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Allen & Heath ZED-428

Sep 3, 2009 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

An analog console gets advanced digital features.

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Allen & Heath ZED-428

Computer technology has fertilized the ground for the development of multi¬purpose mixing consoles that are not limited in terms of application to live sound or recording. Surprisingly, this versatility is not just relegated to the ranks of digital mixers. There are indeed analog consoles that benefit from computer connectivity. Among these is Allen & Heath’s (A&H) ZED-428, a larger and more sophisticated big brother to the A&H ZED-14, which I reviewed in May 2008. Among the features that are upgraded in the ZED-428 is a 4-band EQ with two sweepable mid bands—borrowed directly from A&H’s popular GL2400 console. The ZED-14 has a 3-band EQ section. There are two major features that are shared by both mixers: the DuoPre mic/line preamp and the capacity to route signals both to and from a computer via USB. The latter is a powerful feature that expands the usefulness of the console and makes it very worthy of consideration.

The ZED-428 is 22in. deep, 37in. wide, and 5in. tall. Measuring in at just more than 3ft. wide, this console can be said to have a small footprint, particularly considering its 28 inputs and four buses. Each of the console’s 24 mono input channels feature (from top to bottom along the channel strip) a 1/4in. balanced direct output, an XLR mic input, a 48V phantom power switch, a 1/4in. balanced line input, and a 1/4in. insert. I like the fact that there are analog direct outputs for multitrack recording, making the console vastly more useful. Continuing down the channel strip, there is a gain knob, a 100Hz HPF switch, and the 4-band EQ. The high shelf corner is at 12kHz, and the low shelf corner is at 80Hz. The HM and LM bands boost or cut 15dB and are sweepable from 500Hz to 15kHz and 35Hz to 1kHz, respectively. South of the EQ section are the console’s six auxiliary sends. Auxiliaries 1 and 2 are permanently prefader, 5 and 6 are permanently postfader, and 3 and 4 are switchable (as a pair). Continuing on below the auxiliaries are the principal controls: a pan pot, a mute switch, a prefader listen (PFL) switch, signal and peak LED, a 100mm fader, and switches that determine to which buses the channel’s signal are routed—L-R, M (mono), 1-2, 3-4, or any combination of these.

The console also features two stereo inputs, bringing a total of four more signals into the mix. These inputs are virtually identical to the mono inputs, but they lack direct outputs, phantom power, inserts, and sweepable mids (HM is fixed at 2.5kHz and LM at 250Hz). Both RCA and 1/4in. balanced inputs are available for the stereo channels. Recessed switches determine whether the stereo inputs are routed through the stereo channels or directly to L-R bus. The console also features two matrix outputs, which deliver a mix of the console’s four groups, left and right buses, and the mono bus. Each matrix mix has a master level knob and an after-fader listen (AFL) switch. There are also auxiliary master knobs for all six auxiliaries, along with AFL switches for each. The console’s four groups each feature a fader, an AFL switch, a mute switch, a four-segment LED meter, a pan knob, and routing switches to determine whether groups are routed to the L-R or M bus or both. The master section features faders for L, R, and M, along with mute switches and four-segment LED meters for each. A headphone source switch and level knob are also found in the master section. A metering/talkback section features the console’s headphone output, XLR talkback mic input (with level control), routing switches, a 12-segment LED stereo meter, and a PFL/AFL active LED as well. In terms of outputs, there are balanced outputs for the six auxiliaries, the four groups (with inserts), the three primary outputs (also with inserts), and the two matrix outputs. There are also RCA 2-track inputs and outputs.

The USB section of the console features switches that determine which signals are sent via USB—giving the options of the L-R bus (both pre- and postfader), auxiliaries 1-2 or 5-6, or matrix 1-2. There is a switch that determines whether stereo input 3 receives the input of its own RCA stereo pair or the signal from USB. There is also a switch that determines whether playback is fed by the console’s 2-track RCA input pair or USB. A switch determines whether playback is fed to the L-R bus, and a knob determines level of playback. There is also a PFL button for playback.

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