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Innovations: Allen & Heath Avantis Digital Mixing Console

Allen & Heath R&D director Andy Bell takes us behind the scenes into the development of the company’s latest console, the Avantis.

This article appeared in the December 2019 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column in which different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought process behind creating their products of note.

In October, Allen & Heath completed its trilogy of 96 kHz digital mixing consoles with the launch of Avantis, a brand-new desk based on the company’s XCVI FPGA engine. It places Allen & Heath’s next-generation technology in a 64-channel/42-configurable-bus unit, providing twin HD touchscreens, extensive I/O options and processing taken from the company’s flagship dLive mixing system.

The console is part of Allen & Heath’s Everything I/O ecosystem, whose name signifies the idea that all the parts connect seamlessly. Whether you’re an owner/operator looking to build a compact system or a rental company already in possession of existing Allen & Heath stock, Avantis can be connected to a range of audio expander hardware. Avantis is also compatible with Allen & Heath’s range of ME Personal Mixers and IP hardware remote controllers.

Allen & Heath Unveils Avantis 96 kHz Mixer

For local I/O, Avantis comes equipped with 12 XLR analog inputs, 12 XLR analog outputs, plus AES (stereo in, two stereo out). Two additional I/O ports ensure users can draw the full range of current dLive option cards, including Dante (64×64 and 128×128), Waves, gigaACE, MADI and more, expanding the scope for system integration, FOH/monitor splits, and multitrack recording.

The console is loaded with an array of processing tools including compressors, EQs and Allen & Heath RackExtra FX units (12 slots). Upgrading to dPack expands Avantis further with additional dLive processing, including the Dyn8 dynamics engine (up to 16 instances), DEEP compressors and the Dual-Stage Valve preamp.

Commenting on Avantis at the time of launch, Allen & Heath managing director Rob Clark said, “Avantis takes many of the features that have made SQ and dLive so popular and puts them in a standalone 64-channel mixer that offers a new UI experience, connectivity with our Everything I/O ecosystem, and the dPack option, which gives you access to our advanced dLive processing options if and when you need them. On top of that, we’ve taken a new approach with the industrial design, coming up with a full metal chassis that’s super-strong, lightweight and looks fantastic.”

To find out more, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble asked Allen & Heath R&D director Andy Bell about the development of the new mixing console and what it means for Allen & Heath going forward.

How long has Avantis been in development?

From concept to production, Avantis has been two years in the making. It takes a large, highly skilled R&D team to bring a digital console to market in such a short time.

What does it add to the company’s mixer portfolio?

Avantis completes the trilogy of 96 kHz consoles built on our XCVI core, sitting in the middle segment of the market, between our flagship dLive series and our compact SQ mixers.

Talk us through the R&D process.

It would take all day to describe the full R&D process. The most important thing is that we put the engineer at the center of development from the outset. As we reach each prototyping stage, we get feedback from experienced engineers to make sure the finished article is something they’ll love mixing with.

What has the response been like from audio professionals?

Fantastic! When engineers get hands-on with Avantis, the first thing everyone comments on is how intuitive the new Continuity UI is. Whether they’re coming from dLive or SQ, or from other console brands, engineers seem to feel at home with this mixer really quickly.

What does Avantis bring to the live sound mixer market?

At the moment, most of the consoles in the space we’re aiming at are older 48 kHz designs that are beginning to show their age, so with Avantis, we’re offering customers the opportunity to step up to a next-generation platform.

Avantis features a “new industrial design.” What can you tell us about it?

Mixing consoles should be exciting to look at and use—they shouldn’t look like old photocopiers. With Avantis, we’ve explored new ideas in areas like fader illumination, the full metal chassis, balance of on-screen and physical controls and more. Those who know us will know that we’re passionate about reliability and build quality. Avantis has a tough, all-metal chassis and has been put through our most punishing real-world and lab test regime yet.

Tell us about the Continuity UI technology.

Having 206 inches of screen real estate creates a lot of opportunities to evolve the mixing experience and let the engineer dictate how they want to work. Within seconds of getting hands-on with Avantis, engineers are going to appreciate the seamless flow between the physical controls and the on-screen software. You can work gains and pans on the rotaries, then switch to the EQ at the touch of a softkey. The console provides a highly configurable FastGrab tab on the right-hand side of each screen, offering another way to quickly and easily access control of aux sends, EQ, compressor and FX on the currently selected channel or spot channel.

Where are the biggest opportunities for Allen & Heath in the market with Avantis?

Avantis reinforces our commitment to our heartland customers—the venues, rental companies and places of worship that have all put their trust in Allen & Heath for decades.

What are the biggest challenges of launching a new console into the market?

Digital mixers don’t exist in isolation—they need to be supported with I/O boxes, networking cards and more. All of that takes a lot of time and R&D to develop, so you have to manage the expectations of customers who love the mixer but are impatient for the Dante card, the mixing app or whatever. One of the great things about Avantis is that we designed it to integrate from day one with our existing ecosystem, so it’s a full, ready-to-roll mixing solution.

Allen & Heath •

An extended version of this article appeared on PSNEurope.