft, there is no resolution at this time….I will post an update should we find a solution.
The Vi1 is a great sounding console, with an interface that is a little awkward but for the average paid experienced engineer, it is a great console. It does not belong amongst the (arguably) top brands, Avid, Digico or Midas. SoundCraft produced a nice console. Reliability score is suffering for me at the moment.