If you want a multi-use product on a budget, this is it. The S/N ratio is amazing for the price. With most situations, it has everything needed INCLUDING a USB out (which is essential for modern recording). That was one of the greater selling points to me, honestly, even though I have not yet fully converted to a laptop and DAW software.
Combined with a Tascam 2488 Neo deck, you have a dynamic duo. The balanced "out" can "master" just about any individual instrument and give you a solid input signal into a balanced "in" on the Tascam. Preload your outboard FX units onto the signal, and you can ignore the complex menu wheel of the Tascam to have just the sound you want on that channel. Repeat with vocals, keys, even a simple drum machine (if you are just making scratch recordings) to get the levels where you want them, and processed just right.
The channel strips are loaded with all the necessary EQ, and you can have a spare or two for FX sends. There are plenty of places and ways to get signals (hot or passive) into the mix, and the only things missing are really high-end features that budget-conscious studios can probably work around anyway.
Where a live band is concerned, whether your drummer is running an E-kit and only needs a pair of inputs, or you are dropping mics or triggers on an acoustic kit, you can still eat at least 10 for that and have room for the rest of the musicians & singers. Moreover, things are laid out quite logically, and even in low-light with aging eyes, you can find what you are looking for in a hurry either on stage or during set-up.
In my case, I have been doing one-man-band stuff live -- so I end up with a dozen unused channels. But that isn't a problem when recording or other situations present themselves. Run an MP3 player or a laptop into one of the stereo in channels (I use 23/24 for that) and do what you need with everything else. Running full range, or into a rack stack including a crossover is still a breeze with all the output options.
The only downside at all is the lack of assignable sub-mixes/groups that you find in higher end units. For either stereo or mono out with a monitor mix, you are still golden with this board. I've been using it now for about 6-7 years, and it has performed flawlessly. Never blew a channel, never had an output transistor fail -- it works as good today as the day I first opened the box. And even as I contemplate switching into a DAW computer situation, I know the USB out is still there waiting on me to get ambitious with that.
Reliability is paramount in this day of planned equipment obsolescence. I haven't seen any evidence of that on the ZED 24. The only reason I gave 4.5 instead of 5 stars it that it would have been nice to have at least one more output bus for a dedicated monitor mix. But I've been able to find workarounds no matter what for everything I have thrown at it -- from the recording studio to outdoor gigs in front of 3000 people. That's outstanding for the price.