April 24, 2009
PSC Solice Review
by Bryan Dembinski

As the proud owner of multiple PSC products (2 PS1 power supplies and 2 shock mounts), I was anxious to check out their new Solice 8 channel mixer. Each mixing console comes with its own sets of advantages and disadvantages: the Mackie is only AC powered, but cheap; the Cooper is discontinued; the AD255 is heavy; and the Sonosax is expensive. Now to this list of options, we can add the Solice, with its innate pros and cons.

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The first thing you notice when you unwrap the Solice is how compact and light it is. It is the smallest and lightest 8 channel mixer I have ever seen. This makes for easier sound cart installs and when you carry a cart up 3 flights of stairs, any less weight is a plus. It comes with an aluminum front cover that slides over the top of the mixer, protecting the control surface.

Under the cover, the Solice input channels feature extreme flexibility in signal routing. Each input channel includes an integrated circuit microphone pre-amplifier with fully variable gain structure, phase flip, 12T and 48PH mic powering, continuously variable high pass filters, parametric EQ's, and limiter. Each input channel also features a direct line output, which can be operated either pre-fader or post-fader and includes a separate level control. There are meters at the top of each channel that show both pre-fader and post-fader level. There is also the ability to route audio signals to the remaining 8 mix busses and main outputs via a flexible switch matrix. Each and every routing option can be accomplish either as pre-fader or post fader for maximum flexibility.

These are the general features, but how does it work; how does it sound? I tested the board using an MKH50 and I was impressed by both its smoothness and headroom. Each channel has 18 db of headroom above the 0db LED of the pre-fader meter. This is great because you have lots of space before any clipping occurs. Now if you do get a signal that clips in the pre, it sounds really terrible. It has that digital "crunch" that is like what happens if you hit your digital recorder too hard. To help prevent that, each channel has a built in limiter. These limiters are programmed such that when the limiter is turned on, I found it impossible to get the same kind of digital distortion; however, I had other issues. First off, the limiter kicks in at +2db which is a full 16 db before the clipping would occur. I felt that this led to the limiter working in situations where I didnít really need it. At times, I could hear the limiter "pumping". [Ed.'s Note: The limiters are internally adjustable. More details in the sidebar below.]

Just a quick thought about how my set up might be. I have a scene where I have 4 people wired and a boom that is also wireless. I would set tone on all my Lectros at -30 db and have them go mic level into each channel. I would set my faders, one by one, at unity, and turn my pre-fader gain knob until the level hit +10db on the master output. That way I know that the Lectros will not clip in the mixer, I don't need the limiters, and I have lots of room to make my mix. Another note is that there is a full +20 db of headroom on the main outs so you have plenty of room there to account for any peaks.

Each channel has both a sweepable high pass filter and a full parametric EQ. All equalization goes out PRE-FADER, even on the direct outs. There is a level control for each direct output that allows you to calibrate a digital recorder without entering the menus and allowing you to make adjustments on the fly. This can prove especially useful for any 788T users.

The faders on the board are smooth P & G faders, but they don't have a very long throw. This is only an issue if you are trying to make subtle adjustments to the mix. Since moving the fader only an inch will decrease your output more than 10 db you have to be precise and careful with your movements. This is one advantage that a board like the AD255 has over the Solice because its faders have a very long throw and subtle adjustments are very easy.

Moving on to the right side of the board, you get your mix bus controls and your comm functions. There are four blue faders that control each of the four stereo mix buses. At first I was confused by this, but as you start to play with the mixer and come up with ways it could be useful, this idea is actually very useful. First off, mix bus 1&2 would be used for your main mix and sent to your multi-track recorder for dailies mixes. Then buses 3&4, 5&6, 7&8 could be used to feed individual HD cameras, video village, your backup recorder or anything else that you might need. You could even use it such that you have 2 pairs of 4 channel outs to feed newer hd cameras or 744Ts. It really does give a mixer a lot of options and is very smart on the part of PSC.

A Word from Ron Meyer

Although the two boom headphone selects do not have an iPod selection, they do have an "X" setting which is a duplicate of whatever the mixer's headphone selection is set to. If the mixer selects iPod and the booms are switched to "X", then they are fed iPod audio.

Regarding the complaint that the limiters kick in too early, I have heard this from another user as well and I think this is a very valid point. All future shipments of Solice mixers will be set for the limiters to come in at a higher audio level.

Ron Meyer
PSC Audio

The Solice has an iPod input on the front of the mixer so that music can be fed directly in without taking up a channel. An iPod input on the front of the mixer is a great idea, but I wish that this one could be routed to the boom operator and/or to one of the main outputs. Instead, this can only be routed to headphone outputs for the mixer, Comteks and director. [This isn't quite correct. See sidebar for more details. - Ed.]

There is a ROLL button that lights up green when not rolling and red when rolling. There is a 1/4" TRS on the back of the mixer that will control a bell-and-lights system and perhaps could be wired to remote roll any deck with a GPI interface, such as a Sound Devices recorder. It is a small feature but one that could be very useful.

Beyond the 8 direct output 1/4" jacks and the 8 mix bus outputs, there is also a D37 connector on the back of the Solace can be wired to send each of the 8 mix bus outputs and 8 return feeds. The fact that you can get 8 return feeds is really cool. It could be wired such that you take each output of a DV824 of route it back to your Solace via this D37 cable. Then when you press the TAPE/DIRECT button by the other comm functions and enter TAPE mode, you headphone matrix will allow you to hear the return any pair of the 8 channels you are recording (ie if you headphone matrix is on CH1&2 you will monitor the return of those 2 channels, 3&4 gives you those channels, etc). Also, if you turn your headphone matrix to CH1, then you will hear CH1 directly from the board even if in TAPE mode. As always, you can hit the PFL buttons, which are momentary, on any channel and monitor those directly as well.

The Solice is a solid mixer for the price, and offers a sleek, light design with a smart routing system and tons of ways to feed multiple cameras, multi-track recorders, or any other device necessary. It has really smooth mic pre-amps that offer a lot of headroom as well as a limiter for each channel. The AD255 which sells for a bit less - I'll leave the AD255 review for another day (full disclosure I own and use one), but I would say that each mixer offers some unique advantages and disadvantages and it is up to the individual mixer to decide what he or she needs more.  Come in to Gotham and take a listen. My ears hardly need to be the final word on this.

-Bryan Dembinski

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