Allen Heath SQ-series?

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Mr. Aloud
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Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:01 am

Does anyone use one of these to mix different modular voices?

I´ve burnt all the WMD PM channels for just the drums and think a proper external mixer may be better as a main mixer (as there is non-modular gear sitting around here as well...)
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Analog Prophet » Tue Mar 24, 2020 10:43 pm

I use SQ5 once a week, not for modules but for live sound at church and sometimes for recording. I have mixed feelings (!) for the SQ: It’s fantastic to work with and if I didn’t had a great mixer at my studio at home (SSL Matrix) to my synths I would consider a SQ mixer. It sounds great, is powerful and cost effective.

The downside is when use it as 32 channel sound card, it’s a bit unstable and stop recording some times (says hard disk too slow but it is a fast Macbook Pro and SSD disk that is no problem at all at other systems such Behringer X32). One moment the hard drive meter show no stress, the next moment the meter shows full stress. The problem is the same if it’s 1 or 32 channels recording. So far I researched for an answer its probably related to the USB C port at the new Mac (and probably USB 3 at newer PCs as well) because a chip and the manual refer to use a USB 2 port as newer ports can give problems, apparently not backward compatible with adaptors or adaptor cables. I use Logic for tracking. Have not tried Waves Live track uet that normally is ultra stable for tracking (but done it in my studio when it was problem with USB related problems to Logic and Pro Tools related to a certain OS release).
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Wed Mar 25, 2020 2:50 am

Thanks for the detailed reply! I´m sorry to read that the USB is giving you a headache, keeping my fingers crossed they will sort that out eventually. I know there are problems around USB2/3 for some products, but in that price range there has to be decent solution.

I hate to say it, but in my case that would probably not be a problem. I switched to Dante recently and think about the SQ as 16-ch converter with a few knobs and faders. My main concerns are about sound quality and usability. So sound quality is decent, I take that and if you consider it an alternative for matrix... ok, that´s telling.

How fast can you dial in EQ/AUX settings? That´s my main grief, it does not have the direct access like a MixWizard for example. I know the Yamaha 02R, so that "channel select" kinda works, but then again... You´re not going to pull out bass on one channel and do the opposite on another. Not a deal breaker, but the perfect mixer would drop the display and plugins, then give me the traditional layout with lots of pots instead.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Analog Prophet » Wed Mar 25, 2020 4:57 am

I maybe was unclear at one point: SQ and SSL is not comparable, it’s difference in sound quality but also in price. That doesn’t mean the SQ sounds bad, it sounds amazing and would be my choice if I was about to buy a new mixer today (I can’t afford a new SSL system today).

I don’t lack any physical knobs or buttons at the SQ, what I need is there. The touchscreen is a bonus. To edit a sounds source can be done easily and instant. It operates in 96k and makes it delightful for the ears. The output clock can be stepped down to 48k and 44k when needed (but not 88k if I remember right). The EQ sounds nice and smooth. Its a joy to work with... except the USB recordings I mentioned and something i rarely do. A Dante card will probably solve that for you. Normally we only record a stereo file to a USB stick and that works without problems.

Compared to the 02R the SQ sounds much warmer and don’t make one confused and mad diving in endless menus. The SQ is pretty much hands on and sounds great.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Wed Mar 25, 2020 5:45 am

Yes, I would expect some difference when looking at the price tags. Can´t afford SSL either and it´s probably not needed for interfacing with a modular. One of things that add to price tremendously are the pre-amps and I don´t need to amplify any microphone signal that carries concert guitar subtleties. Line signal only so far, that´s already easy and with modular it´s suddenly more about dampening and not boosting. Not saying a good ADC won´t help, but a good part of the use case doesn´t apply.

That´s why I think the SQ has an edge here, being designed for live work. It seems to be pretty tolerant regarding levels, can be rack mounted (that´s why SQ-5, for desktop SQ-6 no questions asked) and has a great routing matrix. I will look into it a bit closer. If I really miss the direct EQ access, there is always the option to pick some MIDI controller and assign the right parameters (at least from a concept perspective, need to double check the actual implementation of course).
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sun Mar 29, 2020 4:26 am

After reading the SQ MIDI Implementation it seems like you can control some parameters via MIDI, but not the EQ settings. Bummer.

Will do some hands-on testing once shops are open again. But for now the Mix Wizard is something else to keep on the list.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Analog Prophet » Sun Mar 29, 2020 2:45 pm

I worked with the SQ5 today for a program on YouTube. It confirmed my earlier feeling for it: Great and warm EQ and filter, the compressor not great but still enough ok, at least for that setup (live music, speech and ambience sound). But for live settings I avoid heavy compression. I can imagine the SQ will work great to what you described. Good luck with your mixer decision.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:24 pm

It won´t be easy to find the ideal mixer and I was close to pull the trigger on the SQ series already. However, the pain of "select, then EQ" is still remembered from my 02R days. Let´s say I have kick and bass and things are getting to pronounced at a certain frequency - it´s nice to then have two physical buttons to adjust both channels simultaneously, not only get rid of the frequency bump, but also balance both channels in one go. Constantly selecting back and forth is not that elegant. Speaking of that: Does the SQ remember the last active band when selecting channels per channel or overall? So let´s say I set band 4 on channel 1, select channel 2, set band 3 (!), jump back to channel 1, will it still be on band 4 or does it carry the focus of band 3 over?

Now, if the SQ had a complete MIDI implementation, I could hook up one or two controllers with a sufficient number of rotary encoders and be happy. Not with the current OS though. I´m not sure if my idea is super exotic or if that was probably a measure to protect the SQ series from cannibalizing the market of bigger consoles. Would be too easy to add some hardware to, say, have pots for all 4 bands at the same time. Or fully automate from DAW. Anyway, it doesn´t matter why, it´s just not there, so I either accept that or not.

In the long run, the SQ series is still attractive as a main mixer in my project studio, partly because of Dante support (and of course sound, features etc). For now, I´m in the market for a rackmountable mixer that would sit right next to the modular and be the dedicated submixer for that. Maybe even for one or another gig elsewhere.

Alternative route is to go with a MixWizard 16:2 and use a 16-channel converter on the direct outs, but I haven´t heard this mixer yet. Given the price and target audience, I´m not convinced it will offer a similar quality to the SQ, soundwise. But then again, I´d have direct access to everything and still be able to convert to Dante to get things into the DAW. And probably out as well. I´ve reached out to a few dealers and try to get opinions, let´s see what they come up with.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by dubonaire » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:43 pm

Are you aware MixWizard has a USB audio option?

https://www.allen-heath.com/ahproducts/ ... io-option/

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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:54 pm

Yes, but USB for Audio is a route purposely left around a year ago. Being on Windows (= no aggregated devices and asio4all is VERY limited) had something to do with that, but also having a number of USB MIDI interfaces and controllers eating 2 hubs already... I just decided to avoid trouble when possible, plus AoIP is really sexy (and useful). Rebuilt the whole studio around Dante (AVB was less attractive back then), then got bitten by the EuroBug on the way, and now where here :)

Thanks for pointing that out though, it´s still an option if ever I want to have a small mobile setup!

Which brings me to the question: Do you work with a MixWizard? If so, what is your experience with the sonic qualities like noise level, how effective the EQ is etc ? From what I´ve read, it´s very sturdy, every pot mounted in individually, so that part is understood. Just wondering what they mean by positioning this as live, foh, church etc.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by dubonaire » Mon Mar 30, 2020 1:51 am

Mr. Aloud wrote:
Sun Mar 29, 2020 3:54 pm
Yes, but USB for Audio is a route purposely left around a year ago. Being on Windows (= no aggregated devices and asio4all is VERY limited) had something to do with that, but also having a number of USB MIDI interfaces and controllers eating 2 hubs already... I just decided to avoid trouble when possible, plus AoIP is really sexy (and useful). Rebuilt the whole studio around Dante (AVB was less attractive back then), then got bitten by the EuroBug on the way, and now where here :)

Thanks for pointing that out though, it´s still an option if ever I want to have a small mobile setup!

Which brings me to the question: Do you work with a MixWizard? If so, what is your experience with the sonic qualities like noise level, how effective the EQ is etc ? From what I´ve read, it´s very sturdy, every pot mounted in individually, so that part is understood. Just wondering what they mean by positioning this as live, foh, church etc.
No I don't. I was using a Soundcraft MTK 22 and a ZED 22FX (which was a modular submix into the Soundcraft). Unfortunately the Soundcraft audio interface died and I was getting scratchy pots as well. Now I'm just using the A&H Zed 22 with 2 I/O which is quite limiting, but I think the sound is good, it's better than the Soundcraft was. I use a balanced nw2s::io straight into the mixer, and almost everything else is going through a patchbay beforehand at the moment. I find the A&H Zed mixer to be good quality. The pots and the faders feel good - I wish it had more routing options (which the MixWizard has). Noise is stated to be -48dBU going into the USB. I find it to be quiet enough. Noise figures for the MixWard per channel are much lower. I find A&H to be pretty upfront about their equipment. I've always thought they genuinely have the musician in mind with their gear, same with their DJ mixers.
I'm planning to get Motu AVB for my computer interface, probably a 16A plus 24Ai. When I do that I'll probably put everything into the computer first and then send outs back to the A&H and then back into the computer for printing, or I may route direct through the interface back to the mixer without going into the DAW, it will probably vary depending on what I'm doing. It seems that Motu have really lifted their game, and that combination gives me enough I/O, and I like Thunderbolt.

I think they position MixWizard for studios as well, just that I think the market for FOH is probably bigger, and they envisage their digital mixers for studio use.

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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Analog Prophet » Mon Mar 30, 2020 3:43 am

Don't remember if SQ5 remember last active band, but I think so as I pretty much work intuitive with it without thinking.

Most digital mixers has one setting of knobs for one channel that applies to selected channel. There are other options that can make the trick, but maybe not what you’re looking for such rack mixers (or sound cards such Antelope and UAD), control surfaces and computer with bundled control.

There is always an option at the SQ5 to insert some extra external analog EQ with knobs to if desired (SSL X-rack EQs sounds divine and has manual recall of the knobs). The routing matrix at the SQ5 makes it easy to digitally patch them without physical reconnect to different jacks and can be stored to memory.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by gosh » Mon Mar 30, 2020 3:25 pm

Hey, I’ve been interested in an Sq5 for a while as a studio mixer and midi controller for Kyma (the motor faders are appealing). Does putting unbalanced line level signals straight into the xlr inputs work ok? (Short cable runs).
Thanks

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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:07 pm

Can´t speak for the SQ-5 (yet), but it works fine with my ADCs who also have balanced inputs to which unbalanced synths connect.

Straight from the SQ manual:

LOCAL INPUTS:
These are numbered and accept balanced mic or line level signal. Gain, Pad and 48v Phantom Power are controlled digitally.
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Re: Allen Heath SQ-series?

Post by Analog Prophet » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:47 pm

gosh wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 3:25 pm
Hey, I’ve been interested in an Sq5 for a while as a studio mixer and midi controller for Kyma (the motor faders are appealing). Does putting unbalanced line level signals straight into the xlr inputs work ok? (Short cable runs).
Thanks
Have not tried, only used digital snake, some XLR in and out on local ports and the tele jacks stereo in (and the USB port described earlier). The XLR jacks are not combo jacks, but according to the user manual page 15 the XLR in accept mic level as well as line level. I have not payed attention to software switches between mic and line level at the preamp section other than gain, pad and +48v, but there might be such. The preamps has a lot of range and headroom and sounds nice and smooth.
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