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Mackie's marketing

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by omaru, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. omaru

    omaru Active Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    What do you fellers make of this?

  2. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    I thought it was a complete crock of $*^t when the article came out in like '99 and don't think it's gotten any better with age... I can't believe those idiots left that on their site...
  3. omaru

    omaru Active Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    Thanks Fletcher

  4. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I've never seen it before; it would be interesting to check the sources.

    Are these people for real, and is the story verifiable?
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I saw that when it first came out and even then I was skeptical ...

    I think it's interesting that they focus on the tonal quality and noise floor but nothing is said in regards to dimension or 3 D effects that all the better pres have and which the Mackie does not ...
    That was several years ago and in spite of how good this comparison came out for Mackie, they have seen fit to "upgrade" the mic pres in the small boards, first to the XDR Pro and now to the ONYX.

    The one thing that Mackie is very good at is marketing ... and reinventing itself repeatedly .. It usually takes a couple of passes through this cycle before the uneducated consumer catches on and opts for "real pres" ...

    That all being said, IMO the Mackies pres are as good as anything else in its price range or even twice as much .. as good or better than any of the mid priced mic pres available. But when you get to the high end, there is definitely a difference.
  6. BillC

    BillC Guest

    It would nice to know the hard realities and results of the test and not the Mackie spin. Nonetheless, taking it at face value for a moment:

    1) The aim of the test was transparency first. Few would argue that the Mackie preamps aren't transparent. The spin might be in-part by Mackie twisting this into an over-broad winner in some undefined, absolute quality-of-sound way. Take a different cut at your closing comment on high-end preamps - even acknowledging a huge difference between most premium preamps and Mackie's best preamps of any design or generation - there would be less of a difference were the comparison limited to preamps that aim for transparency. As to whether or not transparency is good or bad or under what circumstances, well, that's another question entirely, as well as a source for spin.

    2) One comment in the review was on the up-front, in your face quality with vocals. Doesn't mean your point about dimension is invalid, rather that one particular reviewer looked for another kind of presence. Personally, I find vocals recorded through my Onyx have a startling 3D quality, but don't have an earlier Mackie or high-end preamp to compare against either.

    3) You're not REALLY offended that a manufacturer, top or bottom of the heap, advertises "improvements" in a product or postures it aggressively, are you? It surely shouldn't surprise you with Mackie, as you think they need improvement anyway. There are plenty of other firms that posture their products in ways that buyers should really beware to know what they're buying - ranging from Creative Labs to Pro Tools.

    4) The reviewers (again, taking the review at face value), were not "uneducated consumers" - far from it. Moreover, the test was double-blind, which is a real rarity in audio testing. If true, it, along with the considerable credentials cited, is what lends the "results" credibility, and Mackie obviously knows it.

    5) Re the Onyx preamps, I'll note in passing Sound-on-Sound's current (Feb. 2005), positive review of the 800 - specifically that they noted the preamps were an improvement over the VLZs. Robojohn's assessment is actually close to your own - "... a very classy sound which is in a league far higher than its pricing would imply ... still not GML calibre [comparing to something he owns], but I found myself preferring it over the ISA428 in certain situations ..."

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a pro, own an Onyx mixer, and am not somehow taken in by Mackie's hype. As a "semi-educated" consumer (speaking of Audio now!), my ability to make comparisons is limited to what I can audition in shops under difficult circumstances, occasionally take home to try, or demo in other ways, such as your own useful comparison tests (I still recall how surprised I was at hearing how clearly different a Speck pre was in one such). My purchasing ability, given a hobby pursuit and limited funding, is limited to compromises.

    Frankly, I'm more taken aback by the anti-Mackie hype, here and elsewhere, than I am by Mackie's marketing, which I mostly regard as over-the-top entertainment. My God, what's so threatening? The news is good! Well-built (within its segment), sound better than its price point competitors, etc. With anything else that's seen as value-added. Only Mackie gets it in the neck as gnawing away at the foundations of preamp heaven. And why? Because of advertising aimed at a **different market**! I.e., no threat at all to the premium preamp market, and I don't find, occasional lunkhead to the contrary, that most people believe they are the same, either. Rather, it's Mackie's way of trying to sell up their quality in the market they're actually in, even in the studio and post-production markets where they sell the DXB. Most people buying Corvettes don't really believe that they are as high performance as a Ferrari either.

    Here's one consumer's comments on the Mackie Onyx 1640, focusing on some of the mundane compromise elements, with no attempt whatsoever to be exhaustive or proportionate, good mixed with the bad:

    Physical and Layout

    . It's BIG, a bit too big - long anyway, the width is standard 19" rack width
    . The external build quality is excellent in terms of raw strength, quality of connectors and knobs, etc.
    . Longer faders would be better, but the 60mms are OK
    . I'd prefer the line inputs where the inserts are (i.e., the top rear)
    . I enormously dislike the placement of the headphone jack - the cable is always in the way. In fact, I'd prefer to have the entire control section on the bottom right or left of the mixer (making it less deep from front-to-back to boot - easier connector access) - I'll never rack the mount the thing anyway!
    . An internal power supply, moreover which appears to be entirely noise-free, internally and externally - God Bless 'Em

    Functional & Sound

    . The preamps - I like them. In fact, between better mics (NT2000s) I purchased recently, and the preamps, the acoustic inadequacies of my home "studio" are now hanging out for all to hear! Wait, that's "ambience"!
    . More channels than I need! Granted, I could have this by buying anything from a Behringer to a hand-built console, but I got them with sound quality I actually like at a price point I like.
    . No stereo channels - compromise was between having subs (1640) vs stereo channels (1620)
    . Plenty of headroom. Alternatively, more than I need, referencing my comment on extra channels ...
    . Quiet
    . The channel trimpots are very sensitive (overly, that is). Something less linear would be easier to use.
    . It's hard to tell when a Mackie button is depressed or not, the indicative white line around the button is hard to see. LEDs would be better, at least with more critical buttons.
    . Phantom power on every channel, individually switchable - a good thing and saves swapping things about.
    . Main Outs on XLR and 1/4" jacks. Separate, dedicated mono. Very flexible.
    . Powering up will pop your speakers, if on, very unpleasant. This should be corrected in Mackie's design.


    . Driver doesn't crash, it's reliable. Install was fast and simple. Integration with Sonar was trouble-free.
    . Driver's channel naming conventions are not only bizarre, but vary by type (ASIO vs WDM). See the Mackie site forums for details.
    . FW connectors on the card only - no ADAT, SPDIF, etc. - it would be nice to have more connectivity
    . Converters seem pretty good!
    . 96khz max - interesting, as the 800 goes to 192. Not an issue for me, however. Maybe it's me, but for some reason I assumed they would use the same converters.
    . Seems relatively expensive, but there's 16 channels plus the mains ...
    . Really, really wish Mackie had come up with a way to return more channels to the FW card. Obviously the mixer would have to be re-configured to handle surround, but more channels back to the card/converters would at least let you route surround audio elsewhere.

    Things that don't matter (different cut at the compromise equation)

    . EQ - my primary use is to front-end Sonar. I might use it if Mackie provided a switchable pre/post EQ feed to the FW, though, as the EQ sounds good enough to me.
    . Direct Outs on DB25 connectors
    . Talkback mic
    . The live-use Aux routing stuff

    Bottom Line - I have a lot of capacity (relative to my needs) with very decent sound and excellent monitoring capability in a simple-to-use platform (key point for me). I'm happy with my set of compromises - specifically including sound, inclusive of the preamps.


  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I don't slam Mackie for what they are at all ... in fact I own and use a SR24 ... Sometimes I even use the pres ... but they are not dimensional or warm .. true they are very transparent ... but transparent is the easiest thing to build on a budget. Even the cheap Rane pres or those found in a Tascam console are very transparent.

    You are the first person I have heard say the ONYX pres are dimensional ... very brave of you to stick your neck out like that. But I am not here to contradict that as I have not heard them yet. I do remain skeptical.

    I just read a review of the ONYX by Craig Anderton. My take was he thought it was real ok but didn't give it what I would call a glowing review. His remarks regarding the pres in the ONYX were,

    I noted that Anderton did not say these pres were a radical departure from their predecessors but rather that they "carry on the tradition of providing surprisingly good pres in their mixers".

    To me, that says its more of the same from Mackie. Of course, you are free to interpret it any way you like but as a person who has written a few reviews, knowing that I may want to get something from the manufacturer in the future, I feel I have learned to read between the lines a bit when it comes to reviews. I am sure the reviewers at EQ and Mix as well as all the other rags are under even more pressure than I, not to get too negative. I personally do the best I can to be truthful with out ripping them a new one and anything I really don't like, I don't review.

    What I object to is the marketing of any cheap pres as "approaching world class" "sonically pure'" "high headroom" and other ambiguous hyperbole .. Too many people buy into that. In regards to mic pres my motto has always been "buyer beware".

    Let me reiterate. I think the Mackies are about the best bang for the buck boards around and if I have to I can do great work with the pres ... but I prefer other stuff if available, most of the time.
  8. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    I think the article is fairly accurate given the parameters. What I find with Mackie pres (and I too own a SR24) is that they're fine on a track or too, but when multiple tracks are combined the artifacts of the cheaper pres become much more apparent.
    The "transparency" isn't transparent at all, it gives the recording an unflattering tonal quality to my ears. This "shootout" doesn't test this at all. so....YMMV.

    Where Kurt and I differ is on some of the mid price units like the Sytek. I assume the same thing happens with all but the very best pres (the more tracks the better they sound - and a wonderful sheen appears) If multiple tracks get ugly with the Sytek, I haven't heard it happen on my equipment or I haven't combined enough tracks. To be fair, I usually use the Sytek for mostly classical and jazz recordings where layering isn't often necessary and it sounds wonderful - and, to my ears anyway, way above the Mackie.
  9. BillC

    BillC Guest

    The experience of dimensionality is relative to my own experience (i.e., take it FWIW). I keep coming back to "startling" as the best description of my initial reactions, though.

    I wonder how much is due to better ambient clues given good mics, reasonably clean signal chain through the board, decent enough converters, etc., and how much is psychoacoustic - the latter because I find the quality within a voice and that doesn't make intuitive sense to me as it's up close and mono, no matter what the components are. In other words, is there a point of clarity and detail where your mind has enough information to construct the dimensionality?

  10. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Mar 31, 2002
    Transparent is far from easy to design, rather it is probably the most challenging. To get true transparency means to capture all the detail and nuance of the room and the instrument or whatever the mic was able to capture.

    Transparent means it does not alter the sound so it must:
    1- have extraordinarily flat response (requiring extremely simple but elogant design and uncompromising choice of components)
    2- have extraordinarily good linearity (stays flat at all levels). Very few mic pre's do this and this is a major element of a "dimensional" sound, since you would want all the small reflections and harmonics amplified with the same frequency response curve as the louder stuff.
    3. Major head room so there is no clipping of transient peaks. (which is one method for getting warmth (i.e. distortion)). this requires extremely good (i.e. expensive) power supply design with generous and skillfully designed ground distribution and great response time on the part of the power supply.
    4. Excellent build quality.

    Grace Design, Massenburg or Earthworks pres, though very transparent will provide "dimensionality" that far surpasses anything that is "warm" or colored. IT may not be right for many Rock and Roll applications but it seems to have worked well for
    this list
    of classic material recorded by George[/url]
  11. Duardo

    Duardo Guest

    Doesn't really surprise me. The M149 has a pretty hot output, and the preamps probably weren't "working" too hard. I think if they presented them with a more demanding source, then differences would have been more apparent.

    Have you ever tried out a GML preamp?

    I thought that way as well, but the differences between some of the "transparent" preamps on the market are pretty noticeable. And yet they all still sound "transparent". Interesting.

  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Couple things to add ...

    O/T (sorry, I need to do this) .. First I have to back pedal on my previous thoughts of the Sytek .... I had been under the impression they were the same pres that are in the Neotek consoles ... Audio Gaff informed me that they are not ... His opinion is that the Neotek pres are much better than the Syteks ... But whether they are better or not is not the issue here ... what I am saying is, I have to admit now, I have not had any experience with Syteks ... so I withdraw all my opinion on them until I get a chance to listen to or use one for a while. I will say the power supply and topology of the Syteks are not what I usually look to in a mic pre .. I regret that I mis spoke on this much debated topic of the Syteks .. and I apologize if I stepped on anyone's toes.

    In regards to dimension and 3 D effect, BillC made some interesting observations .. and a lot of what he is proposing makes a lot of sense. I have also noticed that while the 3D effect of a good mic pre is evident even in mono, it really becomes more apparent in mix against other elements, when reverbs and short delays are employed to move things to the front or to the back. It is far easier to do this with tracks that were done with good pres than it is with tracks recorded with say, a Mackie.
  13. dasbin

    dasbin Guest

    The article is a PRESS RELEASE (says so at the top, though it's easy to miss) and not an independant review of any sort. In other words, Mackie wrote everything there.

    I've heard that the marketing fellas at Mackie don't take themselves too seriously and that this article in particular is meant as a bit of a joke. Not that they don't like their own preamps, but I don't think they ever thought to actually convince any engineers that their preamps are better than the big boys. They were just throwing out an obtuse marketing scheme with a slightly sarcastic sense of humour in order to get their product known.
    I've never spoken to them personally so I can't verify this take on it first-hand, but I thought it sounded like a pretty reasonable explanation when I first heard it from the folks over at ProRec.
  14. omaru

    omaru Active Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    Thanks to everyone for their input.


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