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Allen & Heath ZED R16

The mixer is back!

British mixer manufacturers Allen & Heath have launched a new product in their ZED range, designed specifically for studio users. Although it looks very much like the other mixers in the ZED series, which are aimed more at the live user, the new desk has a number of features for controlling a DAW.

There’s a ‘MIDI control’ section which comprises assignable controls (in the form of faders, buttons and rotary encoders) and a transport section, which can all be used to control software running on a computer. What’s more, each of the 16 channel faders can be switched to send MIDI data so, when used with the four ‘MIDI control’ faders, you can have hardware control of up to 20 channels in your DAW.

Further studio-centric features include a pair of studio monitor feeds, which can take their inputs from either the main mix output or one of the mixer’s four auxiliary buses. There’s also a built-in talkback mic, which can be routed to a number of outputs. But perhaps the most studio-friendly part of the ZED R16 is the built-in Firewire audio interface, with which the user can route up to 18 simultaneous inputs and outputs to and from a computer. There are also two banks of ADAT inputs and outputs, allowing up to 16 channels of externally digitised I/O to be connected to the device.

The conventional mixer section of the ZED R16 is impressive, and Allen & Heath certainly haven’t skimped on the ‘bread and butter’ features of the mixer. Each of the 16 channels has mic and line inputs as well as an insert point, where external processing can be patched in using a ‘Y’ lead. Phantom power can be activated on individual channels (rather than in groups), and a high-pass filter can be switched in to attenuate the input signal below 100Hz. The EQ section of each mono input has high- and low-frequency shelving filters alongside two fully parametric mid-range bands, and the entire EQ stage can be bypassed. Of the four auxiliary buses, two are wired pre-fader, while the other two are post-fader, and each channel has mute and pre-fade listen (PFL) buttons.

The four buttons that reside at the bottom of each channel strip determine the source point for the digital send, the point at which the digital signal is returned (if required) and the whether the fader is the channel fader or a MIDI controller. The default setting, with all buttons un-pressed, sends a “clean” signal from just after the pre-amp & filter to the digital system, and this can be switched post-EQ with the top button of the four. The middle two buttons replace the signal that would normally come from the pre-amp with the digital return to that channel, either pre-insert jack or post EQ, so you can use a digital processing plug-in at the insert point or have your channel fader act as a “tape return” level control, creating a monitor mix, much in the same way as a classic “in line” recording console. The last of the four configuration buttons enables the fader as a MIDI controller.

These features make the ZED R16 incredibly versatile. For example, the mixer can be set up so that all 16 channels go to the DAW pre- or post-EQ, while monitoring the DAW track signals with the faders, then with just a few button presses, the mixer can be transformed into a 16-channel mixdown console possibly using the EQ on the mix, or a DAW controller if mixing in the digital domain. Look out for the SOS review in coming months.

Allen & Heath +44 (0)1326 372070

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