This compact yet powerful console puts Allen & Heath's touring-grade processing into a much more affordable package.
Allen & Heath describe the SQ series of mixers as the most powerful in their class, with 48 processing channels and a 96kHz mix core, all in a super-compact physical format. There are three models in the SQ line; all have similar mixing capabilities but the SQ-5, SQ-6 and SQ-7 have, respectively, 16, 24 and 32 channel faders, plus master. The series has recently benefitted from a major firmware upgrade to version 1.3, and a number of features have been added or enhanced (see box). The good people at Allen & Heath provided me with an SQ-5 to get hands-on with, but all three models are identical in terms of their channels-to-mix count and processing; the differences are in the local input/output provision, physical faders per layer, soft controls and console dimensions.
The internal hardware is the same on all versions, so they all have exactly the same signal path, and all are constructed in the usual Allen & Heath 'brick outhouse' style with rigid, well-finished metalwork and a solid feel to all the rotary controls, which are directly nutted to the surface — no wobbly pots on this console! I'll gladly admit that the look and feel of a mixing console is a major factor in deciding if I'd like to own one and, ergonomically speaking, the SQ-5 racked up a big score as soon as it emerged from the shipping box. It's basically black, with a steeply canted upper section where the touchscreen and dedicated 'strip' controls live, making for a generous rear panel with plenty of room for all the I/O.
I was fortunate to have this particular SQ-5 delivered by Keith Johnson, Product Manager for the SQ range (and also the Qu and ZED series), so I was able to ask him about the thinking behind the SQ-series mixers. Keith recounted the story of how Allen & Heath had become involved with small‑format digital mixers at an early stage with a product called the iCON, since when they have created the iLive series, the GLD, Qu, dLive and now the SQ.
As many will know, one of the reasons A&H gear has built up such a loyal user base is because they design and develop everything in-house, and therefore have complete control over every aspect from basic metalwork and PCB layouts to low-level FPGA programming and all DSP, GUI and stylistic design. This may be what you'd expect from any established maker, but one of the stand-out differences with Allen & Heath is their willingness to engage with and...
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