Allen & Heath’s entry-level two-channel mixer receives a makeover. Rob Lee finds out what’s been improved.
While there are no shortage of quality four channel mixers on the market, robust two channel mixers are few and far between. One of the most best in recent times has been Allen & Heath’s Xone:22, whose combination of professional grade features and affordability have ensured its enduring popularity. Striving to meet customer needs has led Allen & Heath to take a serious look at the entry level mixer in its Xone range and align it with the more advanced mixers in family such as the Xone:DB4, and it’s in this atmosphere of improvement that the new Xone:23 has been developed.
How have Allen & Heath improved the design of this new mixer? Well, the first improvement comes with the addition of an on/off switch on the rear panel, making the whole operation of powering up and turning off the unit a much more controlled endeavour, negating the loud “pop” that would emanate from your speakers if you had forgotten to turn them off first. The filter mode selection also has clear dedicated low pass and high pass function buttons, meaning that there is no longer any danger of confusion as to which mode your filter is operating in.
The entire microphone control section has been moved on to the main faceplate, while the mini headphone jack that used to live on the rear plate has now been moved next to the main headphone output on the front face. The VU meters have also been repositioned from the side of the faders to the middle upper section of the unit. A segment has been lost with this adjustment, but the re-positioning does make for a much cleaner work space. Each programme fader is topped by a single cue button, making for a much more practical cueing system than the single rotary knob found on the Xone:22.
The FX send and return is still implemented using the filter buttons once the EXT-ON button has been activated. The only drawback with this design is that it isn’t possible to filter one channel whilst sending the other to your FX unit. In other words, the filter and FX send are linked, which is fine if you want to filter your effected audio but less versatile if you have other needs.
One of the more significant improvements comes in the design of the source selection and trim level control, which are now effectively the same. Each channel has a phono and line level RCA connection (although it is possible to convert both to line level by means of a simple surgical operation), but this time both of the sources are available simultaneously by either turning up or turning down the trim level knob at the top of the unit.
Build quality is impressive too, with the Xone:23 having a very sturdy feel to it. The program faders have just the kind of resistance that you would find on a club style mixer, as well a slightly looser crossfader that battle style DJs might appreciate, though it is possible to swap out the cross fader for a mini Innofader, if you prefer. It’s possible that scratch-style DJs might like to see a bit less resistance in the programme faders for added flexibility, which is something that probably wouldn’t bother the club DJs if there was the option to turn off the crossfader altogether. However, Allen & Heath have probably come up with as simple a compromise as could be achieved.
The new, cleaner, layout and innovative input level controls are some of the most useful features, allowing two sources to play through a single channel at the same time. Added to the possibility of changing all of the inputs to line level, the Xone:23 suddenly becomes a very flexible tool indeed. Whether you are a digital DJ routing four decks from your laptop with an audio interface, syncing media players, or even separating channels in Ableton for further tactile controls, this design feature can turn this mixer into an effective four channel affair.
However, for some the Xone:23 doesn’t fully encompass the needs of DJs using laptops, and to even the balance Allen & Heath have developed an another version of the Xone:23 called the Xone:23c. This model has added soundcard technology, USB connectivity and X:Link MIDI data connectivity for use with the Xone:K series of controllers. The Xone:23c also ships with Mixvibes Cross LE software, opening up the possibility of providing DVS control, although this requires the reconfiguration of internal jumpers and such an operation (although relatively simple), should be performed by an authorised service engineer. This more digital friendly version of the Xone:23 is marginally more expensive than the basic model.
There is a lot of choice for anyone looking for an entry level two channel mixer, but few have the all round quality found in the Allen & Heath mixer. Perhaps the only serious competition comes from Pioneer’s DJM350, which features dedicated USB recording options as well as a master effects section that features a filter, jet, gate and bit crush effects. However, even the extended Xone:23C model is significantly more affordable than the DJM350. Denon also have an entry level mixer called the X120, which is lighter on features but robustly built, and is cheaper than both the Pioneer and the Allen & Heath models. However, Allen & Heath’s Xone:23 is solidly built with no sideways movement in either the knobs or faders and with the improvement in output (from 25dB to 28dB, with 20dB of headroom, up from 18dB in the Xone:22 model), there is little to fault this mixer.
Rob LeeMore info/Buy
|EQ||Three band full kill|
|Inputs||8 x RCA|
|Outputs||2 x XLR main outs, 2 x RCA monitor, 2 x RCA record, 1 x 6.35mm headphone, 1 x 3.5mm headphone|
|FX||VCF filter (low pass/high pass), External send and return|