Field Report: Allen & Heath Zed-14

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Allen and Heath Zed-14

Since the inception of radio, engineers have found creative ways to record audio and move it from place to place. In addition to the need for live remote location feeds for air, an occasional PA feed is also needed, or better yet, somebody inevitably wants a recording of the event as well! Before you lose your head thinking of all the possible tasks you could get thrown into at your next remote event, consider the small-format Zed-14 mixer from Allen & Heath. The Zed-14 has an intuitive layout for experienced sound techs, but is easy for audio newbies as well. It has a plug-and-play USB interface that makes connecting to a PC or Mac for recording and playback quick and easy. Most radio remote events are fast setups requiring only one or two microphones for DJ announcing. But when a hefty remote event happens where careful mixing of critical audio sources is a must, the Zed-14 will do the trick and then some.

Getting it on tape

The Zed-14 is packaged with Sonar LE from Cakewalk for PC users who need non-linear starter software to get them going. A PC or Mac instantly recognizes the Zed-14 as a USB audio source right out of the box. The console's 16-bit bi-directional audio codec is USB 1.1 and 2.0 compliant, and supports 32, 44.1 and 48kHz sampling rates. It uses standard Windows and Mac core audio drivers, which ensure the mixer will interface with any computer right away. However, a bit of configuration may be necessary in order to assign the Zed-14 as the sound interface. In some cases the computer will switch the in and out sound assignments to the USB device when plugged in, which I found to be the case with the mixer on three PCs during experimentation. If audio latency becomes an issue, different drivers are available on the Allen & Heath website. The mixer is packaged with a thin, 29-page booklet that serves as the user's guide. It's easy to read and puts the user in the driver's seat right away. As with any audio product, hands-on experimentation is vital in learning the detailed features of the device.

Performance at a glance
USB 1.1 or 2.0 compatible bi-directional audio connectivity
48V phantom power
High-quality mic preamps
100mm channel and master faders
3.5mm and 1/4" headphone jacks
Stereo aux groups for extra stereo mixes
Alternate monitoring outputs

The channel lineup

The Zed-14 has six mono channels and four stereo channels, each equipped with 100mm faders. The mono channels have standard three-pin XLR jacks, ¼" TRS line input jacks and insert points. Gain controls on the mono channels will attenuate the mic input -6dB and the line input -10dB, and will boost the mic input +63dB and the line input +26dB. A 100Hz high pass filter is located below the gain control. The mic channels have high and low EQ controls with sweepable mid EQ control and four “aux” sends. The first two aux sends are pre-fader, and each is routed through an auxiliary bus. Auxes three and four are post fader. Each aux control provides up to +6dB of gain for the aux sends. In live situations where stage monitors are required or outboard effects units are used, the aux sends are handy for providing additional mixes. Each mono channel has a pan adjustment and a pre-fade listen switch that allows for cueing of the channel source. The pre-fade listen is routed to the headphones, and the incoming audio level is shown on the LR meters.

The four stereo channels on the mixer provide numerous extra features besides those common to typical mixer input channels. All four have high and low frequency EQ, balance, mute and pre-fade listen capabilities. Each channel has ¼" TRS line input jacks paired above the channel strip. When the left jack is used alone, the channel automatically becomes a mono channel. Above channels 7-8 and 9-10 are pairs of RCA jacks labeled ST RTN and 2TRK RTN respectively. The inputs both accommodate stereo return feeds from audio sources for monitoring recordings or for playback of incidental music at a live event.

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