Another in the new category of wireless digital mixers, the QSC TouchMix-8 Compact Digital Mixer brings a few new moves to the dance, compared with the wireless mixers we’ve reviewed here. The TouchMix-8 is the baby of QSC’s line, which includes 16 and 30 channel versions as well. For a baby, though, it’s not inexpensive, coming in just under $700, but it has the advantage over other wireless units as it’s completely self-contained.
A quick word on “wireless” here: there are still cable connections necessary. Mics and instruments still plug into the QSC TouchMix-8, which connects to amps and speakers with cables also. “Wireless” refers to the ability to connect to an external controlling device via Wi-Fi or, theoretically, any wireless communications protocol. I don’t think anyone uses Bluetooth for a mixer application other than importing a stereo stream.
Also, the TouchMix-8’s wireless capabilities are somewhat different. Wi-Fi use requires that the TouchMix-8’s Wi-Fi adapter dongle is inserted into one of its USB ports.
One note: the TouchMix series supports only iOS devices at this time for wireless control. Other wireless mixers are generally able to handle non-Apple platforms also.
Since the QSC is indeed self-contained, it doesn’t need that external controller to function. Behringer’s X-Air series is dead in the water without a smartphone, tablet or computer running the X-Air controller app. The TouchMix-8, on the other hand, has a built-in touchscreen and it can operate completely on its own. Along with that ability comes an interface with presets, wizards and other tricks that make setup a breeze even when the operator is not an experienced live mixing engineer.
Do these features justify the extra cost? That’s of course up to you to judge, but the early word is that the TouchMix-8 provides good value, even at its higher price.
Looking more like a digital recorder than a mixer, the small size of the TouchMix-8 is notable. The ‘8’ of the name seems to refer to the 8 XLR inputs. There are two ¼-inch TRS stereo inputs also, bringing total channel count to twelve. The recorder resemblance isn’t far-fetched. Simply plug in an external USB hard drive and, boom, you have a complete recording setup, capturing all inputs and a stereo mix simultaneously.
With the ability to handle multitrack recording, the value ratio of the TouchMix-8 rises.
The face of the mixer has 8 knobs as well, dedicated to preamp trim (called “gain” on many boards), rather than generic assignable function knobs. Four of the 8 XLR jacks are Combi style, accepting ¼-inch phone plugs as well as standard 3-pin XLR connectors. These accept direct connection of guitars and basses, since Hi-Z input impedance can be selected in the TouchMix-8’s software.
One of the calling cards that the TouchMix-8 offers is incredibly intuitive operation. Users speak of buying the mixer and using it for gigs later that day. While digging through the TouchMix-8 takes time, there are presets that preempt the digging. You can use this mixer without an intimate knowledge. With the intimate knowledge, you’ll get much more out of it, but it’s nice to have the option to quick start in a pinch.
QSC uses the analogy of Auto modes on digital cameras. The TouchMix-8 can handle many of the setup and adjustment factors needed to play a gig. When in Simple Mode, channels and effects are optimized based on a list of presets. Help is also built in via the Info button. Effects and Gain Wizards further simplify operation.
Four auxiliary outputs are a bit of luxury for a mixer in this class. A very slick addition is the ability to assign Aux 3 and 4 to a headphone jack. For feeding in-ear monitors, this is a very simple and self-contained solution.
Advanced mode gives complete control over all aspects of the TouchMix-8, as you’d have over any conventional mixer. Input channels have 4-band parametric EQ, gates and compressors. Main and aux outputs each have their own graphic equalizer and 6-band notch filter.
Four banks of effects can be assigned across the channels. Effects include reverb, echo, delay, chorus and pitch shift from each FX engine. Pitch correction is also on offer for one mono channel.
Sampling is user selectable between 44.1 and 48 kHz. Missing is 96 kHz, but this is probably a concession to data size and recording to an external drive. Storage isn’t the issue as much as data bandwidth likely is, given the number of processes the TouchMix-8 could be up to at any point.
In practice, the preamps sound warm and full with lots of apparent headroom. The sound is consistent with other mixers of all types in this price range.
The effects sound adequate. There was nothing that got me really excited, but also nothing that was disappointing. The more-is-better consumer may find the number of choices limited, but these are useful effects for live performance, the design of the product. Using the TouchMix for recording and all DAW and plug-in options remain open.
At a little over 4 lbs. and forming a wedge about 14 inches wide by 12 inches deep, this is not a device that will break your back moving to and from gigs. There’s nothing wrong, weak or particularly delicate about the TouchMix-8, but at the same time, this is not a mixer I’d bring to a gig in a dive bar. Coffee house, certainly, but the rough-and-tumble, beer soaked classic rock gig would make me nervous. That could be just me.
The moving parts, such as they are, consist of knobs, buttons and the large control wheel. Everything feels solid and good quality. The jacks also feel solid. No worries about ripping the sockets out when changing cables. The touchscreen is accurate and responsive, feeling the same as a good tablet.
There are a couple of fairly vitriolic low-star reviews. On complains that the TouchMix-8 can’t be run one-handed while simultaneously playing the bass. Really. The other claims that the mixer can’t do anything right and sounds like crap. Everything is wrong, nothing works. I’m pretty sure their significant other dropped them the day they wrote the review. That’s just not the case, so one has to suspect the operator.
The majority of reviews come in at 5-star level, including the conversion of disgruntled sound guys and panic buyers who bought the mixer on the way to gig, used it that night and fell in love. Others marvelled at the simple multitrack recording available with an added hard drive. There are frequent comments about ease of use.
The QSC TouchMix-8 Compact Digital Mixer will not be all things to everyone, but it’s got a pretty good start. This product excels at small combo live gig support. A solo artist, duo or jazz trio seem custom made for the TouchMix’s capabilities. Larger groups could certainly incorporate this mixer, however there are other formats that probably serve that purpose better. I’m thinking primarily of a rack-mounted XR mixer from Behringer, which seems better suited for larger groups. The recording musician looking for a powerful and portable rig can pair the TouchMix with a hard drive, then later load up 32-bit broadcast WAV files into a computer running DAW software.
If it fits your needs and budget, the QSC TouchMix-8 Compact Digital Mixer is recommended.