“The ZED-10FX offers a lot for its size.”
Allen & Heath, renowned British mixing console manufacturer, recently released this versatile mixer alongside IK Multimedia’s software guitar amp simulator offering a tasty package for live sound and recording guitarists.
The ZED-10FX is a neat little machine, having all but the power switch top-mounted. Like other high-end consoles, each stage has its own vertical circuit board, making it quite rugged.
It houses four mono channels, each with a mic and line input, high-pass filter, three-band EQ, FX and aux send, pan and channel level. A global 48V phantom power supply can power the mic inputs. Also present are two stereo channels with line inputs and simplified EQ. Channels 3 and 4’s line inputs have high impedance FET pre-amps specifically for DI-ing guitars.
The first stereo input offers both left and right ¼ inch jack and RCA phono inputs, the second offers jack inputs, a USB input and additional Playback jack inputs for playing CD music between live sets or as a ‘tape’ return from your DAW.
A generous inclusion is the high-quality ZED Effects Processor containing 16 adjustable presets. Fourteen are delays and reverbs and two are a flanger and a chorus.
The Master section is impressive, with separate level controls for the Main Mix, Playback bus (which can be sent to the Aux) and Aux Mix. Headphones can receive the Main Mix, Playback, Aux or Record buses and the Monitor bus can receive either the Headphone or Main Mix.
Output consists of a ‘Main Mix’ stereo XLR out, a stereo RCA ‘Monitor’ out, RCA ‘Record’ out, a jack ‘FX’, an ‘Aux’ out and a USB in/out for interfacing with one’s computer. It uses ‘direct wave’ drivers which use more CPU than an ASIO driver but still work well. [The ASIO4ALL universal driver can also be used according to the Allen & Heath website, Ed]
A nice addition is that the signal flow is mapped out with little arrows.
The channel pre-amps are very clear and warm for a mixer of this class and the EQs sweet, even at extreme settings, which is always welcome.
The reverb and delay combination sound fantastic and, although tailored more for vocals, are equally good on guitars. Rarely do I find a well-voiced flanger, but this one is particularly nice for a subtle electric guitar warble. The chorus, on the other hand, is a bit ‘80s’.
The guitar inputs on channels 3 and 4 are excellent. Plugging in my Les Paul, I was struck by the fact that it has a better clean sound than some tube amps. Moreover, cranking the input gain unleashes a vintage-esque fuzzy overdrive that, when added with the reverb, approximates Eric Clapton’s Cream-era tone. It certainly offers a lot for its size.
For a small gig one could use the four mic inputs for vocals or guitars, (alternately DI bass and guitars into GTR 1 and 2) while running keyboards or backing tracks from a CD or computer (via USB) through the stereo channels, add reverb then provide stage monitoring via the ‘Aux’ bus. All channels can be sent to the ‘Record’ bus which has its own output. Handy if you need to record the gig. You could also record via USB, then choose to monitor ‘Playback’, the ‘Aux’ or ‘Record’ buses via headphones.
For recording projects, layer sounds by plugging your guitar into the GTR input on channel 3 or 4 and sending to AmpliTube in your DAW via the USB out then add vocals through a mic input, adding EQ and reverb on the way in, all the while listening back via the ‘Playback’ bus.
AmpliTube X Gear
The AmpliTube software does not in fact ship with the mixer. It is available for download direct from IK Multimedia’s website. Once installed you simply retrieve an activation key on Allen & Heath’s website by simply entering your mixer serial number.
This version, AmpliTube X Gear, is advertised as the first expandable amp simulator module. It really means that it integrates all current and future versions of AmpliTube in one shell – X Gear only comes with three amp models and not the 150 they advertise. For that – buy the other versions of AmpliTube. This does seem a bit sneaky but X Gear is still a nice start.
It handles sample rates of up to an impressive 192 kHz. The interface is well laid out and the amps, while not exact representations of the real amps, still look pretty stylish, with the AmpliTube logo always prominent.
Included are an accurate tuner, three pedals (wah, overdrive and chorus), three amps (British Tube, American Tube and BA-500) and their corresponding cabs. Mic and mic placement options are included, although not as broad a range as on other amp sims.
The interface is very intuitive to use. Within minutes of plugging into my soundcard and opening AmpliTube I was getting some decent sounds. There’s very little to say, really. The British Tube approximates a Marshall, the American Tube a Fender Twin, the BA-500 an Ampeg bass amp. A nice feature is the ability to change the power amp tubes from an EL34 to a 6L6. You do notice a difference in response. While the overall tones on offer sound fuller than say Native Instrument’s Guitar Rig (which can be harsh and muddy at times), some distorted tones (particularly from the Tube Screamer-derived overdrive pedal ) suffer from the same one-dimensionality as some amps sims. That’s not to say there aren’t tasty molten distorted tones to be found here. It just requires tweaking.
With the ZED10-FX it’s great that Allen & Heath maintain quality with their cheaper range as it sticks out from others of its class with its pro-quality effects and abundant routing capabilities. On the other hand, without owning all the previous versions of AmpliTube, it’s hard to know what X Gear brings to the world of software amp sims. Sonically it’s great, but doesn’t replace similar plug-ins.
Distributor : Audiosure
Tel : 011-7904600 | 021-5551617 or 031-5699260 | 051-4304455
Web : www.audiosure.co.za