NAMM 2014 – Midas M32

By Jim Roese

For the last few years (ever since Midas was acquired by The Music Group), Midas has been showcasing new consoles at the NAMM show.  Each year, the consoles have been getting smaller and more affordable.  Midas has always been known as the flagship of live sound.   The consoles launched in 2012 and 2013 both were still part of the PRO SERIES line.  Those consoles maintained the same sonic signature as all of their more expensive brothers in the line, as well as the XL8.  Midas had until that point chosen to just decrease channel count, routing capability, and the number of available effects but not do anything to the console that would affect the sonic signature of the desks.  This year with M32, that is not quite the case.

For those of you who know me, you also know that I am a huge fan of Midas digital.  When I first saw M32, I had to step back for a moment to judge what I was looking at based on what I was actually looking at.  Once I had time to let that digest, I realized how brilliant it was for Midas to launch this desk.

Is this desk a PRO SERIES console?  NO

Is this console meant to be a PRO SERIES console?  NO

Will this console sound as good as a PRO SERIES console?  Probably not

Will this console sound better than ANY console ever sold at it’s price?  Most likely

Will this console be reliable & trustworthy?  Probably more so than most

The M32 is basically built as a Behringer X32 on steroids.  It utilizes the same software and GUI as the X32, but it sports a snazzy new chassis and few upgrades to take it further than the X32 can go. (Speaking of snazzy chassis… Is it just us or does it feel an awful lot like a Yamaha CL-5?)

The two major changes you will find between the X32 and the M32 are the faders and the pre-amps, both of which are true Midas on the M32

You can see below the difference between the faders found on X32 and M32.

As for the pre-amps on the M32, they are advertised to be the same magical XL4 ones used in the PRO SERIES line. As soon as we can get our hands on one, we will open it up and confirm that. Patience, Grasshopper…

Pre-amps alone do not dictate the sound of a console, although they are a big part of it.  Many people have used Klark Teknik DN9650’s to convert the AES50 audio on Midas I/O devices to use via MADI or other digital formats on different console brands.  Do those consoles now sound like a PRO SERIES?  No, but they did have Midas pre-amp voicing.  The sound of any digital console is dependent on many things, including (yes) the pre-amp, but the sound is also dependent on other very important things such as the clock rate, clock accuracy, but mostly the digital math the console is running to manipulate the ones and zeroes it’s being provided from the I/O.

The M32, although is advertised to be future proofed to at some point support 96k operation, at this point it is strictly 48K.  Along with this sample rate directly affecting the sound as compared to it’s 96K big brothers, it also means that it cannot be tied into an existing Midas 96K “Networked Audio System”, as the sample rate of the M32 does not support it happening.  

1 + 1 = ? – The M32 is running the same OS as X32.  It is not running PRO SERIES math with the beautiful EQ they all have.  Is that a bad thing?  No, but it does mean that it’s different.  

Up until now, my, let’s call it a pre-review, may look like I’m showing the inferiorities of M32 to the existing Midas line.  This is not the case.   I think it was a brilliant move for Uli Behringer and Midas to introduce the M32 at the price-point that they did, and in the manner that they did.  

Behringer introduced the X32 into the market a year or so ago.  That desk is now the largest selling digital console of all time.  Years were spent on it’s development, as it’s launch could either make or break Behringer in their quest to show they could be viewed as a high quality console manufacturer instead of the company that backwards engineered working products and sold them at discounted pricing.  Music Group had acquired Midas slightly before that time, so they were able to incorporate Midas design into it and provide a product that had never been seen before at that price point.  By now, the X32 has been in the market long enough to prove it’s reliability, ease of use, and value to the world.  

This time it’s sort of a trade back.   Instead of Midas supplying design to Behringer, it’s Midas getting to mix the proven success of X32 with a few key Midas specific parts to launch an inexpensive console that from the word go they know will perform.  (Ed. Note–Uli once told me “Midas tought us how to do quality and we tought Midas how to do mass produciton.” This is the biggest and clearest example of that “mix” to date.)

It’s not a PRO SERIES, but then again, a Venice was never a Heritage 3000 or XL4.  It was a small inexpensive 32-channel console launched to fill a hole that wasn’t covered by an existing console in the product line.  Unlike Venice, M32 has been built with the ability to expand its current feature set in time also, offering even more value for the price.  M32 also supports the use of several expansion cards for built in multi-track recording or digital format changes to incorporate into existing digital systems for seamless integration, along with the ability to use P16 personal monitoring or 48K AES50 connection to compatible I/O.

Is it worth buying for the approximate 5000.00 price tag?  I’d say, yes.  Now ponder this…now that Midas has gone this small, my money says it’s time for the pendulum to swing and the next launch to be large!

No matter what they launch for the next show, everyone please take note to this important NAMM 2015 event spoiler.   It will be hard for anything to place higher on the “What I Saw At NAMM 2015 List” next year than seeing Larry Hall of HAS Productions standing naked in the Whirlwind booth looking for some sort of attention from the Whirlwind staff!!  I pretty sure I don’t want my eyes damaged by the sight of that, so stay tuned for that review from The Rev. 🙂