Blatantly opinionated brand-name comparison for live mixing boards

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Member Since: Sep 23, 2005

Allright, folks... I wanna hear everybody's opinions on these brand names or if you're actually familiar with any of these products, which features or products you like the most.

Here's the application: Mixing a live band for small shows and backyard bashes, and/or recording to start a demo CD. Drummer with very large double bass drumset and two hihats, so 8 microphones for bass drums, snare, hi toms, mid toms, floor toms, and overheads for cymbals. Two guitarists, bass, one vocal. So ideally, 12 full mic inputs minimum, a couble of sub mix busses to allow separate monitors (front monitors and drummer's monitor), a 3-band EQ and hopefully a mid-sweep, maybe some of those built-in digital effects, and rack-mountable to fit into my SKB Gig-Rig (1SKB19-R1010).

I've already got the DBX 266XL stereo compressor/limiter for controlling vocals, the DBX 1215 stereo eq, and I'm prolly gonna get the DBX 1046 4-channel comp/gate so that I can control the strength of those drums.

So far, I've found these guys, downloaded the owners manuals to read up and study their features. Now, I don't want to make a judgement just based on the manuals, but I'll tell ya what... a well-constructed manual with good graphics and correct grammar sure does make an impression! I won't mention names, here, but when you try to type up a manual to include five different languages, it's as torturous as following a rugby game through a blind man's color commentary.

I've got a better understanding of how a few questionable features work. Among those are inserts for compressors, sub busses, sending signals to the onboard effects, and the PFL indicators and the different ways to view them. I'm not interested in the mixer/amp combos, cuz I don't need a blown amp melting the board as well. I'd rather blow the amp and just replace that when someone decides to pour a beer on it or a kid rides his bike straight into the gear or any crazy **** that can, AND WLL, happen.

Here's the mixers I'm currently juggling around:

Mackie 1604-VLZ-PRO
Soundcraft Spirit FX16
Soundcraft Spirit E12
Soundcraft Spirit SX
Behringer Eurorack MX3242X
Behringer Eurorack UB2442FX-PRO
Allen & Heath MixWizard WZ3-16:2

Now, I know the MX3242X isn't yet available cuz it just came out. Gotta give it time to be distributed. But I really love the fact that it's got 4 busses, 4-band EQ per channel, plenty of aux paths, A LEVEL METER ON EACH AND EVERY CHANNEL, flipping sources, muting, lo-cut on each channel, hell this thing is obviously loaded down like a van full of drugs crossing the border! It's got a ton of potential, if I weren't so weary of the quality reputation Behringer has so far. But we'll see...

I know the UB2442FX-PRO only has 10 mic pres, but since I'm using the 266XL for main vocals, I could probably get away with using it as the gain stage then straight to the board's stereo inputs and save the mic pres for straight mics that need a gain stage. Plus my bass amp can go line-out with a DI Box (Damned Ampeg doesn't include Ground Lifts on their XLR outs! GRRR!) and use the stereo inputs as well.

The Allen & Heath really looks promising so far. It's got enough of what I'm looking for, and might be good enough.

I'm very familiar with the Mackie 1604 and watched a guy in action with it, so the newer version is just a better updated model. I'm really leaning towards the reliability of Mackie, and how familiar I am with it.

The FX16 seems to only have two buss channels, yet has 6 aux returns. A bit confusing, but I can also send the busses straight to the mix. I wonder if all the boards can do that with their busses? And the manual is not helping me too much.

The E12 and SX seem good enough. I still need to study their manuals in-depth now that I've got them printed out.

I'm not touching the ONYX boards from Mackie cuz they're way out of the price range, and none will fit into my Gig Rig. Haven't found a decent Yamaha to compare to these yet. Anyone know which one would be equivalent?

That's enough for now. I dunno how well this thread will take off, but I figure this is necessary equipment that any small, self-reliant band should research and understand. I'm all typed out, now. I'ma go back to pretending to work.

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Pinnipedal Czar (: 3=
Since: Apr 11, 2004

Oct 18, 2005 12:26 pm

Off the Mackie detail...

RUDE solo light doubles as a mini-tanning booth

WTF ?!

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Oct 18, 2005 12:54 pm

Well, what is the price range...I, like many people, live life within a budget, I am very happy with my Behringer, though I can't chime in aon these specific models, I think Mackies are overpriced, I have used Soundcrafts and really like them.

Pinnipedal Czar (: 3=
Since: Apr 11, 2004

Oct 18, 2005 01:02 pm

Maybe the Mackies are overpriced 'cause of the mini-tanning booth option ? :P

Czar of Cheese
Since: Jun 09, 2004

Oct 18, 2005 01:16 pm

I have owned a mackie CR-1604 for about ten years now, and I have no complaints. We use it for live purposes as well as for recording. With all the inserts and aux sends and direct outs and 4 subgroups, it's been very flexible for us.

And the rude solo light has done wonders for my complexion.

Sound Gal - Michelle
Since: Jul 11, 2005

Oct 19, 2005 07:52 am

I'm saving for an Allen and Heath desk for our live sound setup. They seem to be the most respected here in Auckland, but I've heard the mixwizards are not the ones to get because of the bit on the back (patch bay?) that is somehow unreliable, and will need fixing within a year of hard use. In the interim we are using and Alto... I've heard good things about Soundcraft.

Since: Sep 23, 2005

Oct 19, 2005 08:25 am

Heh heh... tanning booth solo buttons. I imagine in a dark club, eyes adjusted, getting ready for soundcheck, those lights probably would hurt like a sumbitch. But... you can't NOT see that you've got it switched on! I'd sacrifice that to avoid goofy mistakes.

Okay, for a budget, I'm expecting to pay between $500 and $900. I know that the Mackie is by far the most expensive. But I also know they've got years of experience behind them, and I don't know anyone yet that has bitched about getting their Mackie repaired three times in one year. Behringer, on the other hand... if anyone's got two or three years on their Behringer, let me know.

But build quality can apply to anyone and anything. I can get a creat looking bass and find out later it's got dead frets all over the place, but I won't know until I've put a few miles on it. So as much as I don't like to listen to durability and lifespan critiques, it's still on the back of my mind.

The MixWizard seems like a sturdy design. I really like its flexibility, but I'm still trying to understand what the difference is between the L-R faders and the M fader. Anyone got an explanation?

Soundcraft seems like a reasonable choice, especially considering the price.


Since: Apr 03, 2002

Oct 19, 2005 08:30 am

I had three years on my previous Behringer mixer and two years (about) on the current one with no repairs...I know Noize has had his Behringers much longer and I don't recall any repairs for him even after spilling soda on it. Hell, I had a Peavey mixer in my live sound rig years ago, had it for many years, moving in and out of clubs, cigarette ask, smoke, bumps and bangs and it never failed and I ended up selling it for damn near what I bought it for to a young band.

Build quality can be an issue, Behringer, with their Vamp's I know first hand have a poor build quality compared to the more expensive modelers (Line 6 POD), but the UB series mixer I have from Behringer is quit solid, rack mountable and very nice...since Behingers essentially are Mackie ripoffs in layout they work just like one...just cheaper preamps, but only noticable really on extreme highs and lows, hardly something the typical travelling rock band will even notice.

Behringer does live of Mackie's years of experience, takes what Mackie learns and finds less expensive ways to do it. Mackie is R&D, Behringer is making that R&D it affordable. Both roles I can see a place seems unethical at the surface, but I don't care, I just want decent sound for a decent price.

Hold 'Em Czar
Since: Dec 30, 2004

Oct 19, 2005 11:24 am

the VLZ line IMHO has been a staple of my live audio diet for a good while, and i love 'em...(or mayby just used to them) from the 4 channel too 24....always have the right ins and outs that i need, and can take quite a bit of abuse....

and their manuals are the only ones with jokes throughout.....i've read quite a few, and every one of 'em has jokes.

happy Mackie user

Czar of Cheese
Since: Jun 09, 2004

Oct 19, 2005 12:34 pm

While I AM a happy Mackie user, I must admit that nowadays anytime I'm looking for new gear, I almost always look to see what Behringer has first!

Since: Sep 23, 2005

Oct 19, 2005 01:43 pm

Yes the Mackie manuals are great to read! Funny as hell, the dude with a mask over his face at the end of the manual is cool as hell, and the actual explanations and descriptions are very practical and easy to understand. I've downloaded and read quite a few of their manuals, just to learn stuff!

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Oct 19, 2005 04:46 pm

Peavey certainly makes some of the most bulletproof live sound equipment known to man. I've never been a big fan of their brand, but recently I've developed a lot of respect for them because my friend owns several pieces of PA equipment made by Peavey and they have survived many years of regular live use.

Also give Yamaha a look in that price range. Their powered mixers look like a good deal for small bands. Even their package deals look like a good deal to me, but I don't have much live sound reinforcement equipment experience.

Also, have you thought about buying a seperate mixer and power amp? I think that mixers tend to have a longer life than power amps do. Plus, I'd imagine a non-powered mixer would be quieter for studio applications.

Since: Apr 03, 2002

Oct 19, 2005 04:57 pm

I don't like their instruments or instrument amps, but like you said, their live sound gear, PA speakers and the like are pretty damn durable, I recommend them for those types of gear.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Oct 20, 2005 08:44 pm

Bryan, I will chime in with a little bit of stuff for ya as well. As dB stated I have been using Behringer's desk's for years. And without a lik of trouble, even as dB said spilling a Coke a Cola into my 2442. If size is not a huge deal, but channels are then I would opt for the MX3282A. It is a 32 channel 8 buss desk with 8 aux send and returns which in live applications work excellant for moniter mixing. As well the busses will do the same with even more control of who hears what in their moniters. It is 24 mono channels with mic/line inputs as well as channel inserts on all 24 which can be used for direct outs as well. The busses are all fully assignable as well.

The Mackie stuff, ya more expensive and maybe a bit better pre's but not worth that much moer money in my book. Especially for live rigs.

Soundcraft, there large format desks I have used and like, again lots of money though. Cant really comment on their smaller mixers though I have read several good reviews on them.

Allen and Heath, again I have used the large format stuff, never used their smaller gear. The large desks are very durable and easy to maintain. The smaller mixers I have heard are made a little on the flimsy side, mostly commenting on the internals from what I have read. The one you linked to wouldnt give you the options for moniters and such like the other would.

Since: Sep 23, 2005

Oct 25, 2005 12:33 pm

Tadpui, I am not planning on ever buying an amp/mixer combo because of lifespan and repair and heat. It's better to be able to pull the mixer out in front, and keep the amps by the speakers. Sending long speaker cables is a crappy situation and usually leads to power loss over so much copper.

Plus I can get amps to match the speaker load requirements, instead of having to shop for speakers that match my mixer's amp rating. Power amps are far more flexible and plentiful, and I can easier find the right amp than the right speaker combo.

Since: Aug 17, 2004

Oct 26, 2005 09:24 am

I lurv my allen & heath 16:2. I dont know why technically, it just sounds great at live venues. Sounds better than the mackie gear that I've tried. The preamps and EQ are really clean as well. FX are great, and they are controllabe with very unreliable MIDI software, yay. I've never had any issues with durability, although I'm not shifting it on a regular basis. It would be nice if had +48 V selectable on each channel though, and like noise said, busses are going to give you more flexibililty. Oh yea, it might just be me, but I found the desk to be a bit noiser than other 'studio' desks (eg. split monitor sonsole etc.). Maybe its because its made for live situations?

Hold 'Em Czar
Since: Dec 30, 2004

Oct 26, 2005 12:27 pm

yeah all my live gear (dbx graphic eq, POS alesis compressor are all noizy) then again, they've been outside overnight a few times with dew on them in the mourning. heh they're my bitches!

Since: Sep 23, 2005

Oct 26, 2005 04:42 pm

I've got the manual for the 16:2, and it seems that it's got buss buttons, but not faders, for the aux channels. I may need to read up more, but does that mean that the aux knobs on each channel are the only aux buss controls for levels? If so, it'd be a bit awkward, but still doable....

And you people are far too naughty with your bitches.

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
Since: May 10, 2002

Oct 27, 2005 12:48 pm

All things considered the fight to get the lowest number for noise floor in pre-amps is really not pertenant. The average studio has about a fourty something db noise floor. All of the mixers pre amps mentioned are far below that number. Mackie's Onyx preamps are prosed to be a viable alternative to using other 'external' pre's. Hardly an issue to me as I don't use a pre amp on most pre-amplified signals e.g. miking amps etc. Use a high end tube pre on a distorted guitar amp...give me a break! Vox, yea. But I can get a pretty good tube pre for the cost of onyx on all channels of a board.

Mackie durability... Absolutely true. I personaly witnessed a demonstration where a Mackie was bounced acrossed a floor then stomped by a 250lb wookie and worked fine afterward. Not to be tried on a Behringer...instant land fill. I personaly have a Behringer myself. I take care of it. It does not have sealed pots, and it is not extreamly rugged. I keep it clean and don't bounce it off of things.

Had I the money to toss at yet another board the mix-wiz would be my next target. I love the 16 direct outs in such a small package. However my reasoning is application specific. I record groups in their rehersal space rather than building a full sized studio myself. That little Wiz would allow me to cart a lot less than my MX9000 and still have plenty of channels to do drums all day!

Each one of the boards you have mentioned will find a good home. They all have a 'nitch'.

Since: Aug 17, 2004

Oct 27, 2005 04:19 pm

for the 16:2

Each track has its own pots for aux sends, and there are also master aux level controls (pots). Haven't seen a console yet with faders to control auxes : ).

Not sure where the 'buss buttons' are that your talking about, perhaps you are confusing auxillary channels with busses?

Since: Apr 26, 2006

Jul 26, 2007 09:49 pm

I can't comment much on different boards the only one I've ever used is mackie. But I would like to make a comment on mackie support. I purchased a used 24-4 and it had a broken fader, I called mackie to ask about getting it repaired, and told them it was used. There response was we made it, send it to us the cost of getting it here is yours. And they fixed it, checked the specs, repackaged it in a mackie box and returned it to me. My only cost was shipping it 3000 miles away.

Eat Spam before it eats YOU!!!
Since: May 11, 2002

Jul 27, 2007 12:00 am

if I was going on just names... which I am at the moment because I'm not to familiar with each product... I'd go Allen & Heath...

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