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Three of a kind: Allen & Heath’s R&D director talks the new mixing desk Avantis

Allen & Heath recently unveiled its brand new Avantis mixing console, completing the brand’s trilogy of 96kHz mixers. PSNEurope caught up with the company's R&D director Andy Bell to find out just what makes this latest product addition so special

Last month, Allen & Heath completed its trilogy of 96kHz 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, complete with twin Full 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, meaning that whether you’re an owner/ operator looking to build a compact system, or a rental company already in possession of existing Allen & Heath stock, it can be connected to a large range of audio expander hardware. Avantis is also compatible with Allen & Heath’s range of ME Personal Mixers and IP hardware remote controllers.

For local I/O, Avantis comes equipped with 12 XLR analogue inputs, 12 XLR analogue outputs, plus AES (Stereo In, two Stereo Out). Two additional I/O Ports ensure users can benefit from 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.

Furthermore, the console is loaded with an array of processing tools designed to meet the demands of most users and applications, including compressors, EQs and Allen & Heath’s 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, putting 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.”

“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,” added the firm’s R&D director, Andy Bell.

“You can work gains and pans on the rotaries, then at the touch of a soft key switch to EQ or dynamics across the whole strip. The console also 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.

“Ultimately, with Continuity UI, the engineer decides how they’d like to work, not the mixer.”

Allen & Heath’s R&D director Andy Bell

To find out more, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble asked Bell about the development of the new mixing console and the opportunities it presents for Allen & Heath going forwards…

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 96kHz 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 centre 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 that 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 48kHz 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.

How were you able to arrive at such a competitive price point for Avantis?

There’s no one simple answer to that. In the development of a product like Avantis there are countless decisions to make about cost versus quality, and we take a lot of care with every single one.

Avantis features a ‘new industrial design’. What can you tell us about this?

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 many more. Those who know us will also 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 at the touch of a soft key switch to the EQ. The console also 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.

And what are the biggest challenges with 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, and 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.

Avantis pricing is as follows:

Mixer only: USD $9,999 MSRP / EUR €9,699 MSRP dPack add-on: USD $1,499 MSRP / EUR €1,499 MSRP GX4816 Remote Expander: USD $3,999 MSRP / EUR €3,499 MSRP.

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