Audient Zen Console Review

Apr 27, 2010 2:26 PM, By Barry Rudolph



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The Audient Zen offers 32 faders, an onboard VCA stereo compressor and many routing options.

The Audient Zen offers 32 faders, an onboard VCA stereo compressor and many routing options.

The all-analog Audient Zen is the little brother of the English company’s large-frame, in-line ASP8024 console. David Dearden and Gareth Davies, the founders of DDA, designed both desks. The Zen console is purpose-built for DAW-based studios and retains many of the ASP8024’s pro features, but at a much lower price.

Zen’s powder-coated, all-steel case has a footprint of about 29 inches square and is 11 inches high. The top control surface is hinged and lifts up like a car hood for access. Zen has an internal switching power supply that’s convection-cooled—no fans.

The console’s back panel is populated with quality XLR and TRS audio connectors—no DB-25 connectors here. If the back of the console is kept accessible, it is usable as a patchbay with all inputs, outputs, insert points and monitoring connections readily available.

The Zen is a dual-input design with 16 100mm Alps faders; it accommodates up to 32 channels to the stereo mix bus via the DAW input and the Alternate Input path on each channel strip. It has 16 mic preamps and comes with/without HUI-based automation and 100mm motorized faders replacing the stock faders.

The 16 mic pre’s offer switchable 75Hz highpass filters, direct XLR outputs and up to 66 dB of gain, plus an additional 15 dB available within the channel strip. They are the same Class-A preamps with discrete transistor input stages that are used in Audient’s ASP8024 console and the ASP008 8-channel mic preamp unit. There’s a stereo A/D converter option with both AES/EBU and S/PDIF co-ax and Toslink outputs. The ADC supports up to 96 kHz (or 192 kHz under external word clock). Zen is upgradeable to 5.1 mixing if you connect an Audient ASP510 surround monitor controller to the DB9 connector on the back of the console.

Each Zen channel strip features four direct channel-output routing options, individual channel VU meter select, polarity flip, insert in/out, channel line/DAW input flip and alternate input routing. This console has no onboard equalizers or globally switched preconfigured operating modes.

Parallel processing is possible on every channel strip through use of the always-active channel insert send output. This would connect to a processor input, with the returned processed audio routed to the alternate input path to be summed with the original signal into the stereo mix bus.

Also standard are eight bus/group outputs: a stereo master mix bus, two additional stereo buses and two mono buses. All group/buses have inserts with a unique, switchable parallel summing mode where the unprocessed send signal is summed equally with the processed signal coming back on the insert return.

There are also four aux sends with full +4dB line-level outputs suitable for deriving additional mixes or feeds to pro gear. There are insert patch points available for all of the buses, as well as a back panel stereo mix bus. As Zen can simultaneously send and return audio to multiple designations, you do not lose a certain function at the expense of gaining another.

An onboard VCA-based stereo compressor/limiter is normaled across the stereo mix bus, but you can repatch it across any channel(s) or buses. Looking like the famed SSL bus compressor, this compressor is similar to those used in Audient’s ASP8024 and Sumo products.

The monitoring section has talkback with built-in mic, slate and cue/routing systems, and Solo in Place, AFL and PFL solo modes. The features continue with polarity invert, mono summing of the monitor speakers, L/R speaker mutes, four external stereo audio sources including a handy jack for an iPod, three different monitor speaker sets, adjustable dim and mute buttons, and a set of recessed trim pots for setting an 85dB SPL calibrated monitoring level switchable at the touch of a button.

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