The obsession with portability is nothing new in the world of live touring. With increasing numbers of productions and performing artists conscious of budgets, Brexit and the overarching concern to be more environmentally conscious, portability has become increasingly important.
One company that has been focusing on this mission has been Allen & Heath with one of its latest ‘fly weight’ consoles, the CTi1500.
This portable console complete with flight case comes in at 23kg – light enough not to be slapped with an overweight sticker at the airport – while providing engineers the confidence of a mobile offering with control and functionality they come to expect.
To discover how the R&D team trimmed down the desk, TPi sat down with Allen & Heath R&D Director, Andrew Bell and R&D Operations Manager, Jim Wrigley. “There are a lot of benefits to getting a control package under ‘fly weight’,” began Bell, explaining that the goal was put to his R&D team to try and create a system that would get to the magic number of 23kg.
“From research it seems that 23kg was the weight that the majority of airlines used as the max limit before slapping on extortionate charges,” he explained. The ideal candidate from the Allen & Heath range to try and get down to this weight was the C1500 – 29kg including flight case.
“Breaking down how we were going to achieve this, after taking into account the sizable weight of the flight case, the standalone mixing console needed to be down to 11.4kg,” commented Bell.
For the flight case option, Allen & Heath visited manufacturers to find a way of trimming down the casing to size, working closely with Scott Dixon and NSP to find a solution. “During our research, we came across a new product called Ultra Flight from Penn Elcom,” stated Wrigley. “The material is able to withstand the US shipping regulations which is always a good indication of strength. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we were trying to get the case to this ideal weight.”
Wrigley explained the current makeup of the C1500 range. “All the front panelling for the desk is made up of Zintec which is first plated in zinc to prevent corrosion and then powder coated to make it hard wearing.”
The team originally looked at aluminium as a solution although despite being a lighter material, you need to have more of it to get the same rigidity and is more prone to cracking. “We then began to look at titanium,” stated Bell, which explains the ‘Ti’ in CTi1500. The new desk’s flat panels are made from titanium with the base panel being made from aluminium. The front panel, which takes the most abuse, remains as Zintec.
“This combination that we were able to get each mixer down to 11.4kg,” enthused Bell.
The use of titanium was an added bonus for the Cornish manufacturer as the region was the site of the discovery of titanium in the village of Manaccan and was originally named manaccanite before being re-discovered in Europe and gaining its better known name.
As for the electronics inside the desk, they are a carbon copy of the C15000 much to the pleasure of a number of engineers that have already been using the console.
One such engineer is Chris Parker of Patchwork London. Helming the audio needs for Arlo Parks [p56] he’s been benefitting from the smaller footprint at FOH as he and the crew worked through a range of venue sizes in 2021.
“You are able to get a lot of creativity out of the desk despite only having 12 faders,” commented Parker. “For one of the UK shows, I selected the larger S5000 and found it a new challenge to fill all the fader banks.”
Patchwork London has been particularly interested in the developments from Allen & Heath and has been creating a number of fly packages for touring artists such as Lewis Capaldi. “Being able to keep a control package under a certain weight seems to be more of a concern for engineers and we are investing in more of these types of solutions to keep up with the demand,” he noted.
Bell stated that they had received similar feedback from others that had already got their hands on the console. “In the R&D department we spend a lot of time on the forums and it seems that a number of people are really enjoying the desk. The one thing people are enjoying is that although the desk is light and compact we’ve got so many other accessories to fit people needs such as IP controllers to expand the system if need be.”
And for the shows when an engineer needs more faders an engineer is more than capable to have an extra element of console on a tablet or laptop? “There’s a fully expandable system,” Bell remarked in closing.
This article originally appeared in issue #267 of TPi, which you can read here.