What is a Mixer in a Box?
There is a software package designed for mixing live sound on a computer. This software provides a very powerful and full featured solution for the live sound engineer. SAC, the Software Audio Console, is a software package that turns a good Windows computer into a good digital mixing console. When you fire up a SAC rig you are NOT running sound on a computer. You are running sound on a digital console.
The major difference between SAC and other digital mixers is that SAC was programmed from the ground up to be a virtual mixing environment. I don't believe that SAC was ever intended to be a replacement for a hardware digital console. It was, and is, intended to be another option for mixing live sound. SAC is a new paradigm in the mixing of live sound.
The developer of this software is the developer of the Software Audio Workshop. The SAW studio software has been in use for around 15 years with constant development. The SAC software has been introduced recently as a live mixing solution. The knowledge gained from the development of the studio software has been incorporated in the live software package. For more information about the SAWStudio software visit The SAWStudio Website. For complete information about the SAC software visit The Software Audio Console Website.
My Mixer in a Box
Early in February of 2009 a friend told me that I should check out this software. I read through the information on the website and got enthused about the product. I have built several computers and upgraded some other computers in the last few years (see my computer building hobby site). I decided to combine my business, sound reinforcement, and my hobby of building computers to build my own SAC system. (Now, with this site I am combining another hobby, the hobby of building websites.)
I built and begun to use my own SAC system. I have three levels of business. The most active of these levels is the event and convention segment. I also occasionally do a smaller club or party date and I do a more complex concert date from time to time. I targeted this first SAC system at the event and convention business. I put together a 32 input system to use for these events. I built the computer in a rack mountable server case and mounted the computer and the four strips of pre-amp/converters in a small rack case that I had in the warehouse. I have begun to use this for my primary mixer. I intend to assemble a more compact system for the smaller shows and also to use for second stages at larger events. I will also build a full concert system if I can convince touring engineers to use the system.
While the software supports hardware control surfaces it is designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse as the primary input devices. The navigation is set up so that you can quickly get to any section of the virtual board from any place that you might be. Last week I mixed a fairly complex church convention with only the computer.
The Major Features of the Mixer in a Box
The software will handle up to 72 mono or 36 stereo input channels or a combination of mono and stereo inputs up to the total count of 72 inputs. It is designed as a full stereo system, front to back. If you have a true stereo source you can control it with one fader. Each channel has a patchable compressor and noise gate. There is a delay unit and a 7 band para-graphic EQ as part of the package. There are many reverbs available both freeware and paid including the SAWStudio reverb plugin. The software supports DX and vst plugins as long as they do not add latency within their algorithm.
The package includes the Front of House console and 24 identical monitor consoles. This allows unprecedented flexibility in providing both the audience and musicians with the best quality sound. The system is also fully remote controllable. It is even possible to use the remote control functions over a wifi network. This allows the engineer to mix the show from any place in the venue. It also allows a monitor tech to adjust the monitor mix from a position next to the musicians during the sound check.
For full information about the software visit the SAC website and check out the user group forum. The developer offers a free demo and a manual in the form of a pdf from the downloads area of the site. The demo has some limitations but you can experience the look and feel of using the virtual mixer.