The Channel Strip
Introduction to the Z Mixer
The Z Mixer view occupies the left side of the screen in most F views. This is set up as a scrollable box and you can get to any of the parameters for the various functions built into the mixer in the Z mixer window. The view always reflects the selected hot channel on the mixer.
To scroll the view you hold down the right mouse button and move the courser in the direction that you wish to move. You can also jump to any point on the Z mixer using the jump button on the full mixer channel strip or with a keyboard shortcut.
The default view of the Z mixer is at the bottom of the channel strip. If you move to a section of the Z mixer that view will stay in place for the new hot channel. If you recall an F-key view the Z mixer will be set to the default.
On the page, here, you can use your scroll wheel to scroll the view, but in SAC the scroll wheel moves through the channels selecting the hot channel.
Layout Top to Bottom
At the top of the channel strip is the input section. There are three subsections in the input section.
The channel disable button disconnects the channel from the engine without losing the assignments. You can turn a channel off to conserve resources, but have it ready to go when needed.
Then there is the input source selection. The channel strip can be either stereo or mono. In the stereo mode a stereo pair of inputs is fed to the channel strip. In the mono mode a single input feeds the strip.
The next item is the input attenuator. There is a range from minus infinity to plus twenty db. There is actually twenty db of digital gain available on the strip. This will allow you to leave a little extra headroom on the input converter and still have a full scale signal to work with.
Below the input section on the strip is the EQ section. There are five bands of fully parametric EQ plus HI and Lo cut filters. Each of the five bands is sweepable across the entire sound spectrum. There are controls for frequency, bandwidth, and level.
Together with the Hi and Lo cut filters you basically have seven bands of EQ per channel. This EQ section is very flexible and you can do a lot with it. There is also an on/off switch for the EQ section. You can bypass the EQ easily by turning it off to see exactly what effect your EQ setting is having on the sound.
The channel strip dynamics section includes both a gate and compressor on every channel. There is a threshold, attack, and release control for both the gate and compressor. In addition there is a floor control on the gate to adjust the amount of signal that is cut out when the gate closes. The compressor has a ratio control to set the amount of compression when the signal is above the threshold.
There is also a keying function so that specific signals can be used to trigger the gate and compressor. The gate also has high and low cut filters that can be used to shape the triggering signal. Using these filters can allow a lower threshold and more precise triggering of the gate.
FX Patch Section
Each channel has a pre-fader and post-fader effects patch point. The native effects or various VST plug-ins can be patched to these points through the effects dialog box. This allows dedicated effects on a per channel basis. The effects patch point can be moved to various locations in the signal path on the channel strip.
There are also six auxiliary buses on each channel. These can be used for various functions. Most common would be to patch an effect like a delay or reverb on the aux send buss so that the one plug-in could be used on multiple channels.
The sends are switchable to be pre or post fader. There is an on/off switch and a send level control for each aux send.
While six aux buses may not seem like a lot, remember that there are twenty five mixers in the software. You do not need aux buses for monitors, just use another board and have full control of the monitor mix. Also, some things that may be most easily accomplished on an aux with a hardware console can be handled on the strip or a group with the virtual patching that is available.
The Output Assignment Section
The output assignment section has a lot of flexibility. There are twenty-four output strips in the output section. The first eight can be assigned to hardware outs. The remaining sixteen can be used as conventional sub-groups or they can be set up as DCAs controlling groups of channels.
The mixer is also surround sound capable and has a surround virtual joystick control for placement of the sound. There are some situations where this may be a valuable feature in a live environment.
Channel Output Section
Below the output assignment section are the mix controls. There are solo and mute buttons for the channel, the left/right pan control, the label box, and the channel output fader. Beside the channel level controls there are up and down arrows. There is a hot area above and below these arrows that can be used to increment the levels with a mouse click.
The channel strip is set up to be similar to a typical hardware console. The functions, top to bottom, are in the locations that one would expect to find them. This makes learning to operate the board easier for a lot of people. There is a learning curve to the console, but basic functions can be carried out with only a little walk-thru. The advanced features will take a bit longer to learn.