by Tim Hemingway on March 7, 2016
Prior to this review, my only experience with Harbinger was seeing their PAs at my local Guitar Center. I’m always interested in testing out products from new brands to see what’s available, so when the Harbinger L2404FX-USB 24-Channel Mixer came up for review, I jumped at the opportunity.
For a quick overview, the L2404FX-USB is a compact 24-channel mixer which features 10 mic preamps with built in compression, 24-bit digital effects, USB out for 2-channel recording, 4 aux sends/returns, 4 subgroups, 8 inserts with direct outs, and a whole lot more. But, you’re not here to read a specs sheet, you’re here to read how this unit works, and more importantly, sounds.
For my demo, I used the mixer in my home project studio. In my home studio I do a variety of projects that range from recording voiceovers and guitar demos to holding jam sessions with my friends.
Right out of the box, I was very impressed with the overall quality of the L2404FX-USB. Based on its price point (which we’ll get into later) it definitely fits more on the budget end of 24-channel mixers, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The chassis is steel which feels durable. The sides of the mixer have removable plastic handles that can be swapped out for rack rails which are included.
One of of the telltale signs of inexpensive mixers is an inconsistent feel in the knobs (really the pots behind them) and the faders. The L2404FX-USB didn’t have this issue. The knobs and faders all had a decent amount of resistance as they were slid or turned, and the amount of resistance was consistent across the board. While this may seem insignificant to some, making finite adjustments can get very frustrating when the feel/resistance of the knobs and faders varies from channel to channel. The quality construction makes this unit feel much more expensive unit than it is.
Features and Sound:
I’m happy to report that once plugged in, the unit is as quiet as can be. It is actually much quieter than the unit I have been using. I didn’t have any of the standard issues that inexpensive mixers are known for like hisses leaking in from channels that weren’t being used.
Being someone who primarily records at home, I jumped right into hooking up the USB to my computer to see how it worked. Without doing anything other than allowing my computer time to recognize it, I was able to pull it up as an input source in Presonus Studio One v2 and Pro Tools First. Please realize, this unit isn’t meant to be a home recording interface. It only passes 2 channels of audio (L/R).
This is ideal if you want to record a copy of a live show or a jam session, but it really isn’t designed to be your main interface for multi-tracking. That being said, if you already have a smaller recording interface – I use a PreSonus Firestudio Mobile – by using the direct outs on the L2404FX-USB, you can quickly expand your number of accessible pre’s. With a few patch cables, I was able to hook up channels 1-6 on the mixer to my interface and went from 2 mic channels to 8.
I’ve had several questions regarding the quality of the effects. The built-in effects, for what they are, are very good. In a small to medium venue or church, they are completely usable and would sound very good. They’re incredibly user friendly and can be assigned to subgroups so that you don’t have to use them on all channels. I found the reverbs, chorus, tremolo, and delays to be nice and natural sounding. The phaser, flanger, detune, pitch shift, were fun to play with, but I don’t actually see me using any of them in a live situation.
Back to my original comment “for what they are”, the truth is, with this mixer and really any mixer with built-in effects, they’re convenient and usable, but not as good as many of the rackmount effects out there. Especially the higher end units. I would say that the built-in effects are as good or better than pretty much any $200 or less unit. If you’re using one of those, leave it home and just use the mixer.
If you do happen to have a higher end reverb you love to use, bring it along and use the aux inputs, there are 4 to choose from. I actually found this to be one of the things I loved most about this board. All too often, effects equipped boards either have no aux channels or only have 1 or 2 aux channels which essentially handcuffs you into using the built-in effects. Harbinger has given their effects, but if you don’t want to use them, they have also given you as many aux channels as most non-effects boards of this size.
In conclusion, I was very impressed with this board, especially considering where it is positioned in the market. Its street price is $399. At that price there are only a handful of other units available with this many channels, built-in effects, and USB out. Based on my tests, Harbinger’s mixer didn’t suffer from many of the common flaws found at the budget end. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find them on the Harbinger website, or on Musician’s Friend.