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Roland RSS M-48 Review

Dec 4, 2009 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka

This compact personal mixer system offers powerful, scalable individual monitoring and simplified wiring/powering via Cat-5e cable.

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RSS by Roland M-48

RSS by Roland M-48

Providing performers with control of their wedge or in-ear monitor mixes increases productivity while positively affecting the musical outcome. RSS's new M-48 personal mixer makes this possible via a networked system that receives audio and power via simple, single-cable Cat-5e interfacing.

The system comprises the compact, yet full-featured M-48 mixer and the S-4000D splitter, which lets users string up to eight M-48s along a network, with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. You can integrate additional S-4000Ds and M-48s to create larger systems supporting up to 256 mixers. These two components ride on the backbone of the Roland S-4000 digital snake ($7,995), which is essential to the operation of the M-48s. The mixers can be set up for standalone operation using a PC and the included S-4000RCS software, or they can be partnered with the RSS M-400 V-Mixer, in which case the PC is not needed.

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The M-48's feature set is deep, including 8+8 banked rotary encoders with panning, solo, 3-band EQ, an auxiliary input, and a built-in ambient mic with separate volume controls. There are also record and dual headphone outs (1/8in. and 1/4in.) with basic EQ and limiting. The two line outputs are fed by the aux bus or headphone outs and include an adjustable low-pass filter. Other extras include a five-segment stereo output meter and a built-in reverb that you can apply to any channel or group.

Let's Mix!

I was able to test the system by itself (without the V-Mixer) in a medium-sized live venue. Setting up the individual mixers was easy. The included mount fits securely on a standard microphone stand and features a removable headphone hanger and accessory tray. The test venue already had the S-4000 digital snake in place feeding a Yamaha PM3500 at front of house. After updating the digital snake's firmware, connection was as simple as plugging the S-4000D into the snake's REAC output then running Cat-5e to all the mixers. The Cat-5e connections are on sturdy barrel connectors, negating concerns over failure after many setups and teardowns.

Upon opening the S-4000RCS software on a PC laptop that connected to the system via RS-232, the system immediately recognized each of the five M-48 mixers—all which have a unique ID—on the network. After that, it was simple to rename the individual mixers to reflect the performer using it and then use a matrix to decide which of the 40 channels (as individuals or stereo groups) were sent to which mixer. This is one of the best parts of the system. For instance, you can send the drummer's entire kit as individual channels or as stereo groups in any configuration, depending on the player's preference. You could simplify the mix for another performer by sending the entire drum kit as a stereo stem to one encoder with bass, guitars, keys, and vocals sent to other encoders in mono—all of which you can pan from the M-48. The mixing world is your oyster: You can be as complex or simple as you'd like.

The system sounds great and throughput is rocket fast: The FPGA architecture makes latency a non-issue. While limited, the reverb is usable and a nice extra. The proof of the pudding was the reaction of the players in the band. Instead of settling for a mix from monitor land, the musicians could get exactly what they wanted in their wedges or in-ears. The guitarist commented that he could play easier and with more detail because he could hear exactly what he needed to perform. The bass player said the room sounded better because of reduced "trash" in the wedges that in the past would clutter up the stage feeds.

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