This online bonus material supplements the review of the Allen & Heath ZED-14 in the March 2008 issue of EM.
About the Hybrids
As I discovered in my examination of analog mixers with digital interfaces in the September 2007 article “Meet the Hybrids,” small-format mixers that connect to computers are becoming ubiquitous. But tracking flexibility comes at a price. The Mackie Onyx series offers a lot of power with its add-on FireWire card, which allows every mixer channel to be assigned its own discrete recording track. (The smallest Onyx, the 1220, with the FireWire card has a list price of $1,209.98.) Newer hybrids like M-Audio''s NRV-10 ($899.95) even route tracks returning from the computer to individual mixer channels for processing.
Allen & Heath''s ZED-14 ($499) rivals these mixers in sound quality, but its basic USB 1.1 interface limits its recording capability to two tracks at any one time along with two tracks of playback. Of course, that''s all many live-sound engineers and band members need when recording a performance. After a live-sound mix is fine-tuned at a sound check, for example, a basic 2-track recording can be more representative of the band''s sound and presentation (and certainly more convenient to record) than a multitrack capture.
From that perspective, 2-track recording will make sense for many musicians, and the ZED series'' sound quality should appeal to anyone looking for a good value in analog mixers that have some digital capability. With an upgrade such as a USB 2.0 or FireWire interface and an extra port, which would allow two ZED-14s to be connected simultaneously for 4-track recording (or higher track counts), the smallest of the ZED siblings would be hard to beat, even at a somewhat higher price. As analog mixers move toward increased interoperability with computers, it will be interesting to see if the ZED series'' interface capabilities catch up with its impressive sonics while maintaining its even more impressive price range.