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Nic Fancuilli puts Allen & Heath's new XB14 broadcast mixer through its paces...

DJ/producer Nic Fanciulli is one of the most in-demand tech house players in the game. His shimmering, Detroit-indebted productions, both solo and as part of Buick Project and Skylark have turned heads and commanded feet to dance all over the shop, finding their way into the CD wallets of DJs across the genre divides.

Fancuilli’s label Saved Records (co-run by studio partner Andy Chatterley) has been responsible for unleashing modern classics by the likes of Steve Mac, Joel Mull, Spencer Parker, Rolando and Mat Playford, while as a DJ, Fanciulli has cut comps for Renaissance and Global Underground, graced stages across the globe — from Ibiza to Brazil — and the radio airwaves of Radio One, among others.

The latest string to his bow is new radio show, Nic Fancuilli Presents Worldwide Sounds. Syndicated to 13 countries Fancuilli’s beats can now be heard banging from Turkey to Portugal, Russia to Australia. As Nic gets to grips with his new show, there could be no better time for him to put Allen & Heath’s new XB-14 broadcast mixer to the test…

The XB-14 is Allen & Heath’s newest addition to its already extensive mixer range. Designed for a wide spread of broadcast applications, from small radio or internet radio stations, right up to larger studios with multiple rooms. The XB-14 is equipped with a wealth of features specifically for the broadcast market including Telco inputs for telephone callers.

Telco inputs allow DJs to add telephone lines into the mixer to get a good signal from the caller. Try to add a telephone input into the mixer without it, and the sound would be terrible, simple!

Mic fader start sensing, for external connection, and internal automatic muting of the speaker outputs, are designed to combat feedback in the studio, while additional features include stereo channel start/cue outputs for CD deck transport control and multiple headphone outputs. All perfectly designed with the radio show in mind, then, but what does Nic think of it?

What do you like about this mixer?
“There are many things I like about the mixer, from the cosmetic side to the more important technical parts. Having the faders coloured differently, grey for Mono, yellow for Telco, blue for Stereo and red for the Master makes it easier to distinguish between the different types of channels available, especially on a compact unit like the XB-14.

“Having the ins and outs on the top of the mixer is a plus too. It’s easier to change over kit into the inputs than having to continuously raise the unit from the desk to unplug them from the rear like so many others I have used. I think that the 100Hz roll-off available on the Mic and Telco is great, as I usually have to remove unwanted low-end frequencies from my voice-overs. Having it available on a button makes it much easier to apply, too. Another thing that I really like about the mixer is the USB input, which is available on the last Stereo channel. This is great for plugging my laptop directly into the unit.”

What do you think about the layout?
“The layout on the XB-14 is very clear and logical. The pots, faders, buttons, and all the ins and outs at the top are very clearly labelled, which makes it a very user-friendly mixer.”

What is the build quality like?
“The mixer has a very robust feel, as do the pots and the ins and outs. It feels incredibly sturdy and reliable. The faders feel the same and have quite a free range of movement, which is a good thing. They’re not like the ones on a brand-new DJ mixer, where they take several weeks to get worn in.”

Can it withstand the rigours of a busy working radio station?
“I can see the XB-14 having a presence in not only the smaller budget or local stations, but also at the busy, top-end radio stations. Its robust design and feel could definitely take the demands of a 24-hour radio station. On top of this, it offers all the necessary channels, making it versatile enough to deliver a great radio show.”

How does it compare to other broadcast desks you may have used?
“Whenever I have used Allen & Heath mixers in the past, the sound has always been second-to-none. The sound delivered by the XB-14 lives up to Allen & Heath’s great reputation. When playing audio through the mixer, the sound was transparent at all levels, it didn’t feel coloured, which is vital in a broadcast mixer as the last thing you want is the sound to be tainted.

“All the parameters are clearly labelled and it presents itself as a very user-friendly model, something that can be quite rare in the world of electronic products. The selection of analogue, digital/USB and Telco channels make this mixer perfect for applications such as radio broadcast and I’ve already used the mixer for my weekly radio show.

“From the very beginning, when compiling the show, right through to the production and final recording processes, it was great fun recording the show “live” on the XB-14.

Several other great points include the ease of use to set up applications, such as the USB and foldback options. Being able to connect my laptop straight into it via USB without needing an external interface reduces the amount of hardware and allowed me to run several audio software packages through it, and gave me the option to expand the musical catalogue for future radio shows. It’s also great value for money.”

Verdict

Price   £849
Contact   allen-heath.com/uk
Build Quality   4.0
Ease of Use   4.0
Features   4.0
Value for Money   4.0
Sound Quality   4.0
Hype   A versatile, sturdy mixer with direct laptop connection.
Gripe   You have to be a radio jock to use it.
Conclusion   This is a great compact product with lots of features and pluses for your broadcast needs.
Overall Score   4/5