Product Review: Mackie Onyx -1640i

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

Mackie’s all-new 16 channel mixer with FireWire capabilities sure to be a hit in ministry circles

When Mackie released its new Onyx mixers, it most assuredly offered an attractive array of solutions for church and ministry users, especially those looking for a top-of-the-line front-of-house mixing solution and simultaneous FireWire-enabled, multi-track recording connectivity.

Those of us who mix live sound in a volunteer church environment know the demands, particularly the expectation for a “perfect” house mix and flawless recording, all accomplished, of course, with one set of eyes, ears and hands. Enter the Onyx -1640i, the top-of-the-line of the new series which includes the Onyx 820i, 1220i and 1620i.

Being all things to all ears is a feat certainly made much easier, thanks to Mackie’s new line of mixers. An analog mixer with Firewire capabilities isn’t new territory for Mackie, of course, or for me. I owned the original Onyx 1620 and really enjoyed its usefulness in my studio for several years.

When the first Mackie Onyx series was released, analog mixers with digital capabilities were new to the market. It didn’t take long for the “give us an inch, we’ll take a mile” mentality to kick in; we demanded more flexibility from the FireWire routing and an easier experience with returning digital audio to the board.

When the first Mackie Onyx series was released, analog mixers with digital capabilities were new to the market. It didn’t take long for the “give us an inch, we’ll take a mile” mentality to kick in; we demanded more flexibility from the FireWire routing and an easier experience with returning digital audio to the board.

It’s nice to see the Mackie Onyx line “all grown up” now with really cool features. The 1640i has 16 X 16 24-bit/96kHz FireWire capability that allows sound operators to route all channels, aux sends, sub groups and master left/right to computer-based audio recording software, completely independent of the house mix. That’s nice but where this unit rocks is its ability to return all 16 channels of FireWire output from one’s computer to the channel strips, providing a tape-style, traditional mix down! Sweet. That means you can capture your audio, edit, apply your favorite plug-ins using your computer recording application and then return the audio to the board for mix down. You can even apply the onboard Perkins EQ to the return audio for additional sweetening.

Can’t you see the usefulness of this feature in providing your house mix and post production capabilities? With this mixer, on Monday morning a worship leader can remix the entire Sunday worship service audio for CD, broadcast or podcast.

Speaking of which, the new Mackie Onyx-i series works with all the popular computer-recording applications, including Logic, SONAR, Cubase, Ableton Live and Final Cut Pro. Knowing you can pair this mixer with Final Cut for post video production work is a very nice thought. Most notably, this mixer includes unprecedented third-party support for Pro Tools® M-Powered 8, using a driver that can be purchased online from Mackie for $49.99. After installation of the driver, my audio software had no trouble recognizing the driver and interacting with the FireWire output.

I know what you may be thinking, this is all well and good but I need more than 16 channels. Mackie Onyx -1640i provides FireWire aggregation (for software that accepts such) that allows for the connection of multiple 1640i’s making large recording projects no sweat.

To me one of the marks of a great piece of equipment (or software) is its ability to meet a user where he is and allow him to develop and grow into doing much, much more creatively. That’s this unit. All sorts of options exist. Each channel can be routed pre or post EQ to the computer, giving you the choice of “EQ to tape”. All aux sends are routable to the computer, allowing you to use your computer as a FX engine, making available your digital plug-ins for live audio. Further, the master left/right analog audio mix can be sent to the computer so you could quickly turn around CDs at the end of the service. As for monitoring, up to 16 sources from your computer can be sent to either the control room for instant monitoring or back into the channel strips to integrate them into the mix.

Those of us who frequently record digital audio know that latency can be an issue – the delay between when a note is sounded and when it is heard, after it passes through the digital process of the digital interface and computer. I most definitely prefer a “real” mixer because they provide latency-free overdubs. In addition, this mixer provides seamless integration with the Waves MultiRack plug-in platform, again making a powerful live digital and analog combination.

Each of the 16 channels on the 1640i has Onyx mic preamps, smooth 60mm channel and master faders, 48V phantom power, a low-cut switch and dedicated 4-band, dual-sweep Perkins EQ. Six aux sends offer pre and post control over additional dedicated mixes, which of course can include monitor mixes and effect loops. Additionally, the 1640i features true 4-bus architecture, offering four subgroups that help get your hands around your mix or create zone control for multiple sound systems. Further, a Direct Interface on channel one and two allows for the direct connection of guitars.

Communicating with musicians is made easy with a talkback section that has an internal mic or jack for an external microphone.

The 1640i offers plenty of headroom both on the analog and digital side. The Mic pre amps are quiet and in my opinion, great. I always appreciate the 4-segment metering per channel, especially in tracking down audio in rehearsals. The Mackie 1640i is a terrific unit for live mixing and a major asset for small studio recording and post production. A real winner.

Anybody who has ever worked with Mackie equipment knows it offers a lot of bang for the buck and has a reputation for being “built like a tank”. The unit can be rack mounted. Only the 1640i in this new series offers this much versatility, including 16X16 routing. I would highly recommend the Mackie 1640i for churches and ministries. I’ve been using Mackie mixers and products for more than 20 years and of all of its products I’ve seen in recent years, I’m most excited by the “new and improved” 1640, the 1640i, which will be a welcome fit in many houses of worship. It is now the center piece of my studio.