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Mackie DL1608 Mixer Review

Sep 19, 2012 10:43 AM, By John McJunkin

A flexible handheld device built for iPad control.

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The unfulfilled pop culture promise of 40 to 60 years ago, that we’ll all be going to work in flying cars by now, is a popular Internet meme. Indeed, it appears that flying cars are still decades away, but other magical technologies have appeared—the unbelievable stuff of dreams that would have made us faint dead away just 20 years ago. Among these is the idea of remotely adjusting every parameter of a complex mixing console wirelessly with a sophisticated walk-around handheld controller. It didn’t happen overnight—it’s been cooking on the back burner for 10 or 15 years now—but what has emerged in the past year or two is near universal access to this technology. Go back five to 10 years, and only ultra-sophisticated systems on high-end tours and the very finest performance venues had this capability. Mackie have brought this technology right down into the pro-sumer domain with its new DL1608 mixer. As of this writing, there is no other sub-$1000 mixer that can be controlled remotely by pad or tablet, but expect an explosion of such mixers over the next year. I will even go out on a limb to predict that within 3 years, every digital console available from every manufacturer will have the capacity for remote control from hand-held touch-screen devices, whether those devices are integrated into the hardware, or used as a virtual duplicate.

The DL1608 itself is not actually a complete mixer. It’s one half of a two-part system—the I/O and digital audio engine that handles all the input, output, and processing of your signals. The other half of the system is the iPad that you provide to control the system. The space on the mixer that would normally be occupied by faders, buttons, knobs, and metering is an open space on the DL1608, ready to accept your iPad. And it does accept any iPad, from the first generation to the very latest. In order to use a first generation iPad, a tray insert must be removed in order to accommodate the slightly different physical attributes of the early device. At the left of the open space is a stop that features a dock connector, with pins just like the one that plugs into your iPad for charging and syncing. As a matter of fact, the DL1608 actually does charge the battery in the iPad. Once the iPad is slid into place, a “PadLock” is slid in to the right of the iPad and screwed down, effectively locking the iPad in place. Aside from charging, the other purpose of the connection is to facilitate recording of the mixer’s L-R main bus by the iPad, and also playback of any audio from the iPad. During my initial examination of the mixer, I noted an apparent oversight: the lack of stereo RCA inputs to accommodate an external CD player or iPod or iPad. I was then struck by the notion that audio from the iPad can probably be streamed directly, and was pleased to discover that my instincts were correct.

Above the DL1608’s iPad space are 17 identical knobs, 16 LEDs, and a 1/4in. headphone output jack. The rightmost knob controls output level for the headphones, while the other 16, arrayed in two rows of eight, determine input gain for each of the mixer’s 16 channels. The LEDs indicate the status of the input level— green shows the presence of a usable signal, and red indicates clipping. Continuing “over the top of the hill” to the downward-sloping I/O panel on the rear of the mixer, we find 16 inputs, the first 12 of which are standard XLR mic-level inputs, and the last four are the specialized inputs that can accommodate either XLR or 1/4in. plugs (balanced or unbalanced, in this case). There are also two XLR outputs representing the main outputs of the mixer, and six 1/4in jacks representing the mixer’s auxiliary outputs. To their left is a recessed space in the vertical plane on the extreme rear of the mixer. This space features an RJ-45 Ethernet jack used to connect the mixer to a Wi-Fi router, facilitating wireless walk-around control. There’s also a barrel connector power inlet with a screw-on outer ring to secure power. The only other notable features on the mixer’s rear panel are two rocker switches: one for power, the other for 48V phantom power.

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