Hands-On Review:Behringer SL3242FX-PRO and SL2442FX-PRO
Behringer SL3242FX-PRO and SL2442FX-PRO
Big-board live and studio performance for next to nothing
By Bob Merton
It would be nice if all of us could afford a $5,000 mixer for live shows and another one for the studio. But let's face it, the vast majority of us pickers, pounders, and warblers don't have too many multi-thousand-dollar gigs on the immediate horizon. That's where Behringer comes in. Their cutting-edge R&D people don't hesitate to use what's out there and they also have the brains to develop their own solutions. The combination lets Behringer close the gap between quality and affordability. The Eurodesk SL Series mixers are the perfect example. They're the most astoundingly full-featured mixers ever available at anywhere near this price range. Their amazing sound quality, super-smart effects, and intuitive design make them as powerful in your recording studio as they are onstage.
Big stage muscle
At a live gig, flat EQ or just a few EQ knobs might seem like the easiest way to go, but it's almost never the best way. Room dynamics, variable instrument and vocal combinations, and the peculiarities of your PA require precise EQ for a good listening experience. That's why I really love the full nine-band master graphic EQ with illuminated faders on the SL mixers. It features an incredibly useful feedback detector that lights up the exact fader you need to slap down before somebody loses an eardrum. And there's individual EQ with sweepable mid on each channel.
A mono subwoofer output with a sweepable low-pass filter makes the SL mixers very accommodating to all kinds of PA systems. A single big sub can provide great sound with much smaller mains. Two built-in 24-bit digital stereo effects engines offer tons of really useful live effects including the stellar Virtualizer reverbs and 99 presets. (More about those incredible effects later.) Single-button channel mutes let you silence empty mics and unused amps in an instant. CD/tape inputs let you play break music while a master mute makes it easy to shut down the rest of the board to avoid picking up stage noise.
The SL Series are the first mixers of this size to feature integrated power supplies, saving one step in setup and teardown, and eliminating one possible connection hassle. And for those like me who often find themselves playing in clubs that were wired shortly after electricity was discovered, the auto-range capability is a godsend. It handles fluctuating mains voltage from 100V to 240V with aplomb and protects your gear from nasty power spikes. It also uses less energy than a conventional power supply.
Unlike many of the inexpensive mixers out there, the SL Series are built to take serious road use. Robust solid-state construction and proven, high-quality components are housed in super-sturdy metal cabinets. They're easy to handle and not excessively heavy, weighing in at just a little over 25 lbs. for the SL3242 and less than 19 lbs. for the SL2442.
Startling studio strength
While the SL mixers really shine onstage, I was completely amazed by their versatility and sound quality in the studio. On the front end, Behringer didn't skimp on the most important stage-the IMP "Invisible" mic preamps are truly studio grade and totally quiet. In fact, in the three days that I tested these units in every kind of environment, I never detected any noise coming from the mixers. And the IMP preamps are not only quiet, they're clean-very clean. Working with several different kinds of mics recording both voice and acoustic instruments, I could detect zero coloration of any mic signal. With their 5Hz to 100kHz bandwidth, these preamps performed every bit as well as my dedicated outboard preamps.
The SL mixers' professional quietude is accomplished in part by state-of-the-art 4580 operational amplifiers that emit noticeably less low-frequency noise than most high-end op amps. Behringer's unique Ultra Low-Noise circuitry has extremely low impedance that keeps thermal-inherent noise and crosstalk at an absolute minimum.
I love the feel of the SL Series' quality faders and knobs. Long-wearing logarithmic-taper ALPS faders and sealed rotary controls move smooth as silk, never stick, and hold their position even when jostled. They actually absorb light shocks rather than snapping off.
The SL mixers' built-in effects feature not only amazing reverbs, but more specialized recording effects like chorus, flange, delay, and a variety of combination effects. These high-quality effects really provide a luxurious feel. The SL mixers are big boards that are not just functional-they're downright fun. Sophisticated routing lets you easily mix effected and dry signals.
Obviously, I don't have room to go into all the details. Suffice it to say I am very impressed by the incredible quality and versatility Behringer has been able to get into these mixers for such unheard-of low prices. Whether you're a home-studio jock looking for some real control surfaces to get your mitts on, a band on the run with control issues, or both, the SL3242 and SL2442 mixers are an amazingly good value.
Features & Specs
|Eurodesk SL2442FX-PRO||Both boards:|