Radial Engineering recently released the Key-Largo, a mixer aimed squarely at the gigging multi-keyboardist. Except, it’s a mixer cleverly disguised as an oversized stompbox. You could Velcro it to some blank panel real estate on your largest slab of black-and-whites, or you could put it on the floor.
Keyboardists who take more than one instrument to the gig usually need to carry a compact mixer, as they need to run signal to the front-of-house sound system as well as one or two (if they want stereo) powered monitor speakers onstage. A traditional way of doing this has been to run the main outputs of the compact mixer into front-of-house, then take a pre-fader aux send as your monitor feed. Often, a direct box has to get into the equation, if only to have the option of a ground lift to prevent unwanted buzz caused by ground loops.
The Key-Largo basically combines the mixer and direct box functions, thus simplifying our lives, and does it all with Radial’s celebrated build quality. It also functions as a USB audio interface in case your onstage rig includes virtual instruments hosted on a computer.
Three pair of stereo 1/4'' unbalanced analog inputs are on offer. Each input channel has level and effect send knobs -- and that’s it. There's no EQ, with Radial presumably (and we think correctly) assuming that you'll use the onboard EQ that every one of your keyboards likely has. We could debate that design choice, as it is certainly nice to "tune to the room" by reaching for the EQ on your mixer instead of diving into menus on your keyboards, but the minimalist approach here allows Radial to keep both the physical dimensions and the price down.
A fourth input channel with identical controls services the USB input, which can function at resolutions up to 24-bit / 192kHz. (Downloadable drivers are required.) You then get both 1/4" monitor outputs for your onstage speakers and balanced XLR outputs to feed the stage snake that goes to front-of-house. Each of these output pairs has its own ground lift switch right on the front panel, letting you troubleshoot buzz quickly and painlessly.
Those effects send knobs I mentioned feed a send-and-return loop, which is nice to have even though few keyboardists these days find the need to use outboard effects processors. Then again, if you're playing a vintage electric piano, Clavinet, or synth that lacks onboard effects, this could be a godsend (and a godreturn, pun intended). The effects loop is bypassable via the left footswitch button on the Key-Largo.
Another input-output pair is meant for connecting an analog volume pedal such as those from Morley or Ernie Ball, to give you quick control of your overall keyboard mix. Another 1/4" jack still is for connecting to a sustain pedal input, as the Key-Largo also has a momentary switch for sustain, letting you put one less pedal underneath your keyboard stand.
Five-pin MIDI in and out ports are also on hand, and send MIDI information to and from the USB bus. This could let you integrate a favorite keyless hardware sound module into your rig.
We're very much looking forward to performing a full hands-on review of the Key-Largo, as it certainly seems like a live performance solution keyboardists have been waiting for. A survey of online retailers shows it to be selling at a "street" price of approximately $379. For more information visit www.radialeng.com/keylargo.php.