GEAR REVIEW: MACKIE DL32R Rack-Mounted Digital Mixer

MACKIE DL32R Rack-Mounted Digital Mixer – $1999

Pros: Super flexible as a DAW or a Live Mixer, quality construction.
Cons: Only works with iOS, no Android compatibility.

In most cases, mixers haven’t changed much – you know, the usual array of knobs and sliders, inputs and outputs. Mackie’s brought the mixer into the 21st Century with their new DL32R Rack-Mounted Digital Mixer. It’s a 3-rack space unit with a front that’s loaded with 24 XLR Mic/line inputs, and 8 combo jacks (XLR & 1/4”), 14 XLR output jacks and (2) 1/4” outputs for monitoring, as well as a 1/4” headphone out. A XLR AES digital output also resides here. The rear panel looks more like a computer than a mixer with its USB connections: Mackie informs us that the direct-to-disk option is 24×24, upgrading to 32×32 soon. The USB interface option is currently 32×32. Connections to a router (more on this later) and an expansion slot are here as well.

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To get it all up and running, an iPad and a wireless router are required for operation (not included). Installing Mackie’s Master Fader
App, and connecting the unit to the router, brings things to life. The app mimics an actual mixer in both looks and application. There are presets for particular instruments in each channel: guitars, vocals, various drums, etc. They apply various EQs and processing suited best for their use. Presets are editable, and behave just like the hardware emulated. Reverb, Delay, Compression, EQ, and Noise Gates are all at your fingertips – quite literally.

It’s also super easy to group channels into subgroups, just like a regular mixer. Settings can be stored and recalled for various songs with the swipe of a finger, and can be adjusted on the fly. With a connection to an external hard drive, the ability to record a practice, and then use the tracks to build off of can make pre-production for a recording process go quickly. Using the same unit as a recording platform is key, eliminating transfers and any exporting issues.

Setup is more like connecting a PC to a net- work, rather than hooking up a traditional mixer, but once up and running it’s very simple. You’ve now got (or your sound guy/gal now has) the ability to walk around a venue during a sound check (or even mid-performance), and really tailor the mix not only for the band, but how that band sounds in that particular room, save the settings, and recall them as needed. Mackie’s app also controls the monitors, enabling each performer to personalize their own monitor mixes on-the-fly. The sound quality is digital, so there are no issues there. Mackie’s Onyx+ mic preamps are industry standard for a reason, and performed great with this unit (as we imagined they would).

The downside is that it only runs on Apple products; Mackie has focused on delivering a system that works great on one platform, rather than adapting their software for several others (Android users, in particular). A router is also needed to connect everything together. One problem that could arise is if the wi-fi signal is compromised somehow, the router fails, or something goes wrong with the iPad. Currently the DL32R cannot be controlled via PC or Mac, only an iPad using Master Fader or iPhone/iPod touch using My Fader.

So who is this for? It’s semi complicated: for a small to mid-size touring band, this might be above and beyond. At a street price of $1999, it isn’t cheap, but it does deliver considering its flexibility and applications. For a band that wants a killer mixer that is super adaptable between varied live settings or recording applications, it can kill two birds with one stone. For a club/venue looking for a super adaptable platform to cover a lot of ground, it’s well worth the investment and installation into their existing setup. It may require a sound guy/gal who’s more comfortable with technology, but that’s not a bad thing. And it’ll provide the club with a greater level of flexibility and ease-of-use if artists wish to control their own mixes.

› 32 Onyx+ recallable mic press with wireless control
› 100% wireless control of all features from iPad
› 32×32 USB 2.0 audio interface for Mac or PC or:
› 24×24 recording/playback direct to USB 2.0 hard drive with wireless control
› Fully loaded DSP with 36 input channels, 4-band PEQ + HPF, gate and compression
› 28 output busses with 4-band PEQ + HPF/LPF, 31-band GEQ, comp/limiter and alignment delay

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