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16 channel mixer with 4 auxes – thoughts on Mackie Vlz4 1604
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Author 16 channel mixer with 4 auxes – thoughts on Mackie Vlz4 1604
Decdog
Fellow Wigglers,

I’ve been looking to upgrade my mixer and looking for something with four freely assignable (i.e. not linked to internal FX) auxes that won’t break the bank. The Mackie 1604 looks really good, and with a smaller footprint (and price tag) compared to the MixWiz. I imagine there are Behringer options, but having returned not one but two of their mixers which were faulty on receipt, I’ve decided to not ‘go there’. confused

I particularly like the rotopod idea, i.e. being able to rotate the back to have patch points all ‘facing up’ (not least because it reduces the desk footprint, a key selling point for me).

However, I feel like it don’t read or see much about this desk in the community, in particular about the rotopod (which I know at c.£100 is a quite ridiculous for a bit of metal), but the solution seems really smart and overall cost effective, if you are ok with Mackie quality – which as the owner of a 1402 vlz4 I’m quite happy with.

What are your thoughts? Do you own one, maybe even with the rotopod? Any issues with it, e.g. does the ‘rotation’ cause any headaches (e.g. tension on internal connections)?

One thing that kind of bugs me is that the inserts affect the master bus only (but perhaps this is normal...). I was hoping to insert a compressor and then send the compressed signal simultanesously to speakers and to a recorder… but maybe I need another mixer for this – or just y-cables if I’m ok with unbalanced signals going into speakers and recorder?

Thanks for your 2c!
DiscoDevil
I have used them for years. They are solid workhorse mixers. Not the greatest sound quality but the features are hard to beat in the price range. I would suggest just going for the MixWizard though. I think the extra $ is worth it. The A&H sounds MUCH better and offers nearly the same features plus individual outputs on each channel that are switchable pre/post fader.

It doesn't sound right that the channel inserts only work on the master bus. There are inserts on the master as well but the channel inserts should work across all outputs.

I usually end up using the control room out for recording.
Dave Kendall
The Mackie 1604VLZ has 16 channel inserts and the signal post-insert is sent to the master buss, which has its own insert. The control room outputs (to your speakers) should be a copy of what comes out of the master output sockets, but with a volume control. So you will hear the effect of a stereo buss compressor at the control room outs.

It also has direct outputs on the first 8 channels, as well as 4 groups. It's certainly a solid and quiet workhorse, and is a lot of bang for the buck.

I only ditched mine because I needed a bigger desk with recall for what I was doing at the time.
Decdog
Thanks both!

That is good to know re the CR, as being a copy of what gets sent to the master outs. So if I put a compressor on the ‘master inserts’, that should work on the whole mix and the compressed signal should be sent to both my speakers (CR) and recording (master outs)… which makes sense.

[starts looking around for ]

Any thoughts on the rotopod thing in particular?
DiscoDevil
The Rotopod is great. It gives me a "shelf" to put my effects pedals on when playing live.
racooniac
i use a k&m acoustic guitar stand "heli2" instead of a rotopod for the same effect without needing a rack, you can just place that on any desk.

example holding a mackie 1642 vlz4 upright: https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/421698377491939329/5961031393 55131942/ship23.jpg

just dont be suprised if your affordable analog mixer has crosstalk or when your muted channels leak into the main out and group bus, thats what you get when you do not pay as much as it would cost to make this without any crosstalk. (aka. highend studio desks)

if you want to record anything that goes through the mixer without mad crosstalk and/or noise you can pretty much just use the direct outs.

but thats not a problem for me, just a heads up for anyone that gets into his first analog mixer adventure so you are not as suprised as i was ;D
calaveras
The 1604 is a solid mixer but it has two caveats.
First, you should ignore the EQ. It's really bad. It just muddies up the signal and damages it with even the slightest amount of EQ. If you have to use the EQ, take a cut only approach.
The other thing I've noticed with the 1604 is that you need to hit it kind of hard. If you give it too faint of a signal the mixer kind of strangles the life out of it. I always ran stuff into it pretty hot then made adjustments in my sound card to knock that down to a better level.
Or when using for PA, I just pull the busses down a few DB (having assigned everything through the busses so I can grab all the vocals, or all the band with one hand).

On the plus side it is very compact and feature packed.
But as others have said, the A&H is a better product. I'd also put the Midas Venice up for consideration. It's a Behringer umbrella company now, but Midas has some serious cred. I'd give even their cheap mixer a spin.
Soundcraft of course is the other obvious option. Their cheaper mixers are obviously not as grand sounding as their full size consoles. But I love that Soundcraft EQ, even on their cheap mixers.
And they have been at it a long time, so their stuff is pretty reliable.
oozitron
I love my 1604. Bought it about 4 years ago for $50 and works perfectly.

I use it in my synth studio with all four FX auxes in use, and live with a trio I play with, the auxes doing some effects and some monitors.

For live jamming, I love having the muted channels going to the headphones; super useful for adjusting a sound before you release it into the mix :-)

Drew
umma gumma
this is a good thread: I have a 1604 sitting in my closet, need to hook it up & make use of it, thx for the tips
Technologear?
I've been on an older but similar model Mackie for years and years.
It's done the job and it's helped me notice how cheaper desks sound worse than it.
But I'm still clicking threads like this to get some ideas on alternative desks, and searching local classifieds for something better quality. Especially now I'm mixing exclusively OTB on it, and realising I need more channels. And as mentioned, I avoid the eq on it. And I want 6-8 aux now. Etc
Could you make do with what you've got and keep saving for something a little bit better, as mentioned? I've enjoyed both Soundcraft and AH desks more than mine.
Decdog
Hmm, lots of food for thought…. thumbs up

Love the idea of the guitar stand as a way to ‘stand up’ the mixer – very cost effective!! (and nice set up btw!)

The Soundcraft Signature 16 looks good, and similarly priced to the Mackie 1604 vlz4 but not immediately clear whether the fourth aux is only for internal FX, or switchable between internal FX and an external aux send (will dig into the manual when not at work).

The Midas Venice 16 unfortunately has only 2 aux sends.

Two more questions for all you folks who’ve been around in the game for a while:
• Any advice on buying used? With two small kids at home, I have little appetite for risk taking (and time consuming chasing/returning of items not as described), but if a mixer is sold as ‘working perfectly’ and I confirm with the seller that none of the pots are ‘scratchy’, and none of the connections cutting out, is it relatively safe to buy used? Unfortunately I’m unlikely to be able to test things in person… buying used would mean something like the MixWiz becomes attractive, but it just seems quite … big … for my small space (!)
• What is the point of having pre-fader sends? Is it so you can have a purely wet signal on the auxes, because you can turn the fader (and dry signal) down and still have the signal go to the aux fx unit?

Thanks a bunch in advance Rockin' Banana!
wigwig
OP:
A few years ago I got a 1604 vlz because of its functionality and price.
Works fine for my modest purposes. Added the rotopod after a couple of years and glad I did.
The 4 groups are really useful.

Technologear? wrote:
I've been on an older but similar model Mackie for years and years.
It's ... Especially now I'm mixing exclusively OTB on it, and realising I need more channels. And as mentioned, I avoid the eq on it. And I want 6-8 aux now. Etc.

What are you using for EQ ?
DiscoDevil
Decdog wrote:
Hmm, lots of food for thought…. thumbs up

Love the idea of the guitar stand as a way to ‘stand up’ the mixer – very cost effective!! (and nice set up btw!)

The Soundcraft Signature 16 looks good, and similarly priced to the Mackie 1604 vlz4 but not immediately clear whether the fourth aux is only for internal FX, or switchable between internal FX and an external aux send (will dig into the manual when not at work).

The Midas Venice 16 unfortunately has only 2 aux sends.

Two more questions for all you folks who’ve been around in the game for a while:
• Any advice on buying used? With two small kids at home, I have little appetite for risk taking (and time consuming chasing/returning of items not as described), but if a mixer is sold as ‘working perfectly’ and I confirm with the seller that none of the pots are ‘scratchy’, and none of the connections cutting out, is it relatively safe to buy used? Unfortunately I’m unlikely to be able to test things in person… buying used would mean something like the MixWiz becomes attractive, but it just seems quite … big … for my small space (!)
• What is the point of having pre-fader sends? Is it so you can have a purely wet signal on the auxes, because you can turn the fader (and dry signal) down and still have the signal go to the aux fx unit?

Thanks a bunch in advance Rockin' Banana!


I have always bought used. It's a tough one if you can't test beforehand. Good luck!

Prefader sends allow you to capture the entire audio track so you can do completely different mixdowns at a later date. If you take your direct outs post fader/effects/etc, you are always stuck with that performance and can't redo the mix/effects/etc. It seems counter intuitive at first but being able to go back and revisit old sessions and do completely different mixes has been very rewarding. If you add a new effect or a new technique, you can "remaster" your old tracks or use some of the "outtakes" from the session that didn't make it in to the original mix.
nostalghia
Pre fader aux sends are also useful when using the mixer to record a band playing "live in the studio", especially if they aren't all in the same room (vocalist in a booth, drummer or guitarist down the hall, etc). The musicians listen to a "cue mix" on headphones that lets them hear what the others are playing (or previously recorded tracks in the case of overdubs), at the levels they want ("turn up my vocals in the phones, and turn down the drums"). The engineer has an aux send bus routed to a dedicated small power amp that feeds multiple headphones.

Switching the aux send used for the cue mix to "pre" instead of "post" fader means the cue mix doesn't change if someone at the mixer (in the isolated control room in a large studio) wants to tweak recording levels or play around with the monitor (speakers) mix using the faders. Singer or guitarist doesn't unexpectedly hear something going up or down in volume in their headphones while they are playing, get distracted and flub their part (faders won't affect the cue mix, only the aux knobs feeding the headphone amp do).

A pre fader send can also be used in a mixdown (multiple recorded tracks going thru the mixer down to stereo) as an effects send-normally you'd use post fader sends to a reverb or delay so when a fader is raised or lowered during the mix, the effect amount changes proportionately. But break this "rule" with a pre fader send, and you can now easily pull down the dry level of an instrument or vocal but same amount of that track still goes into the effect-can sound interesting sometimes, like the part is "going off into the distance" with reverb for example. Sounds like the OP already figured that usage of pre-fader out though.
Rooftree
Happy owner of a 1604VLZ4. I've owned just about every Mackie 1604 mixer. They can't be beat for number of features in the smallest space. The signal routing capabilities are excellent.

I almost always buy used gear. I ran into a bunch of problems with the used Mackies. I eventually upgraded to the VLZ4 and bought it from somebody who had purchased it new a few months prior. Given my past troubles, I wouldn't buy a used mixer if it was more than a year old.

For a while I was using a rolling mixer stand from On Stage Stands. A couple of weeks ago I rotated the jack bay 90 degrees so the cables point down. I built a small wood stand to hold the mixer at about a 45 degree angle. The mixer is designed so the cables are under no stress at all when the pod is rotated. I didn't need a rotopod for the cable position I used.

Keep in mind that there are actually 6 aux sends on the 1604VLZ4, but you can only control the send levels of 4 auxes at a time. There are only 4 aux returns, so the other 2 returns will need to come in on the channel strips.
Monotremata
Man who even makes decent consoles for recording at home anymore???
Ive been thinking of going back to using one but mine is a 20 year old Behringer Eurodesk 2442. Feature-wise its just about perfect, 16 mono channels+4 extra stereo and 6 sends, but its only 4 busses and its Behringer, its not like the mixer itself does anything of value other than routing heh.

Been looking at A&H, Soundcraft, Midas, etc.. Mackie is like the only one still making the good old 1604 and really the only advantage over my Behringer there is the size (the Behinger is BIG). Cant find a 'simple' home recording type console with 16 channels, direct outs on each one (or 8 busses to feed my MOTU) and enough sends (seems like everybody only needs 2 now?). Probably just start digging around for old Tascams or something, they seemed like the only folks making what everybody needed for tracking. The old Behringer MX8000 and 9000 do what I want but again, another huge Behringer thats even heavier than mine hah.
BugBrand
A&H MixWizard every time - they're solid workhorses, good quality, no frills, compact, powerful.
Technologear?
Technologear? wrote:
I've been on an older but similar model Mackie for years and years.
It's ... Especially now I'm mixing exclusively OTB on it, and realising I need more channels. And as mentioned, I avoid the eq on it. And I want 6-8 aux now. Etc.

What are you using for EQ ?[/quote]

External filter desktop fx, onboard filters of my sampler and synths (ie eq at the source), and lots of pre-fade sending through Aux effect chains with the dry channel fader really low. The fader then becomes a 'add some more bass and treble back' (ie clarity) eq level as my aux sends are all hi and low filtered, and crazy with mid range info (overdrives phasers delays verbs in chains). This works as I prefer mixing fx sends pre fader, riding the aux send knobs, rather than 'set n forget' them and using faders set to post. I'm chasing REALLY messed up and crazy sounds and textures though, this wouldn't apply for traditional electronic or band type mixing.

The advantage of sticking with my good ol' Mackie has been that I've had to push it to it's routing limits as my mixes have become more complex, which has helped me discover what I really want in a mixer.

(Which is: variable hi and lo pass plus 1 variable mid with Q eq per channel; 6-8 aux sends each selectable pre post; no onboard FX; inserts on all especially master; direct outs selectable pre post fader (in case I ever want to use a daw again); 32 mono channels (set to 16 stereo pairs) OR 16 stereo channels (Ha!) OR 16 channel but Aux stereo returns routable to Auxes again (monitor mixers sometimes have this).

I added that so OP considers the need to future proof the purchase.
calaveras
the scarcity of of auxes is related to how we do production these days.
Just try to find currently produced rack effects. There are not a lot. The ones there are have been the same models in production for quite a while.
Unlike in the 90's when it was a fricking arms race between Lexicon, Digitech, TC Electronic, Alesis, Yamaha and a few others.
The tacit assumption is that plug ins get the job done, sound better and are cheaper.
So I guess lots of folks are either using pedals (as I did for a while) or doing funny tricks to get more auxes. Like on some effects there is a dry out that can be routed to additional effects. It got really tired after a while having a pedal on the hihhat, and another on the snare and another on the X0Xbox etc. Lots of AC adapters.
Personally I bought a Soundtracs Solo Midi for $350 on Craigslist. It has 6 auxes and a decent EQ. Lucky it's 24 channel, because 7 channels are dead!
It's also the size of a small import car. confused
GrantB
BugBrand wrote:
A&H MixWizard every time - they're solid workhorses, good quality, no frills, compact, powerful.


+1
EPTC
I've always used Mackies and I really love them. They're like Shure mics - Very durable and clear. I have a 1642 right now and can't recommend it enough. Pretty sure the 1604 also has the separate 1/2,3/4 routing outputs (the faders next to main out) - Don't ignore these as additional signal routers!, identical to aux sends. I use them to send 3/4 to a few modules and 1/2 to a fixed reverb; very handy to have stereo-paired faders for these routes!

I choose Mackie often for the signal routing their mixers provide. They're very creative interesting mixers.

On the 1642, there's separate outputs per channel on the backside of the board. That's amazingly creative, as well. I use those all the time. That gives you a patchbay of direct outs for each channel, so it's even more routing. (Only aux 1 and 2 are pre-fade, not sure if that's different with the 1604)

It looks like the main difference between the 1642 and 1604 is those outputs on back, and the plug and play on the top of the board and those external outputs per channel. Looks like you'd miss out on the dual headphone jacks and all the inserts/inputs on the top of the panel, too. All of that adds up to making the mixer more of a patchable instrument, compared to the 1604 where you'd like have to add a patchbay above it, or just set your patching up and leave alone. Of course you gain four more mono channels with the 1604, compared to the stereo pairs for the last 8 channels on the 1642.

The 1604 is more expensive due to those extra mono channels but it looks like you give up a lot of features and pay $200 more. I'd give the 1642 a look. I consider the 1642 a very creative mixer and, two or three years in, I'm still finding new ways to use it. (Both are great, though)
DiscoDevil
The 1642 does not seem to be made as well as the 1604. The faders/knobs/etc feel cheaper and seem more prone to failure in my experience. The 1642 is much smaller and easier to carry around but you lose flexibility and durability.
Monotremata
calaveras wrote:
the scarcity of of auxes is related to how we do production these days.
Just try to find currently produced rack effects. There are not a lot. The ones there are have been the same models in production for quite a while.
Unlike in the 90's when it was a fricking arms race between Lexicon, Digitech, TC Electronic, Alesis, Yamaha and a few others.
The tacit assumption is that plug ins get the job done, sound better and are cheaper.
So I guess lots of folks are either using pedals (as I did for a while) or doing funny tricks to get more auxes. Like on some effects there is a dry out that can be routed to additional effects. It got really tired after a while having a pedal on the hihhat, and another on the snare and another on the X0Xbox etc. Lots of AC adapters.
Personally I bought a Soundtracs Solo Midi for $350 on Craigslist. It has 6 auxes and a decent EQ. Lucky it's 24 channel, because 7 channels are dead!
It's also the size of a small import car. confused


Haha yeah I just came across the Soundtracs name a couple days ago while searching.. The Solos were pretty well regarded and were fairly decent price wise, I think the Topaz series are the ones I read to stay away from. They certainly aren't going to save me any space from my Behringer, but neither would one of the Tascams I want either.

I guess just a couple of aux sends would work for now, but I do plan on grabbing a couple of those 90s racks as well hehe. I still want a DP/4 an SE-50 and if I can find one cheap enough, I really want a REAL PCM one day (I have an MPX500 and it aint no PCM for sure..). Id end up doing alot of plugins in the box because there is no way Im going to ever be able to have like 4 1176s at one time available. But after the inserts in the Mac, the board is gonna be all the EQ and mixing. Im a big fan of dub stuff so those aux sends are really important for delays and reverbs coming in and out as you mix. Its so awkward doing that with a mouse, its gotta be done hands on.
EPTC
DiscoDevil wrote:
The 1642 does not seem to be made as well as the 1604. The faders/knobs/etc feel cheaper and seem more prone to failure in my experience. The 1642 is much smaller and easier to carry around but you lose flexibility and durability.


Interesting. I'm meaning the new VLZ4 line, recommending the 1642. Are you basing this on experience or presumptions? You've actually had a new model Mackie 1642 fader/knob/etc fail on you? When?

I can say I've had previous incarnations of the 1604 and notice no difference in build quality on the new VLZ 1642.

Faders and Knobs across the line are stated by Mackie to include the same components:

DiscoDevil
EPTC wrote:
DiscoDevil wrote:
The 1642 does not seem to be made as well as the 1604. The faders/knobs/etc feel cheaper and seem more prone to failure in my experience. The 1642 is much smaller and easier to carry around but you lose flexibility and durability.


Interesting. Are you basing this on experience or presumptions? You've actually had a Mackie fader/knob/etc fail on you? When?

I can say I've had previous incarnations of the 1604 and notice no difference in build quality on the 1642. I'll restate that I'm fairly sure you're just gaining four channels with the 1604 v 1642.

Faders and Knobs across the line are stated by Mackie to include the same components:



From experience. The 1642 to me feels more like the 1640 Onyx as far as fader/pot quality and "feel". My music partner has a 1642 that he's going to have to replace because multiple channels are failing on it. My 1640 is the same, multiple failing channels and loose pots, etc. My 1604 VLZ Pro has been rock solid. It feels like a different built to me.
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