We can always count on Allen & Heath to throw some top-notch digital mixers our way. Standing up to its reputation, the company unveiled its new 96kHz SQ digital mixers. Designed for live sound, AV, and installation, the SQ-5 and SQ-6 are based on A&H’s XCVI 96kHz FPGA engine – a custom DSP capable of sub-0.7ms latency and variable bit depth amidst high channel mix counts – with plenty of FX for processing, at that.
The DSP also allows for real-time multi-track recording on USB sticks and drives the DEEP processing engine, which is all about posh compressor and preamp emulations – presented as plug-ins to be used on the mixer’s inputs and mix channels without tacking on additional latency or having to set up third-party processing. Neato!
Both consoles have the same core feature set, but the SQ-6 is the more spacious of the two, with 24 preamps and 25 faders compared to the 16 preamps and 17 faders on the SQ-5. Still, both can be expanded into 48-channel units with A&H’s remote expanders, in addition to providing optional Dante networking and several card formats.
While the mixers offer plenty of traditional hands-on control with faders and knobs, the main means of operation is the capacitive touchscreen with illuminated rotary controls and several softkeys (8 for the SQ-5, 16 for the SQ-6). The screen makes it easy to configure channel and mix layouts, complete with color displays and custom names for each channel strip.
The mixing consoles also function as 32×32 96Hz digital audio interfaces, comliant with Core Audio (Mac) and ASIO (Windows) for easy integration with your computer. This allows for multitrack recording, running backing tracks, or doing virtual soundchecks.
Construction-wise, the SQ-5 and SQ-6 feature 3-tier, all-metal chassis and aluminum light bars to be used as part of demanding studio and live environments. Safe to say, you probably don’t want to have one of these accidentally dropped onto your head.
Overall, these Allen & Heath mixers pack some serious punch and we’re delighted to see digital mixing technology come this far, where a mixing desk practically rivals a studio computer in terms of processing and connectivity power. It’s sensible use of cutting-edge technology to give more flexibility and convenience to anyone involved in big-time mixing.
Price and availability
The SQ-5 and SQ-6 will be available from November 2017, starting at $2999 for the SQ-5. That’s a lot of money, but these models are targeted towards audio professionals, thus the price is set accordingly.