Allen & Heath is a British firm that makes professional audio gear. They're mainly known for their mixing desks, but they make some installed gear as well.
Starting in the early 70's, Allen & Heath hand crafted mixers for such bands as Pink Floyd and The Who. Since then, they've made and sold more than 150,000 mixers, and they're becoming industry standard. Their name comes up alongside such hallowed names as Midas, Soundcraft, and Yamaha. Their mixers are known for reliability, ruggedness, and sonic transparency. They're also innovators in new console layouts and purposes; they pioneered the dual function console concept (making the same console convertible into a front-of-house console or a monitor console). A&H are known for their good technical support, even for old, discontinued models someone got secondhand. For me, this is the mark of a truly professional company; they care enough about their name and their users that if it's a problem with an A&H, they'll support you.
Some highlights of their gear, in my experience:
- Laid out in a thoughtful and sensible manner.
- 'Channel On' lights instead of Mute lights are handy (although it seems they've switched to Mute lights on some of their newer boards).
- 100mm faders are really nice, many boards cut the fader length down to 60mm or so.
- Their much touted British EQ actually sounds pretty good, and having a couple sweepable mids is very handy
- Their boards supply at least 4 (usually 6 or more) Auxes, usually, which should suffice for most purposes.
- Microphone Preamps have a ton of headroom, and sound good.
Recently they've been getting into the DJ market, with their Xone series. John Digweed used their Xone:92 exclusively on his late summer 2004 tour, so I guess that's a high recommendation.
Quick Console Identification Guide:
- If it's rackmounted or looks ~19 inches wide, it could be one of their MixWizard series of consoles. These stout little workhorses are just about the best mixers you can rack-mount. Ranging from 12 to 16 channels (or 40, if it's the freak one with a bunch of stereo channels for broadcasting), these boards have enough channels for mixing small bands with a couple of monitor outputs. These run about a kilobuck new. Whenever someone thinks they want to get a small Behringer or Mackie board for some application, I try valiantly to get them to get a used MixWiz instead; they don't know it yet, but they'll be much happier that way.
The other option is that it's one of their PA series, which is their series of powered mixers. These mixers have an integrated amplifier, making for one less thing to lug around (but a heavy console). These are about the same, feature-wise, as the MixWiz series, but with an integrated amp. These consoles cannot be rackmounted, however (cooling concerns...).
- If it's large and expensive looking, it's probably one of their GL or ML series consoles. GL < ML, but they're both several kilobucks (topping out at ~30 kilobucks for the ML5000). The sound crew I work with (Porter College at UCSC) has a GL2200 for our "big" system (40 kilobucks total), and it's quite sweet. Ours is the 24 channel version, and it has more than enough room for most everything we do. Allen & Heath's lineup accommodates much larger setups, though; they offer up to 96 mono channels on their ML5000 (their flagship model). MLs are beasts, offering up to 16 auxes, VCAs... the works.
All in all, Allen & Heath make top quality mixers that encompass almost all user's needs, and far surpass most competitors in quality/price ratios.