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Mackie ProFX16 Mixer

May 25, 2012 12:43 PM, Reviewer: John McJunkin

Its USB I/O opens up new possibilities.

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A client for whom I recently did a conference room redesign and upgrade specified that the company would like for the conferences to be made available for live streaming over the Internet. Routing all the necessary signals and processing them in preparation for streaming wasn’t terribly difficult, but getting the audio signal into a server was something I hadn’t really considered prior. And even that’s not super complex or expensive, but the thought struck me: what if there were a mixer that facilitated signal routing, equalization, recording and playback, and also connected to the IP world via USB? I would very strongly consider using such a mixer for an application like the install mentioned above. As I pondered that, I recalled that there are indeed manufacturers offering mixers with digital I/O via USB and FireWire. I searched the Internet for mixers like this, and discovered that Mackie has introduced a series of them—the ProFX series. There are four mixers available in this series, with eight, 12, 16, or 22 inputs.

The major standout feature common to all four models is USB connectivity with computers, and a built-in effects processor with 16 useful and common effects programs. I evaluated a ProFX16, which offers 10 input channels with mic preamplifiers. Those same channels can be configured for line level inputs by changing the gain level; this yields up to eight mono and four stereo line inputs. All input channels feature 60mm faders, bus selection, PFL, and mute buttons, pan knobs, three auxiliary sends (Mon 1, Mon 2, and the internal effects send), three-band EQ with sweepable mids on channels 1-8, a 100Hz, 18dB/octave high-pass filter, and gain knobs. The EQ mids are not sweepable on the stereo-paired inputs (9/10, 11/12, 13/14, and 15/16). The low band is fixed at 80Hz across the board, and the high band at 12kHz. The range of the sweepable mids is 100Hz to 1.5kHz, and the non-sweepable mids are fixed at 2.5kHz. A stereo graphic EQ is also built in to the mixer, adjustable at 125Hz, 250Hz, 500Hz, 1kHz, 2kHz, 4kHz, and 8kHz. All EQs can boost or cut by 15dB. Each channel’s output can be routed to any or all of four subgroups and/or the mixer’s main stereo bus. Via the L-R assignment buttons above each subgroup’s master fader, stereo subgroups can be created (for drums or other groups that have a stereo image).

Above the subgroup and main faders are auxiliary master level knobs for the three auxes, three auxiliary return level knobs (to Mon 1, Mon 2, and stereo bus), and return levels for the internal effects (also to Mon 1, Mon 2, and stereo bus). A rotary input knob steps through the 16 built-in effects, but it threw me off a bit—it doesn’t “wrap around;” preset 16 is at the far right end, and preset 1 is at the far left; you can’t “go around the horn” back to the bottom. This isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch; it’s just a little unexpected. There’s a level knob for the two-track return, and a button to determine whether it’s fed by the RCA tape inputs or the USB bus. Another button determines whether the stereo bus or subgroups 1 and 2 are fed to the USB output.

In addition to the knob that determines the level to the control room outputs and headphones, there is a very clever and useful button that struck me as a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that notion: a “break” button. At the end of a band’s set, the break button can be pushed to instantly mute all inputs. A 12-segment stereo LED meter shows the main output level, and a single pushbutton toggles 48V phantom power on and off. And, of course, Mackie’s standard “rude” solo LED lives right below the meter. A pushbutton determines whether the Mon 1 channel or the stereo bus is routed through the seven-band graphic EQ, and another pushbutton bypasses the EQ altogether. This threw me off a bit as well. When it’s depressed, the EQ is bypassed, and when it’s up, the EQ is engaged. This not what I’m accustomed to, but it’s not a big deal.

The first eight inputs feature balanced XLR mic and TRS line-level inputs (balanced or unbalanced). Stereo inputs 9/10 and 11/12 feature balanced monophonic XLR mic inputs and mono or stereo balanced or unbalanced TRS line-level inputs (mono signals are plugged into the left input). There are also TRS outputs for Mon 1 and Mon 2, an effects send, control room monitors, four subgroups, and stereo headphones. There are TRS stereo bus outputs, along with the primary XLR stereo bus outputs. There are also TRS auxiliary return inputs. Stereo RCA pairs represent tape input and output, and the only other I/O connector on the console is the USB port on the rear panel.

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