Archive for March 2011

Bridging the gap between analog and digital: The new Allen & Heath GS-R24   3 comments

Breaking News!!!  Allen & Heath has bridged the gap between analog and digital and live and recording consoles with their new GS-R24.  It has been a while since I have been so ecstatic about a piece of audio gear…  like since Radial introduced the Workhorse 5000 lunchbox or Danley Sound labs released the Jericho Horn.  I must admit though that I am biased to liking Allen & Heath consoles I have personally owned two GL series, but this thing is undeniably sweet!  Although the product is squarely aimed at the project studio market, I think it could be a home run for live sound in churches who are looking to integrate recording into their system.  It has all the same outputs that you would expect from a live sound console PLUS DAW integration and way better sound quality than what you would expect from a mixer at this price point and even an option for motorized faders!  Read on for more on this and what makes this thing sound so great.

Pre-Amps: “The GS-R24 pre-amp is a highly developed and proven design. Originally evolved from a balanced summing amplifier circuit originally designed back in the late 1980s for the Focusrite Forte console whilst working for industry legend Rupert Neve. Very low noise transistors are employed in a symmetrical topology with local phase compensation resulting in an inherently stable but wide bandwidth, low distortion, very low noise design”.  According to Allen & Heath this Pre-Amp is the best sounding Pre-Amp that they have ever put in a console!

EQ:  Most folks are happy to get a mixer with one sweepable mid, two sweepable mids and those folks are in heaven.  This console has two sweepable mids with “Q”.  This means you can choose how wide or narrow (in terms of frequency) your boosts or cuts will be.  This is great for EQing with surgical precision.  For example, say you have a one-note sounding bass guitar that is overwhelming at 80hz.  You want to cut it without affecting 60hz or 100hz, so all you have to do is narrow the “Q” filter and you can cut way more of the 80hz without affecting the surrounding frequencies as much.

The routing of the console is very similar to the popular GL series consoles with 6 Aux sends, 4 subgroups and L,R and Mono outputs. In place of the matrix mixer, you get a plethora of routing options for studio connectivity that give you additional feeds for the artists IEMs or headphone mixes and all channels can be used as returns for analog mixdowns.  You also get 5.1 sorround sound mixing (Think for churches that are producing live DVDs of their HD video productions), and options internal A/D and D/A conversion and motorized faders!

Sound Quality:  Aside from the Neve based Pre-Amps and surgical EQ, this mixer also has two “valve channels” that allows you to use and adjust tube saturation.  Analog circuitry is known to impart harmonic content on signals and that’s why in the era of digital that that analog sound is still in such high demand in products today.  One the only arguments with digital is that it is too clean and lackluster in depth and warmth, so I think this is a great compliment to this board.  Whether you are overdubbing or mixing down to two tracks, these tube channels can add that missing something to your tracks.

Also check out the specs to see details like how it has a frequency response of +/- 1db from 10hz to 130khz and .0015 THD from mic to L,R mix!  http://www.allen-heath.com/gsr24 (click user guide)

I can see it now… recalling mixes, seeing the faders fying around to the positions you left them, doing my final tweeks, then sending the final stereo rack through the valve channels and adjusting the saturation to my hearts desire and printing the results.

Perfect For Churches Seeking Ultimate Integration with Video?  Many churches these days are getting fancy video recording systems with the latest HD cameras and video switchers and many of them are able to make a profit selling DVDs of those video productions.  Unfortunatly the majority of them use the same stereo mix that is going to the Front of the house (FOH) speakers and thus the audio mix always sucks!  Why not have your mixer also give you the ability to give multi-track recording and DAW control?  Now only will your mixes be great but it can also be a training tool for sound engineers.  Most churches have volunteers running the system, and those individuals often need some help.  I can’t think of a better way to learn how to mix for a particular praise team or band than actually mixing for them.  The advantage of having integrated recording is that you can record your band once and from there on out, you can pull those individual tracks back to the mixers channels to mix.  This means the engineers in training can practice mixing the same band, in the same room without the band having to physically be there.

Drawbacks:

I only have a few gripes about this console which don’t amount to a whole lot considering the price point.

First, the ¼” line inputs are unbalanced so you can plug intruments directly into the console.  Unfortunatly this means if you choose to use an external converter you’ll likely want to make sure your converter outputs are XLR.  This leads me to my second issue.  I would love to have seen dual inputs on each channel.  That way you could switch between the first input (from the source) to the second (return from DAW) and have all tracks on the appropriate channel.  Again, this is just for those who would rather use an external converter.  My next gripe is that they don’t have a 32+ channel option.  My only guess is that they will release these later.  Finally the last is less of a gripe more of a justification.  There are no digital effects, as this is not a digital console.  The disadvantage is that you don’t have compression, limiting, gating, and other effects on every channel, but the advantages are that digital effects are evolving so rapidly that few manufacturers can keep up thus digital mixers become obsolete quickly.  Many people are still hesitant to get a mixer that requires you to go through layer to implement effects so I think it was wise to not make this a digital mixer.  Many people still prefer to have one knob for one function.

Summary:  The Allen & Heath GS-R24 igh quality analog console with Neve modeled Pre’s, surgical EQ, tons of routing mainly aimed at recording studios, but can also be used for live sound at a price point that can’t be beat.  Now that I’m working with Tri-Tronics, who are Allen & Heath dealers, and huge fans, I’m going to do everything in my power to convince the rep to let me demo this thing ASAP.