Since the original review of the PSC Solice mixer of April 2009, PSC has responded with several improvements as described below. It is a credit to PSC that they responded so quickly, and an added bonus that they are offering all of these refinements to existing Solice owners at no charge. Below is a description of these changes.
The parameters of the Solice’s limiters are fixed (attack and release time, threshold, compression ratio, and soft-knee curve); chosen at the factory to give a desirable balance of dynamic range and peak level control. However, I noticed that the original factory threshold setting made it impossible to use the full dynamic range of the mixer while using the limiters. PSC responded by raising the threshold (the level at which the limiters activate) by about 5dB, which solved the problem. Now these limiters not only sound great, but can now be used without sacrificing available dynamic range.
Reference tone and metering
This topic can always be counted on for confusing discussions—for operators and manufacturers alike—which is a fact probably responsible for the original -12dB tone level and placement of the “0” on the Solice mixer’s meter scale. Manually setting the tone to 20db below full scale was not a problem (as described in the original review), but I feared that the scale printed alongside the meters would not be changed because it would involve reprinting the top panel’s Lexan overlay. I am happy to announce that both of these issues have now been changed to what I consider to be more meaningful standards. The tone now comes up to 20dB below full scale, and the “0” is printed 20dB below full scale, which is right where it should be.
Slate mic now adjustable
At the time of the original review, the slate mic was not adjustable, but it was also mentioned that the level seemed to be fine for both the internal mic and when using an external electret mic. While there is actually some advantage in the simplicity of the slate mic being nonadjustable (our service department recently received a Cooper 208 mixer for a non-functioning slate mic, with the only problem being that it’s trim pot was fully down), PSC still decided to add a trim adjustment. No harm done.
Power switch is now covered
The power switch is at the top of a row of identical often-used push-button switches. Many had expressed a fear reaching for the roll button or slate button, but turning off the mixer instead. Sure, if something can happen, it eventually will. But even if it did happen, I don’t think it would be a big deal. For one thing, the Solice is an analog mixer, with instant turn-on time. Also, if it was accidentally turned off will trying to press the Slate or Roll buttons, that means that the take was finished anyway, so no harm would have been done. Likewise, if the power switch needs a cover then so would the Tone and Roll buttons, because accidentally pressing one of these could blow a recording just as much as turning the mixer off and back on. But, to PSC’s credit they responded to public fears and added a nice looking, transparent, easy to use, safety cover to the power switch.
Sidetone added to COMM circuits
Sidetone has been around since the early telephones, but is still a little-understood feature that is often overlooked by manufacturers designing communications circuits in, ironically, audio mixers. Simply put, side tone is the talker’s voice in their own headphones. For example, with a sidetone capable communications system, the boom operator will hear their own voice when talking to the mixer, and vice-versa. Like many before them, PSC missed this the first time around with the Solice, but has now added this feature, which, like the other improvements mentioned in this posting, are available to the owners of existing Solice mixers.
Originally a serious limitation of the Solice, its inability to monitor the mono mix on buss #1 has now been resolved. Most mixers usually listen to the mono mix, which is usually recorded on track-1, therefore the mono mix is usually done on main output #1 of the mixer. The problem was that, originally, mix buss #1 could not be listened to without also listening to mix buss #2. Likewise, none of the other monitor circuits could hear only the mono mix. My fear was that changing this feature would require an impractical redesign of the mixer’s motherboard, but PSC came through nicely with a simple and effective change. The main monitor selector switch (the one for the operator) now has a “1” for monitoring mix bus #1 in both ears. The other monitor circuits have an “X” position, which follows whatever the operator is listening to, effectively letting everyone else also listen to the mono mix. Problem solved in good style.
In order of importance:
My original impression of the Solice was largely positive, but the limitation that drew the most concern was the mono mix monitoring issue mentioned above. However, I’ll point out now, as I did then, that a very feasible change in the way I normally organize the signal routing reduced the monitoring limitation to only a minor inconvenience. In order of significance, here is how I rate the refinements of this second production run of the Solice mixer:
1) Limiters. I put this as #1 because good sounding limiters are necessary for safely managing the surprises of live dialog. Now the Solice limiters can be used without sacrificing the available dynamic range of the mixer.
2) Sidetone. For those who rely on verbal, private communication between the boom operators and the mixer, using a system that has sidetone, this feature must be done without to be fully appreciated. Those who do not use such a system have likely never experienced one, because once you have, it’s tough to work without.
3) Monitoring While this was, indeed, a serious limitation, it was moved from 1st to 3rd on this list after I come up with other ways to hear the mono mix in both ears. While the Solice still cannot monitor busses #2-8 individually, it can now monitor mix buss #1, which is where the mono mix usually is. Nice job, PSC.
4) Tone level and metering The original tone level and meter scale was technically, never a problem, but confusing enough to be in the middle of this list. Fortunately, PSC has changed both to be more meaningful and useful for digitally recording original tracks.
5) Power Switch While this was usually the first concern mentioned, in reality I think that problems caused by confusing the power switch with another switch would have been very rare, and no worse than accidentally pressing the tone button during a take, which could just as easily happen.
6) Slate mic trim This was the least of my concerns, but assuming that more control is good, why not.
The end result of these changes is a multifaceted improvement of what was already a very valuable mixer, and, possibly more important, proof that PSC is willing and able to do it.