Allen & Heath ZED 12FX vs. Zoom LiveTrak L-12: Compared and Rated

Choosing the right mixer when there are so many on the market these days isn't easy.
Especially when many of them are built for one specific need but being marketed as an all-rounder 🙄
But not to worry, I've got ya!
I have taken a deep dive into two beasts in the audio-mixing game and gone head to head with them: Allen & Heath ZED 12FX vs. Zoom LiveTrak L 12.

We're looking at things like:
  • Sound Quality: This is the heart of the matter, right? How each mixer holds up in delivering crisp, clear audio. Are we talking about a mixer that makes your tracks sound like they're live from the garage, or are we hitting studio-quality sound?
  • Ease of Use: Nobody wants to spend hours figuring out which button does what. I’ll break down the user interface of both Allen & Heath ZED 12FX and Zoom LiveTrak L 12. Are they plug-and-play easy, or will you need a PhD in mixology to use them?
  • Features and Functions: Ie. What's under the hood? Let's find out what sets them apart.
  • Durability: No matter your reason for buying, you want something that's gonna last, not fall apart after a few light sessions.
  • Price Point: Yep, money talks. When it comes to prices, we need to see which mixer gives us more bang for our buck. Is the higher price of one justified by its features, or is the other a hidden gem at a bargain price?
  • Customer Reviews and Feedback: What's the word on the street? Sometimes real-world use tells a different story than what the sales page says.

Allen & Heath ZED-12FX

After using the Allen & Heath ZED12FX for about six months, I think it's a solid piece of gear, especially for those transitioning from basic to more advanced mixing needs. The sound quality is notably clean and clear, making it a reliable choice for both studio and live environments. Working with it, I've found that the preamps deliver a crystal-clear sound, and there’s an impressive amount of gain available, which is a step up from some lower-priced mixers I've used in the past.

Learning Curve and Usability

Although the mixer is fairly user-friendly, I believe beginners might find it a bit challenging at first, mainly due to the underwhelming instruction manual. It's more about trial and error unless you're already familiar with mixers. However, once you get the hang of it, the layout and controls become intuitive. The faders and knobs are smooth and responsive, adding to the overall ease of use.

Effects and Features

The ZED12FX stands out for its effects. The range and quality are commendable for a mixer in this class. It adds significant value, especially if you're into experimenting with different sound textures. However, the dedicated send and returns being 1/8 jacks is a bit puzzling. It's an odd choice considering the rest of the board adheres to industry standards. This might limit some traditional uses, but it's not a deal-breaker.

Reliability Concerns

One of the downsides I've noticed is the question of long-term reliability. I've heard about issues like pre-amps failing just after the warranty period, which can be a major concern if you're planning to use this mixer heavily. While I haven't faced this issue personally, it's something to keep in mind.

Overall Experience

In terms of overall experience, the Allen & Heath ZED12FX has mostly been a positive journey. The sound quality, ease of use (once you get past the learning curve), and the additional effects make it a worthy investment for someone looking to upgrade from a basic setup. Just be wary of the potential long-term reliability issues and ensure you have a backup plan in place.

Zoom LiveTrak L-12

Zoom LiveTrak L-12: A Multifaceted Digital Mixer

Practical Design, Impressive Functionality

After spending three months with the Zoom LiveTrak L-12, I've found it to be an invaluable tool for a musician, offering versatility in numerous situations. Its compact size belies its powerful capabilities, making it ideal for various settings from practice to live performances.

Rehearsal and Practice Sessions Elevated

Integrated Metronome and Recording Ease

The L-12 excels in practice environments. Its ability to connect multiple devices, such as a computer via USB for playing along with Spotify, is highly convenient. The built-in metronome and easy recording to SD cards are perfect for pinpointing and working on challenging sections. The recording feature is intuitive, simply arm the desired tracks, and you're set.

Rehearsal Powerhouse

Individual Monitoring and Built-in Effects

In low-volume rehearsals, particularly where everyone uses headphones, the L-12 is a game-changer. With five independent aux sends to 1/4″ headphone jacks, it offers personalized monitoring for each musician. The built-in effects, like reverb for vocals, add to the mix's quality.

Writing and Recording Made Simple

Instant Recording and DAW Integration

Capturing spontaneous musical ideas is effortless with the L-12. Its standalone recording capability, combined with the metronome, allows for quickly laying down initial ideas and building upon them. The seamless integration with DAWs for further editing is a significant advantage.

Live Performances and Mixing

Flexible Output Options for Shows

Though more suited as a sub-mixer, the L-12 can handle a full show, especially when using in-ear monitors. It offers up to five different mixes for in-ear monitoring and has both XLR and balanced 1/4″ outputs for speakers. Recording live shows for later mixing is a breeze.

Adaptable for Socially Distanced Rehearsals

Effective for Diverse Rehearsal Setups

The current pandemic has made music rehearsals challenging, but the L-12 adapts well to different scenarios. Whether it's playing in separate rooms or outdoors, it allows for effective mic setups and clear monitoring of all instruments. The ability to quickly transfer recordings to a DAW like Logic Pro X is highly convenient.

Areas for Improvement

Minor Setbacks, But Still a Top Choice

Despite its many strengths, the L-12 has a few areas that could be improved:
1. The compression always writes to the recording and isn’t of the highest quality.
2. The preamps are adequate but not exceptional.
3. The file naming system, while functional, can be cumbersome to navigate.
4. The lack of motorized faders means manual adjustments are necessary when switching mixes.
5. There's no option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs in live situations.
Despite these minor issues, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 stands out for its versatility and comprehensive features at its price point.

Final Verdict

A Robust, Versatile Mixer for Various Needs

Concluding, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is an excellent choice for musicians and sound engineers looking for a versatile, all-in-one mixer and recorder. Its strengths in various environments, from studio to stage, make it a valuable asset. While it has some limitations, its advantages far outweigh them, making it a highly recommended tool in the music and recording industry.

Head 2 Head: Allen & Heath ZED 12FX or Zoom LiveTrak L 12

Allen & Heath ZED 12FX: The Reliable Audio Mixer

The Allen & Heath ZED 12FX is the mixing desk that doesn't just sit there looking pretty. It's a workhorse, in the literal sense of the term. The audio quality it delivers is transparent and pure, reminding you of that lovely, crisp mountain air. The preamps on this soundboard are no joke – they deliver a crystal-clear sound and have an impressive gain range. It's like having a mountain goat tied to your audio; it just keeps going up and up, no matter how steep the climb.

Usability: A Dance You Learn Over Time

This recording console isn't your average plug-and-play device; it has a bit of a learning curve. But hey, who said anything worthwhile comes easy? Once you've mastered its language (which might involve some trial and error due to the underwhelming manual), you'll find its faders and knobs smooth and responsive, making mixing as intuitive as dancing to your favorite tune.

Effects: A Sprinkle Of Magic

The ZED 12FX shines in terms of effects – good ones too! We're not talking about those cheap tricks you find on some mixers pretending to be high-end equipment. This thing produces effects that add depth and texture to your sound. There's one tiny hiccup though – the dedicated send and returns are 1/8 jacks which feels like finding a plastic spoon in a silverware set.

Reliability: A Small Cloud On The Horizon?

We've heard some rumblings about long-term reliability issues with this digital mixer – preamps failing just after warranty expiration like clockwork, which is concerning for those who plan heavy use. But hey, let's be fair here; everything has a lifespan, right? Just ensure you have a backup plan in case things go south.

Zoom LiveTrak L-12: The Jack of All Trades

The Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is like that friend who's good at everything they try. It's compact but mighty, making it a great tool for various settings from studio to stage.

The Practice Room Companion

This multitrack recorder makes practicing a breeze with its integrated metronome and ease of recording to SD cards. Plus, it can connect multiple devices via USB – because who doesn't love jamming along to their favorite Spotify playlist?

The Soundboard That Cares For Everyone

In low-volume rehearsals where everyone uses headphones, this little audio interface plays the role of Mother Hen perfectly. It has five independent aux sends to 1/4″ headphone jacks, providing personalized monitoring for each musician.

Writing And Recording Simplified

You know those impromptu melodies that just pop into your head? The L-12 helps you capture them effortlessly with its standalone recording capability. Plus, it integrates smoothly with DAWs for further editing – how neat is that?

A Performance Powerhouse

While it's more comfortable as a sub-mixer, the L-12 can handle a full show when using in-ear monitors. It offers both XLR and balanced 1/4″ outputs for speakers and makes recording live shows easier than pie.

Social Distancing? No Problem!

This digital mixer adapts well to socially distanced rehearsals whether indoors or outdoors. Its quick transfer recordings to DAWs like Logic Pro X have proven highly convenient in these challenging times.

A Few Hiccups But Still A Steal

However, nothing's perfect – the L-12 has a few areas that could be improved. The compression isn't top-notch, and the preamps could use a sparkly upgrade. The file naming system can feel like solving a Rubik's cube, and the lack of motorized faders can be a bit of a drag. Lastly, it lacks an option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs in live situations.

Drumroll Please…

After thorough scrutiny, it seems we have our winner folks! The Zoom LiveTrak L-12 takes the cake here. Despite its minor setbacks, its versatility and comprehensive features at its price point make it an excellent choice for musicians and sound engineers looking for an all-in-one mixer and recorder. It's like getting a Swiss Army knife when you were just looking for a screwdriver – who wouldn't want that? The Allen & Heath ZED 12FX put up a good fight but fell short on adaptability. So there you have it – if you're on the hunt for an audio interface that punches above its weight, go snag yourself a Zoom LiveTrak L-12!