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Mackie DL1608

November 19, 2012
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This compact (approximately 15.5" x 11.5" x 4") digital mixer has a hardware exoskeleton surrounding an iPad (1st- to 3rd-generation-compatible) control surface. The Mackie pedigree is obvious: 16 channels of Onyx “straight wire with gain” preamps, accessed through 12 mic/line-level XLR ins and 4 mic/line-level combo jacks to accommodate 1/4" connectors, mounted on a backward-slanting rear panel. You’ll also find six balanced TRS 1/4" send jacks, two main XLR outs, “line-lump” power supply connector, Kensington lock, Ethernet to connect to a router for wireless control, and a global phantom power switch that enables/disables phantom power to all inputs.
 
The front panel has 16 gain controls (unity to +60 dB), each with a signal present/clip LED; it also includes headphone jack with level control.

The User Interface Mackie got it right—yes, you can use an iPad in a live mixing situation. The iPad is only for control; the DSP is in the mixer.
 
The main mixer screen always shows the master fader. Swiping scrolls through views of eight channels at a time, including returns for the Reverb (nine algorithms) and Delay (five algorithms and tap tempo), and iPad output for playing back sounds from apps that run in the background.
 
Each channel strip has an EQ thumbnail that you touch to enter processor land, plus mute button, panpot, gain reduction indicator, fader (with 60mm throw and highly readable meters), Solo button, and “scribble strip” label. You can also enter a name or select a track icon. (Choose default icons, select your own photo, or use the iPad camera.)
 
The DL1608 is actually nine virtual mixers. The Master Fader’s output selector chooses among L/R out, six aux outs, reverb send, and delay send. Once you select one of these outs, all mixer faders control the mix to that output. One obvious application is creating cue mixes.
 
Overall, the UI is painless—figure on 10 minutes tops to know your way around it.

Channel Processors Each of the 16 input channel strips includes EQ (four parametric bands, with high and low bands switchable to shelf and a high-pass filter), noise gate, and compressor. An additional window shows reverb and delay sends and their parameters. Furthermore, the DSP section is “swipe-able” so you can scan through the individual channel settings without returning to the mixer. Adjust parameter values by dragging nodes or entering numbers.
 
Some channels operate differently; a 31-band graphic EQ and compressor are available for all the Master Fader outs (except Reverb and Delay sends). Also, the Auxes include a pre/post effects button.

Cutting the Cable You can control the DL1608 wirelessly, although you’ll need a router (not included). Yes, you can walk around and tweak the 31-band output graphic EQ to “ring out” out a room, but the mixer can be controlled by up to 10 iPads, so musicians can tweak their processing and adjust remote monitor mixes.
 
Overall, this is a slick, user-friendly, cost-effective mixer—you can even record the mixer L/R output as a WAV file within the app and retrieve it via iTunes. The graphics are nice and big; live, the buttons and faders are easy targets, so you don’t need serious dexterity to operate it. The DL1608 isn’t just a one-off “cool product”—it proves the viability of combining an iPad with pro audio hardware for live mixing.
 
 
SUMMARY
STRENGTHS:
Well-suited to live performance. Excellent DSP. 16 Onyx mic pres. Wireless control. Internal recording.

LIMITATIONS:
Global phantom power. Limited number of 1/4" inputs.

$1,249.99 MSRP, $999.99 street
www.mackie.com

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