There are a lot of mixing consoles out there. Most consoles are in one of two categories, either very basic in control and price, or exorbitant in price and fully functioned. Allen and Heath has come up with a model that bridges the gap, by offering a console that contains many great functions and a reasonable price tag, via their latest model, the flagship console of their fleet, the ML5000.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement, installation
Key Features: Four-band parametric EQ; LCR; inserts; 100mm faders; tone and pink noise generator.
Price: $23,899 – $31,799
Contact: Allen & Heath/North American Pro Audio at 800-431-2609 Web Site.
The ML5000 is able to be used as a FOH console, a 16-mix monitor console, or both. This is a feature that many forward thinking manufacturers have jumped all over, offering a price-conscious substitute to the traditional approach of buying two separate consoles. The particular model that Allen and Heath sent us had 48 mono inputs as well as four stereo channels for effects returns, or CD, iPod and playback inputs.
Allen and Heath begins by making it apparent, via color coding, that the console is broken into two sets of eight auxiliaries. The first eight (white knobs) are capable of being group assigns and the second eight (blue knobs) are able to be your aux sends in FOH mode. While in Monitor console mode, all 16 aux sends become monitor sends, ALL switchable into pre or post mode. Regardless of console mode, there are LED stacks at each aux master/group master to provide constant level advisement.
The channel strip EQ section on the ML5000 is fully parametric, four-band, variable Q (on the low-mid and high mid bands) and can be bypassed anytime for instant comparison. The frequency knobs, the cut/boost knobs and the Q knobs are color coded for quick recognition. Just above the EQ section resides the fully variable high-pass filter, a rotary control allowing for frequency cut off anywhere between 20 Hz and 400 Hz.
Also in the top section of the mono input module are the input sensitivity, the pad, the signal polarity reversal switch, and the 48V phantom power switch. On the lower half of each input strip is the LCR (Left, Center, Right) blend/pan control, as well as an illuminated channel mute button. The PFL/AFL switch, which can be operated in momentary mode, ON mode, or channel override mode, will cancel out the action of PFL/AFL of any master or group when an individual channel is soloed. Just below the PFL/AFL control, is the VCA assign LED for assigning the channel and any post fader sends to the control of the selected VCA.
The ultrasmooth 100mm channel fader is located directly next to the VCA assign LED. The output of each channel can be assigned directly to the stereo master fader, or can be assigned to a sub group via the upper aux section, such that when the ML5000 is in FOH mode, the first eight aux sends act as the group sends. Assigning a channel to a VCA is achieved through the master section by placing the channels into a VCA assign mode. Additionally, you can snapshot 128 separate pages of input and output mute configurations.
The master section features controls that select the global function of the console. To place the aux into FOH mode, you must use the point of a pen, or similar instrument, because the switches are actually recessed below the surface grade of the console, thus eliminating mode changes at inopportune times and alleviating embarrassing maneuvers (which I think we’ve all done at one time or another).
Each of eight potential groups can be routed to the Main mix LCR faders, and imaging can be controlled through use of the LCR and pan controls. The LCR control allows for balance between the L/R and Center, and the pan control allows for L/R balance. In addition, the master section contains eight matrix masters that allow main mixes to be routed to any of eight additional outputs, each acting as its own individual master. The master section is also home to the headphone level control corresponding to the headphone jacks located on the lower front surface of the console.
Also in this section is the PFL/AFL master control and All Clear button, the onboard 1 kHz oscillator and pink noise generator, the intercom controls, which allow a comm/headset system to be integrated into the console through use of the engineer’s headphones and talkback mic. The meter bridge running the entire length of the ML5000 offers an analog meter for master outputs, each aux/group and the solo bus.
The back panel is very well laid out, with each TRS, dual-point insert residing directly next to its corresponding channel, group, aux, or master output. The back panel also houses three 37-pin expansion connectors, allowing connection of up to 2 24 channel expanders (up to a total of 96 total inputs) and linking all the matching busses to bus masters on the master console. The input connections reside directly behind their corresponding inputs, offering the insert, the XLR in and a TRS direct out for each channel. The outboard power supply is connected to the back panel via a seven-pin circular connector with locking collar.
Allen and Heath provides these specs on the ML5000: Weight is 242 pounds; dimensions are 83 inches wide, 24 inches deep and 12 inches tall at the meter bridge. Allen and Heath supplied this console in a “Tour Package,” which included an ATA flight case with doghouse, dual power supplies and Littlites.
Allen and Heath allowed Atlantis Audio an extended time period of about four months to test out the new ML5000. As a result, we became very familiar with all the useful functions that it offered by employing this console on no less than 40 shows.
One of its first tests was in the Monitor mode, doing eight mixes for classic rock veteran Eddie Money at Harrah’s casino. I found the installation of outboard graphic EQs to be simple and quick, via the well-labeled insert and aux output panel on the ML5000. Having 16 mixes at my disposal was quite handy for eight monitor mixes and three stereo reverbs. The reverb signal was sent via the last six aux sends, that become stereo aux sends with the push of a button, thus enabling the first send in each pair to be the pan, and the second to be the actual volume of the send (also being a very useful mode for stereo in-ear monitors).
The next use of the console was as a FOH console for musician’s musician Hal Ketchum, at the same venue. Here again, the attaching of outboard effects was made with great ease, thanks to the succinct
layout of the back panel of the ML5000 console. The snake plugged in easily, as the console uses quality XLR style connectors that are easy to access. Throughout the mix, I made some minor EQ course corrections, and found the ML5000 EQ to be of very good quality, the frequency designations were right on the money and the cut/boost controls to be excellent. The overall sound of the console was very transparent and the only noticeable color was intentionally added via the EQ. I did find that the best headroom complement was achieved by running the masters relatively hot, if not all the way open, and then adding fader as needed, with same being said of the aux sends. But it should be noted that the master outputs, although run all the way open, were still exceedingly quiet.
I put the ML5000 through its paces for 40 shows, from BR549 to Starship to Eddie Money to Mark Lindsay, and the console exceeded all of my expectations.
I found the board to have good quality headroom, the input preamps to be very forgiving of excessive input level, the EQ section to be exact and good sounding, and overall, a very good console. The ML5000 is right at home in an installed environment such as a casino, church or club, and will provide many years of national act level value.
Yorkville TX2M monitors; A-Line Acoustics AL-10 line array speakers; dbx 2231 graphic EQs, Klark-Teknik DN360 graphic EQs; Audix, Shure, and Sennheiser mics.