Allen & Heath GL2200-12 mixer

pic of A&H mixer

Last Update 01-10-2009

The Allen & Heath GL2200 is a dual purpose mixer console that can function as a FOH mixer or a monitor mixer.  This is one of the best deals out there for cost-effective mixers with flexible routing and features.  Years ago I bought a large 32 channel GL2200 to use with my R&B band - we had grown to six members and I needed more channels, and we had done some festivals with other bands sharing our PA so I got a console with extra channels to spare with that in mind.

But when I moved to a new job and new town, I found the music scene was much smaller - with clubs to match.  You couldn't fit a band larger than four members so the small format group was the rule.  Suddenly my 32 channel mixer was way too big.  I had started to integrate the big beast into my recording studio and wanted to keep it home anyway.  So I started researching the A&H MixWiz consoles.  They were good boards but missing some essential features on their big brother GL series that I had to have.  I also was faced with making some new cables and I wanted to use what I already had.  Allen & Heath had discontinued the GL2200 by that time and the matrix mixer for the replacement model GL2400 displaced some GL2200 features that I wanted (like the stereo effects return channels and test tone system).  I considered a 16 channel version of the GL2200 on ebay but before long a twelve channel model appeared with a road case - perfect for the small format club band.  Right place at the right time.  The bidding was pretty intense (these don't appear often, much less with case) so I paid about the same price for a new MixWiz but with a free case thrown in.

I do occasional FOH sound reinforcement so a GL2200-12 would be double duty for monitors at stage level while the larger GL2200-32 would go out front for FOH assignment.  For the small format club gig this sits firmly on top of my effects rack (it's a wee too big for rack mounting) and doesn't take up a lot of stage space.  The channel configuration of the GL2200-12 is ten mono mic channels, two stereo line channels that can also function as a mono mic channel, and two stereo effect returns.

My first exposure to Allen & Heath mixers was a used SR-416, a 16 channel mixer with four subgroups.  Those things go back to 1984 and sounded incredible even for that time period which was before Mackies were around.  I had seen a lot of compact and large format "economy" mixers but the A&H was the first I heard with really good mic preamps and decent sounding EQ.  Plus they were durable boxes, the SR board was almost twenty years old when I bought it, requiring only a replacement voltage regulator in the power supply.  That's a pretty good reliability record as most compact mixer give up the ghost in half that time. 

In my experience with compact mixers - Mackie, Kustom, Tapco, EV, Kelsey (showing my age here!!) - they either had inferior mic preamps and/or ineffective EQ.  I have pretty discriminating ears that had developed over the years so I could detect artifacts good and bad.  My ears also have really good "memory recall".  A bad mic preamp would either have poor frequency response or would sound "constricted" in the dynamic range they were supposed to be amplifying.  They could be noisy too. 

EQs can be all over the map.  If you wanted precision cut with an EQ to get rid of problem harmonics, often the bandwidth had poor control and you could hear desireable harmonics being cut with the problem ones!  When boosting sometimes you want color sometimes you don't.  Sometimes phase artifacts get really annoying when boosting EQs.  Many high EQs tended to sound harsh, compounded with the inferior mic preamp.  Most compact mixers have no sweepable EQs so you are stuck with the fixed center frequencies which may work in theater but are totally inapplicable with a live band!

That old A&H SR-416 had really pristine mic preamps.  The first time I set it up at a soundcheck and tested the monitor channels, the band members immediately noticed how much clearer the monitors were.  I have recordings of shows off that board, and the clarity of the mic preamps was ridiculously good, even on the drum overhead mic where the cymbals were crisp and clear!  Although the EQs were non-sweepable, they were very effective in cut or boost mode.  The center frequencies were totally different than other boards but very effective for vocals, drums, bass, guitar.  No nasty artifacts like stray harmonic control or phase problems.

So when our little R&B group grew to six musicians we outgrew the SR-416 and I started looking into a new console with expansion in mind.  Sticking with the tried-and-true Allen & Heath, it didn't take long to settle on the GL-2200.  The mixer features are familiar to any experienced soundman. All the channels have 100mm faders, four level LED meter to dial in the optimum preamp gain, phase reverse, switchable 48V phantom power, bypassable EQ, six aux sends configurable to pre/post fader or pre/post EQ, PFL, mute, and subgroup/LR assign switches with pan (or balance for stereo channels).

Many mixing consoles boast of six aux sends but only give you four pots per channel with two pots assigned to one of two busses. That is a limitation if you are running two or more monitor mixes. The GL-2200 gives you a dedicated pot for all the busses, and a pre/post switch is provided for auxes 1-4 and another for auxes 5-6. That gives me flexibility in how I use the auxes for FX or monitors.  The PFL and mute switches have LEDs so you can find muted or PFL'd channels at a quick glance. The PFL signal appears on the headphone jack and the L/R Monitor LED level meter for checking your signals. PFL signals can be routed to the Mono output.

Each mic channel has a balanced XLR and balanced line input, insert, pseudo-balanced direct output, 20dB pad, 100hz rumble filter, and four band EQ with high/low shelving and two sweepable lo/hi mid.  Each stereo channel can function as a mono mic preamp or a stereo line preamp and has a four band EQ with fixed frequency centers. The mono mic input and stereo line inputs are balanced.  Other than a balance pot replacing the pan pot, routing is the same.

The stereo returns above the master section have 60mm faders, two band EQ, aux 1-2 sends, PFL, mute, and group/LR assign switches with pan (or balance). A 2-track I/O system is provided with level pots, and the return can be routed to LR buss for playback. 

The GL2200 channel strip aux sends comes configured from the factory so the mute kills the send to the monitor - OK for theater (you want wireless mics muted when actors are in the dressing room), but not a desireable feature for live performance.  While most compact boards are stuck in this mode, the GL2200 offers jumpers so you can change the routing so that the mute does NOT kill the send to the monitor.  That's more like it.  I also changed the direct out sends to pre-fader so when I record a show using the direct outs the recorder gets optimum levels.  Never being perfectly happy, I modified the channel strip to route direct out to pre-insert - the stock channel strip has post-insert and I did not want to record channels with compressors or other processors, I wanted the recorded signal to be unprocessed and have the flexibility to play with the processing during the playback.

Groups 1-4 and LR master channels have 100mm faders, four level LED meters, AFL, and mutes. *VERY* nice option to mute groups. The groups can be routed to LR and panned; with LR routing disabled each group signal appears at the rear panel balanced output, essential when used as a monitor board. As a bonus each group and LR buss has an insert, which is a rare feature on any board.  The 1/4" aux outputs are unbalanced but there is an option available from A&H to convert them to balanced outputs. Auxes 1-6 have associated level pots and AFL.  When the recessed "reverse" switches are used to put the GL-2200 in monitor mode, the group/LR faders become the faders for auxes 1-6 and aux 1-6 level pots become group/LF level pots.  This also makes the inserts available on auxes 1-6.  Very flexible. If you're going to use the GL-2200 as a complete monitor mixer you'll need splitters for each channel.  Mono output level is on a single pot above the LR masters, and a level pot is provided for the headphone which can monitor P/AFL and LR or 2-track.

Rounding out the GL-2200 is a 1Khz sinewave/pink noise test tone system with level pot and assign switches for LR, group 1-4, aux 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and a recessed disable switch. My one minor complaint is that the level pot does not completely mute the test tone, you have to disable it using the recessed switch.  The GL2200 can be powered from its internal supply, or if you're really picky about EMI there is a five-pin jack ready to accept an external power supply.

I did a lot of research on consoles before deciding on the A&H. I reviewed Mackie, Behringer, Soundcraft, Midas, and A&H consoles. Mackie and Behringer cut corners that I would not have been happy with, and their EQs aren't the greatest. You get what you pay for. Midas has a Venice line with their excellent mic preamps but way too much $$$ for 60mm faders and their largest board only had 28 mono mic channels, not enough for my needs. Midas routing is not as flexible as A&H either.  After elimination that left Soundcraft and A&H, and the A&H won on sound and bang for the buck.

I have one other modification in the works.  The RCA tape outputs are post insert.  If I record a show using the tape output and I am using a FOH EQ in the master LR insert, the tape outputs and recording are also EQ'd.  I want to modify the tape output to pre-insert so that the recording is not processed with EQ.

I would've preferred eight subgroups but those consoles were out of my budget and were getting too heavy. There are studio boards with eight subgroups but they are not optimized for FOH live consoles. The GL-2200 is a relatively complete FOH console with no corners cut and I have been very happy with my purchase.

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