Loving My Zed
The ZED-436 is one of the best things to come out of Ållen and Heath in a long time. The sound quality and features on this mixer are exceptional regardless of the price. We use it daily in a high quantity production environment and we've had no problems with the mixer at all.
THE NEGATIVES -
The onboard fan is a bit loud for recording control rooms.
As someone else mentioned there are no dedicated effects returns (there are a couple of extra bare-bones adjustable-level stereo inputs hiding at the top of the stereo channel strips).
The onboard usb recording interface was a good idea but it's poorly implemented and way-under powered for a product in 2012, 16-bit only. Think of it as costing you nothing, it's essentially free in the mixer, it's easy to ignore it without negative consequences.
The metering is kind of wonky and minimalist but it is better than nothing.
This is A LOT of inputs for the price and the sound quality is really very good, low noise, wide response, incredible EQ (32 channels of it), lots of mixing and grouping flexibility, direct output jacks, inserts in the right places and INSIDE the console it's modular, pots can be replaced if an accident happens. I'm so tired of slab type mixer construction like the Mackie and Behringer brands use, they're not impossible to repair but they're 10x harder than a modular board like this A&H.
I love this mixer, finally I can plug in all my keyboards and synths and still have channels left.
The center section of my mixing room is a custom Neve 8816/8804 console which feeds a pair of Meyer HD-1 monitors, it sounds brilliant. I use the ZED-436 as a side-car mixer (on Neve console stacking inputs) to bring together keyboards and route effects during mixing. The ZED sounds every bit as good as the Neve in day to day use, under extreme scrutiny the Neve has a few more dB of headroom but those points on both mixers are in excess of the Zero dBfs input level(s) of my Apogee converters so it does not matter.
With the extreme low price of ZED it's easy to dismiss it as a toy, you'd be missing out on one of the best values in pro audio mixing if you did. (hint: directly compare ZED sonics to the much more expensive Toft line). ZED is a very capable performer hiding in a very low cost package, in economic times like today, what's not to like about this kind of value.