Field Report: Allen and Heath XB-14

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On more than one occasion, I have built small production studios using small-format mixing consoles. These rooms are rarely used on the air, but inevitably someone in production or management says, "I wish this little console would trigger our CD decks and mute the speakers when we open the mic." It's a legitimate concern, and engineers are forced to use their creative devices to install start closure buttons to trigger playback devices and relays to mute studio speakers. Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised when Allen & Heath unveiled the XB-14, a small-format audio console with cool features galore.

Features for radio

The XB-14 boasts features that complement on-air environments where triggering and remote interfacing are essential. Inputs one through four are mono with three-band EQ (sweepable mids), 100Hz rolloff, input gain (69dB range), pan, aux send, and an on/off button. The on/off button is programmable via dipswitches on the rear of the mixer and can be disabled or permanently on. The mono input channel faders will also mute the control room speakers by simply pulling up the fader.

External remote control on the XB-14 is connected through two DB-15 jacks. All channels have a Mix B that routes the channel to an unbalanced stereo output via RCA jacks, where mix-minus or an additional recording output can be established. The mono channels will accept mic level inputs via XLR jacks and line level inputs via 1/4” jacks along with insert points for outboard processing.

Performance at a glance
Remote start/stop logic on stereo input channels
Mic channels mute control room speakers
External monitor input
Guest and host headphone jacks
Talkback and mix-minus features
Rack mountable

Adding Ma Bell

Two telco channels make the XB-14 unique. Both channels have male and female XLR jacks above the channel strips. Each telco channel features two-band EQ, and a talk button and clean-feed source selector. With the talk button, the user can talk back to the caller off air. The clean feed source allows the user to toggle between routing program audio or AUX send output to the caller. If program audio is selected, the XB-14 automatically mix-minuses the telco channel out of program on the clean feed so the caller doesn’t hear echo on the return. The built-in mix-minus feature is truly a unique breakthrough for a small-format mixer. The telco channels also have start switching remote interface logic.

The XB-14 has seven stereo inputs: One, three, five and seven are fully balanced on 1/4" TRS jacks. Inputs two and four are unbalanced RCA inputs and input six is a USB interface. The USB interface is 1.1 and 2.0 compliant and facilitates bi-directional audio to and from a computer. The USB source input is routable to stereo input three. Program, Mix B or aux + mono can be routed to the USB mixer output. The USB interface uses Windows and Mac Core Audio drivers, so no extra software or drivers are necessary. The USB connector is housed above the stereo 4-channel strip. Depending on which input is selected, the corresponding source audio equipment can be remotely started by depressing the on/off button.

Get outta here

As far as outputs go, the XB-14 allows for flexibly interconnecting with all audio equipment. The master section is home to record output, control room speaker output, Mix B output and an external monitor input, all of which are on stereo unbalanced RCA jacks. Main program output is via electronically balanced XLR jacks and includes 1/4” insert points. Mono out is via an unbalanced RCA jack, and aux out is via a 1/4” balanced jack. Two guest headphone jacks and one control room headphone jack are available with separate volume and source controls. Aux, Mix B, USB in and external monitor can be separately routed to the control room speakers and/or headphones. Pre-fader listen can be made available to the guests, selectable on the front panel. A momentary talk-to-guest button allows the user to talk off air to the guests on their headphones. The level adjustment for Mix B is made on a rotary knob just above the main program mix fader, which like the input faders has a 100mm throw. It is interesting to note that unity gain on the input and outputs faders is 0dB and is situated at the very top of the fader. The XB-14 uses a 12-segment LED meter indicating levels from -30VU to +16VU. The meter can also indicate pre-fader listen input levels.

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