Allen & Heath GS-R24M Studio Recording Mixer Review

Mar 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Steve La Cerra

HYBRID DESIGN FEATURES OPTIONAL DAW I/O, VALVE CHANNELS

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The GS-R24M from Allen & Heath exemplifies the concept of a “hybrid” console, merging analog and digital mixing capabilities with onboard A/D and D/A. The console boasts a comprehensive analog feature set, and adding the optional FireWire+ADAT interface card allows the GS-R24M to serve as your DAW interface, providing 32 FireWire I/Os at sample rates up to 96 kHz. The GS-R24M also incorporates DAW fader and transport control. That’s quite a bit in one package. While I don’t have the space to detail every feature, we’ll take a look at the major points.

Each of the GS-R24M’s 24 mono input channels has a rear panel TRS line in, direct output and insert (tip=send, ring=return), plus an XLR mic input. Preamp controls include gain, 48-volt phantom power, polarity reverse (which applies to both line and mic signals) and a 100Hz highpass filter. The 4-band EQ features fixed high (12kHz) and low-shelf (80Hz) bands, parametric high-midrange and low-midrange, and an EQ on/off switch. Six aux sends are configured as follows: aux 1 and 2 are pre-fader, auxes 3 and 4 may be switched pre or post-fader, and auxes 5 and 6 are post-fader but may be changed to pre-fader using internal jumpers. Bus assignment includes L/R, groups 1 through 4 and an independent mono bus. Directly beneath the bus assignment are four Interface Configuration switches, which I’ll discuss. At the bottom of the channel are mute and solo switches, and a 100mm touch-sensitive, motorized fader.

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Two rear panel stereo inputs (TRS and RCA) are provided for each stereo channel strip. Stereo inputs 1 and 3 may be routed directly to the L/R bus or to the channel where they sum with stereo inputs 2/4 respectively, and have access to 4-band (fixed) EQ, auxes, bus routing and (non-motorized) fader. Stereo inputs 1 and 2 are controlled by the channel strip called Stereo 1. Stereo inputs 3 and 4 are controlled by the channel strip called Stereo 2. Confused? So was I.

YOO TOOB
Channels 29 and 30 are “Valve Channels” that source from XLR, ¼-inch or DAW return inputs. These channels have phantom power, polarity reverse, level, pan and bus assign. The high-impedance (10MΩ) ¼-inch input is line-level, but a switch boosts the input sensitivity for DI use, which sounded great on synths and clean guitar. A drive control allows you to smack the tube amplification stage hard for some tube mojo, but the effect is subtle. Cranking the drive on DAW tracks added some attitude to snare drum or a bit of growl to a bass DI, but was not kind to kick drums. Access to the tube for replacement is from the bottom panel.

A recessed switch labeled 17-24=Grp+Aux swaps channels 17-24 with the four group outs and the four aux outs—making it easy to group channels for recording onto the same DAW track. During a mix session I used this feature to send from the console to a reverb in the DAW.

THE FOUR BUTTONS
Four Interface Configuration switches (A, B, C and D) determine routing options for each channel. A clear understanding of their functions is crucial to exploiting the GS-R24M’s capabilities. When the FireWire+ADAT card is set to FireWire Only, every input has a “FireWire direct out” to the DAW, and a FireWire return from the DAW. The card supports other modes: ADAT Only, where the 32 FireWire I/Os are replaced with ADAT I/Os; and ADAT+FireWire, where buses 1-24 are FireWire and 25-32 are ADAT.

Think of the GS-R24M as an inline analog desk where the multitrack tape sends and returns have been replaced with FireWire DAW sends and returns. When all switches are up, the GS-R24M behaves like a “normal” analog mixer, routing mic/line signals through the channel and bus assignment, and providing latency-free monitoring. The bonus here is that the DAW sends are active, tapping the channel post-preamp/HPF and pre-everything else—enabling the desk to be used for live mixing (house and monitor mixes) while the FireWire sends are bused into your choice of DAW, undisturbed by EQ or inserts. Because the analog direct outs are also active, you could simultaneously record to a backup system in critical situations. Tré kewl.






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