Gear of the Year: Recorders & Live

Narrowing down the top releases of the past 12 months into a (somewhat) concise list is a seemingly impossible task, and it would have been if not for the support of our loyal reviewers and Audio Media contributors.

Following on from yesterday’s announcement of the top microphones and DAWs, we delve into the world of live and location recording and list the products that caught our eye through being innovative, imaginative, and interesting.

Have a look through the list and let us know what you think on Twitter using #AMGearoftheYear.

Live and Loud:

Allen & Heath QU-16

Announced at Musikmesse in Frankfurt, the QU-16 incorporates features from both the GLD and iLive mixing systems into a compact, digital mixer. Designed for live, studio, and installations, the 19-inch rackmountable mixer features 16 mic/line inputs, three stereo inputs, four FX engines with dedicated stereo returns, 17 motorised faders with total recall, dSNAKE for remote I/O and personal monitoring, multi-channel USB steaming to Mac, and the QU-Pad control app for iPad.

The bottom line:

“Robust construction, iPad control, and all in a portable package. And a touch screen! What more do you want?” – Alistair McGhee, freelance broadcast and live sound engineer

SSL Live

As one of the most established console manufacturers for music, post-production, and broadcast, it was only a matter of time before SSL moved into the live market. The SSL Live is centred around a high resolution 19inch touch screen hub that gives constant visual feedback and access to configuration menus and the effects rack. The console is incredibly powerful with up to 976 inputs and outputs available and configurable as 192 audio ‘paths’ all running at 96kHz using SSL’s new Tempest 64-bit DSP platform.

The bottom line:

“Far from another digital mixer, the SSL Live brings a unique amount of flexibility for utilising processing power, which sets a new precedent to what modern full-scale consoles are capable of. A pro engineer’s secret weapon all in one box!” – Simon Allen, freelance sound engineer

Ready to Record:

Zaxcom Maxx Mixer

A powerful and portable tool for location recordists, Zaxcom’s Maxx is a mixer, RF transmitter, recorder, timecode reader/generator, and visual timecode slate. The Maxx’s four analogue mic/line level inputs feature preamps with NeverClip technology that prevents input clipping by using two A-D converters for each input channel.

The bottom line:

“Just tiny but a stunning all-in-one box PSC solution.” – Simon Bishop, chairman, Institute of Professional Sound

Cymatic Audio LR16

A new product from a new company, Cymatic Audio has quickly gained notoriety this year thanks to its budget-priced, yet powerful, LR16 multi-track digital recorder. The little unit features 16 line-level inputs designed primarily for recording live shows, but can also function as a fully featured 16-in 2-out 24-bit USB audio interface with sample rates up to 96kHz. It can even be ‘ganged’ together in pairs for 32-track recording.

The bottom line:

“The LR16 is the first product from Cymatic Audio, but what a product! If used with a PC it even features its own virtual desk and can be used as the front end of any DAW to provide very low-latency tracking.” – Andrew Graeme, owner, The Byre studio