SoundcheckPro: Virtual Mixing Consoles and Signal Flow Trainer
First released in 2018. Three subscription options: 1) Free subscription with limited features, 2) six-month subscription with full features ($39), and 3) twelve-month subscription with full features ($49.99). Educational discounts available. https://audiofusion.com
Making the leap from the mixing interface within commercial audio software to a hardware mixing board can be very daunting for beginners. Appearance and operation of virtual mixers are often unlike the traditional console environment, creating confusion for novice users looking to translate their skills from software to hardware. To bridge the gap, Audio Fusion has designed a series of virtual mixers that model hardware console appearance and functionality. Users can practice signal flow hands-on while learning to operate an array of industry-standard mixing console emulations without ever stepping into a recording studio. While this program is ideal for beginning music production students, it is beneficial to anyone interested in learning about hardware console functionality.
SoundcheckPro is a conglomerate of products from Audio Fusion containing seven mixing consoles, a patch bay, several hardware audio processors, and a virtual DAW. There is also a web app featuring the XENA mixer for web browsers and mobile devices. The mixing consoles emulate classic builds from companies such as Mackie, Audient, SSL, Yamaha, and Neve. Users of industry-standard boards will notice the striking resemblance and functionality of the software emulations, a feature we feel make this program an asset in any music production classroom. Students can reinforce their knowledge without owning a hardware mixer and instructors can use SoundcheckPro to demonstrate console operation online or in person.
SoundcheckPro is designed and marketed as an educational product. Each console includes a guide complete with tutorials, a “magic” finger to highlight program features, a zoom control to increase screen resolution, and several teaching tools and learning modules. In addition, Audio Fusion has created an EDU Portal for students and teachers. Users in the EDU Portal get access to setup suggestions, lesson plans for high school and college students, and a virtual classroom to manage and monitor student activity.
Working in SoundcheckPro requires one to open a “session” on any of the available mixers and send audio files through the signal chain (microphone input not available). Users can route, process, and monitor audio files using the channel strip, master, and monitor sections of the console. This includes altering preamp gain, engaging auxiliaries and inserts, adjusting EQ, applying mute/solo, selecting bus outputs, and monitoring at various stages. The addition of a patch bay and multiple effects processors within each console allow users to further explore more intricate routing scenarios.
The program does present some challenges for both beginning and advanced operators. It takes time to get accustomed with the virtual DAW and its source and destination tabs, which could present problems for less-experienced users. When using the patchbay, seasoned console operators will find certain patch points missing, such as mults, processor key inputs, and traditional multitrack returns and tape monitor inputs (although there is a work around for the latter in the virtual DAW and the inline Audyssey mixer). Finally, the absence of a microphone input for the mixer seems counterintuitive to the nature of this product. We understand that restricting inputs helps prevent feedback and routing issues for novice users, but it does limit the potential of the software for use in a live setting.
Figure 1. SoundcheckPro’s Maggie Interface with Patchbay
Overall, SoundcheckPro is an excellent learning tool to develop a deeper understanding of signal flow and console routing. The software provides an impressive array of routing options given the number of models offered and the wide range of targeted users. We highly recommend it to music teachers, college students, and anyone interested in learning more about using traditional mixing desks. While the experienced audio professional may miss some of the advanced features of a professional console, the low-stakes nature of this program makes the process of learning to operate an audio mixer fun and accessible.
Jason Fick is Coordinator of Music Technology and Production at Oregon State University, where he teaches courses in composition, audio technologies, and music production. His research explores relationships between commercial and experimental media and has been published by Audio Engineering Society (AES), International Community on Auditory Display (ICAD), General Music Today (GMT), International Journal on Interactive Design and Manufacturing (IJIDM), and Journal of Media Education (JoME). Fick serves as the President of the College Music Society Northwest Chapter. www.jasonfick.com.
Aaron Barnhart is Assistant Professor of Worship Arts and Music Industry at George Fox University. Barnhart teaches courses in songwriting, theory, music technology and worship leading. He is the owner and operator of Reverent Recording Studios, where he works with local and national Christian artists. For more information, visit www.reverentrecording.com.