Behringer’s XR18 Digital Mixer is the flagship model of its X AIR mixer series. It provides plenty of analog I/O and a powerful DSP engine, in a very compact and portable format and at an attractive price.
Instead of using dozens of expensive motorized faders, knobs, buttons, and LCDs, you control the XR18 with a free application running on your laptop or mobile device. And all operating systems are supported.
This design not only greatly reduces cost, but also frees you up to mix anywhere in the house. You can move around, hear what your audience hears, and continually make the correct adjustments. This natural and intuitive workflow eliminates guesswork and results in better sound.
Behringer X AIR Series
All X AIR mixers feature MIDAS-designed microphone preamplifiers, 40-bit floating-point digital signal processing (DSP), a WLAN router, four studio-quality FX engines, six aux busses, and USB recording capability.
The XR18 is the pinnacle of the X AIR product line. Solidly built, it includes handles, removable ears, and protection bumpers for rack mounting (hence the “R” in the model name). But the case is actually just 13-1/8 inches (333 mm) wide and 5-7/8 inches (149 mm) high, so it also sits comfortably on a rack shelf. XR18 features 18 inputs, 8 outputs, and 18×18 USB audio I/O.
There’s also a desktop version, model X18. It functions identically to the XR18 but has a different form factor, including a wide tray for a tablet. Behringer also makes smaller X AIR rack-mountable mixers, XR16, and XR12, with fewer I/O ports and stereo USB recording.
X AIR mixers are designed and engineered in Germany and come with a generous 3-year warranty. Behringer provides free firmware updates, including new effects plug-ins.
So, let’s take a closer look at the XR18…
In & Out
XR18 provides 18 audio input channels. Sixteen high-impedance (“Hi-Z”) balanced inputs feature combination XLR/TRS connectors and MIDAS-designed microphone preamps. Also provided are two balanced line/aux inputs with TRS jacks.
A pair of balanced main left and right outputs, plus six aux outputs for monitor mixes, and all have XLR connectors. Additionally, a balanced 1/4-inch headphone output includes its own volume control.
Note that these are all analog inputs and outputs. XR18 doesn’t include any digital I/O options except for the USB port.
Input and output frequency response is extremely flat, varying less than 1 dB from 10 Hz to 22 kHz. And thanks to the 40-bit DSP, dynamic range is virtually unlimited, and overall latency is only 0.8 milliseconds.
Full-Featured Channel Processing
The XR18 provides the same level of EQ control as the flagship Behringer X32 mixing console. A 100-band Real Time Analyzer (RTA) lets you make quick, surgical frequency adjustments. Every input channel also features a highpass (low cut) filter, 4-band parametric EQ, gate, and compressor.
But the XR18 adds dual-mode operation to make your job easier. Expert mode gives you access to every parameter, while Simple mode lets you select from any of four presets or your own templates.
Premium Mic Preamps Designed by MIDAS
MIDAS mixing consoles have a deservedly legendary reputation in the music business, used in professional studios and touring acts worldwide. In particular, their award-winning microphone preamplifiers are considered by many to be the very best for live sound reinforcement, period.
Today, MIDAS is part of the Behringer company group, and the XR18 includes 16 MIDAS-designed mic preamps. They’re fully programmable and remote-controllable. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is a negligible 0.005%, the noise floor is -128 dBu, and common mode rejection (CMRR) is as high as 65 dB.
Built-In Wi-Fi Router
Integrated into XR18 is a multimode 2.4 GHz WLAN router. Access Mode allows up to four wireless devices to be connected simultaneously. Wi-Fi Client mode connects XR18 to an existing wireless network, where controlling apps and devices are also connected.
Or you can use the onboard Remote Ethernet connector for a wired connection to a PC or local area network (LAN), for extended range or 5 GHz applications.
X AIR Edit Software
Here’s where you control everything that goes on with your XR18 mix – faders panning, mutes, and effects routing and adjustment. Running the X AIR Edit software on a laptop or mobile device allows you to move around the performance space and hear your mix from the audience’s perspective.
You can also adjust monitor wedges for the musicians, or let them connect and mix their own monitors.
So Many Options
X AIR Edit has a main window with multiple tabs for each function. These include Mixer, Channel, Input, Sends, Gate, EQ, Comp (compression), FX, Meter, Setup, Utilities, Snapshot, and Auto Mix.
There’s also a Buses Utility window that can remain open independently, providing quick access to all six aux buses and the main Left/Right outputs simultaneously. Similarly, a DCA Utility window allows you to monitor and adjust all four DCA groups.
And It’s Free!
X AIR Edit is available at no cost for personal computers running Windows, Macintosh, or Linux OS, and for iOS and Android mobile devices. And X AIR Edit for iOS is available from the Apple App Store.
The Android version is available from androidapps.com and works with version 4.0 or higher. It provides two modes of operation. Full access mixing mode gives you control over all channel processing, including the RTA overlay, effects, and saving and recalling scenes or presets. X-TOUCH.
Monitor mode binds a device to a specific aux bus, so each performer can use a Behringer P16-M Personal Monitor Mixer to create a unique wedge or in-ear monitor mix, independent of the front of house engineer.
Or For PC
X AIR Edit for PC is available directly from the Behringer website. It communicates with XR18 via the built-in Ethernet LAN connector, using a standard Cat 5 cable up to 330 feet (100 m) long. Since the PC screen is larger, this version lets you open and scale multiple windows simultaneously.
In addition, touch screens are supported, or you can use a mouse or other pointing device. And a single computer can remotely control multiple mixers.
Integrated Dugan-style Auto Mix Mode
A very useful feature of X AIR Edit is its auto mix system, originally developed by legendary engineer Dan Dugan. It’s very useful for meetings, panel discussions, and other speech applications.
Auto Mix controls the levels of multiple microphones in real time, maintaining consistent overall gain. At the same time, feedback, studio noise, and gating and comb filtering artifacts from adjacent microphones are dramatically reduced. Also, crossfades remain perfectly matched, without any signal compression.
X32 High-End FX Engines
XR18 includes the same low-latency digital effects (FX) engine used in Behringer’s X32 Digital Mixing Console. So your host computer is never bogged down during a mixing session.
The virtual FX rack has four true-stereo or eight mono multi-effects processors and an impressive arsenal of professional effects. Many have been physically modeled after the most iconic studio gear of the last 50 years, while others are Behringer originals.
Leisure Compressor is a precise model of the Teletronix LA-2A Leveling Amplifier. Ultimo Compressor recreates the magic of the Urei 1176LN Limiting Amplifier Rev. E model. And the Fair Compressor is inspired by the Fairchild 670, with models for dual, stereo-linked, or mono/stereo.
Combinator is a 5-band compressor that emulates some famous vintage broadcasting and mastering compressors. Its spectral balance control provides makeup gain for each frequency band to maintain a balanced audio spectrum. And Stereo Precision Limiter is Behringer’s adaptation of Sony Oxford Dynamics.
XTEC EQ1 faithfully emulates the famous Pultec EQP-1a equalizer. XTEC EQ5 is a reincarnation of the Pultec MEQ5. While TruEQ is modeled on the Behringer UltraCurve DEQ2496, and delivers precise frequency response for surgical filtering or general room equalization.
In addition, XR18 provides up to 16 mono graphic EQs. They’re available in each of the six aux buses, the main left and right outputs, plus eight mono (or four stereo) instances for channel inserts.
A Useful Collection of Other Audio Effects
Lexicon PCM70 Chorus & Shimmer combines the sound of studio-grade chorus with a traditional chamber reverb. Dimensional Chorus is an accurate recreation of the legendary Roland Dimension D Chorus.
Flanger & Delay combines two PCM70 effects into a single plug-in. 3-Tap Delay lets you tap the speed of the delay. Modulation Delay combines delay, chorus, and reverb into one easy-to-use module.
Stereo Tremolo takes the classic tube amp sound and adds stereo phasing control. Sub Octaver is a 2-channel, 1 or 2-octave subharmonic generator. And the tracking can be adjusted for a wide range of applications.
An Assortment of Tools To Tweak & Polish Your Mix
Let’s begin with Exciters; it features an emulation of Aphex Aural Exciter, which increases presence by adding harmonic content. Plus, there is Sound Maxer, based on the Sonic Maximizer 482i, which restores natural brilliance and clarity. And Enhancers, inspired by SPL Vitalizer, adds punch to your mix by emphasizing selectable bass, midrange, or treble frequencies without increasing overall volume.
Wave Designer, inspired by the SPL Transient Designer adjust signal transients and overall sustain. While, De-Esser, modeled after the SPL 129, reduces vocal sibilance without changing the natural voice timbre. It’s also effective on drum overheads and strings. Plus, it includes Edison EX1, which lets you manipulate the stereo field.
Vintage Room, inspired by Quantec QRS, is a gorgeous natural reverb suitable for full mixes or sub-groups. Vintage Reverb, based on the EMT 250 Plate Reverb, is perfect for vocal sweetening or snare drums.
Then we have Hall Reverb, which is based on the Lexicon 480L. This provides a broad spectrum of reverberation algorithms, from small to huge rooms. And Plate Reverb is a recreation of the Lexicon PCM70 offering, including controls for damping, modulation depth and speed, and crossover.
XR18 includes a 100-band Real Time Analyzer (RTA), built into every input channel and bus EQ. It analyzes the audio energy distribution in 100 frequency bands over time and displays a sonogram window with a bar graph and spectrograph.
The RTA has two viewing options. A Large RTA view displays the original signal in full resolution. While a Combined RTA view is displayed above each channel and bus EQ curve, showing the results of the filtering. The RTA can also be displayed above the 31-band graphic EQs in the Main or Aux buses.
XR18’s Ultranet connector lets you send 16 digital sources over Cat 5 cable to optional P16-M Personal Monitor Mixers. For more complex setups, you can connect up to 6 P16-D Digital Ultranet Distributors to control 48 P16-M modules. Therefore enabling each musician to customize his own monitor mix.
With XR18’s bi-directional USB 2.0 interface, you can connect a computer to record your full 18-channel mix. You can also play back up to 18 audio channels from a computer to XR18.
XR18 includes standard MIDI In and Out ports. You can use these to connect external MIDI controllers, including Behringer’s X-TOUCH, X-TOUCH Compact, X-TOUCH Mini, or X-TOUCH One to adjust levels, panning, and muting during a performance.
XR18 supports the Mackie Control protocol, making remote editing and parameter adjustments with any compatible MIDI device a simple task. You can also use XR18 as a control surface for your DAW.
MIDI is also used to save and recall mixer snapshots as Program Changes, or to control faders, pans, and mutes from a MIDI device.
Behringer XR18 Digital Mixer Pros & Cons
- In a nutshell, it does exactly what it promises.
- You’ll need an easy way of connecting a playback input from the mixer position.
- Would have been useful to have a built-in dual-band router included.
Are You a Fan of Behringer?
Plus, there is no point having a superb mixer without some quality microphones to go with it. So, check out our reviews of the Best XLR Microphones, the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, the Best Vocal Mics, the Best USB Microphones, and the Best Dynamic Microphones currently on the market.
Behringer’s XR18 is an extremely versatile and cost-effective digital mixer, designed with the same road-proven technology of their X32 mixing console. It’s suitable both for concerts and for meetings, where the Auto Mix feature comes in very handy. A powerful standalone mixer, it can function as the hub of a larger system that includes personal mixers, MIDI controllers and a computer.
The X Air software is very well-designed, easy to use, and bug-free. And the library of included digital FX is impressive. Plus, support for all major computer and mobile operating systems makes it very versatile.
And if even the moderate cost of the XR18 is beyond your budget, Behringer makes smaller X AIR models with the same DSP power and mixing features. So, there is one to match somewhere in the range.