Review: Allen & Heath Zed6
I’ve been taking some kinda baby-mixer challenge for a while now. My rationale is every sound guy or gal should have a mini mixer in their kit bag. It can potentially get you out of all sorts of problems; problems that, in and of themselves, may well be trivial, but 30 minutes prior to go-time can disproportionately occupy your mind or even scuttle an otherwise great gig.
A mini mixer can act as a stand in sex changer on a lead, or provide a quick extra monitor send, or be a defacto signal splitter etc, etc.
So we’re agreed then: a micro mixer is a good thing to have in your back pocket. Fortunately there’s no end of choice and the options are good.
Generally these mini mixers will all have a couple of mic preamps and a couple of instrument inputs and/or stereo inputs. The mixer will have some basic EQ. There will be main output metering and headphone monitoring.
This leaves you with some choices to make: Do I want channel faders rather than level pots?; Do I want XLR main outputs or jacks?; How much metering do I need (channel metering as well as main output metering)?; Do I want an internal power supply?
Allen & Heath’s Zed range has been around for a while and the GS mic preamp is a proven performer, so the Zed6 sounds good and is a safe choice as far as build quality and reliability is concerned.
I was immediately reassured when busting the Zed6 out of its packaging. There’s something about the fairing around the folded steel mixer that feels good. The knobs all feel solid, everything is as it should be.
I was also immediately pleased with the fact it had an internal PSU. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a ‘lump in the lead’ PSU but it is potentially another thing to lose or otherwise be separated from the mixer during a pack down.
I don’t mind the fact the Zed6 has level pots on the channels rather than short-throw faders. I don’t see myself actively mixing on the Zed6, it’s more a set and forget unit. Thankfully the main fader has some resistance to it, as this mixer will find itself in situations where it’s more likely to be knocked and the traditional A&H ‘hair trigger’ fader unit would give me constant low-level anxiety.
The preamps sound good and there’s plenty of gain. As you’d expect there’s a global 48V phantom switch, an HPF on each mic channel and serviceable two-band EQ. A headphone button allows you to solo a channel through your cans. There’s no per-channel mute on/off button — something I missed.
At around $220 street price there are cheaper mini mixers on the market — Mackie, Behringer, Yamaha and Soundcraft all have capable offerings. Nevertheless, the Zed6 is an excellent choice. It’s a good-looking mixer, with the internal PSU being a real drawcard, as are the Hi-Z switches on the mic channels (especially handy if you’ve run out of DIs).
I wish it had channel mute switches, and RCA inputs would have been handy. But this comes down to individual requirements and building your own personal checklist of ‘must haves’. Certainly the Zed6 ticks most of my boxes.