Studio Pro-Audio

Allen & Heath GSR24

Wed, 20 Jun 2012 17:05


An established British manufacturer of audio consoles is in the spotlight. To those familiar with Cornwall, England-based Allen & Heath, they are a company who has had a long and prestigious pedigree in almost many areas of the pro audio market.

Their ML5000 live analogue mixer and now their digital iLive consoles have a firm hold in the minds of audio enthusiasts, famous for their great sound, ease of use and comprehensive features. The EQ on the ML5000, after all, is known as one of the finest in the industry. Given their history, then, it is no surprise that they also offer products for the recording market, making a huge mark currently with their ZED-range of studio mixers / audio interfaces and their recently released ICE-16 standalone USB recorder.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget to mention past studio products, like the System 8, a mixer released in 1983, built for studio and stage that enjoyed much success through three revisions; the Saber, a medium format studio mixing console; and then the GS3000, a medium format, 8-group, inline studio mixing console aimed at commercial and project studios. The GS3000 was a huge hit with many users because it bridged the gap between the ubiquitous small format cannon fodder that has an almost omnipresence in the industry and the large format mixing consoles found in commercial studios. Sadly, it was discontinued and as a result cries were heard all over the world for Allen & Heath to reinstate or revise it. Well Allen & Heath listened to their users and have reincarnated the GS3000 in the form of the new GSR24 and GSR24M studio mixing consoles. Let’s see if it retained its karma!


Given the success of their ZED R16 recording consoles, it is easy to see why Allen & Heath were prompted to revise the GS3000 format and produce the GSR24. Those familiar with the ZED R16 will be quite at home on a GSR24 as many of the features are translatable. Quite simply put, there are three sides to this design combination: a full featured analogue console, an audio interface and a DAW controller.

This format is a growing trend in the current market. Digital audio has brought with it many conveniences that save us a lot of time and streamlines our workflow but many professionals still long to work on a good analogue console for the tactile feel and the sound. As a result, hybrid systems have been popping up all over the place that incorporate outboard processors and summing mixers that are fed from digital audio converters. This also has its drawbacks – No EQ, no subgroups and none of the other features that an analogue console provides. This has prompted other companies, like Euphonix and SSL, to release consoles that are not only full featured analogue consoles but also DAW controllers. But still, they are very expensive and still require outboard AD/DA converters, which can also cost an arm and a leg.

Enter the GSR4. The GSR24 is essentially a 24-channel analogue recording console with integrated DAW and MIDI control and a 32-channel audio interface, provided you have the optional interface card installed. There are currently two cards available for the GSR24: analogue and Firewire/ADAT. Of course, to take full advantage of the GSR24’s features, the Firewire card is required in order to send DAW control messages to and from the console. Using the Firewire card, a total of nine routing configurations are possible which includes enabling direct out multitrack recording, latency free monitoring, or mixdown modes (and more).

Of course, as the GSR24 is both an analogue console and a DAW controller, mixing can be accomplished by routing audio directly to the console or by using the 100mm fully motorized faders to control the DAW. This is where the GSR24 and the GSR24M differ; ‘M’ stands for ‘Motorised’. The GSR24 does not have motorised faders and is therefore less expensive.

Another noteworthy feature is the inclusion of two valve channels that can be used to add ‘valve warmth’ to any signal you designate to it. This expands the tonal ‘colour palette’ of the mixer. There are also four stereo line channels so the GSR24 affords 34 channels in total. When it comes to Aux sends, there are six, and independent stereo and mono main busses along with a full-featured monitoring section afford the user two stereo cue busses and 5.1 surround monitoring. DAW-control is widespread in the GSR24. These include transport control buttons, 12 rotary encoders and 14 user definable buttons that can conceivably be assigned to any parameter of your choosing. Also there are, of course, the 24 motorised faders in the GSR24M.

Anyone familiar with the layout of a traditional analogue audio console will be quite comfortable on the GSR24. There is a full metre bridge that displays a variety of configurations for channels and monitoring. As mentioned, the console is in line design-wise with the input channels to the left, and the master section to the relative centre.

The microphone preamp comprises the same preamp found in the ZED R16, which is nice if you have one of each for translatability. The preamp gained its heritage from the summing amplifier that was originally manufactured for a very high quality unnamed console in the 1980s and is a very low-noise design. The EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) rating of the preamp is an incredible -128.5dB at 60dB of gain and also boasts an extremely low distortion rating. This makes for an incredibly quiet and transparent preamp that has received much praise from users all over. Another feature taken directly from the ZED R16 is the EQ. It is a four-band, dual parametric design with a high and low shelf. The summing bus of the console incorporates low-noise transistors for a clean, high-performance summing action during mixdown.

The wrap

The GSR24 is a fantastic, one-stop solution for any and all studio recording needs. The fact that is first and foremost a full featured analogue console is good enough but with the inclusion of DAW control and audio interfacing, there is little reason to spend a lot of time sourcing each of these components individually. With one cable from the mixer to your PC you instantly have a powerful, great sounding studio solution for recording, monitoring and mixing purposes. Combined with the power of the DAW the GSR24 represents a truly hybrid system that many engineers will find comfortable, powerful and streamlined

By Greg Bester