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Coachella to Church Choirs: Allen & Heath have no limits to what they can power

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Features
  • October 2018
• Created: October 3, 2018

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It’s a gutsy move, rolling up to play Coachella with audio equipment that you could check on a small commercial flight, but that’s exactly what artists from across the genre spectrum were doing at the Indio, California festival earlier this year. Forget the machismo of hauling around oversized fixtures; Allen & Heath’s dLive C1500 Control Surface does the trick.

“At Coachella even this last year, it was cool to see a number of the artists show up with our flagship console MixRack which is where the engine is, but with our smallest control surface,” says Jeff Hawley, marketing manager of Allen & Heath USA. “So [they’re playing] a huge festival such as Coachella, but essentially showing up with the part that most people would say ‘oh that’s the mixer?’ That part of the system was something they could have checked at baggage and flown as the ‘mixer’ on a standard commercial flight. It’s pretty cool to see crazy, big-scale touring festival systems, but they’ve kind of been able to design it in a way and use our existing platform to make it insanely compact.”

The noticeable commonality amongst the festival artists sparked something of a trend for Allen & Heath, who have said that more and more artists are downsizing – at least in the console department.

“It just takes a while – somebody’s gotta be brave enough to show up to the gig with that size console,” Hawley adds. “But again, I think it snowballs. The engineers that saw it there are talking to their engineer friends and so on. There’s high technical complexity at a festival like that. The system is huge that you are plugging into, and, it’s at a big enough scale, where if you’re performing at Coachella, you can basically have any system you want.

Seeing multiple artists go that route was really cool. Now that that line is hitting a great level of maturity, we’re seeing more and more acceptance of tons of dLives being added to riders, so that artists that are out on tour [are saying,] ‘Nope, I gotta have a dLive.’”

Yet on the opposite coast, small-scale churches are tucking the same gear under their arms to use for auxiliary setups for events in multi-use rooms that need to be set up and torn down quickly – often, every single Sunday.

“It might be on a rack in a small church setup and that same gear could show up at a world class festival,” Hawley marvels. By the numbers, the C1500 is the first rack-mountable surface for the dLive system, which packs 12 faders over six layers, built-in audio I/O, an audio networking port, and a 12” capacitive touchscreen into its small frame. For scenarios in which size isn’t a concern, the company does offer a wide range of Control Surface sizes and configurations, all of the way up to the 36 fader dual touchscreen S7000. All dLive Control Surfaces share the same 128 x 64 96kHz festival-sized I/O mixing power, which is housed in their accompanying MixRack. The versatility is just one example of the pro audio company’s foray into what it means to dish out DJing and other sound equipment in 2018. For every person still moaning about the popularity of dance music, there’s a benefit to all the buzz behind the genre – there’s no shortage of people pining after the accompanying gadgets.

As for pro audio – well, as long as there are concerts of any kind, that gear will be vital, too. Allen & Heath is making sure of it. “In the pro audio space, it’s much less of a consumer environment, not every guy and gal on the street is going to buy a touring-level console, so a lot more work really goes into building up that market, making the necessary connections,” Hawley explains.

Formed in 1969, Allen & Heath started in England, eventually making mixers for Genesis, Pink Floyd, and The Who. In 2018, the company’s U.S. distribution management remains under the American Music and Sound roster, which has handled this task since 2002. American Music & Sound has recently also added CAD Audio and dBTechnologies to their always-expanding list.

In the States, American Music & Sound employs roughly 90 people, working closely with 120 Allen & Heath staff at HQ across the pond in the United Kingdom.

“Certainly, business is good on our side. To that extent, I can say that sales are good and growing overall,” Hawley remarks on the state of Allen & Heath business.

In particular, the days of eye-rolls aimed at DJs are fading more and more into the horizon, which has fared well for everyone, from the DJs themselves to that sector of the industry.

“I think at some point people may have thought slightly negatively of DJs, but it’s cool to see really world-class musicians emulating and borrowing sounds as well,” Hawley explains, noting that many musicians who aren’t even DJs have been borrowing from their set of sounds and styles recently through similar equipment. From witnessing more “traditional” artists use trance and techno elements in their music, to performers utilizing live mixing consoles and recording consoles as a live instrument with a band, he says that the lines definitely are continuing to blur – even amongst DJs themselves.

This “continued expansion of what it means to be a DJ” and how that kind of music is even defined has resulted in some serious business for the market, expanding the definition of “DJing” significantly and allowing for more gadgets and forms of musical self-expression.

“There are so many more instances moving beyond the clichés of two turntables and a microphone – now it’s adding in analog synths, putting guitar pedals into the mix, and really expanding what that accepted tonal palette and approach can be,” he adds.

“It’s kind of cool to see that evolve. There have always been and always will be folks on the periphery trying new things. There really is a much wider center to what DJs are using and what their setups might be, and luckily we’ve been able to follow that trend and get in front of it with different controllers and different ways to add and expand your system within the Allen & Heath XONE family.”

Hawley likens the new musical approaches for DJs across the board to the way that boutique guitar pedals boom has vastly broadened the guitar palette: “It’s accepted that not everyone has the same three of four core pedals. I think that’s starting to happen more and more in the DJ space. I think I’m also seeing the worlds collide a bit and the wider scope of how you might even define DJing.”

On top of different setups, the theme of add-ons and accessories comes up yet again. As MMR has noted in the past – and as recently as in our August issue – sometimes it’s the little things then can make a wider profit margin.

“The accessories are adding to the mix as well,” Hawley continues. “I think if you looked at DJ mixers – just the core mixer units – I’m not necessarily sure that that as a subset is growing, but when you look at all of the periphery sub-mixers and other devices that support that core DJ Mixer, I think that is where you start to see as a whole a lot of growth. Now that that’s become not only more accepted but the ‘norm’ to have more than just a mixer and other elements that you’ve added to your setup in most DJ styles.”

Hawley says that Allen & Heath has two additional SQ cards coming out in the near future, which will tack on to their current accessory kick.

“These cards that can be added to the SQ series mixers can essentially allow for better connectivity into our own systems and protocols, but to other popular systems that are out there, like Waves Soundgrid and our own personal monitoring systems,” he explains.

As for overall best-sellers, Hawley names the newest SQ launch as one of their “biggies,” with the SQ-7 now shipping.

“We have had really off-the charts success with our SQ series mixers,” he says. “Those were released about a year ago now. We recently added in the last few months the SQ-7, which is the largest format in that series, and also added peripheral cards as well, things like the Dante card now allows that mixer series to connect with other products that are utilizing the Dante protocol. That really has been a huge success. I think every show attended since it’s been released we’ve earned ‘Best in Show’ awards – lots of praise and great reviews across the board for that console.”

Just recently, the company also netted two TEC nominations for the 2019 Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards at Winter NAMM for both Small Format Mixers (SQ) and Large Format Mixers (dLive). Closer to home at MMR, Allen & Heath is up for multiple Dealer’s Choice Awards, including Product of the Year for the SQ Series and the entire line for Sound Reinforcement Line of the Year.

“At the end of the day we all have the honor of working in an industry where fundamentally we get out of bed every day with a key goal of finding better ways to connect people and enable self-expression,” Hawley concludes. “From the DJ who pushes boundaries and brings in a new musical flavor or mood to her fans, to the news host who uses technology to better enable civic discourse, to the aspiring singer-songwriter jamming and recording at home – we get to play a part in making that little bit of magic happen.”

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