I feel I am becoming an expert when it comes to Personal Mixer technology. If you have been keeping up with past reviews I have done, you’ll see that technology has come a long way in this industry. Channel counts and features continue to expand as well as the interface and connectivity. It makes you wonder what the future holds for this technology that is continually showing a steady growth. I think that is a fundamental question the guys at Pivitec asked when they designed the e32 mixer. This 32 channel capable personal mixer that looks and acts differently than their competitors.
Ready for your mind to be blown? The e32 mixer isn’t a mixer at all – the e32 is a network controlled headphone amplifier. This means it is not using a standard “all in one” control surface like an Aviom. Instead, the e32 is entirely controlled via a free app from Pivitec. The app is currently only for iPad and iPhone and connects wirelessly for users to make adjustments.
The Pivitec e32 system is quite interesting as it deviates from the pack with their commitment to the industry standardization of Ethernet AVB as their communication protocol. What is Ethernet AVB? I am glad you asked because I had to look it up. Ethernet AVB is an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) open standard for transmitting time-synchronized audio and video over Ethernet, via network switches. AVB is the open standard competition to other proprietary ethernet based protocols like DANTE. It is designed to transmit the signals with less latency and more compatibility.
The idea behind this open standard is to have companies sign on to using it in hopes of making everyone’s life easier. As more companies sign on to the standard, the equipment we buy and use every day can become smarter with the ability to “talk to each other” over a standardized protocol. That is Pivitec’s desire with adopting the AVB standard. While I am familiar with DANTE, this is the first AVB anything I have used.
The e32 system is much more than just the headphone amplifier. Pivitec has created four I/O modules for getting audio fed into the e32. Each one is designed to use Pivitec’s 9, 10, or 24 port ethernet switch, all which provide Power over Ethernet to the e32 mixers – which is nice that you don’t have to run separate power to each one.
Pivitec recommends users also connect a dedicated WIFI access point or router to provide solid coverage for the users on stage. This helps prevent a “public” WiFi network from overloading an access point during a service and cause issues with the control. They currently do not make one and have a list of recommendations that have proven reliable for them.
The four input modules include the:
e16i is their 24bit 48k Analog to Digital Converter – Two e16i units can be used to achieve 32 inputs to the e32.
e16i Adat – provides two ADAT inputs for 16 digital channels.
e64i/o MADI – provides 64 channels from a MADI capable audio console.
e16i/o MYCARD – dedicated card for Yamaha digital consoles. Consoles that allow for two cards can send 32 channels of audio directly to the ethernet switch to the e32 mixers.
The e32 is made of a stylish aluminum casing which gives it the feel of durability. With the option to be rack mounted for use with wireless IEM’s. This makes perfect sense why the iPad control from the stage is nice. Where I have trouble figuring out the control benefits is for my wired musicians. I typically have six wired players on stage: Guitars, Keys, and Drums. With the e32, I would need to provide iPad stands as well as mounting the unit to the stand. However, the mic stand adaptor and rack mounting kit are cool. I just like a clean stage, and this seems to add more to it.
The e32 has an impressive headphone amplifier in it. This is probably the most standout feature for me – the sound quality is outstanding. The e32 has a high output headphone amplifier with ¼ output adaptor on the front. There are stereo line level ¼ TRS jacks on the back for tieing into IEMs or a live floor wedge. There is also a 3.5mm line-in port that can be mixed in.
I demoed the system using an Apple Airport Extreme as the WIFI router and used the ADAT input module fed from an Allen and Heath iLive console’s MMO card.
Setup was a breeze, and I had audio flowing in 5 minutes. It took longer to download the app than anything else. Like I said earlier, I immediately notice the audio quality.
The app was easy to setup. I primarily used my phone since I figured most band members carried an iPhone and wanted to see how the experience was on that. My biggest fear in unresponsiveness – something like trying to slightly turn up the lead guitar and accidentally sending the volume straight to 11. I like that in the app the user can slide the fader or tap up and down arrows to make small changes.
I had already upgraded all my devices to iOS 8. I did have some problems getting the app to rotate to landscape from portrait as well as random unresponsive times. I quickly realized this was not Pivitec’s fault but Apple’s. Other apps and users have been experiencing the same issue, and it is well documented. This, however, does make me nervous. I haven’t completely gotten on board with the iPad controlled movement. My feelings have been that the sensitivity just isn’t there.
I took these concerns to Tom Knesel company President at Pivitec, and he spoke with great confidence in their product. While he agrees that WiFi drop out is a valid concern, he assured me that his company hasn’t received a single complaint. He went on to say: “The audio is contained in a VLAN (virtual LAN) separate from the control traffic so that also improves reliability. We also worked very hard to ensure a very efficient protocol for the control and metering. Even if WiFi is lost completely, the audio still flows!”
So while I may not be hip, I have to say I enjoyed the e32. The control options from the app, like limiters, presets, and EQ all very well designed. The nice feature of being an app, future improvements are just an update away instead of buying into an all in one system that is what it is. Pivitec is always working to add features, and I know some pretty cool ones are in the works, like the ability to clone a mix and take over another unit to assist them in building their mix. This is a product to keep your eyes on, especially as more products incorporate AVB.