The onboard DSP FX unit runs 16 time-domain effects – two halls, two rooms, two plate reverbs one spring reverb, two delays, a chorused reverb, a stereo chorus, a flanger, a phaser, a gated reverb, a flanged reverb and an echo effect specifically for vocals.
Compact size, steel chassis
Good sonic performance
A compressor on every mic/line channel
SD/USB playback and record
Audio playback over Bluetooth
Great value for money
USB/SD/Bluetooth section’s display screen is a bit basic in appearance
12 mic channels
2 stereo channels
2 AUX sends
16 DSP effects
Studiomaster Club XS 16+
MSRP £340 (UK) $TBC (US)
No stranger to the pages of Guitar Interactive Magazine, Studiomaster have consistently wowed customers and consumers alike with their Club XS series of mixers. Here is Bob Thomas to look at the company's latest addition to the range in the shape of the Studiomaster Club XS 16+.
The Studiomaster brand built its early reputation on providing musicians with cost-effective audio mixing consoles and, in recent years, the Club XS range of portable compact mixers has cemented that reputation. This competitively-priced range now has a new flagship, the Club XS 16+ which – as with others in the range - features DSP effects, WAV playback and mp3 record/playback on SD card or USB and Bluetooth connectivity for playback from compatible smartphones, tablets and the like.
The Club XS 16+ has sixteen mic/line input channels and two mono/stereo line-level input channels contained in its all-steel chassis. The mic/line channels carry balanced XLR microphone inputs (with globally switchable 48v phantom power) and balanced TRS ¼” jack line-level inputs. From these, the signal passes, via the gain control, to the preamplifier. A red Peak LED, positioned near the Pan control, comes on when the channel is 3dB below clipping.
The Compressor comes; next, the compression ratio increases as its control knob is turned clockwise, whilst a High-Pass Filter at 80Hz takes out any unwanted low-frequency rumbles. A +/-15dB 3-band EQ follows with fixed frequencies at 12kHz (treble), 2.5kHz (mid) and 45Hz (bass). The Aux and DSP sends feed their respective Aux Sends and a stereo TRS Aux Return routes to the main LR mix via its own level control. The DSP send also drives the onboard digital effects unit. The Pan knob, Mute button (with LED) and linear fader complete the mic/line channel control complement.
Although no actual gain controls are provided, the two Stereo/Left Mono line level inputs (Inputs 13/14 and 15/16) can be individually switched between -10dB and +4dB input levels. In addition, the input of 13/14 can be switched to take its input from the playback from SD, USB or Bluetooth. A simple +/-15dB 2-band EQ at 12kHz (treble) and 60HZ (bass) is provided and the remainder of the channel is identical to a mic/line input.
Alongside the Aux sends and returns mentioned earlier, the Club XS 16+ also possesses a stereo RCA phono output that carries the unit’s output mix for recording purposes and a stereo minijack/RCA input pairing for playback. Unbalanced TS ¼” jack Control Room LR outputs share their input selection (Main Mix or Playback) and volume control with the ¼” headphone jack that sits next to the Main Mix fader. That fader controls the output from the LR balanced XLR Main Mix outputs, and the signal level can be metered on the 8-step LED ladder that lies above it. Slightly confusingly, the two indicator LEDs for the Club XS8’s +/- 15V supply rails form the last step on that ladder.
The onboard DSP FX unit runs 16 time-domain effects – two halls, two rooms, two plate reverbs one spring reverb, two delays, a chorused reverb, a stereo chorus, a flanger, a phaser, a gated reverb, a flanged reverb and an echo effect specifically for vocals. A rotary Program selector is provided, and further Parameter knob adjusts the overall delay time.
The Club XS 16+ is equipped for the digital age the SD/USB/Bluetooth section. Although the graphics on the small display screen are a bit basic by modern-day standards, they are clear enough in functional terms. The SD card input sits on the left of the screen, and the USB input is the opposite side. Six pushbuttons lie underneath the display, the first of which selects between the various modes – SD and USB playback, Bluetooth Playback, Record, Voice Record – and the other five taking care of Play/Pause, Stop, Repeat and Previous/Next functions.
In use, the Studiomaster Club XS 16+ proved itself to be a competent performer, sounding good across a variety of input signals. The compressor worked well – particularly on vocals - and the EQ is effective, with well-chosen frequencies.
The onboard DSP effects perform well and, provided you don’t go over the top, the Hall, Room and Spring reverbs will cover all that you’ll need on a gig reverb-wise. If you don’t use the DSP, you can use the DSP Send to produce a cue mix if necessary.
MP3 playback and record from and to the USB stick worked as advertised. As I don’t own an SD card, I couldn’t test that aspect, but I can see no reason why that wouldn’t also record and playback without a problem. The Bluetooth was simple to setup and paired very quickly with my mobile phone.
The Studiomaster Club XS 16+ not only is built to withstand physical abuse, has all the necessary facilities that you’d need for a gig, plus USB/SD playback and record and Bluetooth connectivity, but also is built to withstand life on the road. Add to all this its good sonic performance and competitive price point, and it becomes a desirable proposition if you’re looking for a 16 channel mixer that can cover a number of applications. If you don’t need quite as many channels, there are smaller 12 and 8 channel versions available.
Given the level of value for money that the Studiomaster Club XS range delivers, it deserves serious consideration if you’re looking for small mixing consoles in this price range.