The updated compact mixers in"s VLZ range may look the same as ever on the outside — but inside lurk new, high‑grade microphone preamps. Hugh Robjohns tries out the new design.

Bạn đang xem: Mackie 1604vlz4 16"s popular 1604 model defined a new standard in compact mixers when it was launched in 1991 (see Sound On Sound nhận xét Dec "91), offering a chất lượng combination of operational versatility with high sound unique and construction values. Given an extended lease of life, via enhanced facilities và a cosmetic makeover, in its subsequent "VLZ" incarnation, both the 1604 VLZ and its companion models in the range now find themselves the recipients of a further revision in the khung of"s latest "XDR" "premium studio‑grade" mic amp.

It is the sound chất lượng of this most crucial element of any console that really determines the sonic standard which can be achieved and, with the new "XDR" design, even the smallest mixers now offer a performance which is comparable to, and maybe even better than, most high‑end £100,000+ studio consoles. A very sobering thought for the industry big boys! XDR stands for "Extended Dynamic Range" — something the new design has in abundance — but the update is about rather more than just greater headroom.

Ultimate Preamplifiers


As the owner of four expensive, but wonderful, channels of GML mic preamplification, I openly support the view that, when used in the appropriate circumstances, high‑end mic amps are worth their relatively high price. This concept is probably not too surprising, and I would guess that most people reading this will already subscribe to lớn the idea that the better (and inherently more costly) the microphone, the more accurate it is likely khổng lồ be. However, the subtle nuances & intricate detail captured by the best microphones in the world are all too easily lost during passage through the rather average microphone preamplifiers found in a typical home recording desk. are claiming that "no other company in the world has spent the sheer number of research hours & $250,000 in R&D costs on a single mic preamp design"! Their new XDR kiến thiết has apparently been two years in the making, và was driven by Greg"s wish to lớn bestow his mixers with preamps capable of matching or exceeding the performance of any esoteric outboard unit.

The main thiết kế goals for the new preamp were that it should be able to protect itself from destructive external forces, not be prone lớn Radio‑Frequency Interference (RFI), and that its performance should not vary with different mic‑cable impedance loads. Above all, it had to lớn be accurate, sound good, và have very low noise & wide bandwidth at any gain level. Basic though these goals may appear khổng lồ be, it is surprising how few commercial designs actually stand up to careful scrutiny in any of these respects. For instance, many mic preamps suffer long‑term degradation from "hot‑plugging" mics when phantom is turned on. The voltage spikes caused during hot‑plugging lead to a gradual breakdown of the input đầu vào devices, with increasing noise và eventual total failure! I have personally experienced at least two professional studio multitrack desks which have fallen prey khổng lồ this phenomenon.

It has been well known for many years that, to lớn convey the most detailed và accurate sound, a preamp needs a very wide bandwidth. Unfortunately this approach can also make the design prone lớn picking up external RF interference — radio transmissions from broadcasters, sản phẩm điện thoại phones, and so forth. have addressed this issue with good solid engineering practice — bifilar‑wound DC pulse transformers that reject RFI but don"t attenuate the sound at 20k
Hz and above. They have also used matched precision components in the most critical areas of the XDR mic preamplifier, & employ a direct‑coupled circuit topology with instrumentation‑style balanced differential architecture và linear constant current biasing. Nothing revolutionary, but well engineered và carefully designed using surface‑mount devices and automated assembly lớn keep the costs as low as possible.

The inherent capacitance (and inductance) of microphone cables can have a very dramatic effect on the performance of a microphone preamplifier, particularly with very long cable runs, such as in a stage multicore, for example. A microphone"s frequency & transient response is strongly affected by the load it has to drive — the combination of the mic amp input và cable. The XDR design incorporates a "Controlled Interface input đầu vào Impedance system" which works khổng lồ maintain a flat frequency response within about 0.1d
B, irrespective of how long the mic cable is, or what source impedance the microphone has.

Listening Test

I auditioned the XDR mic preamp in two different models, the 1604 VLZpro & the 1402 VLZpro. Both performed identically, và easily passed every real‑world chạy thử I could come up with. I was also ablto compare the performance of both of these "budget" desks with my own GML 8304 "esoteric" mic pre.

The most obvious thing about the new design is its astounding noise & distortion — or rather the complete lack of either. This really is a very, very quiet mic pre, which passes the signal from the microphone with the absolute minimum of degradation, even with high‑level and complex sources. The đứng top end is sparkling & detailed, but without any unnecessary emphasis, the mid‑range is neutral & accurate, & the bass is tight & clean, although possibly tending slightly towards the lean side for my tastes.

The investment have made in developing the XDR mic pre benefits the end user at all levels. After all, the smallest model in the updated range, the 1202 VLZpro mixer, costs only around £300, yet boasts highly competent mic stages which certainly compare favourably with anything provided in consoles costing 10, 100, or even 1000 times as much! In a straight comparison with the GML, everyone who I bullied into listening confirmed that the noise và distortion subjectively sounded the same, & no one could favour one over the other on these grounds alone.

The mid và treble bands were equally similar, but identifiable differences could be found at the bottom end. Although both mic amps measured virtually identically in terms of their frequency response, the GML sounded somehow warmer, and the bass better integrated with the mid and high frequency regions. Instruments and voices had a greater solidity and a totally natural, three‑dimensional image lớn them through the GML, which the suggested but could not quite deliver. However, I should point out that it took a considerable amount of listening & experimentation before we were happy that these differences were real & repeatable — it really was that close.

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The Bottom Line

Without directly comparing the XDR to any other mic pre, anyone would have to lớn judge it khổng lồ be a very fine‑sounding input stage. Put it up against a Focusrite or GML, however, và you will still be very impressed. The differences are extremely small — certainly far smaller than I expected — and whilst the "esoteric designs" might just retain a sonic edge, the enormous price differential should be enough lớn keep a smile on the face of the owner!

VLZ4 ups the cấp độ of sonic unique at every level, featuring"s flagship Onyx mic preamps and premium components from front to lớn back. The result is the most rock solid, the most easy lớn use and, yes, the best sounding compact mixer ever created.

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With 16 discrete Onyx mic preamps, the 1604VLZ4 is incredible for a host of applications lượt thích home and professional studios, broadcast, utility mixing, complex synth rigs, and so much more .16 Boutique-quality Onyx mic preamps with ultra-wide 60d
B gain range
Phantom power for condenser mics3-band EQ with sweepable Midrange18 d
B/oct 75Hz low-cut filter on mic input channels60mm long-wearing log-taper faders
High-resolution 12-segment stereo meters“Built-Like-A-Tank” rugged steel chassis with powder-coat finish
High-visibility, high-contrast controls deliver convenient “at-a-glance” visual feedback
Rack-mountable design using optional rack ear kit

16 boutique-quality Onyx mic preamps
Ultra-wide 60d
B gain range128.5 d
B dynamic range+22 d
Bu line đầu vào handling
Extended frequency response
Distortion under 0.0007% (20Hz – 50k
Hz)Phantom nguồn for studio condenser mics
Improved RF rejection perfect for broadcast applications
Phantom nguồn for condenser mics16 high-headroom line inputs with +4/-10 operation control16 balanced inserts perfect for integrating outboard gear3-band EQ with sweepable midrange18 d
B/oct 75Hz low-cut filter on mic input đầu vào channels4 aux sends, level, pan, solo và overload/mute LEDs on each channel4 stereo returns, 8 direct outs và 4 group/bus outputs60mm long-wearing log-taper faders
Control room / phones multi-input source matrix
High-resolution 12-segment stereo meters
Sealed rotary control resist dust & grime“Built-Like-A-Tank” rugged steel chassis with powder-coat finish
High-visibility, high-contrast controls deliver convenient “at-a-glance” visual feedback
Rack-mountable design with three physical configurations via Rotopod accessory (sold separately)Multi-voltage nguồn supply for worldwide use