Allen & Heath iLive review – Part 1: Hardware

The mixing console market is constantly changing and evolving with the advent of the digital console.  We all hear how much “better” digital consoles are and the power they have but many people get extremely nervous about making the switch.  We all have our system and method for doing things and any experienced audio engineer is comfortable and confident of what they can and cannot do on an analog console.  But, a digital console makes a lot of people nervous because of the lack of intuition or accessibility of controls.  When I first had the opportunity to mix on a digital console a few years back, I was nervous at first.  The lights and interface seemed intimidating but I soon became used to it.  The first digital console I mixed on, was the Allen and Heath iLive.

The Allen and Heath iLive digital mixing console is an extremely unique system.  The “brain” of the iLive that does all of the mixing and processing is the iDR stage box.  It may not look like it, but technically, that is the mixing console and that’s where the magic happens.  The control surfaces look more like what we know to be a mixing console but unlike a standard analog console, the iLive control surface is merely a remote control for the iDR stage rack which is connected by a single CAT5 cable.  The control surface does not pass any audio signal other then through the modest number of inputs that are in the back of the surface which are immediately converted to data and sent to the iDR rack.  One cool fact about this is that the iDR rack can fly solo WITHOUT a mix surface.  You can actually run your show, unplug or shut down your console and the iDR rack will keep running and passing audio.  You can even connect your laptop or iPad and take over the whole show.

There are currently seven different control surfaces to choose from including the R-series, T-series, and i-series.  These surfaces must be paired with any of six different stage boxes.  This creates an extremely flexible and highly configurable digital mixing system that can be modified and customized to fit any mixing situation.  This also creates added flexibility when using the iLive system for mixing both front of house and monitors together.  Your split snake is simply the CAT5 cable that runs everything else and easily gives you the power and flexibility of a standard setup without trouble of running a split snake or the mess of running a direct out snake back from FOH to feed an on-stage monitor console.

The R-series and T-series control surfaces have a fixed configuration of in’s and out’s.  All of the i-series control surfaces have six open card slots which can accommodate any six cards.  All of the iDR mix racks are fixed in configuration with one slot open for a card except the iDR-10 which is modular and can be completely configured based on the needs of the user.  One of my favorite cards is the new Mini Multi Out card.  I bought it because I need the ability to use Avioms with my iLive setup.  But the card has much more then just Aviom outputs including  iDR Hearbus and up to 24 channels of ADAT outputs.  In the settings, you can patch any channel into those ADAT outputs giving you a lot of options.

The surface itself is also extremely flexible.  You can arrange channels, groups, auxes, VCA’s and various other mix controls where every you want them.  Each “channel” on the control surface is simply that, a controller with a fader, a rotary encoder, and a few other function buttons.  The bottom line is that you can literally create you own custom control line up that suits your needs for your application.  This is also great for churches or any other application where you do not want to give users access to certain options or controls, simply remove them from the control surface.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Stay tuned for a second part to this review where I’ll dive in depth into the functionality and firmware of the surface itself.

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image

Switch to our mobile site