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Bose T8S/T4S ToneMatch Mixers

ToneMatch takes tiny on stage...

 

 

by Craig Anderton

 

 

In a world where there’s not exactly a shortage of stage-oriented live mixers, at Winter NAMM 2018 Bose introduced the T4S and T8S mixers. So, what do they bring to the party? We’ll focus on the T8S 8-channel mixer, because the T4S ($599) is basically a subset of the T8S with less I/O. The only significant T4S advantage is that it can take power from, and send digital audio, to the Bose Model L1 1S/II systems. (To power it separately, you need the optional AC adapter, which costs $35.)

 

At its price point, the T8S’s stiffest competition is from QSC’s TouchMix-8, however it’s also up against models from Zoom, Roland, Behringer, Mackie, and others. So what does Bose offer that’s unique?

 

What You Need to Know

 

 

  •  Both mixers are truly compact. The T8S's top panel has 8 channel trims, 8
    knobs (no faders), three buttons per channel (Mute, FX Mute, and Channel
    Edit), master navigation knob, and three parameter adjustment knobs. There
    are also level controls for the headphone out and master out, master stereo
    meter, and phantom power.

 

 

  • The T8S takes full advantage of being a digital device—it’s not just about presets, but DSP and signal processors. To a large extent, the main features you’re paying for are simple setup, small size, ease of use, and effective presets.

 

  • The Bose ToneMatch system has been around for a while. Its premise is that in addition to general-purpose presets, you can dial in presets for specific mics, instruments, and the like, many of which were created with, and approved by, manufacturers who make the products for which Bose made the presets.

 

  • Sometimes the “wrong” preset gives great results, so it’s worth experimenting. For example the Les Paul preset brings out the traditional Les Paul sound, but the Ibanez Artist preset—although it departs from what you might expect—is an excellent

 

  • The T8S truly is compact. The top panel has 8 channel trims, 8 knobs (no faders), three buttons per channel (Mute, FX Mute, and Channel Edit), master navigation knob, and three parameter adjustment knobs. There are also level controls for the headphone out and master out, master stereo meter, and phantom power.

 

  • I/O consists of 8 XLR combo jacks (mic/instrument) and two 1/4 TRS inputs, stereo XLR outs, four TRS aux outs, and two 1/4 TRS main outs. Each channel has a clipping indicator.

 

 

  • A USB Type B connector can hook up to your computer for interfacing, and a Type A connector accepts FAT-formatted USB sticks for music playback.

 

  • There are a lot of effects—parametric EQ, compressor/gate/de-esser, modulation (chorus, flanger, tremolo, phaser), three types of delays, and reverb. I like them, and they are quite editable. Except for reverb, which has some constraints, different channels can have multiple, different effects.

 

  • The zEQ is great. It’s a low/mid/high, boost/cut set of tone controls, but the characteristics vary depending on the ToneMatch preset to better fit a specific instrument or mic. Smart.

 

  • The interface is extremely readable. The high-contrast screen is bright, the buttons are all illuminated (and get brighter when selected), and the level knobs have illuminated pointers.

 

  • A cover that’s held on magnetically protects the front panel during transport, and you can also slide it on between sets to (hopefully) keep inquisitive fingers away.

 

  • The computer interface receives two channels as the line output, and provides a stereo output. On Windows, it’s compatible with the newer WASAPI drivers, not just MME.

 

  • An output six-band graphic EQ at the main out compensates for acoustics issues in venues.

 

 

 

Limitations

 

  • The phantom power is global across all 8 mic inputs.

 

  • When used as a computer interface, the only available sample rate is 48 kHz, and it doesn’t stream individual channels—only the master output.

 

  • Although the T4S can connect digitally to the L1 Model 1S/II, the T8S does not—use the XLR outs.

 

  • USB playback is limited to WAV and MP3 files (no AAC or WMA).

 

  • The effects can’t do tempo sync, because there’s no way to provide tempo info to the mixer.

 

  • The DSP doesn’t include amp modeling. This is to be expected, because good amp models devour DSP—which wouldn’t leave much left over for anything else.

 

  • There are occasional reviews on the web that say reliability is poor. However, I wonder if they did all the latest updates. There were no problems with the review unit, despite hours of continuous use in hot (summer in Nashville) ambient temperatures.

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

As mentioned at the beginning, the main competitor is the QSC TouchMix-8. However, doing a T8S vs. TouchMix 8 comparison reminds me a lot of Strat vs. Les Paul—they’re both guitars, have six strings, pickups, controls, necks, and frets, but are very different instruments, with fans on both sides.

 

The T8S is smaller, and all jacks are located on the back. The TouchMix-8 (TM-8) places its 8 XLR ins on the top panel, because the four Aux outs are XLR, so they go on the back. However only four of the 8 ins have combi jacks to accommodate instrument outputs. The TM-8 has iOS/Android connectivity with a remote control app, and wizards for room tuning and anti-feedback.

 

But the main difference is the interface. The TouchMix-8 has a touchscreen, while the T8S has dedicated knobs. Having used both, I’m comfortable with either one. For immediacy over control, I’d give the T8S an edge but for immediacy in seeing what’s going on internally, the TM-8 has the advantage. I know there are some people who will never wrap their heads (or hands) around touch screens, and others who want faders, not knobs—preferably real.

 

 

 

There are several areas where the T8S stakes its claim as being a worthy addition to the Bose legacy. Most importantly, it seems like the T8S was designed with the intention to set records for shortest setup time required, even if you don’t know much about mixing or live sound. And although general-purpose presets are handy, Bose’s ToneMatch system really does take the concept of presets to the next step. When I put my Rickenbacker 360 12-string through the Rickenbacker preset, it sounded great. So did the various other compatible instruments and mics I tried. And of course, once everything’s set up, you can save scenes for instant recall.

 

When doing a review, I always see how far I can get without reading the manual, and then read the manual to see what I’ve missed. With the T8S, I didn’t miss much. It’s super-easy to figure out; even features like being able to set aux outs pre- or post-mix are intuitive. Although there is some scrolling involved, it’s clear much thought went into having a minimal clickstream to get where you want to go. You do need to read instructions for how to do firmware updates and download new ToneMatch presets, but that’s to be expected.

 

For those who live in the Bose ecosystem, the T8S will be familiar territory to those raised on the original ToneMatch system—it just gives you more of everything. However, this doesn’t mean it’s Bose-specific; the T8S is happy feeding any kind of personal PA.

 

Ultimately, though, you don’t have to guess whether you’ll like the T8S or T4S—when you buy direct from Bose, there’s a “45-Day Better Music Guarantee.” You get to try the unit with your gear, for your specific application, for 45 days. If you’re not satisfied, you can return it for a refund. That’s what I call confidence—and for quite a range of users, I predict their T8S will not be going back to the factory.  -HC-

 

Resources

 

Bose T8S landing page with images, videos, FAQs, manuals, etc.

T8S/T4S owner’s manual

Sweetwater T8S landing page

Full Compass T8S landing page

B&H T8S landing page

Guitar Center T8S landing page

 

 

___________________________________________

 

Craig Anderton is a Senior Contributing Editor at Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages. Go to Craig Anderton's official website.

 

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