This an amazing mixing console for the money. I've heard several mixes made on the Allen & Heath ZED-R16 and they stood out as sounding very "alive" and rich. Super clean pre amps, nice gentle "British" EQ, and the ability to act as a controller via MIDI make this a great deal. If you are looking to mix out of the box in the analog domain, this is a very smart choice!
Organic, analog, intuitive and tranformational
This console has made tracking and mixing something I truly look forward to. The sound has a signature to itórich, full, detailed but not edgy or sterileóit just feels right. Some have characterized the sound as warm and I think that's fair. The equalization is wonderful, musical, transparent, as are the preamps. Clean but not clinical, very quiet. I think A&H could have skipped the control surface entirely and not missed a stitch.
The midi addressed faders and transports are not intuitive to program and flat out impossible to figure out in some DAW's. I use Digital Performer a lot and have yet to figure out how to use the faders or transport in it, BUT, in spite of all this, the desk is a joy to use. I have gotten through mixes in less time with dramatically better results.
The instruction manual is woefully lacking for such a great piece of gear and that's a shame because it really is wonderful.
I am an accomplished guitarist, published songwriter and seasoned studio guy. I play Petros handmade acoustic guitars with good mics in a great sounding room and I am completely happy with the results.
I do use a few external preamps for variety or for higher gain for ribbon mics but not because the pre's in this thing are lacking. They're great.
The routing is convenient and flexible for external compressors and reverbs as well as several headphone mixes. It includes a talkback mic and several outputs for both main and alternate monitors.
On playback, I use Yamaha HM80's for initial mixing and with the ZED I can easily switch to my KEF Correli's for comparison.
I have owned 24 channel control surfaces before when I was "in-the-box" and frankly don't miss the automation at all. The analog real-world board encourages you to make better aural decisions as you track and mix. When it's done, it's done. I don't have to go back and tweak things endlessly in the DAW just because I can. It's a beautiful console, despite the half-assed control surface. Don't let that throw you. Just revel in the sound and natural process of a good analog board with very good converters. It's very well built. I have had no issues running it on a Mac Pro Quad. I run DP, Pro Tools, Logic (works very well with the controls) and Reaper (also works well with the controls).
The heart of my studio
This console has changed the way I work in such drastic ways, while also improving the quality of recordings/mixes. Allen and Heath thought of everything on this mixer and I could not be more pleased. The union of software and hardware has been nearly perfected here.
Wonderful EQ and a little secret
I own this mixer about an year and I really love it. quiet pres, best EQ for the price - and you have 16! - but it can be even better - if you plan to buy it to use as an outboard summing you should try this little secret - use the inserts in the LR main out as passive summing outputs (dont use a insert cable, put the mix out of the mixer via inserts) it will have a much cleaner and beautiful, open, rich sound. and even better if you send it to a couple of preamps or compressors with good iron transformers.
There is no substitute for analog...tape, consoles, outboard gear...analog is king.
The rich sound this board adds to everything is unbelievable. The EQs are extremely musical and can make anything sound good, the summing is very 3D, big and spacious sounding. Granted it's not quite as good as an SSL but it also costs a lot less than your house.
The A/D D/A converters are actually very good and the fact that they're built in on a firewire interface makes it shockingly easy to bring your DAW world closer to analog land. One firewire cable and you're good to go. No further patching necessary. I've done a few projects on this thing now and it's just excellent.
My only gripes are that this thing doesn't have a truly inline send/return to accommodate my analog recorder. It also has only two post fader auxes, both mono, and the inserts are unbalanced. BUT for the price, what more can one ask for...The next step up would be a Toft ATB16 + a decent 16 channel audio interface and cabling, which would cost about 4 times as much as this thing!
This board rocks!!
I did lots of research before buying the zed r-16. but you have to hear it to believe it. the pres are amazing and transparent. the EQ is the very musical! one of the best EQs i have used. This board has midi and mmc control. as long as your daw has a midi function you can use as a controller also. the conversion seems to be on par with my rme. Sound on sound reviewed this board and compared the pres to DAV pres.. if you do the math for 16 pres with analog eq on every channel, this board is worth every penny and more.
As close to an 'all in one' studio as you'll likely get
I've had the R16 or several months now, as it has so many uses, it's hard to know where to begin. Firstly the pre's are surprisingly good, the sound was similar to my RNP's, but more true to source (and not that exaggerated 'lead' sound of the rnp) whilst still being musical and forward sounding. The EQ section is as fully featured of any (i mean any) console 3 times the price, offering very gentle eq which compliments any daw software. The converters are also excellent comparing well to my tc konnekt and rme adi-2, as the overall sound of the desk is classy yet neutral. The drivers are solid and unobtrusive...hell this is one all rounder! I use this with an fet compressor on the sends with a neve tape simulator on the master insert, offering a great sound. I've managed to reduce set up massively, as i can record our band with this, a single firewire cord and a laptop (and a few mic's, but hey). You should try this if you've only mixed itb like i had, i was shocked at how much more 3D my mixes are, with more image and a sweeter high end...worth every penny
Piece of (Analog) Cake!
Absolutely Fabulous. I've always wanted some Analog gear for Summing but didn't want to have to buy a mixer, an interface, a world clock, an ADDA converter, and 1000 cables to hook it all up. This is ALL IN ONE. For the PRICE OF ONE!!! One Cable, 16 Channels for summing, sweet EQ, and all that Analog goodness we know and love. The Lows get lower, The highs turn all creamy, and stuff gets wide as crap! I LOVE it!!!
Get the heck out of the box with this! I've been mixing in the box for a long time (only a interfaces with mic pres straight into DAW). This thing kills! The pres are great (kinda colored), the EQ section is awesome and makes things really come alive! I noticed immediately a difference just playing back mixes on this mixer, its much warmer and less edgy. Its not as clean sounding but, you can get loud mixes without the ear fatigue of all digital. After putting favorite plugins on your tracks you can then stem those tracks back up for the vibe of a summing mixer. Drums have a lot more punch to them and body and things just seem to glue well. I love this board!
Great Board, fudgy on DAW Control
I bought this board cause nothing out there does what it does for near the price and with this small of a footprint. I seriously cannot tell the difference between the converters in this board and my old SSL AlphaLink setup with MADI card. You save some serious dough and cut out the need for several items with the ZED-R sixteen and in todays overly complex home studio, a few less items to have to configure on our computers is a time saving good thang.
For a sixteen channel firewire soundcard into an analog mixing console....this is about the only choice you have out there....essentially killing two birds with one stone and doing so in a very unique, nicely familiar way for we old timers, used to mixing on real mixing boards.
One thing for certain is this board is clean but has some meaty British colour to its sound as well. It has a warmth you won't get straight out of a DAW without some serious emulation plug ins and is nowhere near as clincal sounding as say, a Yamaha N12. I have to give A&H some serious Kudos for the thinking that went into the Analog console layout
of the ZED. Oh, and did I mention how quiet it is, even with all that EQ?
Still, with every plus there is always a negative too and in some regards, A&H bit off more than they could chew with the ZED-R 16 so the board has some very weak areas:
1) DAW control using the faders is NOT turnkey. Look up the hassle you have to go through to use this as a fader/transport controller in your DAW (in My case, Protools) and you will know what I am referring to. Not a 'plug and go' solution by any stretch and if you read up on this issue on bulletin boards such as gearslutz you will see what I mean. It requires translation software and some patience and time. If you don't have either, you will never get this board setup to use its faders, transport etc, to control your DAW. I didn't and gave up. It is NOT an easy to use nor easy to setup DAW controller so
Due to this, I track my outboard into the DAW via the ZED, but mix using my M-Audio Project Mix IO cause it is just easier and less hassle then trying to set the ZED up to do this. I am lucky, I have the option but not everyone does so forwarned is forearmed.
2) Routing of external gear via Snds/Rtrns and inserts back to DAW is seriously lacking. You look at the board and go "Wow, this baby has alot of ins and outs!" but in reality, they all don't route back to your DAW channels nicely. It has more than adequete stereo send and returns which tie into the individual channels via Aux's, as would any analog mixer, but you cannot send the processed audio via the channel inserts OR the send/returns and Aux back into the DAW for EACH individual channel. You must work within the limitations of the ZED and send the audio you want processed with outboard compressors, EQ, reverb, etc via the ZED send/returns, out of your DAW channels, into the ZED, then back out of the ZED into a new STEREO channel in your DAW and overdub, stereo channel at at time (tedious) in order to get all that juicy boutique gear printed back into your DAW . In convoluted fashion, It must go through the main mix and back into the DAW via ZED-R channels 17&18. Time consuming..... to have to keep overdubbing your processed signals from the DAW, into the ZED, then back into the DAW, a stereo pair at a time, ad nausea,.
The designers at A&H could have done a far better job at allowing each ZED channel to send its individuals inserts and aux returns back into the DAW channels so you can print each channels effects into the DAW, simultaneously. It really is a bad oversight (or cost cutting measure) on the part of A&H to skip such an obvious necessity.
So is the ZED that all in one home studio mixer you've been dreaming about.....IMHO, NO, not by a long shot....but if you need to record outboard gear and also sum your DAW mixes back to analog plus have a decent monitoring section to boot, you can't go wrong with the ZED.
Plus, it sounds great, like an old school analog mixer should.
Other than the lack of adequate DAW control and the really poor circuit design in not allowing individual outboard channels and their respective inserts and aux returns to route back to DAW, tracks individually, this board sounds way better than its small price tag implies, has a very small footprint and serves its general purpose really well. It's EQ alone is something to behold and with a little patience, you can overdub your nice boutique gear into your DAW tracks, then stem back out into the ZED for a truly analog mixdown. Very nice.
I am happy with mine and if you are thinking of getting one for your home studio, talk to Nick Church...the guys is great people, honest as the day is long, won't BS you and willl do you right, every time.
Pros and Cons
I just tracked a good 3-piece band live into the ZED R16 for testing this unit out. This unit has received some great press for goo reason. The sound is CLEAN...almost as clean as my Focusrite ISA preamps...like REALLY close. The EQ is worth the money of this unit.
So why the 3.5 star? Well, it has everything to do with the interface side os this unit. I was comparing this unit to my Apogee Ensemble, which is probably not a fair contest, but i wanted to know if I should go the R16 route instead of buying a bunch of EQ's and another 8 channels to run into Logic Pro.
The A/D is ball-parkish to my Ensemble. But the R16 doesn't control any other application I have, which Ensemble does (like Itunes among others). I found this annoying. I like having an interface that I can listen music through regardless of what app i am running.
I definately was expecting a phase button on the R16 since most A & H boards have them, but there was no such button to be found. I am sure this is because you have flip the phase in your DAW. Not a big deal, but annoying none the less, especially if you plan on doing any live wok with this board.
I was also bothered to find out that I cannot assign any mono outputs with the R16, which would be nice if you wanted to use the R-16 to mix with the R16 EQ's. You can pan instruments L or R, but then your mix is no longer the same as you had it. Again, most of the time you wouldn't even use the EQs for mixing, but this could have been easily solved by allowing mono outputs. This may be the case with other softwar, but there is definately no way of creating mono outputs in Logic. You can, however, use stereo outputs and EQ in stereo. Not a big deal, but a little annoying.
The sound and EQ impressed me...so much so that I might end up keeping the unit and dealing with the headaches I mentioned above, which is saying a lot because I don't like headaches when I know they can be avoided.
So close A&H...so close. There are no other boards in this price range that do what this unit can do, so you can't knock it too much.
Good, while it lasted...
This board is fantastic. Nice quality build, pres, EQs, everything on it is slick and musical. Routing is easy and extensive for a small studio, and the only thing to watch for is overdriving the pres, as Pro Tools' metering won't always catch it. Use your ears though, and this board will be your best friend. Used it with Pro Tools 9, so it was an interface but not a controller, which never bothered me much. If you use Logic or something else, definitely worth working out the MIDI though.
The problems arose just over a year after buying it (with a 1-year factory warranty, of course). The main power transformer went bad, and had to be replaced. Two MONTHS later, after the local repair shop finally got a hold of the part, we got the board back and continued basking in its greatness. Now, another year later, the transformer blew again. Not even bothering to fix it this time, but whatever we buy, we'll definitely buy from Sweetwater this time... Not making that mistake twice!