1604-VLZ3 16-Channel Mic/Line Mixer Owner`s Manual | Output Section Description
Output Section Description
37. MAIN MIX FADER
You’ve just learned about the input channels and how the signals get in and out. The signals come in via MIC
 and LINE  input jacks, are manipulated by the channels, and then sent to the output (master) section.
Things get a little more complicated, so put on your thinking caps, take a deep cleansing breath, take this manual, get on a bycycle, ride down to the canal, ponder your life and all its unique experiences, then read this section.
This fader controls the levels of signals sent to the
MAIN OUT  jacks and TAPE OUTPUT  RCA jacks. All channels and STEREO RETURNs that are assigned to the main mix, not muted and not turned fully down will appear at the MAIN OUTs. Before the main mix gets to this fader, the signals pass through the MAIN
The main mix signals are off with the fader fully down, the “U” marking is unity gain, and fully up provides 10 dB additional gain. This additional gain will typically never be needed, but once again, it’s nice to know it’s there. The fader itself is a stereo version of the channel and subgroup faders — same supersmooth custom taper, same dead silence when turned fully down. This is the fader to pull down at the end of the song when you want “The Great Fade-Out.”
38. SUBGROUP FADERS
As you might expect, these faders control the levels of signals sent to the SUB OUTS . All channels that are assigned to subgroups with the ASSIGN  switches, not muted and not turned fully down will appear at the
SUB OUTS. Unlike the MAIN OUT , the subgroup signals do not pass through an insert jack on their way to the subgroup faders. That’s no problem — should you want to send these signals through a serial effects processor, simply patch from the SUB OUTS to the effect’s input, and from the effect’s output to whatever the fi nal destination is, usually a multitrack recorder.
The subgroup signal is off when its fader is fully down, the “U” marking is unity gain, and fully up provides 10 dB additional gain. Remember that if you’re treating two subgroups as a stereo pair, subgroup 1 and 2 for example, make sure that both subgroup faders “ride”
together, to maintain the left/right balance.
39. ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX
One popular use of the subgroups is to use them as master faders for a group of channels on their way to the main mix. Let’s say you’ve got a drum kit hogging up seven channels and you’re going to want to fade them out at a different rate than the other channels. You don’t want to try that with seven hands or seven fi ngers, so just un-assign these channels from L–R, reassign them to subgroup 1–2, engage the ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX,
LEFT on subgroup 1 and the ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX,
RIGHT on subgroup 2. Now you can ride the entire stereo drum mix with two faders — 1 and 2.
If you engage just one ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX switch per subgroup (LEFT or RIGHT), the signal sent to the main mix will be the same level as the SUB OUTS .
If you want the subgroup to appear in the center of the main mix, engage both the ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX, LEFT and RIGHT switches. The signal will be sent to both sides, and will be attenuated just enough to preserve constant loudness, just like the channel PAN  knobs when set in the center.
41. TAPE TO MAIN MIX
Engaging this switch is just like engaging the L-R switch on a channel — the signal, stereo in this case, is sent to the main mix. It does not interrupt other signals, just adds itself to them. This switch can be very handy in a live sound situation when you want to play soothing elevator music to an anxious crowd.
40. TAPE IN (LEVEL)
This knob controls the level of the stereo signal coming from the TAPE INPUT  RCA jacks. Its range is off when fully down, unity at the center detent, with 20 dB additional gain turned fully up, which may come in handy if you’ve patched in a device with wimpy output levels. After the level is determined, the stereo tape signal can be sent to either of two places — the main mix or the SOURCE  matrix .
WARNING: Engaging TAPE TO MAIN MIX can create a feedback path between TAPE IN-
PUT  and TAPE OUTPUT . Make sure your tape deck is not in record, record-pause or input monitor mode when you engage this switch, or that the
TAPE IN  level knob is turned fully down.
Typically, the engineer sends the main mix to an audience or to a mixdown deck (if recording). But what if the engineer needs to hear something other than the main mix? With the 1604-VLZ3, the engineer has several choices of what to listen to. This is one of those tricky parts — have a double espresso fi rst.
Using these switches, you can choose to listen to any combination of MAIN MIX, SUBS 1-2, SUBS 3-4 and TAPE. Selections made here deliver stereo signals to the control room, headphones, and meter display.
These signals are tapped off as follows — pre-MAIN
MIX FADER (used to be post on earlier 1604 models),
post SUBGROUP FADERS , and post-TAPE IN 
knob. With no switches engaged, there will be no signal at these outputs and no meter indication, with two exceptions: SOLO and STEREO RETURN 4.
Regardless of the SOURCE matrix selection, engaging a SOLO switch will replace that selection with the
SOLO signal, also sent to the control room, headphones, and meter display. This is what makes the Level-Setting
Procedure so easy.
Now you know how to select the signals you want to send to the engineer’s control room and/or phones. Once selected, these signals all pass through the same level control, aptly named:
43. CTL ROOM/PHONES
As you might expect, this knob controls the levels of both the stereo control room, and the headphones.
Make sure that you move it to minimum before selecting or adding a new source.
Whatever your selection, you can also use the control room outputs for other applications. The sound quality is just as impeccable as the main outputs. It can be used as an additional main mix output and this one will have its own level control. However, should you do this, be aware that if you engage a SOLO  switch, that will interrupt the mix:
Engaging a SOLO switch will cause this dramatic turn of events: Any existing SOURCE matrix selections will be replaced by the SOLO signals, appearing in the control room, headphones and meter display. The audible solo levels are controlled by the SOLO  level knob.
The SOLO levels appearing on the meter display are not controlled by anything — you wouldn’t want that.
You want to see the actual channel level on the display,
regardless of how loud you’re listening.
44. MODE (NORMAL (AFL)/LEVEL SET (PFL))
The 1604-VLZ3’s solo system comes in two fl avors:
NORMAL (AFL) (sometimes called SIP, or solo-inplace) and LEVEL SET (PFL) (sometimes called PFL, or pre-fader-listen).
In NORMAL (AFL), the soloed channel’s signal is sent directly to the control room, headphones and meter display just as it would sound to the channel’s assignment switches: post-EQ , post-FADER  and post-PAN
. The only difference is that SOLO works regardless of the channel’s assignment positions, and that makes it really handy — you can check out a channel before you assign it.
NORMAL (AFL) is the preferred mode during mixdown: If the channel has some midrange boost at
4.236kHz, is panned a smidgen to the left, and its fader is at –5.385dB, that’s exactly what you’ll hear if you
SOLO during NORMAL (AFL) mode. It’s just as if you took the time to mute all the other channels.
LEVEL SET (PFL) solo is the key player in the all-important Level-Setting Procedure . It’ll send the channel’s actual internal levels to the meters so you’ll know just what’s going on, level-wise. This procedure should be performed every time a new sound source is patched into a channel’s MIC  or LINE  input jacks.
LEVEL SET (PFL) is also the preferred mode for SR
(sound reinforcement, or live sound), to preview channels before they are let into the mix. It won’t give you stereo placement, but will give you signal even if the fader is turned down.
45. LEVEL SET LED
To quote step 6 of the Level-Setting Procedure , “Push in the MODE  switch in the output section (LEVEL
SET (PFL) mode) — the LEVEL SET LED will light.”
When the MODE switch is engaged, it’s in LEVEL
SET (PFL) mode, the mode you must be in to set levels.
Now, when you engage any solo switch, this LED will be a “green light” to set levels. If you tried to set levels during NORMAL (AFL) mode, the meter display would be at the mercy of the channel fader, and that would be a big problem.
46. SOLO (LEVEL)
This knob controls the level of the signals coming from the SOLO system. After the SOLO level is determined, the SOLO signals will proceed to take over the control room, headphones, and meter display .
Once again, LEVEL SET (PFL) SOLO taps the channel signal before the fader. If you have a channel’s fader set way below “U”
(unity gain), LEVEL SET (PFL) SOLO won’t know that and will send a unity gain signal to the control room, headphones, and meter display. This may result in a startling level boost at these outputs, depending on the
position of the SOLO level knob.
47. RUDE SOLO LIGHT
This fl ashing LED (light emitting diode) serves two purposes — to remind you that you’re in SOLO, and to let you know that you’re mixing on a Mackie. No other company is so concerned about your level of SOLO awareness. We even force the soloed chan nel’s –20 LED to play along, so you can fi nd that rogue switch fast.
If you work on a mixer that has a SOLO function with no indicator lights, and you happen to forget you’re in
SOLO, you can easily be tricked into thinking that something is wrong with your mixer. Hence the RUDE SOLO
LIGHT. It’s especially handy at about 3:00 in the morning, when no sound is coming out of your monitors, even though your multitrack is playing back like mad.
Remember, LEVEL SET (PFL) taps the channel signal before the fader. If you have a channel’s fader set way below “U” (unity gain), SOLO won’t know that and will send a unity gain signal to the control room, headphones, and meter display. That may result in a startling level boost at these outputs, depending on the position of the SOLO  level knob.
The 1604-VLZ3’s peak metering system is made up of two columns of twelve LEDs. Deceptively simple, considering the multitude of signals that can be monitored by it. If nothing is selected in the SOURCE  matrix, and no channels are in SOLO , the meter display will just sit there. To put them to work, you must make a selection in the SOURCE matrix (or engage a channel's
Meters vs. Reality
You may already be an expert at the world of “+4” (+4 dBu=1.23 V) and “–10” (–10 dBV=0.32 V) operating levels. Basically, what makes a mixer one or the other is the relative 0 dB VU (or 0 VU) chosen for the meter display. A “+4” mixer, with a +4 dBu signal pouring out the back will actually read 0 VU on its meter display.
A “–10” mixer, with a –10 dBV signal trickling out, will read, you guessed it, 0 VU on its meter display. So when is 0 VU actually 0 dBu? Right now!
Why? You want the meter display to refl ect what the engineer is listening to, and as we’ve covered, the engineer is listening either to the control room output or the headphones. The only difference is that while the listening levels are controlled by the CTL ROOM/PHONES
 knob, the meter display reads the SOURCE mix before that control, giving you the real facts at all times, even if you’re not listening at all.
At the risk of creating another standard, Mackie’s compact mixers address the need of both crowds by calling things as they are: 0 dBu (0.775 V) at the output shows as 0 VU on the meter display. What could be easier? By the way, the most wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.
When the solo MODE  switch is set to LEVEL SET
(PFL) (down) , all soloed signals will be sent to the left meter only. That, combined with the LEVEL SET LED
, are along the path of enlightenment known as the Level-Setting Procedure (page 3). During NORMAL
(AFL) mode, the meters will behave normally.
Thanks to the 1604-VLZ3’s wide dynamic range, you can get a good mix with peaks fl ashing anywhere between –20 and +10 dB on the meter display. Most amplifi ers clip at about +10 dB, and some recorders aren’t so forgiving either. For best real-world results, try to keep your peaks between “0” and “+7.”
Please remember: Audio meter displays are just tools to help assure you that your levels are “in the ballpark.”
You don’t have to stare at them (unless you want to).
If you fi nd that staring at the meters sends you into a hypnotic trance, please do not be alarmed. Just cut my lawn and polish my car every Tuesday.
These knobs go from off (turned fully down), to unity gain at the center detent, with 10 dB of extra gain
(turned fully up). As with some other level controls, you may never need the additional gain, but if you ever do, you’ll be glad you bought a Mackie.
This is usually the knob you turn up when the lead singer glares at you, points at his stage monitor, and sticks his thumb in the air. (It would follow suit that if the singer stuck his thumb down, you’d turn the knob down, but that never happens.)
50. AUX SENDS SOLO
Once again, in live sound situations AUX SEND 1 and
2 are likely to feed your stage monitors. You’ll want to check the mix you’re sending them, and that’s what these two buttons are for. (AUX 3 through AUX 6 have no such switch.) Beside each switch is a green LED that, just like the channel’s –20 LED , helps you fi nd the rogue SOLO switch.
SENDS are outputs, RETURNS are inputs. Each channel's AUX  knobs tap the signal off the channel and send it to the AUX SEND  outputs. AUX 1 and 2 are sent to the AUX SENDS 1 and 2  master knobs before the AUX SEND outputs; AUX 3 through 6 are sent directly.
The only thing different about AUX SENDS SOLO is that it’s not really PFL (pre-fader listen), and it’s not really SIP (solo-in-place), it’s actually AFL (after-fader listen). During NORMAL (AFL)  mode , you’ll get AUX SEND 1’s solo signal, post-AUX SENDS  master level, in the left side of the control room outputs, phones output and meter display, and AUX SEND 2 on the right side. (If you ever use AUX 1 and 2 to create a stereo monitor mix, you’ll understand why.) In LEVEL
SET (PFL) mode, you’ll get the signal dead-center, but still post-AUX SENDS master level.
These outputs can be fed to the inputs of a reverb or other device. From there, the outputs of the external device are fed back to the mixer’s STEREO RETURN  inputs. Then these signals are sent through the STEREO
RETURN  level controls, and fi nally delivered to the main mix.
So, the original “dry” signals come from the channels to the main mix, and the affected “wet” signals come from the STEREO RETURNS to the main mix, and once mixed together, the dry and wet signals combine to create a glorious sound. Armed with this knowledge, let’s visit the Auxiliary World:
51. STEREO RETURNS (LEVEL)
These four controls set the overall level of effects received from the STEREO RETURN  input jacks.
These controls are designed to handle a wide range of signal levels — each knob goes from off, to unity gain at the detent, to 20 dB gain fully clockwise, to compensate for low-level effects. Signals passing through these level controls will proceed directly to the MAIN MIX FADER
, with exceptions that we’ll discuss in a moment.
Typically, these knobs can just live at the center detent, and the effects device’s output control should be set at whatever they call unity gain (check their manual). If that turns out to be too loud or too quiet, adjust the effects device’s outputs, not the mixer. That way, the mixer’s knobs are easy to relocate at the center detent.
49. AUX SENDS (MASTER)
These knobs provide overall level control of AUX
SENDS 1 and 2, just before they’re delivered to their
AUX SEND  outputs. This is perfect for controlling the level of stage monitors, since you’ll be using AUX 1 and 2 for this, with their PRE  switches engaged.
AUX SENDS 3 through 6 have no such control — they’ll just send their mixes directly to their respective AUX
SEND outputs at unity gain.
53. MAIN MIX TO SUBS (STEREO RETURN 3)
With this switch up, STEREO RETURN 3 behaves like all the others — it delivers a stereo signal, regulated by its level knob, to the main mix. When you engage this switch, the signals are removed from the main mix buses and sent to the 1-2/3-4 switch, which diverts the signal once more. We’re not fi nished. Please read on.
54. 1–2/3–4 (STEREO RETURN 3)
If the MAIN MIX TO SUBS  switch is disengaged, this switch does absolutely nothing. Let’s now assume it’s engaged. STEREO RETURN 3’s stereo signal will not be sent to the main mix, but to subgroup faders 1 and 2
(this switch up) or subgroup faders 3 and 4 (this switch down).
Let’s say you’ve made a stereo drum submix on subgroup faders 1 and 2, so you can ride those two faders instead of the seven channels that the drums came from. Subgroup fader 1 has its ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX
, LEFT button engaged and subgroup fader 2 has its
ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX, RIGHT button engaged, blending the drum submix back into the main mix. The drum channels are also sending signals to your reverb via the
AUX SENDS , and the reverb outputs are patched into STEREO RETURN 3 . So far so good.
52. TO AUX 1 and TO AUX 2
If you want to add reverb or delay to the stage monitor mixes, these are the knobs for you. Operating independently of their respectively numbered STEREO RE-
TURNS  level controls, these knobs are exactly the same as the channel strip AUX 1  and AUX 2 knobs.
Even though you could send STEREO RETURN 3 directly to the main mix (MAIN MIX TO SUBS  switch up), you don’t want to. Instead, engage the MAIN MIX
TO SUBS switch and make sure the 1–2/3–4 switch is up. Now the reverb return will be blended into the drum submix, and as you ride those two faders, the reverb level will follow.
These two knobs feed stereo return signals to their respective AUX SEND  outputs:
TO AUX SEND 1 feeds STEREO RETURN 1 to AUX
SEND 1 master, and:
TO AUX SEND 2 feeds STEREO RETURN 2 to AUX
SEND 2 master.
They are off when turned fully down, deliver unity gain at the center detent, and can provide up to 15 dB of gain turned fully up. STEREO RETURN 3 and 4 have no such knobs.
Why do we want that? Because if you had just sent the reverb directly to the main mix (MAIN MIX TO SUBS switch up) and you did a drum fade-out using subgroup faders 1 and 2, the “dry” signals would fade out, but the
“wet” signals would keep on singing. All you would hear is the drum reverb (the “wet”), and none of the original drum signals (the “dry”). That’s because the reverb is being fed by the channel’s AUX sends, and they have no idea that you’ve pulled down the subgroup faders. That’s why we threw in these switches, phew!
55. C-R/PHNS ONLY (STEREO RETURN 4)
Once again, the default for all the STEREO RETURNS is to feed them directly into the main mix. You’ve just learned about the optional exceptions involving STE-
REO RETURN 3.
STEREO RETURN 4 also has an optional exception:
By engaging this switch, you will remove STEREO
RETURN 4’s stereo signal from the main mix and send it directly to the CTL ROOM/PHONES SOURCE  matrix. It matters not if any of the SOURCE matrix switches are assigned, but it will be interrupted, as usual, if a
SOLO  switch is engaged.
Let’s pretend you’re doing a live mix to a 2-track deck, a house PA, or both, and you want to play along to a click track. You could run the click track directly into the main mix, but you don’t want the mixdown deck and/or audience to hear it. By gum, this is the switch for you. Similarly, it can be used for voice-over tracks, narration, anything you want heard by the engineer and players but not by the audience and mixdown deck.
56. RETURNS SOLO and LED
This switch operates just like the channel SOLO  switches — engaging it sends signals to the control room, headphones, and meter display, and interrupts whatever happened to be there before you soloed. It follows the MODE  switch setting as well. The only difference is that when you engage this RETURNS SOLO switch, it sends all four STEREO RETURNS signals to the SOLO circuit.
Assume you want to solo the snare drum. Hit that channel’s SOLO switch, and you get the “dry” (no effects) snare only. That helps, but you want to hear it with the reverb you have patched into a STEREO
RETURN. Leaving that channel’s SOLO switch engaged, also engage the RETURNS SOLO switch, and now you’ll get the dry snare and its reverb.
Since it is a global feature, you’ll also get the signals from all the other STEREO RETURNS, so there may be some sounds that you didn’t want to hear. If they offend your sensibilities, simply turn down the levels of the
STEREO RETURNS you don’t want to hear, or MUTE the channels feeding the unwanted signal to the effects device you do want to hear.
Congratulations! You’ve just read about all the features of your 1604-VLZ3. You’re probably ready for a cold one. Go ahead. The rest of the manual can wait.
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