Mackie Onyx 1640i
Mackie calls its flagship Onyx a ‘...DAW-loving, premium analogue mixing, FireWire-laden
mother of all compact mixers.’ But is it the mother lode? ROB JAMES digs deep and
closely scrutinises.
or workaday applications in a wide
variety of fields, from
live music and
recording to education
and HOWs (Houses Of
Worship), 16 inputs is
something of a sweet
spot. Just sufficient for
most people’s purposes,
portable or slotting into
a conventional 19-inch
rack for fixed applications.
The Mackie Onyx range
needs no introduction, having
established a considerable reputation
thanks to high-quality mic preamps and
well-thought-out Perkins EQ that brings a
‘British’ flavour to the sound.
The compact i series ranges from 8 to 16 input
channels and integrates a FireWire connection for
recording and mixing to and from a computer. At the
top of the range is the UK£1,899 (including VAT)
Onyx 1640i. This is a solid console weighing a not
inconsiderable 15.9kg, housed in an all-metal
case using Mackie’s RotoPod design. The
bulky rear section with all the connections can
be located in one of three different positions:
default is with the I-O connections at the
rear; alternatively, the pod can be swivelled
up so that the connections are horizontal
for easy access; the final option is with the
pod mounted underneath the control surface,
making the overall depth far less — again,
with the connections at the rear.
The package includes a licence for Mackie’s
Tracktion 3 basic bundle. Mackie states that
the Onyx 1640i is qualified for use with all major
DAWS, including, specifically, Pro Tools M-Powered
8; Apple Logic; Cakewalk SONAR; Steinberg Cubase;
Ableton Live; and Apple Final Cut Pro. Pro Tools
M-Powered is something of a coup since this is the
only non M-Audio device available to date for Pro Tools
Inter-knob spacing is tight, but the EQ is indeed
very sweet. It isn’t especially powerful, but it is quite
difficult to make something sound truly horrible.
There are detents at the unity position on the EQ gain
pots, but, strangely, not on the channel gain pots.
Routing is straightforward; everything in the
master section is familiar and self-explanatory. By
default, FireWire channel sends are pre-EQ, pre-insert;
or post-EQ, post-fader. However, this can be changed
by a Mackie service centre to pre-EQ, post insert; or
post-EQ, post-fader. There are a total of 16 sends
and 16 returns, all accessible at a button press, so
16-track record and mixdown is very simple to set up.
Alternatively, the auxes, subgroups and main outputs
can be routed to the DAW via FireWire channels 5-16
— again, with the press of a few buttons.
The RotoPod’s top row of jacks is for unbalanced
inserts on each channel strip; the next row is for line
in with Hi-Z on channels 1 and 2. 16 XLRs feed the
16 Onyx mic pres. An XLR takes a dynamic mic
as an alternative to the built-in talkback mic. Main
May/June 2010
outputs are on XLRs and jacks, and there is a mono
jack output with rotary level control. Two unbalanced
jacks provide main inserts and four phonos deal with
tape in and out. Control Room monitors, the four
sub-group outputs, four stereo aux returns, and six
aux sends all appear on jacks. At the bottom, power
is IEC with a rocker switch, and there are two 6-pin
FireWire 400 sockets to connect to the computer
and daisy-chain further consoles or hard disk drives.
Bottom right, two 25-pin D-sub connectors output
channels 1-8 and 9-16 for balanced recording. Pinouts follow the Tascam convention. Source can be
post-gain and low-cut, or post everything — except
the fader, depending on the setting of the FireWire
Pre/Post button.
The 16 channel input strips are identical, apart
from the first two which sport Hi-Z buttons. Latching
Solo buttons are at the very bottom of the strip — an
eccentric choice since it makes inadvertent solo a
possibility, below the 60mm fader with Sub-group
1-2, 3-4, and Main assignment buttons adjacent.
Mute button and pan pot are above, followed by
six aux send knobs. The EQ section has an EQ In/Out
button, Low (80Hz), Low-mid and Frequency, Highmid and Frequency, and High (12kHz) band knobs.
Above the FireWire pre/post send, the Gain pot ranges
from -20dB to +40dB. At the top, three buttons toggle
a 75Hz 18dB/octave filter, Line Input, or FireWire
input, and switch 48V phantom power.
In the Master section, below the faders, a button
routes the sub-group outputs to FireWire channels
5-8. Each of the four sub-groups has a master fader
and LR Main routing buttons. Main has an Assign to
FireWire 15-16 button above the fader. Two selector
buttons route the Talkback output to Phones and/
or Auxes 1-6. The Talkback key lies adjacent to the
External mic button with indicator LED. The built-in
talkback mic is alongside the Talkback level knob.
The aux master section has six Send Master pots
each with Pre/Post and Solo buttons, and four Return
level pots. A button assigns Aux Sends 1-6 to FireWire
9-14. Two pots determine EFX to Monitors levels —
they route the Aux 1&2 return to Aux 5&6 Sends,
in other words. The stereo effects return is summed
and mixed with the Aux 5&6 sends. A further button
determines the routing of Aux 3 return, Mains, or
Sub-groups. When not pressed, Aux 3 return is
normal. When activated, Aux 3 is routed to either
Sub-groups 1-2 or 3-4, depending on the Subs
1-2/3-4 button. Similarly, the Aux 4 return
can behave normally or be routed to
the Control Room/Headphone Source
Matrix by the CR/Phones Only
Solo mode switches between
AFL and PFL and the Solo Level
knob determines the level. Tape
to Mix routes the Tape input to
the Main Mix bus at the level
determined by the Tape In knob.
In the Control Room and Phones source section two
pots adjust Control Room and Headphone
output levels. Five summing matrix selector
buttons assign the Main Mix, Tape Input, Subgroup 1-2, Sub-group 3-4, and FireWire 1-2
inputs to the Control Room and headphone
outputs. A further button routes the selector
matrix output to the main Mix bus. If this
button is engaged, together with Main Mix,
the Main Mix input is muted. Above the
traditional Mackie ‘Rude Solo Light’, the two
peak meter bargraphs each consist of 12
LEDs covering the range -30dB to +20dB.
At the top the headphone jack is next to the
BNC snake-light socket.
This is a ‘system’ console. There are no builtin dynamics or effects, so these need to be added
externally. The comprehensive inserts (unbalanced)
and six aux buses provide a great deal of scope. There
is the alternative of using the Waves MultiRack plugin platform via FireWire.
The Mackie Onyx 1640i is an elegant fusion of
a highly-developed analogue console with a built-in
digital interface integrated intimately. It’s much more
than a simple I-O card, thanks to the routing buttons.
Tracktion is a nice bonus.
Full mixdowns are very simple to set up, and
the analogue goodness of the Mackie appeals to
me in preference to digital summing. It’s a versatile
and attractive console and deserving of very close
scrutiny. n
Versatile; excellent sound; highly
integrated computer interface.
60mm faders; knobs a bit close
together; Solo in an odd place.
loud technologies, usa:
UK, LOUD Technnologies Europe: +44 1494 557398