Paul White looks at the latest addition to Mackie's compact mixer range.
Like their ever‑popular 1604 model, Mackie's 1642 VLZpro is a general‑purpose mixer capable of handling both live sound and recording applications. The new model, however, offers only 12 channel strips, although the last four of these are stereo, routing to four subgroups and a main stereo buss. The 1642 omits the 1604's rotatable chassis feature, which allows the socket layout to be adapted to the different demands of table‑top or rackmount installation. In terms of facilities, however, the eight mono channels are identical to the earlier model: I/O consists of balanced mic and line inputs with globally switchable phantom power, unbalanced insert points, and balanced post‑fader direct outputs, and channel processing is also duplicated, including the three‑band EQ with swept mid‑band and the four aux sends, two of which are switchable between pre‑ and post‑fader operation.
The first two stereo channels (9/10 and 11/12) can also function as mono mic channels if necessary, though there are no insert points or direct outputs available. The other two stereo channels (13/14 and 15/16), however, only cater for stereo line‑level sources. The other difference between the mono and stereo channels is that the three‑band EQ controls are repurposed on the stereo channels to control a four‑band fixed EQ, with the two mid‑bands centred at 800Hz and 3kHz. As on the 1604, none of the equalisers can be bypassed, though all gain controls are centre‑detented at the zero‑gain position.
All the channels have a pan/balance control, followed by an 80mm fader, mute button, solo button, and group and mix buss routing buttons, as well as a pair of metering and solo‑status LEDs. The master section is almost identical to that of the 1604, with faders for the four groups and the mix buss, and rotary level controls for the four balanced stereo auxiliary returns and stereo tape return. All the 1604 routing, monitoring and metering options are intact.
Four On The Floor
Functionally, the 1642 VLZpro is as straightforward as the 1604 — for example, to select between mic and line, you simply plug into the input you wish to use rather then having to fiddle with selection buttons. However, there is still a lot of routing flexibility on offer: for example, the Aux 3 return can routed to either of the pairs of groups, instead of into the main mix, which is useful when an effect has been applied to all the channels in a subgroup and you need the overall effect level to track the group faders. Monitoring is also comprehensive, being switchable to Tape, Subs 1/2, Subs 3/4 or Main Mix, with PFL or AFL soloing.
The audio quality is exemplary, as we've come to expect from VLZpro mixers (see Hugh Robjohns' review of the other mixers in the series in SOS September 1999), with exceptional mic amps and a clean signal path that should do justice to the current crop of 24‑bit soundcards. The EQ may be a little heavy‑handed for some users, but it gets the job done and sounds fine, provided that you're careful with it and don't employ excessive boost in the upper mid‑range. This mixer is flexible enough to do a number of jobs effectively. The direct outs and doubled‑up buss outputs make it suitable for eight‑track‑at‑once recording — though in this scenario you'd need to monitor back via the stereo channels. For studio work where tracks are added one at a time, the layout is less restricting.
The 1642 VLZpro maintains Mackie's reputation for solidly built, simple‑to‑use mixers and sounds every bit as good as the others in this range. This model would be a good choice for anyone who has to use the same mixer both for recording and live performance. It would also work well for location eight‑track recording or as part of a computer‑based MIDI and audio setup. The 1642VLZpro represents good value for money, given its high level of performance and robust build quality.
- Superb sound quality.
- Rugged, attractive presentation.
- Flexible feature set.
- No EQ bypass.
A well‑specified, general‑purpose mixer that combines flexibility and value with excellent sound quality.