November 2012 Issue
Road Tests

Allen & Heath GLD Digital Mixing System

Allen & Heath GLD Digital Mixing SystemThe GLD digital audio mixing system is designed for small- to mid-sized venues, tours and rental companies looking for a fully featured system that’s affordable, yet easy to learn, expandable and configurable for a variety of specific applications.

 

Central to the system is the GLD-80 mixer, which houses the mix surface and enough onboard DSP to process 48 input channels, 30 buses, 20 mix outs and eight RackFX internal effects devices — each with dedicated return channels — for a total of 56 mixable sources. All inputs offer control of polarity, HPF, gating, parametric EQ, compression and delay; all outputs have parametric and graphic EQs, compression and delay. Perks such as 16 DCA mute groups, stereo USB recording/playback, onboard signal generator and onscreen 31-band RTA (follows selected PAFL source) are all standard.

The mix surface has 20 faders in four layers for 80 freely assignable strips; an 8.4-inch color touch screen; 10 assignable SoftKeys; dedicated keys for quick Copy/Paste/Reset of mixes and processing parameters; an assignable panel with analog-style hardware controls for trim/EQ/dynamics/HPF; and eight-color backlit virtual write-on LCD strips for channel names/routing/status.


CHECK OUT THIS GLD-80 TOUR ON FOH-TV

The GLD-80 is in a 29-by-23-inch (WxD), 35-pound chassis. The surface of the GLD-80 is clean and built for road use, protected by a hefty rubber material on the side handles and the front lip of the console. This same material is also used for all of the rotary knobs. Everything is clearly labeled in bold text and is accompanied by a “squishy” selection button.

The color 8-inch touch screen with the “from scratch” interface design is well-thought-out, giving direct access to all of the key functions you need. The 20 faders each have a write-on display for custom names and colors for quick identification. You can customize the entire mix surface, taking your 20 faders and assigning them to be whatever you would like them to be (inputs, mix masters, DCAs, listen wedge) using the drag-and-drop interface.

Making Connections

The GLD-80’s rear panel has eight inputs and 10 outputs plus an option slot for one of several optional networking cards for ACE, MADI, EtherSound, MMO or Dante interfacing. I/O can be expanded with one or more AudioRacks (each with up to 40 remote mic inputs) remotely located via Cat-5 cabling using Allen & Heath’s dSNAKE protocol. The GLD-AR2412 AudioRack is the main I/O rack and adds 24 mic/line inputs, 12 line outputs and a Monitor port compatible with Aviom’s personal monitor system. Another option, the GLD-AR84 AudioRack, adds an extra eight mic/line inputs and four line outs; these can be located either at the GLD-80 mixer or at the GLD-AR2412 stage box.

When equipped with the GLD-AR2412 or the GLD-AR84, the GLD-80 provides control of up to 48 input channels: 44 XLR inputs, with four being local mic/line, and a pair of stereo RCA inputs. The 10 local outputs include four XLR line, a stereo RCA, as well as S/PDIF and AES3 digital output pairs. Expansion ports include a dSNAKE port to an AR2412 and another local expander port for a AR84. The slot also supports the Waves plug-ins card.

Getting in Touch

The mixer’s touch screen really comes in handy with a console of this size. Do be warned that you must calibrate the screen before using the mixer — otherwise, setting up the board will be a nightmare. However, once prepped, the user interface of the screen is one of the cleanest layouts I have ever encountered on a digital console. It’s sharp and bright, the control sections are laid out in a very systematic order, and having the ability to drag-and-drop I/O routings (among other options) is wonderful for ease of customization. The physical layout just adds to the console. The space saver such as the Q-depth is nice, especially with the very solid rotary knobs and squishy select/mix buttons.

The 100mm faders are smooth, have a good solid build, a tight feel and they move quickly. Having 12 faders for your main input control is workable. But the nice thing is that you can swap out your custom layers to switch your mix bus control section to additional input channel control. You also have quick access to set channels pre or post and to assign them to mix using two more buttons that are located in between your fader banks. There’s a button for everything!

The fader strip rotary knobs offer control over input gain and channel pan along with two additional parameters that you can set per your liking. This can include functions such as aux or FX sends. This way you do not have to swap between channel banks within Bank 2 in order to add a little bit more of a certain send without switching to a “Sends-on-Fader” mode. You now control the send with the rotary knobs without having to leave the main layer. Also useful are the 10 user-assignable SoftKeys, which are assignable for scene recall, DCA mutes, quick SEL or Mix Access, tap tempo and more. If you constantly need a specific channel within a Mute’s reach, then hit the “Freeze in Layers” button to keep that channel in place, regardless of your layer selection. This feature is perfect for sources such as a lead vocalist, FX returns or even a paging feed.

Slick Tricks

The GLD-80 also holds a few surprises. Press the blue Mix button above your mix bus channel (followed by pressing the GEQ Fader Flip) and the Graphic EQ on Faders feature comes up. The peak red LED above each channel strip acts as an RTA for that selected send and analyzes the spectrum from 20 Hz to 16k Hz.

When working within your monitor sends, keeping your screen on the overview section offers direct access to all of your EQ and dynamics instantly from the overview tab. Note that the GLD-80 provides a 30-band graphic [there’s no 20K band, which most people would never use, anyway] on each mix bus that is already assigned in the signal path of that send. If you want this, merely hit the Engage button, a nice feature. Your parametric EQ is set up like a standard digital set up, with a HPF and four sweep parametrics per channel after switching around your low- and high-cut options.

The GLD inherits the acclaimed dynamics and FX suite from the iLive digital console. You have access to eight stereo RackFX engines with the dedicated channels and buses. This grants users with the total processing power of running up to 56 sources, 20 mix outputs and sends, with six mono FX and two stereo FX all at the same time. The entire dynamics and FX package within the GLD-80 provides low latency and is very transparent and will add exactly what you are looking for when setting parameters.

Dynamics are available on every channel, and if you’re a fan of 0+ scale compression, then this will definitely float your boat, with a choice of Hard and Soft Knee operation. The cool little dB reduction “scrolly” lets you see an actual snapshot of the current gain reduction instead of a momentary meter. It’s nice to see how hard you’re stomping them and for how long. You can also see the settings working in a non-active mode, so that you can fine tune your setting before you engage them. The Gate works in a similar fashion. I could dial in the gate the way I wanted it to sound, even with a heavy snare hitter: Nice! It was very responsive and transparent.

The method of assigning inputs or outputs on the GLD-80 is easy: Just touch, tap and drag. Again, the touch screen makes it all simple and fast.

Another big plus is having the EQ screen follow your output buses. If you’re working with either the GEQ or channel PEQ [for example] in the Overview screen on an output bus, the next channel you select is followed by the same function you were working on. To do a rapid adjustment throughout your entire monitor system just run through your mix bus “Select” buttons. Then you can tap, adjust the parameter, head to the next output and move quickly. Allen & Heath has maximized the economy of convenience with this function.

The Bottom Line

This is a very good-sounding board, and there were no weird anomalies or coloring from the console. The EQ curve was comparable to any other analog or digital counterpart that I have used on my speaker systems. Anyone should be able to EQ out this board on a variety of systems, may they be small or large.

The GLD system certainly is what Allen & Heath refers to as a “complete digital mixing system.” The customization that is offered throughout the GLD digital system gives a “every engineer welcome” kind of feel. The smooth 100mm faders, the squishy buttons and the touch screen all combine to make this a pleasure to operate and, whether for FOH or monitor mixing. The mixer has a nice selection of local inputs for smaller gigs like for corporate work, where no stagebox is needed. And again referring to the user ability in control surface customization, you can set this system to operate just the way that you do. Very good job, A&H!

Allen & Heath GLD System

Pros: Great sound; intuitive operation; flexible I/O expansion options; same FX suite as flagship iLive system.

Cons: Only 20 faders on control surface.

MSRP Pricing: GLD-80, $9,999; GLD-AR2412, $2,299; GLD-AR84, $1,199.

Website: www.allen-heath.com


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