Reply To: Using my new QU-16 live for the first time ever tonight.

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coffee_king
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Here is my very good friends (extensive) review on the Qu-16 and its iOS app from our gig that he engineered at the other day.
Maybe others might like to post their thoughts/reviews of first time experiences here too?

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Intro.

Hi all, this is a little account of my first experience using the Allen and Heath Qu-pad app with the Allen and Heath Qu-16 while sound engineering for a friends band who had recently acquired the QU-16 to replace an effective but a bit limited analogue set up they had been running for a few years. The band is a traditional rock n roll three piece; guitar, bass, drums and two main vocalists who share the vocal duties pretty much evenly. All three members of the band have gradually transitioned to in ear monitors from conventional stage monitors to reduce on stage noise, equipment set up and set-up and break down time.

They are a lively bunch too so the freedom of in ears has become essential. To match this they needed a desk that could provide at least three dedicated monitor mixes as well as control the front of house on the fly. Venues that they play can vary enormously from pubs, to stately homes, to outside events at race courses to cattle sheds! Hence the need now for a desk that can deal with the most varied of acoustic situations while being compact and reasonably dost effective. The QU 16 appears to have all of these aspects. This is how we got on with and more specifically using the QU-App.

Setting up the desk

To begin with I must say I have had some prior experience using a similar app for the Allen and heath GLD 8 which a previous band used to take out. I found it to be extremely reliable and relatively straightforward to use giving me control of all of the individual band member’s mixes as well as front of house. I’ve also regularly used an old Behringer ddx 3216, Yamaha LS9 and O1v. So I was really looking forward to seeing how The GLD’s little brother performed.

To begin with if you have never used a digital desk before (especially an Allen And Heath) don’t expect to get it out of the box and use it immediately. It ain’t gonna happen. Particularly if you want to take advantage of even a quarter of the things it enables you to do that a traditional analogue desk won’t. Once you wrap your head around the terminology and the architecture it’s a doodle. There are a series of steps to go through setting the desk up to suit your individual needs. We started by resetting the desk and updating to the latest OS. We then set up a test scene (snapshot recall of the desks entire state which can be restored later. its like pressing ‘save’ while typing a word document). Each time we got to a particular point in the set up process we saved a new scene so we could go back if we messed something up. We ended up with about a half dozen ‘test’ scenes. It took about 3 hours for me and my mate from the band who is the bassist and vocalist and handles the sound on the nights to set up a rough eq, fx, dynamics, level and monitor mixes from scratch. Also we configured the routing so there was three individual mix outs for monitors and the L/R FOH outputs. The main stumbling block was understating the exact way A+H phrase some things in the manual. Its not wrong as such but it is a little different to say the terminology that Yamaha, Behringer or Mackie would use. I would suggest you would have less problems if you were coming from another A+H or had never used a desk at all before. For instance if you were learning sound at college.

Setting up the App.

My mate connected a TP Link N600 Wireless Dual band Gigabit Router from the router to the lan port at the back after previously configuring the router on his Mac laptop for this particular purpose (Im not going to talk about this as this experience has no bearing on the desk or the app. its a peripheral set up and will vary from router to router).

He opened the QU Pad app on the iPad 4. It found the Qu-16, which he had renamed to avoid any potential confusion. Pressed connect. Bobs your uncle. Connected. We walked around a bit. We slid the virtual faders up and down on the iPad and watched the corresponding slider move up and down in sync in a ghostly fashion. We giggled a bit. Who isn’t impressed by a an automated fader?!? Looking around the app the main concern was that it wouldn’t sync quickly enough with the desk. This was an unnecessary fear because any changes made on the desk almost instantaneously were made on the iPad. All appeared to be going wells so after by now 3.5 hours of setup we were satisfied that it would be ok for tonight’s local promo pub gig.

The venue.

The place was a local music bar with an odd shaped room. Its a dog legged L shape room with the stage set up in one corner. Facing down the length of the main ‘L’ of the room. The room kinks half way down so if you stand at the far end of the room you cant quite see the band. If you stand in the shorter L section of the room you are effectively viewing the band from the side, while possibly playing pool. The room can hold about 2-300 people and regularly has live music. The band provided there own PA which is 2x Yamaha MSR 400’s and a Yamaha MSR 800 sub. A Criticism of this rig is that unless you understand how to set it up it can lack bottom end and energy. It likes plenty of signal from the desk. However it was more than adequate for this particular venue.

The iOS app in use.

I’m going to talk about the app and nothing else now. Suffice to say the soundcheck was longer than usual due to a few teething problems setting up the desk. Problems with us, not the desk I might add. These problems once understood will not be duplicated and a good rough mix was achieved and then saved as a new scene.

The app connected right away. I only started using it once I was certain the band was ready to go. I would not recommend using the app for doing a complete FOH from scratch for reasons I will come to later. I used it to check the final FOH levels of the sound before the band left the stage to prepare for the first set in 30 minutes time.

Prior to the band taking the stage I set up some hand signal rules to indicate if anybody wanted more or less of anything then said I would individually check them one by in the first track to adjust the mix. The room had filled up a bit and there was about 100 or so people in there by now.

During the show.

So, during the first number I checked the monitor levels. Here I encountered a few problems.

1. The bassist kept saying “more kick” then “less Kick”. It was proving tricky to be precise enough with the virtual faders. I got there eventually but it was quite fiddly.

Now, I know there are ways of using multi gesture to get greater control of the slider but I was scared to death of inadvertently adjusting another setting while sweeping my fingers across the screen. So I resorted to trying to be precise as I could with my chubby fingers. I eventually sorted it though.

2. The signal dropped out. It didn’t happen that often and reconnected almost immediately. so I wasn’t to worried about it. It didn’t appear to be linked to distance from the router either. So maybe its was some interference from something else in the room? I don’t know but TBH it wasn’t really a problem. The router is running on 5Ghz only by the way.

3. THE EQ!! After I had attended to the monitors and made sure the guys were happy on stage I started to tweak the EQ. We had used the Yamaha presets (From this very site) to help with the speed of the initial set up prior to the show earlier on in the day. Now I wanted to dial it in a little more precisely for the band. (Particularly the guitarist and the drummer). TBH, it was a bit of a nightmare. Maybe this is my ignorance with the gestures on the app but I found it difficult using the Parametric EQ (PEQ) precisely enough. In particular adjusting the ‘Q’ point. The need for this is of course if your trying to eliminate a particular problem frequency and need a tight ‘notch’. I couldn’t figure out how to tighten it up enough so the EQ slope for any part of the PEQ was too wide to be of particular use. Maybe you need to use two fingers to do it? I don’t know, maybe I need to do a bit more digging on this one but during the middle of a gig is perhaps not the best time for experimentation.

On the whole these were the main three difficulties I had with the app. But, being honest I think I’m being a bit unfair. This is a stellar bit of kit. It eliminates the need to have the desk front of house where it may not be safe or appropriate for it to be located. You can move around the room and sample the sound in all areas. I stood at the back of the room for a bit chatting away to other punters about the sound gathering thoughts one minute and then dancing away with the Hen party on the dance floor the next while checking the mix. It was awesome not being tied to a desk anymore which may not be in the best part of the room for mixing anyway. The more you used the app the more you got used to switching between the different layers of mixes and screens for FOH monitors and FX. I was quickly adjusting levels and FX to suit individual songs and boosting solos. By the end of the night the drummer sounded massive. He’s a pretty straightforward player and TBH not the hardest hitter. We had mic’d everything: Kick, snare, Hi-hat, 3 toms and two overheads. Utter overkill for the venue, but because I had the time and the ability to move around and mix on the fly to suit the room and his style by the end of the gig with the right gates compression and appropriate reverb he sounded solid as a rock and twice as strong.

Conclusion.

So my thoughts overall? Brilliant. The desk never missed a beat. The app, apart from my niggles, worked flawlessly. It helped flatter the band enormously and they were no slouches to begin with. I got some odd looks from audience members (‘Whose the dude with the IPad? A timeshare salesman?’). But by the end quite a few, including other gigging musicians who had pitched up seemed impressed by the sound as well as the professionalism of the band. I got the impression nobody else normally rocks up with this type of kit. Especially some of the weekend warriors I think they have in this venue (no disrespect intended).

I might further add that I watched a QU-16 and Qu-pad being used at a mates wedding with a really harsh noise limiter. The desk cut and hard restarted at least 20 times (nothing the band could do about it. Just the world’s most fascist limiter). It never stuttered once. Try asking that of some other brands digital mixers.

At the end of the day are the Qu-16 and Qu-App necessary for a local pub gig? No, probably not. Is it necessary for a large corporate or wedding event where you are being paid top money by demanding clients? More and more so, I’m afraid. The Qu-16 and Qu-pad are an investment that will repay itself in no time in booking fees from quality and with the amount of stress it takes out of the whole mixing and sound-teching experience……..I’m sold.

Credentials

Keyboard player grade 8. 30 years playing experience. Both live and studio. Original and function bands.
Guitar and bass player 25 years experience. Both live and studio.
Live and studio sound engineering experience 10 years.
First class BMus. honours degree in poplar music including sound technology and sound engineering.
Qualified secondary music teacher with full QTS. Experienced classroom, peripatetic and private tutor.
M.I. and pro audio retailer/demonstrator with industry training. 20 years. Selling and installing brands such as Yamaha, Roland, Shure, AKG, Allen And Heath, Audio Technics, Focus Rite, Native Instruments, KRK, Akai, Numark etc.
Pro music and hi-tech specialist as Fair Deal Music, Birmingham