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Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

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Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Nick Birkby » Fri Aug 28, 2020 8:18 pm

Hi all, first post, I hope I can get some advice on these older A&H desks

I have been wanting to upgrade to a larger mixer as I have a lot of outboard gear that I'd like to patch (semi) permanently.

An A&H ML4000 has cropped up at a very good price and almost simultaneously a GL 3800 for slightly more.

I cant seem to figure out which is the supposedly the better desk in terms of quality. Does anyone know much about the difference between the ML and the GL series? The ML is slightly earlier 2002 or thereabouts and seems to fetch a slightly higer price on the used market. I think the GL may be Asian built and the ML in the UK. Apart from that I cant find out a great deal of info or whether the ML range was considered 'better' than the GL.

I know its rather old gear but any opinions would be welcome. My main concern is sound and build quaility. Thanks so much!
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby James Perrett » Fri Aug 28, 2020 9:44 pm

Both of these are live desks (the L in the model number gives that away). I think the ML were the top of the range while the GL were more in the middle but both were properly modular internally although only removable in 8 channel blocks. Both would have been made in the UK. The GS range would have been the equivalent studio mixer.

I'm not sure that Allen and Heath have ever made a bad sounding desk - I own a Saber from the early 90's. The eq doesn't always sound as interesting as certain other brands but it does what it is supposed to do. The mic preamps are usually quiet and transparent and they seem reliable.
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Aug 28, 2020 9:50 pm

I used both an ML3000 and a GL2400 live and later bought the GL for my studio. Both are nice desks, The ML was huge and had matrixes and other stuff. Not worth a lot of money though.
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Nick Birkby » Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:20 am

Thank you both for the quick replies.
Im imagining that there is sonically very little difference if at all between the two desks then?

The ML comes from a hire company but looks very well taken care of and was bought directly from the distributor (Im in South Africa) so it has had a working life. The GL apparently ex a studio, also in good condition but perhaps less used than the ML.

I guess I will have to make up my mind. The answer should be obvious to take the less used one (although I dont really know its entire history) but like a typical gearhead Im wondering if the slightly higher end model would have an edge sonically.

Either way I suspect Im going to have to learn how to recap and do maintenance at some stage. :)
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Aug 29, 2020 12:18 pm

The two desks are quite similar, but the ML is the more 'professional' of the two in some ways, but the GL also has some nice features that the ML lacks! For example:

GL3800 has a dedicated line input, the ML4000 doesn’t.

The ML has balanced inserts throughout with separate send/return sockets, the GL has unbalanced inserts.

Both have high-pass filters and bypassable four-band EQ.

ML has 8 VCA groups whereas the GL has standard audio faders.

ML also has mute group snapshot facilities whereas the GL has simpler manual channel mutes with four mute groups.

ML has both stereo and LCR panning, the GL has standard stereo panning. plus a separate Mono bus.

Both have eight groups in four stereo pairs with routing to the mains outputs (LCR in the ML and LR/M in the GL)

ML has 12 auxes, GL has 10.

ML has both PFL and AFL options on channels and outputs. The GL has PFL on channels and AFL on outputs.

Both have pre-insert / pre-EQ options for Aux sends, but ML also has options for Aux following Mutes.

Both have Z-bal direct outputs switchable pre or post fade. ML also allows direct out to be fed from Aux1 control as a level trim.

Both have 10 Auxes, but with slightly different configuration options.

GL has dedicated TB/Osc output, ML doesn't... but does have full Clearcom Intercom facilities.

ML has Mono/Dim functions in monitor section. GL doesn’t.
Both have a two-track return to the monitoring.

GL has 3x headphone outputs, ML has 1.

Both have function to swap Aux and Group controls/outputs, and both have AFL on groups and auxes.

Both have 4 matrix outputs derived from groups and LCR/LRM. GL has additional external input to matrix...

And that's just what I could glean from a quick scan of the block diagrams. The PDF manuals are here and would be worth reading to understand the difference and implications:

https://www.allen-heath.com/media/ML4000-USER-GUIDE.pdf

https://www.allen-heath.com/media/gl3800ug_ap6157_1.pdf
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Nick Birkby » Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:35 pm

Thanks so much Hugh! Thats a very useful comparison - much appreciated. :thumbup:

The ML does appear to be slightly better spec'd to me.

On the subject of line inputs, from reading around and looking at the manual, the ML mic ins appear to be able to handle line signal unless its particularly hot and can also be padded. The hottest thing in my studio is proabably my JoeMeek VC1Q compressor, the rest is fairly average.
I see that these desks have made their way into some studios and are quite well thought of despite being intended for live use.

As some background, I recently bought a Mackie HDR24 recorder at a good price and am thinking about putting all of the samplers, rack synths, effects and so into a permanent setup and using my computer mainly to sequence midi. I can then record and mix with the Mackie and the desk. Its an exciting project but a little daunting, especially the patchbay side of things!

Thanks again for the advice.
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby James Perrett » Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:27 pm

If you are using a live desk with a recorder you need to be aware that you'll need more input channels than you would with a desk designed for studio use. The reason is that studio desks have additional inputs for the outputs from the recorder which can be switched to either feed a monitor return or a full channel.

There are two types of studio desk - split or inline. A split desk will have the tape monitor section on its own to one side of the desk while an inline desk will include a tape monitor path as part of the channel strip with various sections of the channel strip being switchable between the input and the recorder monitoring.

If you want to use a live desk with your recorder you will need to dedicate 24 channels as recorder returns.
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby Nick Birkby » Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:50 pm

Thank you James, yes the plan I have is to use half the desk (its 40 channels) for synth and mic inputs and the other half for mixdown. Im currently buying up some used Bantam patchbays for more routing options.

20 record channels on the Mackie is more than enough.

I plan to mix down to a Lynx L22 soundcard.

My current desk is a 16 channel Soundcraft LX7 (the original version). Its a nice desk which I still like but would certainly enjoy a bigger desk.
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Re: Older Allen and Heath desks- ML vs GL series

Postby resistorman » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:41 pm

One way to use a limited channel desk is to use the channel inserts for the recorder ins and outs. Those are generally just past the preamp which suits me fine since I like to record as neutrally as possible, but a patch bay allows patching of other gear in the path too.
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