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Thinking about getting the Allen & Heath ZED-R16. Thoug

Discussion in 'Recording' started by atl123, Nov 16, 2009.

  1. atl123

    atl123 Guest


    I have read a lot of good things about this board on other websites. One guy had both this board and an Apogee Ensemble and said that the sound quality of the A&H board was just as good, and that he might sell his Ensemble.

    I was thinking about upgrading my studio by going the Lynx Aurora route with seperate mic pres and monitor control section, but while I like that route, my wallet can't afford it (maybe one day).

    Tell me your thoughts, especially if you have used one (even if it was in a store).

    The main thing I want in my new setup is a lot of channels and really good sound quality. (I currently have Firepod and I have outgrown it.)
  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I just bought a ZED16R about a month ago now and it is quite amazing!
    I got a sweet deal on it so I couldn't resist...even though I've been using my RME FF800 successfully for the last couple years or so. The RME has 10 in/out like your FirePod, but I haven't really outgrown it...what I was looking for was a small format mixing desk so I could mix OTB. The ZED is definitely that, plus a lot more. It is extremely flexible. It might be too flexible because there are so many features packed into one board. You can use it for recording or you can use it live. It has a ton of monitor outputs for running just about any setup you can think of...headphone mixes, multiple sets of monitors whatever you want. Each input channel has great gain and fabulous EQ control...you can color and tweak any input exactly the way you want...very good control over the sound...in the past any EQ using the RME had to be done within Cubase. Now I have real knobs and real faders and real EQ and less mousin around in Cubase...having used both "old school" consoles and more recently going completely ITB, the ZED feels more like I was used to recording with a real board...just smaller...some people will prefer everything ITB but a real mixing board was what I missed the most with just the RME and Cubase...everything was done in Cubase which is still amazing in itself..but I guess I was looking for that real feel...
    As far as the sound...they both are soooo close, I can't tell the difference...I did a couple of tests switching between the two but the problem is they each have their own sound....they're both bang on in terms of dynamic range and clarity...so it's not that. The only thing I can tell you is to me the RME has a bit "smoother" sound than the ZED. The ZED has a brighter more "crispy" sound to it....the thing is with the EQ on the ZED you can smooth that out exactly the way you want...the bad news is it's an analog board so there's no automation on the channels or EQ or pan, so if you get a nice setup and then change something on the ZED it's not re-callable like say a Cubase mix is...again this is "old school" stuff. I think the new A&H ZED24R might have automation, but it's going to be twice the price of the 16R.
    I thought I would really like the MIDI control feature on the ZED in Cubase and that was going to be the thing that sealed the deal for me, but I find it's not as usable as I thought it would be...I can take it or leave it now.
    Of course I'm still learning everything the ZED can do the more I use it....
    You should really try to listen to some music your familiar with on all of the different systems you're thinking about buying and pick the one you like the best...I don't think you'll get anywhere reading or listening to samples from people on forums...there are just too many variables to deal with unless someone makes a perfect standard level piece to compare and they never quite do that....
    Right now I've been trying out the ZED as a 16 channel ADAT mixer into the RME which gives me 26 channels total and I'm running them at 44.1k in Cubase 4. I'm still playing with it and I'm still looking for the "perfect combination configuration". I'm not getting rid of my RME any time soon....the RME is still hard to beat to my ears, but I have to say the ZED has a place and as far as the conversion goes it's giving the RME a run for the money!
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If you search the archives, you will find several of my posts enthusing about the ZED-R16 ever since I got my hands on one earlier this year.

    It's not without its quirks, and it really is limited to 16 channels, but within what is was designed to do, it is very flexible, delivers wonderful analog sound, and is very good value for money.

    One of the things I was able to get done with the R16 while I had it were some studio mixdowns from an Alesis HD24XR. I tried both analog out of the Alesis into the R16 line inputs and also going digital via ADAT into the R16. This meant I was able to compare the D-A conversion quality relative to the HD24XR, which I rate highly. While there were some audible differences, particularly at the ends of the audio spectrum (I used one of my modified HD24XRs with an extended low end), the R16 sounded good. For mixing, I revelled in making use of the lovely-sounding EQ and the analog summation, and then used both the R16's ADCs and FireWire connection to capture the mix into the computer and also went back via analog to a couple of spare tracks on the HD24XR. Both routes produced a great result, with subtle differences, but neither being obviously "better".

    Be aware that the ZED-R16 is designed as a live and studio board, rather than a studio-only board. You will have to check out the features and see whether there is anything that does not fit in with your way of working in the studio.

    Overall, it's a great little board.
  4. atl123

    atl123 Guest

    So lets say I recorded 16 tracks into my DAW.

    I then use my DAW to automate the volume level changes on each track (since there are no motorized faders and I don't want to have to ride the faders.)

    I then want to use the board as a summing mixer (with fixed fader positions) and record the tracks back into a single stereo track. How do I do this? I don't understand all the routing options on the board yet, even after reading the user guide.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    To do what you suggest is quite easy, but the results will not be the best that could be achieved.

    Recording: use the R16 as a live board (using the XLR and line inputs) and route the direct outs of all the channels via FireWire into the PC. The output mix could be used for headphone monitors, and you could record it to the PC as well via FireWire channels 17 & 18 for reference purposes.

    Summing: patch the channel inputs to be the 16 FireWire returns from the PC. Add EQ, insert outboard effects and mix to taste. Return the stereo mix via FireWire to the PC.

    The reason that the result will be good but sub-optimal is twofold:
    (1) you will have to set the faders of all the channels involved to the level required for the mix. This means that even in quiet passages where there may be the audio from only one or two channels contributing to the output, you will still have the electronic and DAC quantisation noise from all the channels being added. This means that the noise floor of the mix is higher than it would be if the R16's faders controlled the channel levels.
    (2) You will have used digital attenuation on the individual channels from your DAW. The result is that the DACs in the R16 will not be operating at their optimal dynamic range. This may or may not make a difference to the quality of the sound of low-level channels.
  6. atl123

    atl123 Guest

    How would you suggest to do this then?
    to get the absolute best sound quality, I mean.

    (Also how do you maintain consistency with your levels from mix 1 to mix 2.)
  7. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    alt123"(Also how do you maintain consistency with your levels from mix 1 to mix 2.)"
    Analog mixing was an art not a scientific certainity. Moving faders by hand could never be exactly recreated as in todays automation often it required two or three people to make adjustments simultaneously.
  8. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    One thing I've tried doing (and I don't know if this is the best way or not) is to assign 16 mono input tracks to the same 16 mono output channels in Cubase.
    That way you have each track being played back into the ZED on the same channels they were recorded on.
    After recording your tracks, you can use the ZED channel selection buttons to whatever mode you like....lets say you set your tracks to MIDI mode during playback and you set Cubase up with automation enabled. You move your faders on the ZED in realtime as you like and Cubase writes that scene. You can rewrite anything you like over again until you have what you like... then freeze that channel and move on to the next track.
    Like I said I think the ZED is extremely flexible....if you have a specific way you like to record, or a specific live show setup, or a specific mixdown arrangement....This thing will practically do anything the way you like!
    Kind of a Swiss Army knife of boards....
    And like I posted earlier here and on other forums...I'm still looking for different setups using this thing!
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's the old-fashioned analog mixer thing of running everything in at line level and moving your faders according to the notes you have made in the score (the what??).
  10. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Exactly.....old school as the children call it!
  11. @Boswell - Hey there - just got a ZED R16 on demo from my local music shop to evaluate... It is a complicated beast and I just spent the last day configuring with Cubase 5, then figuring out how to make it all work! Your thread regarding the summing put me straight onto it, so just wanted to say thank you for the info you posted on here. As I am a lucky beggar that gets to do this all day every day, I'm sure it won't be long before I've got to know the beast, so maybe be able to help anyone else that's in the same position...

    Just did a quick mixdown using the analog EQ to a summed mix and have to say the EQ adds so much to what you can do ITB...
    Ok, thanks again
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Great! It's certainly a sweet-sounding board.
  13. boxcar

    boxcar Active Member

    i've had mine 5 months now and i still get impressed by it whenever i fire it up. it really sounds great and so flexible.
    and for those who prefer mixing ITB, you can do that as well with the zed as with any interface, it just gives you 16 pre's wich not many interfaces can do and the ability to do so much more. for instance, you can control the ITB sliders with the zed sliders and also control mutes,pans and transport bar.
    so it's not even an ITB--OTB issue..it's just better either way except it's more money than a comparable interface with 4 or 8 pre's. imo
  14. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Boswell, what is the word on the R24?
  15. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I've been following the R24 thread over on that other forum and from what I've read it will be late August or early September before it is available.
    Of course I would bet it will be more like Oct/Nov before we see anything...maybe even later!
    The only price I remember seeing was 6500euros ($5300) but there hasn't been any release of any actual retail prices....I think they are providing different optional components so maybe the base board will be around that price but with auto fader and full high speed 32 channel digital I/O it might be like $7500-$8000 by the time you put it all together...considering the original retail price of the R16 was $3500, it wouldn't be a stretch to see it come out around $7000. The R24 looks to be everything the R16 is internally plus everything the R16 didn't have like two vacuum tube preamp channels, full motorized fader automation, larger mm fader's, additional aux busing, solo in place, direct outs and optional digital I/O cards. Having the R16 myself makes me very curious now to read peoples opinions on the R24 as the new big brother to the R16 whenever it gets here...
  16. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I've seen the videos of pre-production models from the trade shows, but have not seen one in the flesh. I've also been badgering my contacts for more details, but everyone is being tight-lipped, especially when it comes to pricing.

    What I do know is that the R24 is far more than a stretched version of the R16 - it's in the next league up in terms of features and facilities, and seems to be targeted at the small-medium sized studio. I was impressed by the quality and features for money of the R16. I'm getting ready to be blown away by the R24.
  17. boxcar

    boxcar Active Member

    some more info:

    Allen & Heath are proud to announce the forthcoming launch of the new studio recording console—the GS-R24.

    Specifically aimed at busy project studios the GS-R24 combines top end quality analog with a choice of interface module, motorised faders for automated mixing and MIDI con-trollers for tactile interfacing with software DAWs.

    Key Features
    • 24 Mono input channels + 2 Dual Stereo input channels.
    • 2 Valve Mic/Line/Instrument Valve pre-amps with optional DAW source switching.
    • 6 Auxiliaries
    • 4 Audio Subgroups
    • Main Stereo + Mono bus.
    • PFL, AFL and Solo In Place functionality on the Mono & Stereo inputs.
    • 4 band fully parametric mid EQ on the Mono inputs.
    • Motorized or non motorized fader models
    • MIDI control from Mono input faders, 2 x 60mm faders, 12 x rotaries, 20 switches + jogwheel.
    • Choice of interface modules—analog, FireWire / ADAT, future option support.
    • Flexible routing of interface sends & source.
    • 32 audio channels on the FireWire bus.
    • 5.1 surround monitoring.
    • Meter-bridge to show input channels and master stereo mix.
    • Separate linear power supply.
  18. toddmatthew

    toddmatthew Guest

    So I was looking at the pictures and saw the midi controls, thinking it was a matrix, and said to myself, "no mixer that small has a matrix device". Yeah, star wars rip off. Guilty.

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