Allen & Heath Unveils The GLD
January 2012 Issue 149
Design Specification Manager, Carey Davies, and Product Specialist, Nicola Beretta, talk exclusively to TPi’s Kelly Murray about Allen & Heath’s new live digital mixing system, which will create a new client base for the company. The GLD will be launched at the 2012 NAMM show in Anaheim, California, this month.
The iLive has been a very successful part of the Allen & Heath product range, how did the decision to create the GLD come about?
NB: Since the iLive digital mixing system was launched a few years ago, several thousands of MixRacks and Surfaces have been sold all around the world. With GLD, we wanted to open up all the benefits of digital technology to an even wider group of customers. We have taken all the key features of our flagship range and made them accessible to applications with a lower budget, including those where our GL analogue mixers have become an industry standard.
How long was the planning process for this design?
CD: A long time considering our original intention before the design of iLive was to produce a digital alternative for our core GL analogue market. With iLive now established and the technology more affordable, it has taken a relatively short couple of years to spin off the GLD design, with a large portion of that time devoted to researching the specific needs of our customers.
It is conceptually based on the iLive products, what are the key differences?
NB: They are significantly different in terms of features, let alone the price point. iLive is a system of distributed audio and control based around a DSP ‘brain’ in a box. It offers more options and networking capabilities, a higher channel count, and 32 mix processing channels. The iLive MixRack, as we call it, can be operated by either a control surface or other devices such as a computer, wi-fi tablets and iPads, and dedicated remote controllers. In contrast, the heart of the GLD system is the GLD-80 mixer itself, which can be used stand-alone or expanded with remote I/O racks. It’s also easier to use ‘out of the box’: some iLive features including multiple access, redundant link and networking options might require advanced skills, whereas GLD’s plug-and-play simplicity appeals to both sound engineers and non-technical operators.
If the digital board has been so successful for Allen & Heath, why did the company choose to launch a new product with analogue inspired processing control?
CD: That is an interesting perception. iLive was based very much on analogue inspired control, one of the aspects of its design most appreciated by our customers. GLD has built on that, using many of the same GUI elements so it is equally easy and intuitive to mix on. Where we have simplified things for GLD is its plug-and-play interconnect and configuration. This is at the expense of some of the huge flexibility of the iLive system, but that is not appropriate for the market the GLD targets.
When did Allen & Heath realise there was a customer demand to introduce this type of new mixer?
CD: The opportunity was there right at the start of iLive design but the high cost of available technology did not allow us to bring a mixer of this type to our GL market at the time. So the iLive remained at the top of our product tree. Customers dreamed of a professionally equipped digital desk at GL price, but that has now grown into strong demand as the live sound application has evolved to the point that the digital solution has become necessity rather than luxury for many. We carried out intensive research into the application particularly the significant US and Asian mid to low end church market, European clubs, and the trend for even smaller shows to tour their own consoles. We found very specific requirements and rose to the challenge to provide the cost-effective ‘one does all’ digital mix system that is the GLD.
What is the mixer’s most unique selling point?
NB: The package for the price. You mentioned it inherits many iLive core strengths but GLD also builds on the trust in the Allen & Heath brand for ‘value for money’ earned by the GL series. On top of this, the ergonomics of GLD make it uniquely easy to set up and operate - the interface combines analogue style controls with an 8.4 inch colour touchscreen, and users can create their own custom strip layouts and give channels custom names and colours for easy recognition. Moreover, GLD is a complete solution, with remote I/O racks including an interface socket to personal monitor systems, USB record and playback, eight FX racks, as well as a digital snake.
This is an affordable option for a brand new live mixer, how will the design infiltrate new markets?
NB: Affordability was a key objective during the design stage. GLD brings professional mixing to a new price point, giving smaller rental companies, houses of worship and live venues a chance to buy a digital, distributed system without compromising on quality. It’s the ideal choice to mix small to medium shows, whether it’s a corporate event, a function, a radio programme or a live gig. Plus, being so versatile and expandable, it’s great as rental stock and in venues looking for a future proofed system that can grow as they grow.
The system’s remote plug-and-play I / O audio racks are a key feature. Why was this feature important to your existing customers?
CD: The ability to replace the heavy and cumbersome copper snake with a drum of CAT5 cable is without doubt one of the most desirable advantages of digital mixing. But this technology typically comes at a price and is therefore found only on the more expensive mixers, or provided as a costly option for cheaper systems. GLD builds this in as standard using our new Ethernet based dSNAKE link for easy I/O rack distribution to where the audio is needed. The digital snake is at the heart of the GLD concept, not an added extra.
How was the product’s sonic performance tested?
CD: The development of the sound quality was a major aspect of the iLive design, now highly regarded in this respect. We have taken much of what we learned and more into GLD. We carried out extensive performance testing in the lab as high dynamic range and low distortion and noise figures go a long way to ensure a clean signal. However, ‘golden ears’ listening tests and putting GLD through its paces in the real live mixing environment have been top of our list. People often talk about the ‘sound of the preamp’, but whilst that is indeed important we believe the mix stage is equally critical to good sound. It is one thing to listen to a single microphone through a system, but quite another to mix together as many as you do in a live show. Listening for warmth and clarity in the combined mix has been a major part of our testing.
Why do you feel that NAMM is the best platform on which to launch the GLD?
CD: NAMM is an international exhibition and a great opportunity to show GLD to a large proportion of the world market. The show’s diversity of visitors means the product can be launched as broadly as possible before we take it to more targeted shows, such as InfoComm and ISE around the globe.