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Review

Allen & Heath QU-SB Portable Mixer

Issue #47

With no physical user interface on the Qu-SB, all that is left is a metal chassis that carries all the audio and digital I/O and that contains the analogue and digital electronics in a rackmountable (with its optional rack ears) 4U box.
Bob Thomas

Pros:

Compact and fully featured
Superb audio performance
Excellent iPad remote control app
iLive-derived FX and dynamics
Multitrack recording live at 48k/24-bit to USB hard drive
32x32 audio interface

Cons:

No Android remote control other than for monitor mixes
DAW Control driver is Mac only
No supplied wireless access point

Allen and Heath Qu-SB Portable 18in/14out Digital Mixer with Wireless Remote Control

If you're looking for the latest thing in high quality professional wireless remote digital mixing, Bob Thomas might just have found it...

Allen and Heath is no stranger to the concept of removing faders, meters and knobs from a digital mixing console. Its Qu-24 mixer, launched in 2015 (and reviewed by yours truly in GI Issue 38), had its faders and knobs removed to become the Qu-PAC in which the physical user interface was based around a touchscreen, a solitary encoder and a number of switches.


Since the Qu-PAC was launched, the competition in the compact, wireless, app-controlled, digital mixing console market has intensified. Allen and Heath has responded and have expanded their Qu Series offerings with the Qu-SB, an 18in/14out variant of the Qu-PAC concept in which every single scrap of its physical user interface (bar a configurable TRS footswitch socket) has been removed. The Qu-SB relies entirely on the Qu-Pad (iPad only) wireless remote app for set-up and control – so you’ll need to have an iPad to hand. Unlike many of its competitors, the Qu-SB doesn’t have an onboard wireless router/access point, so you’ll have to find your own router (I’d highly recommend one that’s 5G-capable) before you start.

With no physical user interface on the Qu-SB, all that is left is a metal chassis that carries all the audio and digital I/O and that contains the analogue and digital electronics in a rackmountable (with its optional rack ears) 4U box. Although the Qu-Pad app is extremely slick, easy to read and simple to operate, simplistic it isn’t, as the Qu-SB is, in terms of its functionality, essentially identical to any other Allen and Heath Qu Series mixer. If you’d like to explore the Qu-USB’s feature set (which I quickly ran through in the video) more fully, you can download the Qu-PAD app from the A&H website and run it in Demo mode, at which point you’ll have access to everything that the Qu-SB has to offer.

Speaking of apps, there are another two A&H apps that can be run with the QU-SB – Qu-Control and Qu-You. Qu-Control (iOS only) gives quick access to a simplified set of functions and control that seem particularly suited to installation and corporate use, whilst Qu-You (IOS and Android) gives you your own personal monitor mix on your mobile phone. The Qu-SB can support up to eight concurrent app users, although only two instances of Qu-Pad can be run concurrently – which in my band is probably one too many! Seriously though, that facility means that you could have your FOH and monitor engineers running Qu-Pad and up to six band members overseeing their own individual monitor mixes via Qu-You.

Rather than repeat what I showed in the video, I’m going to focus on the areas that are, to me, those that I consider to be the Qu-SB’s main attractions. We can take its feature set, exemplary sound quality and ease of use as read (see the Qu-24 review in GI Issue 38 for that overview) and focus on the features that are so useful in the real world.

First up are its Analogic recallable pre-amps, whose settings can be stored in any of the 100 available scenes, which is what A&H call snapshots of the Qu-SB’s settings. Having the gain settings stored means that you’ve got a great place to start from at every soundcheck, rehearsal or gig.

Next you’ve got the catchily-named ProFactory Mic Presets, which are a set of EQ library presets that have been developed in conjunction with Audio-Technica, Sennheiser and Shure for a selection of those companies’ microphones across various specific instrumental and vocal applications. Whilst these can give you a great place to start from if you happen to own the microphones in question (you can find the list on the Qu-SB page on the A&H website) I’d have liked to have seen a selection of more generic, instrument and vocal presets that included EQ and compression as starting points. 

On the library front, there’s the Qu-SB’s FX and dynamics library, developed from those in A&H’s iLive series of tour sound consoles. There’s a large selection of high quality emulations available, examples of which can be found on the A&H website – which I’d encourage you to explore. The Qu-SB has four FX engines on board, each with an individual send and a dedicated stereo return to the main mix, which means that you don’t have to tie up input channels as FX returns.

Then there’s the Qu-SB’s ability to record and playback up to 18 channels at 48k/24-bit resolution straight to a USB hard drive connected to its front-panel USB A port, so making your band’s live album or replaying a live recording of the band as part of a virtual soundcheck (which always seems to go much faster than one with actual band members on stage) becomes a much simpler task. In addition, the Qu-SB is also a 32x32 USB DAW interface for Mac and Windows computers, giving it the ability to act as the centrepiece of a studio set-up as well as in a live situation. Incidentally, if you do need to mix or record 32 sources simultaneously, the Qu-SB can be expanded to 32 inputs using an AB168 16in/8out “stagebox” connected via the front-panel dSnake port.

If you record to an Apple Mac, you’ll be able to send and receive a limited set of control messages between a Qu-SB and your DAW via the Qu-SB’s MIDI fader strips either directly or, courtesy of A&H’s Mac-only DAW Control driver, HUI or Mackie Control emulations. If you’re Windows-based or you’re a Mac user wanting to set up more comprehensive control of the Qu-SB from your DAW, you’ll have to set up your own custom MIDI configuration.

Based on its features, facilities and audio performance, the Allen and Heath Qu-SB is an extremely impressive digital mixing console that is well-suited to use in both live, studio and installation environments. Its price point puts it within reach of a wide section of the market that will find it an attractive proposition combining, as it does, an affordable, competitively-priced, fully-professional console that is excellent value for money, even taking into account the fact that an iPad and a wireless access point are prerequisites.

If you’re looking for a wireless remote controlled, digital mixing console in a rackmount format, the Qu-SB is one that you’ll have to check out. It is a complex mixer, and I’d recommend visiting the A&H website to check out the manuals and remote control demos before you visit your nearest Allen & Heath dealer to put the Qu-SB through its paces.

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