Allen and Heath QU-16 by Helmey
I have owned the QU-16 for 2+ years now, and it functions as my live mixer for solo performances and my studio mixer for my studio gear. I bought it as an upgrade to my Mix Wizard WZ20S that I had enjoyed for years - and what an upgrade it was! I am very happy I purchased the QU-16 and my only minor disappointment is that I didn't spring for more channels.
The QU-16 is primarily a live digital mixer with all of the tools necessary for quickly setting up and recalling live mixes and recording live performances at 24-bit/48K resolution. It includes all the required signal processing, routing and monitoring/talkback features; and the AH plug-ins sound excellent and provide lots of flexibility. For monitoring, there are 10 separate mix outputs (1,2,3,4,5-6, 7-8, 9-10) that can be independently adjusted and recalled. The touch-screen display provides excellent visual feedback per channel and the menu system is relatively intuitive. The moving faders feel very solid and smooth with the right amount of resistance.
In live situations, I perform solo modular performances and use the QU-16 as my live mixer, and as a stereo or multitrack recorder to capture my performances. So far, my live needs are very simple. I only use some of the board's live features and don't generally use any monitoring. AH offers a lot of digital snakes and monitoring systems if you're into that kind of thing.
In the studio, I use the QU-16 as my keyboard mixer and mic-preamp interface. The sound quality of the AH converters blows my MOTU interface away, and gives all of my recordings a much better sense of space and clarity. This is where I wish I had more returns or channels for outboard gear, so I could keep everything plugged in all the time. Instead, I will usually keep my preamps plugged into channels and keep my Rhodes and Clavinet plugged into the preamps to save inputs. 16 inputs is usually more than enough for whatever I'm working on at the moment and the rack-mount size is perfect. One of my favorite uses of the QU-16 is to record what I'm doing when I'm messing around in the studio to capture happy accidents. It's super easy to drag-and-drop my QU-16 tracks into my DAW with the USB drive.
In the future, I hope to use the QU-16 to try some OTB summing, and I expect it will perform magnificently. I can't say enough good things about the sound quality of the QU-16, and I look forward to comparing summing through the USB interface vs. summing through the analog inputs.
Nothing this complicated is without compromises. One missing element for me was the ability to sidechain the compressor. Another was the ability to add outboard gear via effect returns or inserts - you need to use mixer channels for analog outboard returns - there are no provisions for analog or digital returns of any kind with the exception of two pairs of 1/4" stereo inputs on the rear panel and one stereo minijack input on the front. When the QU-16 is connected to other digital gear via AES, it must be the clock master, there's no clock input. The QU-16 is pretty much a self-contained system with effects and signal processing for every channel. Fortunately the mixer sounds great on its own. All of these issues have simple workarounds for me and don't take away from all of the other goodness contained in these 11 wonderful rack spaces.
I would not recommend the QU-16 to anyone with lots of outboard gear (needs more returns/inserts) or digital I/O (no digital connectivity). Aside from that, I would highly recommend considering the QU-16 (or it's bigger brothers) to anyone looking for a small-format digital mixer. It does many things very well and simplifies both live and studio setups. I like the package of features and the portable size of the QU-16; and the sound quality is terrific. I'm sure Allen & Heath will sell a lot of these mixers. It's a tough act to follow.