Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

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calaveras
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Post by calaveras » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:29 pm

It's funny to me because I spent a long time doing sound reinforcement at a lot of clubs and stuff in the 90's through the 2000's.
When I got into home recording/producing the natural thing was to repurpose as much of my PA gear as possible. So I ended up using Sony headphones Alesis and DBX sound processing, Shure mics and of course Mackie mixers.

After a couple years I got more discerning. I realized the Sony headphones are NOT even close to flat. They have an icepick of upper mid treble. Traded those out for AKG and Shure. I also realized that the Alesis stuff was nothing to shout from rooftops about.
One day I left my mixer at a venue for an extended installation or a weekend of 100 bands thing. I forget exactly. But I plugged my soundcard straight to the speakers and just mixed everything in the soundcards mixer.
Holy shit that sounded much better! I could actually hear the edge of the drum machine cymbals much better, and the kicks were like an octave lower.

I replaced the mic pres in the Mackie with some rack mount and DIY stuff. Then I sold the Mackie. Never Again!
It's also super weird to me because Mackie was always braggin about how low distortion, and high headroom their products were. Which they were back in the early 90's!

I agree with the early post about getting an early production, USA made, not LOUD sound made Mackie if at all. The VLZ mixers were when they started to go downhill.

If I was shooting for an 'authentic' overdriven Roland sound, I'd get one of those Roland or Korg rackmount keyboard mixers.

There is one model I almost bought last year that has a built in MIDI funcitonality, and a few other frills. But when I looked it up on YT there was a video of some guy getting a very Skinny Puppy Kick sound through it.

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Post by Northward » Sat Jan 14, 2017 4:21 pm

calaveras wrote: How I know it isn't the It mixer of Electro.
I can still find them for $200 or less on craigslist.
I believe you've nailed it here.
Unless the marked is missing something of a massproduced gem (fat chance these days!), the "It mixer of electro" is probably some clever tag to move it on the sec hand marked. The consensus in this tread seems to be the world has indeed moved on and there is little "nostalgia" to be heard from these Mackies. I certanly cannot hear anything special when we use it for band rehearsal. It's ok though.

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Post by mousegarden » Sat Jan 14, 2017 7:16 pm

If you use microphones for recording, you'll realise why Mackie are still popular today as a means of getting a few excellent "boutiique" quality mic amps for very little money. In every other respect they are average mixers, but believe me, the mic amps are still the pick of the bunch and put a lot of the stand alone stuff to shame at many times the price.

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Post by calaveras » Sat Jan 14, 2017 7:56 pm

mousegarden wrote:If you use microphones for recording, you'll realise why Mackie are still popular today as a means of getting a few excellent "boutiique" quality mic amps for very little money. In every other respect they are average mixers, but believe me, the mic amps are still the pick of the bunch and put a lot of the stand alone stuff to shame at many times the price.
I'd rather have soundcraft 200B mic pres.
Mackie mic pres only sound good in the very middle of their gain. At low gain they get kind of choked sounding, at high gain it gets spitty.
Before I got a Summit and a UA I turned a Yamaha PM180 into a 6x mic pre. It's not very high fidelity on paper, but it's 100% more personality!

Mackie mic pre's are better than those found in Samson, Biamp Peavey etc, but lord I would not put them on the same par with discrete mic pres.
I also got to reiterate the Mackie EQ is just garbage.

I suppose it depends a lot on what you are doing of course. Maybe on acoustic guitar or piano?

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Post by mousegarden » Sat Jan 14, 2017 8:21 pm

calaveras wrote:
mousegarden wrote:If you use microphones for recording, you'll realise why Mackie are still popular today as a means of getting a few excellent "boutiique" quality mic amps for very little money. In every other respect they are average mixers, but believe me, the mic amps are still the pick of the bunch and put a lot of the stand alone stuff to shame at many times the price.
I'd rather have soundcraft 200B mic pres.
Mackie mic pres only sound good in the very middle of their gain. At low gain they get kind of choked sounding, at high gain it gets spitty.
Before I got a Summit and a UA I turned a Yamaha PM180 into a 6x mic pre. It's not very high fidelity on paper, but it's 100% more personality!

Mackie mic pre's are better than those found in Samson, Biamp Peavey etc, but lord I would not put them on the same par with discrete mic pres.
I also got to reiterate the Mackie EQ is just garbage.

I suppose it depends a lot on what you are doing of course. Maybe on acoustic guitar or piano?
I use my Mackie for piano, it's fine. But I'm kind of spoiled by my Mike Skeet preamp.
Like a lot of mixer preamps, with the Mackie you get this awful gain bunching, at the top end of the pot, plus there isn't sufficient overall gain for dynamic mic's or ribbons. But the tonal quality and noise level of the Mackie is fine, no problems. I found Soundcraft to be a bit "weedy" sounding, very thin in comparison to the Mackie.

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Post by calaveras » Sat Jan 14, 2017 9:07 pm

Which Soundcraft are you talking about?
That is the opposite of my perception.
To be fair, Soundcraft has really diluted their brand with a lot of cheap garbage, like the Folio line. But it seems that is the way of things.
The 200b and similar mixers are very big sounding. But you have to do that 'insert cable half in' trick to get direct outs.

That is one thing I will certainly doff my hat to Mackie for. Putting direct outs on their mixers when that was an odd thing to see on a sub $1000 mixer.

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Post by StudentsOfTheFuture » Sat Jan 14, 2017 11:32 pm

So if not Mackies, what would you all reccomend in that range (or a bit higher)? I wouldn't mind better eqs, and I don't use the mic pres much (or at all really), I just want an input that can distort nicely when it does. Plenty of busses and sends a plus!

Allen and Heath? Soundcraft?
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Post by mousegarden » Sun Jan 15, 2017 5:55 am

calaveras wrote:Which Soundcraft are you talking about?
That is the opposite of my perception.
To be fair, Soundcraft has really diluted their brand with a lot of cheap garbage, like the Folio line. But it seems that is the way of things.
The 200b and similar mixers are very big sounding. But you have to do that 'insert cable half in' trick to get direct outs.

That is one thing I will certainly doff my hat to Mackie for. Putting direct outs on their mixers when that was an odd thing to see on a sub $1000 mixer.
I must admit, my only experience of Soundcraft has been with their Folio range. I never used the mic amps, not good at all. But the Folio's were in sort of the same marketing area as Mackie at the time.
The flexibility of routing on the current Mackie mixers is great, that's why I own them, I can't think of anything in the same price range that directly competes and still manages to have a good neutral sound quality.
I've tried Behringer and Yamaha, no, inadequate routing, and it's like Yamaha are a rebadged Behringer, exactly the same nasty, tacky sound.
Samson are good, amazing for the money with surprisingly good mic amps. I've used Samson mixers on jobs where I should have used something a "lot" better, and no one ever complained and I was always surprised at the results.

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Post by tuj » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:12 am

bah ignore the haters. I am *back* to using a CR1604 since my A&H 24ch large board won't fit in my new studio. :bang:

I recorded some of my absolute best work using the CR1604, including a release alongside some notables like Headphone Science, Proem, and AEM amongst others (check out en:peg digital). There is absolutely nothing holding you back using the older 1604. People can blame the preamps or whatever all they want, they aren't shit. If anything the newer 1604's got worse in sound quality while adding features.

And while we're at it, as far as features go, there aren't a lot of rack-mountable 16 channel mixers with 6 mono aux sends (well 4 at a time on each channel), and 4 stereo returns and 3-band EQ on every single channel. Believe me, I've looked around; I was just in the market.

As far as saving space, that big-ass pod at the top can be relocated to BEHIND the mixer. You can download an older CR1604 manual to see how to do it. It will save you some space above the mixer at the expense of depth.

Lastly, the first response was right that the channels overdrive very nicely. This is the 'Prodigy' sound IIRC, how they got a lot of their dirty bass and kicks was overdriving a CR1604. It can sound cool, but the trick does get old.

PS Mackie used to always build their headphone outs to double as a stereo output line output as well.

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Post by mousegarden » Sun Jan 15, 2017 7:32 pm

tuj wrote:PS Mackie used to always build their headphone outs to double as a stereo output line output as well.
:tu:

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Post by boxxgrooved » Sun Jan 15, 2017 8:33 pm

I had a mackie many years back but later got my hands on a Soundcraft FX16 and thought it sounded much sweeter, beautiful eq. It had a nice Lexicon FX section strapped on too which was very useful. Another good budget mixer.

Now I have a Yamaha MG124 cx which is fairly cheap but sounds pretty good to my ears.

I love the different sound mixers produce. People talk about the different sound of samplers but after running channels hard into a desk you get a different sound.

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Post by mousegarden » Mon Jan 16, 2017 2:06 am

boxxgrooved wrote:I had a mackie many years back but later got my hands on a Soundcraft FX16 and thought it sounded much sweeter, beautiful eq. It had a nice Lexicon FX section strapped on too which was very useful. Another good budget mixer.

Now I have a Yamaha MG124 cx which is fairly cheap but sounds pretty good to my ears.

I love the different sound mixers produce. People talk about the different sound of samplers but after running channels hard into a desk you get a different sound.
The EQ is where Mackie fall down, it's terrible. Also the faders are terrible, even Behringer are better. But I don't use the EQ, and don't use the faders much, it's set and forget here.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by panomega » Tue Nov 03, 2020 4:44 pm

Scan X - Earthquake - Mackie CR1604 - :sb:


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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by skunk3 » Tue Nov 03, 2020 5:13 pm

I used to own a CR1604 specifically just because of the way it sounds when overdriven. I basically used it as an FX box, routing a bunch of different drum and sampler sounds into it at different gains to get that crunchy sound. It's incredibly common in techno, especially mid-90's stuff. These days I have a VLZ4 and it sounds SO much better but I don't know if aging components and wear and tear has anything to do with that. The VLZ4 has vastly more headroom and overall fidelity IMO. I've never owned or even used a 'high end' mixer in my life... all of mine have been lower-end options from Mackie, Yamaha, Samson, Behringer, Tascam, Allen and Heath, and Soundcraft. Mackie and Allen and Heath have the best sound to my ears and surprisingly Yamaha and Soundcraft sounded the worst, even worse than old Behringer mixers!
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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by Blairio » Tue Nov 03, 2020 6:48 pm

I bought a VLZ 1402 around 22 years ago when, due to a marital implosion, a rapid downsizing became necessary. The marriage went south, but I still have the mixer. It excels at nothing, except sounding 'invisible', and having a very neat footprint.

I would buy a better mixer tomorrow, if there was one that delivered improved performance in the same dimensions - but there isn't one.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by ersatzplanet » Wed Nov 04, 2020 9:51 am

For me it’s the number of channels and AUX inputs. Not many more boards have 16 input channels in that small of a footprint. The rackmount ability of it really helps too.
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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by MisterJ » Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:15 pm

I bought a 1604 new when they came out. Used it until a couple of years ago with no failures ever. I replaced it with a 1604 VLZ that had been rotopoded for more patching and mixing flexibility. The only issue I had with the original 1604 is that it is just a straight stereo mixer and I couldn't do things like create and record a dry submix while listening and playing the main mix with effects. The pres are okay but I have better ones and I rarely use it for direct microphone input. I have no complaints about the sound quality of either version, both are clean and noise free and the VLZ version has better EQ. For electronic music where you're taking feeds from snyths and effects boxes, they rock. Recording live acoustic music with high end microphones is a different ball game with different requirements.
I have used the distortion in the 1604. I haven't tried it in the 1604VLZ. It probably comes from CMOS op amps but I'd have to open up the 1604 to check that. One of my DIY projects is a preamp that uses CMOS op amps in the first two stages both for the high input impedance and the nice vacuum tube like distortion if they are overdriven. Bipolar transistor op amps sound like radio static if overdriven and I'm not sure about jfet op amps.
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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by loydb » Thu Nov 05, 2020 3:42 pm

I used a 1604 for over a decade. It sounds great, I could afford it, and it is basically indestructible.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by SingIt » Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:11 pm

Sorry for the bump but I am trying to figure out the best way to wire up a 1604 when it arrives here.

I want to send my drum machine (8 total outs, 1-6 mono, 2 stereo), 303 and some stereo and mono synths into it. Pretty simple so far. I do have 12 inputs on my interface so I want to use the direct outs. Reading the manual, it looks like channels 1-8 have direct outs if I use the channel access area . So I could basically send a drum machines individual outs into that and then those would have their own separate mono tracks in the DAW, correct?

I also have 5-6 mono guitar pedals I could process the different drums with. If I am reading right - the signal from channel access area is post fader so I can record the effected drums into my DAW. Also apparently the aux outs send an instrument level so I won't need a reamp box for my pedals.

Just verifying if this is indeed the case or I am missing something.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by flashheart » Wed Jun 09, 2021 6:33 pm

The aux outs are line level, but IIR they all have send level controls. You don't need to reamp for the pedals, just attenuate.
I'm not buying a maths though, not my idea of fun...

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by SingIt » Wed Jun 09, 2021 8:00 pm

flashheart wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 6:33 pm
The aux outs are line level, but IIR they all have send level controls. You don't need to reamp for the pedals, just attenuate.
Ok that is great news. Sounds like I have a good plan for using this mixer then - thanks!

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by SingIt » Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:42 pm

Just got mine in and the thing is mint. All the channels work fine. I do get a little crosstalk, very low DB though. For those of you who recorded through them, I am guessing that may add a little to the sound if you like things a little grungy and lofi, which I do. It sure makes the TR8S have a lot more character to it.

I put some pedals on the board and it does sound rather good. In fact the little mono OD pedal I have is better on the kick to me than overdriving the board (which is also really damn nice). Gives me another option there.

If I am understanding and wiring this right, the Aux outs go through the stereo mains only? Or can I wire it so they go through the individual outs 1-8? I don't fully get that yet. Maybe that will clean up some crosstalk issues as well.

Anyway, still learning this board so any advice appreciated. I think I will have a full grasp of it in a couple more days, I didn't spend too much time with it. But for $150 this was pretty much a steal, IMO. It lets me add analogue FX to my drum machines and synths, and that's pretty awesome. Just have to make sure I am doing it optimally.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by ersatzplanet » Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:56 am

SingIt wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:42 pm
If I am understanding and wiring this right, the Aux outs go through the stereo mains only? Or can I wire it so they go through the individual outs 1-8? I don't fully get that yet. Maybe that will clean up some crosstalk issues as well.
You mean the AUX returns right? The Returns are mixed into the main bus. If you want direct outs, you should make some TRS to Dual TS cables and usr the send/returns in each channel. That way you can get a direct out from all 16 channels.

Here is the owner's manual. It has a bunch of tips and even mods you can make to the unit to change behaviors. The CR1604 is a great mixer. I have had one since they came out and it still works great. I got mine for free for doing some graphics work on the Mixer-Mixer, a box for combining the outputs of three CR1604's together.
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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by SingIt » Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:24 pm

ersatzplanet wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:56 am
SingIt wrote:
Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:42 pm
If I am understanding and wiring this right, the Aux outs go through the stereo mains only? Or can I wire it so they go through the individual outs 1-8? I don't fully get that yet. Maybe that will clean up some crosstalk issues as well.
You mean the AUX returns right? The Returns are mixed into the main bus. If you want direct outs, you should make some TRS to Dual TS cables and usr the send/returns in each channel. That way you can get a direct out from all 16 channels.

Here is the owner's manual. It has a bunch of tips and even mods you can make to the unit to change behaviors. The CR1604 is a great mixer. I have had one since they came out and it still works great. I got mine for free for doing some graphics work on the Mixer-Mixer, a box for combining the outputs of three CR1604's together.
Woah, you just blew my mind a little there.

Yes I meant the AUX returns. When you say this “If you want direct outs, you should make some TRS to Dual TS cables and usr the send/returns in each channel. That way you can get a direct out from all 16 channels” do you mean direct out, like I these cables would make it so I can just use the Aux send and then the sound goes in the pedal and back out without routing through the mains? I suspect that is the case (which is really awesome).

I messed with sending the Effects (in this case guitar pedal) back into a spare channel after I made my post last night. I noticed that the FX signal was a lot lower than using the Aux returns. For example, the OD pedal I was using was not distorting my kick nearly the same as routing it through the return.

In a perfect world, I’d love to send all 16 channels out separately to my i/o and have the insert FX print to each channel. That’s probably getting greedy but I thought I’d ask. I really want to maximize this mixer since it appears to have a lot of flexibility. I do see the mod section has an option but it appears that would remove the sends from being actual sends and make them into direct channel outs.

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Re: Why is Mackie CR1604 a classic in the world of Electro?

Post by ersatzplanet » Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:15 pm

SingIt wrote:
Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:24 pm

Woah, you just blew my mind a little there.

Yes I meant the AUX returns. When you say this “If you want direct outs, you should make some TRS to Dual TS cables and usr the send/returns in each channel. That way you can get a direct out from all 16 channels” do you mean direct out, like I these cables would make it so I can just use the Aux send and then the sound goes in the pedal and back out without routing through the mains? I suspect that is the case (which is really awesome).
You want to check out pages 15 & 16 from the manual I posted. looks like this:
Screen Shot 2021-06-11 at 1.09.05 PM.png
They are separate from the Aux sends/returns. There is a button on the front panel (the Mute Alt 3/4 button) for each channel that will also allow each channel to be sent to a separate out from the mains too, The Alt 3/4 outs -
Screen Shot 2021-06-11 at 1.14.24 PM.png
There are lots of ways to have multiple mixes happening at one time on the CR1604
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