There are some questions that have bothered philosophers for thousands of years, while others have a more recent origin. Like, `Can we have everything louder than everything else?’ And the answer is — yes, now onstage (or in studio) you can have exactly what you want mate, here’s your ME-1 personal mixer every thing can be just as loud as you want it to be.
The ME-1 personal mixer from Allen and Heath gives your talent (and I use the word advisedly) on stage a forty input mixer, allowing them to mix their in ear or wedge feed to their heart’s content. The ME-1 is a hard back book sized mixer, mountable on a mic stand and Allen and Heath even through in a clamp. The mixer is solidly constructed in a metal housing with pro connectors and is fed by a signal Cat 5 cable and has a daisy chain ouput for the next mixer in the chain. Mixers can be powered down the Cat5 by PoE or they can accept a dc input from a power supply. If you daisy chain your ME’s then the first one in the chain can take PoE while the subsequent mixers will need powersupplies. You might be thinking, ‘what I need here is a hub that can feed multiple ME mixers and provide power to each one.’ And that is exactly what Allen & Heath have been thinking too, hence the release of the ME-U ten way PoE hub.
And let’s start at the hub. The ME-U is a solid 2U box fitted with ethercon input (see below) and ten ethercon outputs and a network port for control and data. The fan isn’t noisey but I can hear it. You can use a standard PoE switch as a hub but the clever thing about the ME-U is that it broadens the connectivity options you have with your ME system. The hub comes standard with the ME-D interface which allows connection to GLD/dSNAKE and Allen and Heath ACE and Aviom (note, no power over ethernet with Aviom). However, and this may be the genius of the system. The digital interface card on the ME-U is interchangable and other interface options include MADI, Dante and Ethersound. Which must be a spin off of the ground work A and H have done in the iLive series of desks and stage boxes which also support these formats.
One thing to note – when you connect into a GLD system the channel names and stereo linking information will be automatically transferred to the hub or directly connected ME-1. There’s a little bit of assigning jiggery pokery as the ME system sits `above’ the normal 20 outputs of a dSNAKE system. However this process is implemented to be invisible to the user. You also get auto naming with the A and H ACE system by plugging in a second CAT 5. This does involve you in a bit of configuration offsetting but either way you can overwrite this auto naming locally on the ME-1. At the moment the QU-16 doesn’t make the channel names (now available in firmware v2 but only in the app) available on the network, with a QU-16 you get one to one mapping of channels and outputs.
The ME-1 will plug directly into your Allen and Heath digital desk or stage box depending on which series of desk you have. Round the back of the the ME you get a loop output for the audio, headphone outputs on mini jack and quarter inch and a mono output to drive a stage wedge. Each personal mixer offers you forty inputs on the sixteen physical keys on the surface. Selecting a key allows you to adjust the level and pan for that input. The clear OLED orange display enables metering, naming and configuration. And is dimmable, ideal for those angst ridden ballads. You can assign a key to be a group master. So a single key labelled `Kit’, could control ten drum mic inputs. Once grouped you can balance the levels and pans of the individual members of the group or adjust the overall gain. There are limitations, for instance each input can appear in only one group, but that input could also appear on an individual key. Channel names on the ME-1 max out at six characters.
I was using dSNAKE from a QU-16 for this review, you get all the inputs (picked off at the direct output feed, so set that up to reflect your choice of prefade or pre-processing options) and all the outputs so you might want to slap main left and right on key 16 so everyone you have a default cue feed but it also means you can mix monitor grouping on a desk output with local groups created on the ME-1.
In addition to the audio from the desk you can also add a local Aux source using the mini jack input and you have a built in mic so you can hear what is happening around you on stage. And each ME mixer has a USB interface to allow you to save and load configurations direct to and from your ME-1. The configuration interface is menu based and very straightforward. Each configuration holds up to 16 presets or `songs’, each of which holds a different nameable mix. There’s basic three band eq on the main output and a variable threshold limiter. Each key channel can be solo’d or muted and when muted the key flashes to remind you of the mute status.
There’s no doubt that Allen and Heath consider the ME-1 a pro product, the finish and connector quality are all at pro level and the flexibility of the system will appeal to gigging engineers and musicians alike. When you get your mix just right pop in a USB stick and save it. No more arguments about how it doesn’t sound as good as last night and you can carry that setup wherever you go. The icing on the cake is the extra digital formats on the ME-U hub. The curse of digital is standards, in the words of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, `they’re multiplying’, the ME-U goes a long way to guaranteeing that the ME-1 will be as close to a universal solution until the day we all live under one digital world government. The current plethero of formats doesn’t look like going away and the ability to bung in a MADI card, protects your investment and makes hire companies lives a lot easier.
The ME personal mixer system, he shoots, he scores.