Hands-On Review:Peavey 16FX Mixing Board
A first-class, advanced mixer with everything but a sky-high price
By M. Henry Schwartz
They should give Peavey a Grammy—for Best Sound Gear in the Affordable Price Category. It deserves to be honored. Peavey’s contribution to the rock and roll cause has been considerable. Generations of musicians struggling to get a decent sound system together so they could play gigs have turned to Peavey PA gear, and it has always served them well. By combining pro performance with affordable price, Peavey has been a facilitator, helping musicians and bands start gigging and honing their performance skills. Many of today’s top stars got their start on Peavey gear.
Peavey has always built pro-level, gig-worthy products that are especially famous for living long lives. A Peavey CS amp I used 20 years ago is still functioning, now wired up in the garage where my 14 year-old son and his buddies jam. It still works fine and sounds better and better as they improve.
Peavey has stuck to its pro level quality and moderate price formula, while continuing to improve its most successful product lines, refining their designs, keeping up with advances in sound technology, and coming up with new innovations. Peavey has kept up with the times and, if anything, their gear is more on a par these days with the more expensive sound gear it competes with.
How far Peavey has raised the performance level of its sound gear is clearly seen in its newest line of mixing consoles, the FX Series. While still relatively affordable, the FX models are not simply good basic mixing consoles. They are sexy—high-end mixers with advanced features and pro level performance specs. The FX mixers can compete with the high-end gear from leading-name pro tour companies, not just because of a lower price, but on their own merits.
All the right stuff
Peavey FX mixers include 24 and 32 frame sized consoles, but as a live sound board, I especially like the 16-channel 16FX. It has the same powerful features as the larger two FX models, but it is rackmountable, a portable size, and has a sufficient number of channels for most combos. For a group that has outgrown an 8- or 12-channel board, the 16FX is a perfect step-up—in number of channels, sound quality, and features.
The 16 channels of the 16FX include 12 mono mic channels and two stereo mic/line input channels—ample inputs to fully mic most bands—and all mic inputs have switchable phantom power allowing extensive use of condenser mics. Stereo channels (13/14 and 15/16) have both a 1/4" TRS input and an XLR, each with its own gain control, so the two inputs can be used simultaneously making it a true 16-channel board.
Each channel is provided with three bands of EQ control with sweepable mids, and a 75Hz low-cut filter to eliminate rumble. All the mono channels have inserts, four monitor sends (pre), two effects sends (post), pan, and PFL. Channels can be assigned to one of four groups, each with its own master level fader and individual output. Each group can be assigned left or right. This structure gives the 16FX considerable versatility as a main or monitor mixer for full bands in live performance where sub groups facilitate managing levels and allow individual monitor mixes.
Silencer mic preamps & advanced DSP
The key components in any mixer are the mic preamps, and the 16FX features Peavey’s best—Silencer mic preamps—on all 12 mono channels. Discreet components put it in a class with boutique preamps. Silencer preamps provide the kind of high headroom needed for mixing live shows and the low noise and distortion needed for recording work. Their quality, more than any other single feature, puts the 16FX on equal footing with consoles that are substantially higher in price.
The 16FX sports two DSP processors, which provide multi-effects and output processing. Effects include reverbs, delay, compression, de-essing, chorus, and gate/expander. All of the effects are assignable to any channel or group, and in general are excellent quality, especially the reverbs. Most users will find them perfectly fine as is, but for those who have especially critical ears and want to tailor them, the 16FX allows extensive editing of key parameters.
The 16FX features an LCD display and simple navigation tools for accessing the effects library from which you select effects for use, editing, or combining in multi-effect patches. Once you tweak an effect to your liking or create a patch, you can store it for repeated use.
Not only can you edit individual effects via the display, you can also perform other tasks: adjust channel EQs, set crossover points, and select various output configurations. You can also access output processors such as a pair of 31-band graphic EQs, a 5-band parametric, a limiter, and Feedback Ferret. Actually, the Ferret is always on duty, and automatically reacts to feedback. This processor-based Ferret is an improved version and more effective than the hardware version. It is a great feature, especially for bands that do their own sound in the set-and-go fashion. All of this output processing in one unit is convenient, and it performs tasks that otherwise would require additional outboard gear.
An especially nifty and convenient feature of the FX mixer is its dual USB ports. The first port is for streaming audio to a USB flash drive (thumb drive) as compressed MP3 files. The second port connects to a computer and records audio as WAV files that can be further edited using just about any software. The two connections can only be used one at a time, but both can be used to steam audio back to the 16FX for playback, in effect using the 16FX as a soundcard.
The USB to thumb drive feature is especially handy for bands—for capturing stereo recordings of rehearsals or performances. You simply stream the audio onto a thumb or flash drive as an MP3 file, put the drive in your pocket to take home and download to your computer or MP3 player for playback. They are handy: you can e-mail files to share them with other band members, fans, or for audition purposes.
When you add up its quality and capabilities, and measure these against its price, the 16FX stands out as a remarkable deal. It offers a long list of pro features: superb preamps, high quality channel controls, comprehensive signal metering, routing versatility, 4-bus design, extensive inserts and output options, and high quality effects and output processing. It is a dream board for the serious gigging band that does some recording. The 16FX is an advanced, first-class sound tool—one that that sound professionals can respect and that semipro musicians can afford.
Features and Specs:
- 12 low noise, high-headroom Silencer mic preamps on XLR inputs
- 2 stereo channels with dual mic/line inputs with individual levels
- 4 sub groups with levels and individual outputs
- Dual DSP engine with editable digital effects and output processing including 31-band graphic, 5-band parametric EQ, and Feedback Ferret
- Memory slots for edited effects and multi-effects patches
- USB "A" connection for memory stick (MP3)
- USB "B" connection to computer for digital audio output and input (WAV)
- 3-band EQ with sweepable mid-frequency and fixed low cut filters on mono channels
- Fixed mids on stereo channels
- Inserts on all channels
- 48V switchable phantom power
- 6 AUX sends
- 19"W x 7-1/4"H x 18"D
- 22 lbs.