ALLEN & HEATH XONE:92

I've had my eye on Allen & Heath mixers for a long time. Way back in the early '90s, when I was just a kid working at a music store, I knew I wanted one
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I've had my eye on Allen & Heath mixers for a long time. Way back in the early '90s, when I was just a kid working at a music store, I knew I wanted one — I'd watch the UPS guy cart in massive Allen & Heath mixers, hoping that one day I'd scrape together enough dough to get one of those sexy consoles in my studio. Fast forward about 15 years, and that same British outfit with a reputation for building some of the best live mixers in the world is now hell bent on cornering the DJ market, and it looks like it's succeeding.Allen & Heath's Xone-series DJ mixers are rapidly gaining worldwide recognition as some of the finest DJ mixers ever built. The Xone:62 and Xone:464 are installed in countless clubs around the globe, and top DJs such as Sasha and Sander Kleinenberg sing the praises of the exclusive Xone:V6, a no-holds-barred audio juggernaut that clocks in at just less than $5,000. The latest entry into the ever-expanding Xone lineup is the Xone:92, a powerhouse mixer that combines some of the best elements of the 62, the 464 and even a bit of the V6 into a single package that's still a tad on the pricey side but arguably worth every penny. Dig in and see why the Xone:92 deserves your hard-earned cash.BETWEEN THE DECKSEvery Xone-series mixer is built like a tank, featuring solid metal construction with rubberized knobs and quality faders that offer a silky-smooth glide from top to bottom. The Xone:92 is unique in that it is the only Xone mixer available in two configurations: one with standard linear faders on each channel and another with rotary knob faders. The guts of both are identical, but the knobs will set you back an extra $200.Anyone who has had a chance to work with a Xone:62 or a Xone:464 will feel right at home with the Xone:92. This newcomer has the same footprint as the Xone:62 — 12.6 inches wide and 14 inches deep — but at 3.5 inches high, the Xone:92 manages to shave more than an inch off of the 62's height. In spite of the reduction in size, the Xone:92 is a pound heftier than its sibling, tipping the scales at 13 pounds.Even though the mixer is a full inch shorter than its predecessor, the folks at Allen & Heath have managed to pack enough audio I/O in this unit to make most studio mixers jealous. The rear panel boasts inputs galore: four pairs of RCA jacks for turntables and line-level sources like CD players, two XLR microphone inputs and two pairs of ¼-inch line inputs for effects returns or musical instruments.The mixer's array of output connectors is equally impressive. The 92 has two separate main mix outputs, one with XLR connectors and another with ¼-inch outputs, each with its own discrete volume control on the front panel. Another pair of ¼-inch outputs drives the booth monitors and is likewise controlled by its own knob on the front of the unit. Two more pairs of ¼-inch jacks provide stereo sends to drive external effects processors. A stereo pair of RCA jacks rounds out the Xone's audio-output section, providing an ideal source for recording to tape or disk. There's also a lone MIDI Output jack (more on that to come).UP FRONTThe Xone:92's front panel is a forest of knobs, sliders and buttons — so many, in fact, that making sense of it all can be a little bit overwhelming at first. Fortunately, it's mostly straightforward, clearly labeled and easy to use. The bulk of the Xone:92 is occupied by the four input channels. Each channel sports a 4-band EQ, two auxiliary sends, an input-gain control and an incredibly smooth fader. The Xone:62's clunky studio-style fader caps have been replaced with taller and narrower caps similar to those found on mixers like the Pioneer DJM-600 and the Rane MP 44, and the length of the faders themselves has been increased an additional 20 mm for more detailed control. And the quality of the faders is extraordinary: They offer enough resistance to really make it feel like you have complete control of the mix, but they are smooth enough that a gentle flick of a fingertip can send them flying to the top of their range.All four input channels can be independently assigned to the Penny+Giles crossfader using toggle switches located directly underneath the EQ knobs. Scratch DJs will appreciate that a small dial next to the crossfader can be used to switch the fader from standard to fast-attack mode for scratch- and cut-style mixing. If you tend not to use the crossfader while mixing, it can be bypassed entirely so that you don't need to worry about knocking it around while you're mixing with the vertical faders.THE GREAT EQUALIZEREach of the Xone:92's four main channels features a 4-band EQ with high-, high-mid-, low-mid- and low-frequency gain control. The knobs are a little tightly spaced and could be spread out just a bit more, but once I grew accustomed to the layout, I didn't have any problems with knob clearance. When the EQ knobs are turned to the right, all four bands offer a gentle 6 dB of boost to keep overzealous DJs from wrecking the sound system. When set fully counterclockwise, the midrange bands attenuate the signal by 36 dB apiece, and the high and low EQs offer a complete kill that is perfect for wrangling unruly kick drums during a mix.I do, however, have something of a bone to pick with the Xone:92's lack of an EQ engage button. The Xone:62 had a switch under the EQ strip on each channel that let you cut the EQ in or out at the push of a button, and I used it on nearly every mix. I'll often disengage the EQ on the track I'm mixing out of, turn the bass and treble down slightly and use the EQ button to cut out bass and highs simultaneously when mixing in a new track. It's not a huge issue, but it's a nice feature, and I'm a bit baffled as to why Allen & Heath would remove such a useful function from a mixer that goes the extra mile to have it all.FILTER SECTIONI'm happy to report that the Xone:92 has absolutely no onboard effects. That's right: none. I have never been a big fan of built-in effects processors, because I think that, by and large, they sound terrible, and from the looks of it, the folks at Allen & Heath agree. Instead of tossing some cheap digital effects chip in the mix, they've brought their studio-mixer expertise to bear and included two comprehensive analog-style filter sections. Both filters are identical and offer low-, mid- and highpass settings with adjustable resonance. These filter sections offer all sorts of creative potential — from dramatic, high-resonance filter sweeps that add energy to a track to smooth, low-resonance fades for smooth mixing. The Xone:92's filters are perfect for so many situations that you will wonder how you ever got along without them.But the real fun begins when you throw the Xone:92's LFOs into the mix. Each filter has a dedicated LFO that can modulate the filter's cutoff frequency, leaving your hands free to mix and tweak EQs while the LFO takes care of business. You can synchronize each LFO to your music by tapping the beat on the LFO's tap tempo button, and a handy switch lets you double the LFO's rate at the push of a button.The Xone's filters are great, but if you're still the sort of DJ who has to have effects processing on hand, don't sweat it. Just because the Xone:92 lacks internal effects doesn't mean you're left out in the cold: The 92 offers two separate auxiliary sends that can be separately adjusted on each channel and routed to external effects processors. The two extra channels at the far left of the mixer make great effects returns and even have a pair of ¼-inch inputs that are perfect for that purpose.CUE IT UPA DJ mixer is worthless without a comprehensive monitor and cue section, and the Xone:92 delivers all of the standard functions that you have come to expect on modern DJ mixers, along with some luxury extras that make working with the unit that much more of a pleasure. One of the most welcome improvements to the earlier Xone-series mixers is the addition of bright, nine-segment LED signal meters. The meters have a fast, accurate response, and the LEDs are so bright that a blind person could see them at high noon in the desert — well, you get the idea. You'll have no problem finding this mixer in a dark club.Every channel can be assigned to the cue section with a large illuminated Cue button at the top of each fader. Multiple sources can be cued together by pressing the Cue buttons simultaneously, or program material can be mixed with cue material in the headphones by using a knob above the headphone volume control at the bottom right of the mixer. You can check out cued material either pre- or post-EQ, and a split-cue function lets you listen to the master mix output in one ear and the cue source in the other.SOME MIDI OUTThe Xone:92 is an extraordinary mixer by any standard, but the truly unique feature that sets it head and shoulders above the pack is integrated MIDI control. With the huge influx of new DJ tools like Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor, the question is no longer how to mix tracks on a computer, but how to make mixing on these applications as fun and intuitive as playing on a traditional DJ rig. Until now, the answer has been to purchase an external MIDI controller, but the Xone:92 makes it easy to take control of these applications without toting around any extra gear. This feature was actually inspired by none other than Richie Hawtin himself, who had made some MIDI modifications to his Xone:62 and actually advised the design team at Allen & Heath.Getting MIDI up and running on the Xone:92 is simple. I tested it out with Live, and the folks at Allen & Heath have conveniently provided a handy online guide that walks you through using the Xone:92 with Live. It couldn't be any more simple: I connected my PC to the Xone with a MIDI cable, mapped Live's faders to controls on the Xone with Live's MIDI Learn function and configured Live to synchronize to incoming tempo. Once I had the program properly configured, turning knobs and moving faders on the Xone was just like using Live with a dedicated MIDI controller — and without all the hassle of cabling up a separate box.The Xone offers the unique added benefit of transmitting MIDI Clock. When functioning as a master clock, the Xone can synchronize external programs to the bpm that you tap in with the Xone's Tap Tempo button. The unit also has a tempo-adjust knob that functions just like the pitch control on a turntable. Tempo adjust is a handy little tool that helps a lot when matching prerecorded tracks with computer-based music, but I'd also like to see Allen & Heath include a momentary toggle switch to nudge the tempo up and down. Something like that would much more closely approximate the fingers-on-the-vinyl feel of speeding up or slowing down a record, a perfect complement to the tempo knob's “riding the pitch” role.I'm a big fan of the Xone:92's MIDI implementation, but I have to admit that I was a bit crestfallen when I realized that only the crossfader and the filter-cutoff knobs transmit MIDI-controller data. If you have the stones to take the mixer apart, the tempo-adjust knob can be configured to send controller data by setting a jumper, but you then lose the ability to utilize that knob as a pitch control. It makes me a little sad to look at all of the wonderful knobs and faders on the 92 and realize that so few can be used in a MIDI setup. If Allen & Heath could just take the next step and configure every knob and fader on the Xone to send MIDI, it would really bump this mixer from the “should have” to the “must have” category.I certainly don't mean to come down hard on the Xone:92 here, because all things considered, this mixer's MIDI implementation is truly extraordinary for seamlessly integrating live decks with computer mixing. Yes, it's light on assignable controllers, but when you consider that this is territory that competing mixers haven't even touched yet, it becomes clear that the Xone:92 really stands out from the crowd as an excellent choice for forward-thinking DJs. Those who plan to combine traditional DJ methods with computer-based sequencing should seriously consider the Xone:92 as the centerpiece of their setup.IN THE XONEHaving used a Xone:62 for a couple of years, I can safely say that the Xone:92 is a significant upgrade in terms of sound quality and usability. It took me a little while to get used to some of the new design features — toggles instead of buttons for channel and crossfader assignment, momentary switches for filter and cue selection — but, ultimately, these changes all improve on the 62's already classic design. The LFOs on each filter section are a welcome addition, and I'm already plotting and scheming about how to integrate the Xone:92's MIDI-control capabilities into my DJ sets.Perhaps more than anything else, the main thing that I noticed is that this mixer really sounds incredible. When I swapped the Xone:92 in place of my Xone:62, I immediately noticed a huge improvement in sonic quality. Everything I played through the 92 sounded fuller, warmer and richer than before. The 92 delivers a smooth and creamy high end, never harsh or fatiguing, and a firm low end that's full and round but never lacking in punch. I don't know much about the internal workings of the 92, but from a sonic perspective, I'd say it's closer in quality to the $5,000 Xone:V6 than any of the earlier Xone models. It's a night-and-day upgrade from the Xone:62 that makes me want to play records all night just to hear how good they sound through this new mixer!I've played on quite a few mixers in my 12-year career as a professional DJ, and after spending a month with the Xone:92, I can safely say that this is without question one of the finest pieces of DJ equipment I've ever used. With plenty of inputs and outputs, top-flight filters, integrated MIDI control and unparalleled sonic fidelity, the Xone:92 is an extraordinary piece of gear that will no doubt leave sound techs at clubs around the world wondering if it isn't time to upgrade.As with any piece of music gear, the Xone:92 is not completely perfect — although it is about as close as anything I have ever seen — and it's definitely on the pricey side for all but the most dedicated DJs. These minor flaws are completely eclipsed, however, by its innovative features and pristine sound. If you are looking for a DJ mixer that's second to none in sonic quality and creative flexibility, look no further than the Allen & Heath Xone:92. It's worth every penny.Product SummaryALLEN & HEATHXONE:92 > $2,000Pros: Amazing sound quality. MIDI control. Two auxiliary sends. Outstanding filter section. Plenty of audio I/O. Long faders with smooth travel. Tap-tempo-controlled LFOs on filters.Cons: No EQ engage switch. MIDI transmitted only on a handful of knobs and faders.Contact:www.xone.co.uk


DJ MIDI >A truly unique feature of the Xone:92 is its ability to send MIDI data. Users can actually use the mixer as a basic control surface for programs such as Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor.


A LITTLE IN AND OUT >The Xone:92 has all of the I/O that most users will ever need. The unit includes four sets of line and phone inputs (one each per channel), four sets of stereo outputs (mix 1, mix 2, booth and record), two sets of mic inputs and more.