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I'm new to the forum, but have already learned a lot this week as I've been reading. I'm preparing to start a PC-based Recoring studio that will be used to record many multi-track groups (Church choirs, Church worship bands, Small Church Orchestras, etc.). I have been looking for reviews on the Mackie Onyx 1640 and have only found a couple through the Mackie website. I would like to know if anyone has any experience with this new product and what your thoughts are on it. The only negative is that it's only a front end mixer, but everything else looks pretty great.


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anonymous Fri, 02/18/2005 - 12:11

the firewire option is really good, but a bit deceiving, seing that it only gives you two monitor outputs compared to the plethora of inputs. really good for recording and tracking, but extremely lame for mixdowns if you want to incorporate outboard gear into the mix.
there are ways around this, but it gets expensive.

anonymous Tue, 02/22/2005 - 08:41

I bought an Onyx for live remote recording and had to return it when I discovered that the analog direct outs were pre everything. No HI Pass, No EQ to tape, which in the drum/live recording world I really need. All that press about british EQ and you can't print it to tape!!! When I phoned Mackie they said that there marketing survey said that people wouldn't need the post option so they didn't give us one! DUH!! I was also under the impression the firewire outs are also pre everything so for me the Onyx is kind of useless. I bought an Allen and Heath MX 16/2 which works great and the 16 direct outs can be switched to be either pre or post (via internal jumper) and it sounds great! I bought the motu 24/I/O as an input card to the computer and it all works great.

Cucco Wed, 02/23/2005 - 11:48

I agree with Ben. Save your money and buy anything else. If you need a control surface, get a control surface; if you need a mixer, get a mixer. The Tascam is a poor excuse for both. While the pre's are decent in the Tascam as is the conversion, there are numerous other issues with the hardware on this box. I too have written numerous items about the FW1884 - search for both Ben's and my comments regarding it.

I'm curious, what made you change your mind about the Mackie? From what I hear, it's a pretty good unit in which the sum of the parts far outweigh the cost of the unit.

I guess JoeH would know best, he uses one for location recording and from what I get, he loves it - pres and all.


anonymous Thu, 02/24/2005 - 18:25

Pre Everything direct outs, but not firewire?

Dave 62,

You said the analog direct outs were pre-everything, I'm assuming the firewire connection is not pre-everything. It wouldn't make much sense to me for them to have a mixer and brag about it's firewire connectivity and preamps that didn't translate onto the computer.

I had temporarily decided against the Mackie because of the direct out issue, however I will be using this for recording only, and if it's a great audio in device for my computer, then I'll probably go with it. I have heard a lot of good about it, especially for the price. I was going to go with the fw1884, but have heard a lot of negative feedback on this and other sites, so it doesn't look like I'll be going that route.

Is it common for studios to have both a mixer for in and a control device?


Cucco Thu, 02/24/2005 - 19:39

Re: Pre Everything direct outs, but not firewire?

david_d_lindner wrote: Is it common for studios to have both a mixer for in and a control device?



Until recently (when I just sold my control surface - Radikal SAC-2K), I had a control surface and 5 mixers. I still have the 5 mixers, and if I needed it, I would still have the control surface. They are 2 different beasts and, despite the banks of faders and knobs, they perform relatively different functions.


Cucco Fri, 02/25/2005 - 04:25

There's no lie there. I'm not a big fan of Tascam. In fact, every device I've ever used with the Tascam name plate has failed me at one point or another.

As for the DM24, I've looked very seriously at these and I have to say, it does intrigue me. But it still says 'Tascam.'

My personal preference, if I wanted a mixer with automation and a way to get digi in the computer, I would go with a RAMSA DA-7 and an RME Lightpipe card. The price would set you back around $1800-$2200 depending upon the deal you could get, but for that price, you would get a great mixer with excellent converters and true automation and recall as well as a versatile input device that would last you for years.

Is it 96K? No. But will anyone ever hear the difference or be able to tell? No. The RAMSA converters are that good.


anonymous Fri, 02/25/2005 - 07:55

Hi Dave, yeah it doesn't make much sense to have the firewire outputs pre everything, but according to the block diagram (page31) for the Onyx, the firewire outs are post preamp but pre hpf,pre EQ with no option to switch, just like the analog direct outs. So if you want any EQ on the way in you are S.O.L. The only place Mackie even shows where the direct/firewire outs are tapped is on the block diagram, it's not mentioned ANYWHERE else in their site which dosen't make for happy buyers. I think Mackie dropped the ball on this. They used to be known for flexability. I only use my mixer as an input device, monitoring thru a central station and mixing inside of PT so I don't need it to work as a two way

Cucco Fri, 02/25/2005 - 08:38

Dave62 wrote: Hi Dave, yeah it doesn't make much sense to have the firewire outputs pre everything, but according to the block diagram (page31) for the Onyx, the firewire outs are post preamp but pre hpf,pre EQ with no option to switch, just like the analog direct outs. So if you want any EQ on the way in you are S.O.L. The only place Mackie even shows where the direct/firewire outs are tapped is on the block diagram, it's not mentioned ANYWHERE else in their site which dosen't make for happy buyers. I think Mackie dropped the ball on this. They used to be known for flexability. I only use my mixer as an input device, monitoring thru a central station and mixing inside of PT so I don't need it to work as a two way

I don't see this as being that much of a problem.

If I'm piping audio to a PC as a primary recording system, I want the signal path as simple as possible - Pre->Converter->Disk. Why would I want to add EQ during the recording process when chances are, the EQ in the mixer is not as good as my linear phase EQs on my PC. Granted, having access to the Aux bus would be a plus too, but again, I'm not a big fan of adding stuff to the signal while I'm laying it down anyway. There's way too much room for error. (Overcompress a track - oops, damage done - can't fix it. Same for EQ or reverb)

I think Mackie was smart in their signal path design. If I want to mix a large show or print to 2-track, I can use all of the features of the Mackie. Furthermore, if I want to bring audio back into the mixer in analog and perform post-processing, I can do so. If I want to record to PC, it's a set of pretty good pres and a pretty good A/D converter, and a PC bus in one unit. Comparable in price to units from Presonus or Focusrite, but a bit better in the quality department.

Just some thoughts.

anonymous Fri, 02/25/2005 - 10:07

My biggest gripe was the lack of choice. As the EQ and the HPF are both switched, the direct outs (firewire and analog) could have been tapped at this point, pre fader, and made most happy, except the people trying to do two things at once, i.e. foh and recording. Why not add one more direct out source switch between those two points and make everbody happy.
As to the wisdom of EQ on tracking input, I track most drums with EQ because I have a very clear idea of how I need it to sound later, and on vocals I sometimes like to engage a high pass filter. I find I can also get a bit more level to tape by high-passing things like the hats, rides, and the cymbal overheads which are usually highpassed later anyway. Not a by the book purist I guess but real world conditions and 20 years of album experience. I also feel that the supplied standard digital EQ shipped with Protools or most entry level daws is just not as good as an analog EQ of reasonable quality like the the Onyx or the A&H mx3 series. Yep, my linear phase waves EQ's are incredible, but I just can't run 20 in my Protools 002R session.

FifthCircle Fri, 02/25/2005 - 12:42

A couple of thoughts here...

First of all, I'd actually consider the fact that the Onyx's outputs are pre-everything to be a plus. Besides the fact that pre-everything yields the cleanest signal, I don't want to be constrained by what I think "seems" right at tracking. HPF is nice sometimes, but I still take care of that elsewhere- either at the mic if I need it or in post where I can control exactly how much gets removed. We forget that Mackie isn't exactly high-end. It is great for the money, but the ability to tweak stuff like that adds a certain amount to the price point. If you look at the new generation of Yamaha stuff (O1V-96, O2R96, DM1000 and DM2000), there is a software selection for how you want your direct outs... But, remember that is a digital board and software is a very different thing than hardware.

Second- somebody asked about the DM-24. It is a remarkably good sounding console with a lot of functionality. There are a couple strange quirks- one of them being the gain in the mic pres and the others being with the layout. Still a darned good board, though. That said, I have one for sale (I'm going straight to the DAW these days)- my ad in the for sale section disappeared when a scammer posted to 30+ ads... It has 2 AES cards, though- not the firewire. Contact me off site if anybody is interested...


anonymous Fri, 02/25/2005 - 23:10

no mixer

Fifth Circle,

So you don't use any kind of mixer getting audio into your DAW? What's your basic set up. I am interested in the Tascam that you have, but not sure how interested if it will work for what I'm trying to do. I want to get high quality audio into my pc for the best price. (of course, that's everyone's goal), I just want to do this right the first time as much as possible, at the same time I want to be a legit studio.


FifthCircle Sat, 02/26/2005 - 17:24

Most of the time, I don't... Sometimes I use a mixer, but it has become so rare that I'm selling my current gear.

My standard rig for the sort of "low-end" broadcast/documentary gigs consists of 8 channels of the Panasonic/Ramsa digital mic pres and 2 channels of [good] Boulder twin servo mic pres (similar to the John Hardy Twin Servo). My high-end work is considerably higher quality. My session Monday had Millennia, Boulder, Vac Rac and other high-end preamps going directly into my Lynx 2C/AES L-stream setup at 96K. I had Lavry converters for the main mics and I used the Lynx for the rest.

There are certainly advantages of using a console- in general for the work I do (location acoustic music) a console means less work in post as I'll sum channels and send either a stereo mix or a couple of stems to the workstation for post. When I use the DAW for everything, I [of course] record everything to its own track and I have to do more mixing in post.


JoeH Sat, 02/26/2005 - 18:59

I think a lot of it just comes down to when and how we like to track, mix and eq: live as it happens, or afterwards in post.

It may be no surprise that Ben, Jeremy and myself all use Sequoia (and Sampitude) and curiously enough, don't want to do anything live other than capture it as purely as possible. It's tough not to keep turning this into another bragging session, but most users & converts who use this software will tell you that mixing and working in this environment is about as good as it gets - linear eq's as Jeremy mentions and so much more - too much to list here. It makes working with an analog board in post just pointless and slow.

The ONYX 1640 is a split-use board; a very good analog mixing board for smaller live gigs, and it sports a very good tracking-out feature. It can also fit nicely in a project studio for monitoring computer mixes, CD playback, etc. How well that is implemented is arguable, but it does what it says it does. It's also a great deal for 16 mic pres all in one package. (How much you like the pre's is also a personal issue.)

I like the eq's on the ONYX for live stuff, and making my CDr rough mixes, but I've gotten so good at eq'ing in Samp/Sequoia that I don't even bother with anything else anymore. It's pointless compared to what one can do after the fact. That may explain why I'm not at all bothered by the inability to use the EQ's when I record. Don't need it in my case. As for choosing the 1640 in particular, I like having as many as 16 pre's available for the kind of live recording gigs I do (about 1 per week for that # track count) and it's also a great way to do a CDr mix at the same time, for safety. On occasion, I may be doing FOH duties as well, but most of the time, I'm usually just split off my snake, and work from backstage.

Frankly, I realize I'm probably the rarest of cases with this. Since I'm often literally right offstage at one venue in particular; I can't even really hear what I'm tracking, aside from the basics. I would NEVER trust my onsite EQ choices and be stuck with them later. Gimme "pre-EQ" anyday, in my case.

As for WHY they don't offer both, I suspect there's a fairly simple technical reason, something to do with where they do the pick-off for the send to the digital converter. There's a LOT of gain available from the trim pot on the pre, and I suspect that it's optimised for that, in terms of the digital levels. Make the pick-off somewhere downstream, and it could mean a big problem, level wise. (not to mention the cost of more buffering, level adjs., maybe even another buffer op amp, etc. It's rarely as simple as just a jumper pin somewhere...)

Rolling off the bass or high end on a vocal mic may not help your available gain structure, as well, ditto for making changes in the sound of the kick drum. I don't think it'll buy you any more signal, at least not the way it's currently laid out. THere's no risk to overload the mic pre's the way they are, so you can indeed do whatever you need in with digital eq & effects later

Consider this: If it was a cost-saving move (and I really do suspect it was - but I have no information pro or con) - the developers at Mackie may have been counting on the fact that programs like Samp/Sequoia will become (or already are) so commonplace that few will want to trust their live-to-computer tracks with the emotion of the moment, instead of a controlled studio approch in post. It's a gutsy move, and I'm not at all surprised to see/hear so much anger at the lack of an option.

But I can tell you that if you do get comfortable with the approach of EQ'ing in software, you may never go back.

As always, YMMV. 8-)

JoeH Sun, 02/27/2005 - 00:17

Can you compare the onyx 1640 with a digital mixer like the tascam dm-24?

Aside from the term "MIXER", I don't think they're anything at all alike. The Tascam would seem to be an all-digital mixer, once you get signal inside the unit, and work entirely in the DSP domain. It probably works great as a digital live board as well as the heart of a digital studio, I'm guessing. (no experience with one here). Looks like a bit pricier than the ONYX 1640 as well, which seems to make sense; it probably does a lot more than just 'mix'.

The ONYX is still at heart an analog mixing board, just like the VLZ Series before it. The big difference is that they've gone and supplied you with a digital interface, (instead of using the inserts and stand alone boxes like the MOTU 896 etc.) to simply move signals (individually) to the computer via firewire. It's sold as an option because arguably, some folks may not even want it for all that - just a good live board instead.

In my case, it saves me all the hassle of outboard A/D interfaces, and puts it all under one roof, via one cable. (If I was brave enough to leave the CDr and DA-x8's at home, I wouldn't need any more than just the board, a laptop and an external FW drive, like they show you in the ads.)

I think it fills a very specific niche, (mainly computer tracking of live gigs) and it's probably not for everyone. The price and features made it a no-brainer for me.

Digital consoles haven't quite caught on EVERYWHERE, at least not the way they'd hoped when all this started 5-10 years ago. IMHO, the ONYX is a definite the "What should I get" conundrum/battle for your console $$$, it lets you have a "Taste" of both worlds.

anonymous Thu, 03/03/2005 - 19:02

Once again, I like the 1640

I'm not a pro at this (though someday I hope to be), and certainly don't have the budget of one.

Here are some reasons I like the 1640:

1. 16 channels of simultaneous input. (plus 2)
2. 6 aux channels (for headphone monitoring)
3. Decent mic-pre's (not the best, but down the road I will be spending more money on pre's and the 1640 gives me the inserts to do so.)
4. Down the road (assuming I eventually start making money doing this) I'll be able to buy something bigger and better that i can use and use the 1640 for live tracking.

Considering that I'm a PC-junkie, I don't mind doing my mixing on the computer, (at least not right now) so do you guys think this would be a good way to go for me? IYO

nedjinski Fri, 03/04/2005 - 08:26

Hi Guys -

this is a really great thread and you all have a wealth of knowledge and understanding that I hope to have someday.

on that note I want to ask what may be an obvious question but it is not so to this novitiate:

namely, what is the place and possible function of having a separate sound card in the computer if you have an Onyx with firewire interface.

does a sound card interfere? or is it excess baggage that sits idle? or do you need it for burning disks or other in computer functions?

anonymous Sun, 03/06/2005 - 11:45

Yeah, I think that it is much better that the direct/firewire outs are pre everything. Trust me, you want the purest signal possible to tape. Unless you have a really highend eq, you can do better after the fact with the eq. Also, you don't want to limit yourself to a certain sound if you are both mixing in a live situation and then recording the audio.

anonymous Mon, 03/07/2005 - 20:22

I think the new Mackie Onyx mixers with FW is a first step. Look for them to implement a proper digital converter setup in future - one which allows you to select any of the ins and summing outs to record to the DAW ins.

Until then, I think an ideal setup would be a mackie Onyx mixer and a MOTU 828. You get all the patching flexibility you can think up, and the nice analog interface of the mackie.

Mackie and MOTU should seriously partner for releasing a seriously integrated unit of this kind. If they don't they'll both end up trying re-invent their own wheels, and innevitably make a bunch of square wheels before they get it right.

Clearly the future is integrated hybrid.

anonymous Tue, 03/08/2005 - 18:12

Intriguing Suggestion Arrowfan

I find your solution to the monitoring problem intriguing. That is somthing I've been thinking about as I prepare to buy equipment, being able to give the musician a good mix in their monitors and i wasn't sure that I'd be able to do so with the onyx 1640, but it sounds like with the MOTU 828, this may be possible.

Could you explain a little further?

anonymous Wed, 03/09/2005 - 10:24

Concerning monitor mix busing:

I've recently had to resolve the monmix issues for our studio so I'll pass on what I've found to work....

No musician should be subjected to any delays/latencies beyond a few samples, and no engineer should be subjected to having to worry about system stability running at lowest possible sample buffers on their sound card (to reduce latency) - > so, through-the-computer monitoring is out.

Digital mixers introduce minute amount of latencies but which are said to be about the same as using 8m cables instead of 4m cables. In other words, entirely acceptable.

What is great about the newest generation of audio interfaces is that they are incorporating more and more digital mixer functions - I don't mean automated faders and moderately useful digital effects - but monitor mix busing straight and simple.

The delay is that of a digital mixer, essentially these interfaces are digital mixers.

I have experience with MOTU's Cuemix and RME's Totalmix software controlled hardware, so I'll review them here.

Both platforms use this base approach:

Input jack -> Trim -> signal now available to any monitor mix bus for use and absue.

Trim can be a software setting or, as in case of 896HD, a proper hardware trim pot.

Beyond the intial trim which you'd use to insure the signal is hot but not clipping - you can cut, boost, pan, mute, solo all inputs independantly for each and every mix bus output.

Thus with MOTU's CueMix (828, 896HD, Traveler interfaces), which allows 4 mix buses, all inputs could be panned, level adjusted, etc in 4 completly different ways.

RME saw what MOTU did and aced them with their TotalMix console (Fireface800 interface).

RME's Totalmix allows ***every output to have its own entire mix setting of all inputs AND all software outputs*** Yea, every output is a mix bus!

But TotalMix goes even further - you can setup M-S encoding and decoding matrices. You can invert signals.

You can setup listenback/talkback channels which auto "dim" all other levels when you temporarily activate them (eg, "hey drummer got enough bass?").

And there are some useful hotkey qualifiers: for example by holding down the (alt or shift key?) as you adjust a software fader - it will apply to all mon mix levels for that channel (not just the output mix you are currently within). And so on.

-Keep in mind all of this concerns latency free mix busing carried out in the hardware -

MOTU CueMix: 4 stereo mix buses, nice interface

RME TotalMix: every output can be a mix bus (up to, what, 56?), extra features

Finally, all the hardware to which these consoles apply can operate in stand-alone mode, without the computer. The in's will auto rout to the outs according to the last saved mix configuration.

Of course without a computer to fine-tune levels, this operation mode has limited usage. But, its still nice to know the hardware will do its job reguardless of a finnicky computer!

Getting the signal to your musicians headphones is another step. While all units concered have at least one headphone output pair (with headphone amp buit in), you'll undoubtedly be using plenty more outputs for mon mixes. These outs will be TRS (balanced audio cable).

So having 4 to 8 little headphone amps handy will complete the signal path.

(For electronics DIY-ers: since all level adjust is done inside software mix console - all you need is to boost signal to headphone levels, the headamp doesn't even need a volume knob!)

Basically, MOTU's 828, 896HD and RME's Fireface800 are interfaces that deliver the goods.

anonymous Wed, 03/09/2005 - 19:46

The Fireface800 does have some disadvantages, but just a few.

* No main output volume knob! (unless you use the headphone output with a Y cable: TRS -> TS + TS) So, you have to control main outs within the TotalMix software console -or- if you don't use active monitors with your external amp's level knob.

* The following must be set within software (the Fireface's control panel), unlike the 896HD which has genuine switches etc:

- input impedance for ins without preamp
- output impedance for outs
- phantom power for channels with preamps (4)
- levels for all channels (this is post trim for preamp channels)

* Expandability within the same instance of TotalMix is currently limited to 1 Fireface interface. So if you want more than 10 analog inputs to share the same mix busing matrix you need to use the 2 ADAT lightpipe inputs with external ADATs. You can connect 4 more Firefaces, but each will use its own busing matrix.

* Currently no remote control for any levels(!) But RME should have this implemented in their next software update.

* No hardware metering for 5 of the 10 inputs. (the 4 preamp ins and 1 D.I. in each have 2 LEDs for signal and clip).

But the 4 RME preamps are quite nice and there's that D.I input that has its own hardware driven amp sim with overdrive.

If you don't need preamps, then MOTU's 828 at around $800 is hard to beat.

Btw, both CueMix and TotalMix run alongside any other software (Cubase, Sonar, Logic, etc).

Btw2, I've never had a problem with stability for either the Fireface or MOTU FW drivers, tested on both mac and pc.

Btw3, with up to 10 mono mix buses you actually can patch up your external hardware into send/return loops.

But one major drawback to selling your mixer and using your audio interface as a digital mixer: people will ask suspiciously, "ehhhhhh ... where's the mixing desk????"

Seriously, I've considered buying an old beat-up 32 channel mixer (the more non-functional channels the cheaper it is!) just to avoid that innevitable damn question. ; ))

sheet Wed, 03/09/2005 - 20:02

JoeH wrote:
Frankly, I realize I'm probably the rarest of cases with this. Since I'm often literally right offstage at one venue in particular; I can't even really hear what I'm tracking, aside from the basics. I would NEVER trust my onsite EQ choices and be stuck with them later. Gimme "pre-EQ" anyday, in my case.

I do the same thing. I am in a spot in Monitor World, or in a dressing room, choir room, etc. Sometimes at FOH. I cannot see ANY justifiable reason to EQ a track when recording. You can't recreate the moment and take it back. Corrective EQ for FOH or monitoring is not going to be good for a recorded track anytime.

The only thing that I would worry about is the insert being active on the direct output for gating, compressing, etc., the pre's sounding good, and the thing being quiet.

For the money, you really don't have a whole lotta choices.

anonymous Tue, 03/15/2005 - 18:37

RME or MOTU for Monitoring


My biggest thing I'm looking for in either of these is something I can route the sound out of my PC into some sort of headphone monitoring set up.

I will not be using this as my primary input device as I will be using the Mackie for this. So, if you were using one of these for monitoring, which would you prefrer?

anonymous Tue, 03/22/2005 - 15:37

Mackie1640 Onyx

Hi there everyone. I'm trying to put together a mobile system to focus mainly on doing excellent sounding acoustic and some band shows in rooms that seat between 50 and 30 people. I've settled on the mackie 3 way sa1530z powered speakers but I'm still looking for a good board. I will be recording straight into a power book and I like the Firewire option for the Mackie onyx 1640, but my main concern is sound quality. I like airy but not sterile. I've heard good things about the A&H Mix wizard. These were from people who sold them (guitar center). Does anyone know how the sound of the new mackies stacks up against the Allen & heath. I'm used to the old 1604 and the 1202 and my only experience with the A&H was in an unfamiliar room trying to save a friends gig that was sounding bad because of what I was convinced poor set up and adjustment of the system and not it's components. Thanks