Allen & Heath Launches New 96kHz SQ Digital Mixer Series

November 7 2017, 04:00
Allen & Heath has unveiled its new 96kHz SQ series of digital mixers for live sound, AV and installation. With sound reinforcement systems from major brands now targeting very high fidelity levels, felt in particular in some of the most prestigious auditoriums and installations, live sound is shifting to 96kHz sampling rates, allowing for a new level of precision in dynamics processing. Allen & Heath responds to this market evolution with two new live sound digital mixers in its SQ Series.

While the use of higher sampling frequencies in live sound systems with very high SPL and distortion levels remains debatable - with most of the industry standardizing in 48kHz - for some higher resolution loudspeakers and high quality installations using sophisticated digital signal processing, the benefits of using 96kHz are obviously clear. When we listen to sound systems such as L-Acoustics latest Kiva II systems, any of Meyer Sounds newest LEO series of line arrays, or d&b audiotechnik's systems (just some notable examples), we find also the increased use of audio amplifiers, audio networking and digital processors that already accept and distribute audio signals up to 24-bit at 96kHz, providing engineers with an expanded range of options to fine tune the sound.

Still, getting the complete audio chain to operate at 96kHz, especially when the budget is tight, is the reason why many live sound companies compromise on working with 48kHz. The need to manage higher channel counts without compromising on internal processing tools on some digital mixers is another reason why in many cases the teams choose not to go to 96kHz. Fortunately, digital mixing platforms are now reaching the point where processing power is more than enough to allow a full-channel configuration with processing options at 96kHz. This is the reason why Allen & Heath decided to expand those available options to work with higher sampling rates, even on its more compact digital mixing consoles.

The SQ-5 and SQ-6 mixers are founded on Allen & Heath’s latest XCVI 96kHz FPGA engine, delivering high resolution audio with a latency of <0.7ms. The SQ-5 compact mixer has 16 onboard preamps and 17 faders and is 19” rack mountable, while the SQ-6 provides 24 preamps and 25 faders. Both consoles can be expanded up to 48 inputs via a family of remote expanders and feature an audio networking slot for optional Dante, Waves and other card formats, expanding the scope for system integration, FoH / monitor splits and multitrack recording.

A built-in SQ-Drive makes it easy to capture high resolution 96kHz stereo and multitrack recordings direct to a USB drive. SQ can also be hooked up to a PC or Mac via USB to become a plug ‘n play, Core Audio or ASIO compliant 32x32 audio interface, with MIDI and DAW Control capabilities. Allen & Heath’s DEEP processing plug-in architecture allows boutique compressor and preamp emulations to be added to the SQ mixer and embedded directly within its inputs and mix channels without adding system latency or setup hassles. SQ also features a fully integrated Automatic Mic Mixer (AMM), handling conferences, panel talks and TV shows.

“SQ is such a great solution for AV, corporate, rental and installation scenarios,” commented Allen & Heath’s Product Manager, Keith Johnson. “It’s compact, connected, great sounding, and capable of mixing anything from a panel discussion to a full live band, all with incredibly low latency and pristine 96kHz audio. The console is DEEP processing ready, so when users register their SQ they’ll be able to get a stunning tube preamp emulation worth $149 for free, and we’re planning to offer many more boutique processing models in the future.”

The SQ user interface marries a capacitive touchscreen with an accompanying set of illuminating rotary controls. Channel and mix layouts can be configured to fit the audio professional’s own workflow, with color displays and custom naming on all strips. SQ-5 features 8 softkeys, allowing further customization, while SQ-6 has four assignable rotary controls and displays in addition to its 16 softkeys.

SQ is the centrepiece of a wraparound ecosystem of apps, remote I/O expanders, audio networking cards and personal mixers, multiplying the system’s expansion and integration possibilities. The SLink intelligent port allows connection of Allen & Heath’s 96kHz and 48kHz expanders and can link to another SQ, or even to a dLive system.

SQ Series pricing starts at $2,999 MSRP, available November 2017.
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