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Allen & Heath Avantis

FOH Staff • October 2020Technology Spotlight • October 11, 2020

64-channel 96k Hz Digital Console

Avantis is more than able to fend off would-be competitors in a spec sheet battle, yet this console is a good example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, whether we’re talking iPhones or digital mixing consoles, a fast and powerful processor is always a great starting point. However, the XCVI processing core in Avantis yields ultra-low latency audio processing and phase coherency — even while running huge numbers of effects across every channel and bus. “Tell me why I really care about fancy processor cores,” you might ask. How about no more “back of the napkin” latency calculations as you reach for that power-hungry compressor or reverb? Avantis does the math for you and sounds great — no matter how many of its bells and whistles are engaged at once.

‡‡         At the Core

Speaking of math and bells and whistles, the XCVI core was pioneered by the Allen & Heath R&D team using next-generation FPGA technology with parallel virtual processing cores generating enough power for 88×42 (including FX returns) channels of processing at 96k Hz. The massive power of XCVI (25 billion operations per second) allows Avantis to deliver 64 full processing inputs and 12 stereo FX returns, 42 buses with configurable mix architecture, variable bit depth, a virtually infinite mix headroom thanks to a 96-bit accumulator and that class-leading latency at an ultra-low 0.7 ms.

Back to that “sum of its parts” point, the Allen & Heath “Everything I/O” ecosystem around Avantis is a thing of beauty. Not only can the console handle sample rate conversion onboard to allow for plug-and-play use of older legacy 48k Hz Allen & Heath stageboxes, it’ll even handle automatic firmware matching for you on any A&H unit in the local audio network. The range of existing remote I/O units for Avantis is quite impressive as well, covering analog inputs and outputs (and digital AES options) from just a handful of channels on stage through installed wall boxes, all the way up to the 96k Hz 48-input / 16-output GX4816.

While the I/O boxes span a few generations (and various proprietary protocol names), Avantis looks like it’ll play nicely with them all. Whether you’re an owner/operator looking to build a compact system or a rental company with existing Allen & Heath stock, the SLink connection on Avantis allows flexibility by connecting to the entire range of Allen & Heath audio expansion hardware. Add a Dante card to your system and you’ve got even more options, complete with dedicated A&H Dante expanders, the DT168 and DT164-W. Nice.

‡‡         Beauty — More than Skin Deep

I’m sure the ad design and marketing folks at Allen & Heath are thanking their lucky stars, too. Avantis is a real beauty. From just about any angle, the desk features modern curves and fresh design elements and a rethinking of the “dull gray box” design of years past. Not to totally skip over the super-strong, lightweight, full-metal chassis, but it is the dual, full-HD touchscreens that really take center stage. Rather than simply porting over the company’s dLive UI or scaling up the screen and workflow from the SQ series, Allen & Heath has rethought what this sort of screen-centric design should be.

Called the Continuity UI, the design allows you to see and instantly interact with more of what matters, enabling a seamless connection between the physical controls and the displays. The faders can react on touch to immediately highlight the active channels for instant visual feedback. Channel rotaries let you work gains or pans, then at the touch of a button, dynamically fold the display to show EQ or compressor parameters across the whole bank. Each screen also features a FastGrab tab on the right-hand side, giving you split-second access to key freely-assignable parameters like aux sends, EQ, compressor and FX on the currently selected or specific channel. The whole system is set up to dynamically surface the information you need at any moment and put control right at your fingertips. Initial feedback from the field is quite positive and it sounds like the balance of form and function came together as designed.

‡‡         Ready to Rock

Right out of the box, Avantis is loaded with powerful processing tools that will easily meet the demands of most users and applications. Want more options? Upgrade your console with Avantis dPack to get additional dLive processing including Dyn8, DEEP compressors and the Dual Stage Valve Preamp, plus more models as they are added. DEEP puts incredible emulations directly within Avantis’ input and mix channels with zero added latency. No burning FX slots, no third-party gear hassles and no issues with latency or phase coherency.

Avantis dPack also delivers Dyn8, a powerful processor offering four bands of dynamic EQ and four bands of multiband compression. With endless applications including taming vocals, tightening sub-groups or adding sonic glue to a mix, Dyn8 expands the way you may think about dynamic processing. dPack enables 16 Dyn8 engines for inserting on Input and Mix channels.

The rear panel offers plenty of I/O possibilities with two expansion slots, analog ins/outs, plus AES, USB and word clock.

For local I/O, Avantis is well equipped with 12 XLR analog inputs, 12 XLR analog outputs, plus AES — stereo in and two stereo outs. Two additional I/O ports allow Avantis to 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 multi-track recording. While some recently launched mid-tier digital desks are in their “we promise we’ll have networking cards for you soon” phase, Avantis hits the ground running on the audio interconnect front.

On the app and control side of things, Avantis can connect up with MixPad and OneMix. Avantis MixPad is an engineer’s mixing tool providing wireless mobile control for Allen & Heath Avantis digital mixers. Walk the room or stage and control the sound right where it is needed. Avantis MixPad and the Avantis mixer can work together to provide simultaneous control of independent functions, for example with one engineer using the mixer to mix FOH sound, while another uses the iPad to mix monitors on stage. Several iPads can be connected, each providing independent control.

OneMix is a cut-down version of the Avantis MixPad app that locks control to a single Aux (monitor) mix. Multiple iPads may be set up by the “admin” user to give each musician customized personal monitor control via wireless router connection to Avantis — without the risk of affecting the other monitors or FOH main mix. Avantis OneMix can be configured to provide as much or as little control as needed.

‡‡         More to Come

In this short space, we’ve barely scratched the surface on the ways that Allen & Heath has advanced digital mixing technology with Avantis. You can check it out in more detail online or ping your local rep to send one over to play with. Also, look for a real-world road test of Avantis in an upcoming issue of FRONT of HOUSE.

Allen & Heath Avantis

The third mixer based on Allen & Heath’s award-winning 96k Hz XCVI FPGA engine, Avantis puts the company’s next-gen technology in a 64-channel/42 configurable bus console, with dual Full-HD touch screens, a super-flexible workflow with Continuity UI, extensive I/O options, add-on processing from its flagship dLive mixing system and a rugged, full-metal chassis.

STATS

Resolution: 24-bit/96k Hz DACs/ADCs

Channels: 64 input channels; 42 fully configurable mix buses

Engine: XCVI FPGA core with ultra-low latency (0.7ms)

FX Slots: 12 with dedicated stereo returns

Groups: (16) DCA; (8) mute groups

Local I/O: (12) analog XLR ins; (12) analog XLR outs; stereo AES in, (2) stereo AES outs; (2) I/O Ports — both capable of 128×128 operation at 96kHz — for optional Dante, Waves, MADI and gigaACE cards

Faders: 144 fader strips (24 motorized faders in six layers) with optional dedicated master section

Controls: (2) 15.6” capacitive HD touch screens; user-configurable rotary knobs; (24) assignable softkeys

Recording/Playback: Internal storage for stereo playback/recording; USB stereo playback

Perks: dPack option adds 16 Dyn8 engines, plus per-channel, zero-added-latency DEEP compressors and Dual Stage Valve preamp; AMM Automatic Mic Mixer up to 64 channels across 1, 2 or 4 zones

Footprint: 36” x 24.7” (WxD)

Weight: 57.4 pounds

Street Price: $8,999

Manufacturer: Allen & Heath

More Info: www.allen-heath.com

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