There are a lot of compact digital mixers on the market these days, offering all manner of configurations and various interfacing options. They’re really only limited to the physical connectivity on offer, as the software capabilities can always grow with the needs of the user base. Now, I’ll come out and say it right from the get-go: I have seen and used my fair share of various compact digital mixers, but I certainly believe the one that most took my fancy over the last ten years is the Allen & Heath Qu-SB compact digital mixer.
For those of you who have not yet had the chance to look at one of these units, I highly recommend it. The physical build of the interface and the software integration make it a standout device in a marketplace that understands quality and knows that meeting the user’s needs is paramount. Allen & Heath has always been known for quality builds in its mixers, and its offerings in the digital realm are no different, with the Qu-SB leading the way for compact digital mixing.
I do love the design of the hardware unit. It reminds me somewhat of the classic tilt-back shape of a number of analogue synthesisers I used to own. It’s tough enough to be used on the stage floor in place of a traditional analogue stage box, meaning you don’t need long cable runs and expensive multicores to get the signals from all your microphones to your mixing position. For installation purposes, it can easily be connected to a LAN via network cables and accessed from any network connection within the building, making it ideal for larger corporate installs and large venues alike.
The Qu-SB is very well constructed and offers more I/O options than any other device I have come across for its size. With 16 microphone inputs, it’s going to take care of most live setups, although it can be linked via a dSnake connection to another device expanding the system to 32 microphone or line inputs. The same goes for outputs, with a good selection on offer. Ten mix outputs and a master stereo output are supplied on the device, allowing for front of house and plenty of monitoring options to be catered for. Plus, it acts as a USB interface to a computer for live recording of your performances. This means you can capture every moment of your set to play back later, whilst mixing at the same time. When not performing live, it makes an ideal recording device in the rehearsal room.
I don’t usually like to refer to any software platform as an ‘app’, as that tends to leave people thinking it is a simple platform. But with newer computer operating systems changing their labels on what a piece of software is called, the term ‘app’ now means you are getting something far more complex than just a promotional device on your mobile phone. One thing is for certain: this is not a simple mixing app. It is a fully fledged mixing solution and gives you total control over all physical inputs and outputs, as well as virtual channels within the software. There are a number of different apps that can be run with this device to achieve various goals.
The Qu-Pad app gives you instant access to all your mixing parameters on one iPad, so you can roam around the venue and make changes to any element of the mix as you please. You have four effects engines within the software, offering a wide range of dynamic, EQ and creative effects for your mix. Up to 11 monitor mixes can be created, with six able to be reassigned as three stereo pairs. Also, with the Qu-You app, up to seven separate iPads can be run on stage for different monitor mixes, allowing performers to adjust their individual mix to suit their needs, while being locked out from other critical mix functions.
Even better, Allen & Heath has teamed up with Sennheiser, Shure and Audio-Technica to create a library of microphone preamp presets ready to suit a wide range of their microphones. Simply select the microphone you’re using and apply the intended purpose, and the software sets up the EQ just right to meet the criteria. Not only can you save your room EQ settings and patches for mix setups, but you can also easily adjust the microphone settings to instantly fit your rig.
The Qu-SB pretty much takes the guesswork out of the equation for those who may not have advanced engineering skills. Digital mixing is now very much an option for every musician on any stage, allowing you to add recording to the mixing process without the need to worry about splitters, additional computers, software or a recording engineer. It offers a number of recording options, including a fully-fledged 18 channel multi-track option at 24bit/48kHz quality. Playback is also on offer through the Qu-SB, so you can bring limitless amounts of pre-recorded music to you events.
In short, this unit is a musician's dream when it comes to live performance and recording. You can be the engineer from anywhere in the room, including the middle of the stage. Save your presets for each venue and setup, and there is very little work involved the next time.
Hits and Misses
Excellent array of inputs and outputs
Well-designed control software
Excellent microphone preset library