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Ross RCS1602

16-Channel Mixing Console
Published December 1994

Can the Texas‑built Ross RCS1602 compete with the wealth of low‑cost UK‑built desks? Shirley Gray searches for the answer.

The world seems to be full of small mixers looking for a niche market, many very similar in format to the Ross RCS1602 on review here. As the name suggests, this is a 16:2 mixer, though what you can't deduce from its name alone is that it boasts three‑way EQ, three aux sends, two stereo effects returns and phantom powering on the mic inputs. It's one of a range which also includes 8:2, 12:2 and 24:2 models.

Like most general‑purpose mixers, the RCS1602 could happily accommodate live mixing as part of a small PA system, sub‑mixing for keyboards or sound modules (live or studio) and basic recording and mixdown in a 4‑track studio situation. However, as there are only two main output channels, you would only be able to record on two tracks at once, unless you used the Aux sends as extra subgroups or the insert sends as direct channel outputs.


I must admit that I do like mixers which allow you to see all their controls and connections at once, especially if your setup isn't really big enough to warrant using a patchbay. All the sockets are to be found in a neat strip along the top of the front panel and, since all the channels are identical, it's fairly easy to find your way around. The channel input section includes an insert jack for patching in compressors, EQ, or other processors, there's a Line In jack (for line‑level sources such as those from keyboards, drum machines, tape machines and DI boxes), and a balanced XLR socket for the mic inputs. Phantom powering is available on an 'all or nothing' basis, being applied to all the mic inputs or none of them (so you have to ensure that you don't mix balanced and unbalanced mics when the phantom power is turned on). Usefully, a Peak indicator, which lights up at 10dB below the clipping level on the input, provides instant visual indication of impending distortion.

A single gain control serves to adjust the mic or line input levels, while the 3‑band channel EQ section comprises shelving high and low controls plus a fixed‑frequency mid‑range control. All have a range of plus or minus 15dB, the high control operating at 12.5kHz and the low control at 100Hz.

Of the three Auxiliary sends, one is a dedicated foldback or cue/monitor send (pre‑fader and pre‑EQ), one is post‑fader/post EQ for use as an effects send, and the remaining one is normally post‑fader, post EQ, though this can be changed if you feel up to delving inside the unit. The remaining features of the mixer channels are the Pan pot (to balance the amount of signal being sent to the left and right outputs), the PFL (Pre‑Fade Listen) switch for monitoring individual channels via headphones, and the channel fader, which determines the level of signal going to the stereo output. In other words, everything is absolutely conventional. Note, however, that there's no EQ bypass button, which may turn out to be a problem, as I'll explain later.

Master Section

In addition to the usual Left and Right master faders and outputs, thoughtfully available on a choice of phonos, jacks and XLRs, there's a further jack/XLR Sum output, providing a mono mix of the left and right signals. This is useful for PA work where a mono power amp is being used, and leaves the stereo output pairs available for connecting to a tape recorder for a live recording.

The two Auxiliary Send sockets are mono, but two Stereo Returns are available on stereo jacks to accommodate stereo effects such as reverb. Mono effects may be returned via a mono jack if required. There are master level controls for Headphones (which are sadly mono), both Auxiliary Sends and both Returns, together with Auxiliary Pan controls for use when returning a mono signal. One little operating foible worthy of note is that when returning a stereo effect (or other stereo input via the Aux Returns) you need to have the Pan control turned fully anti‑clockwise.

This is a sturdily built, compact mixer, with lots of controls and useful status LEDs; ergonomically Ross are spot‑on.

The Monitor output is available only as a standard quarter‑inch jack with an associated level control; Pre‑fade listen is available on the master and the monitor outputs, as well as the input channels. The metering is rather minimalist and comprises two 12‑segment bargraph meters, each of which is switchable; the left one switches between the left output level and the sum output, whereas the right one shows either the right output level or the monitor output level. The Phantom Power switch is to be found on the main panel next to the Master sends, along with the mains switch and fuse holder, a location which minimises the chance of the phantom power being left on without you realising it.

Testing, Testing...

This is a sturdily built, compact mixer, with lots of controls and useful status LEDs; ergonomically Ross are spot‑on. The rotary controls have a non‑slip, smooth, rubbery feel — slim without being too thin or fiddly — and the resulting impression of the desk in use is that it's very comfortable and not at all cramped, as you might think from looking at it. The layout is very straightforward, with all the sockets relating to a particular channel placed in a neat line vertically above it, the mains and Phantom Power switches and status lamps sensibly positioned, and all controls colour‑coded.

The selection of features is more than adequate for a mixer of this type, and having an input peak indicator on each channel almost makes up for the otherwise basic metering. There's also enough headroom before distortion for you to have the light flashing a little, which is rather better than being warned only after distortion has occurred.

PFLs are a welcome inclusion, giving you the option to see the output levels of the Sum and Monitor outputs as well as the Left and Right outputs, but I would have liked metering on the Aux send levels too! There's no way of instantly muting a particular channel, because there are no mute buttons, a possible negative point if you were considering this console for recording; for PA applications, too, it would be nice to be able to mute unused mics without losing the fader settings.

Given the cost of the RCS1602, the news so far is mainly good, but to meet the price point, some compromises have evidently been made. The headphone signal is mono, so obviously you can't set up a stereo headphone mix on headphones when you want to work without disturbing the neighbours. But a greater concern is the nature of the EQ; in contrast to the blurb in the accompanying pamphlet, which boasts "a finely‑tuned equalizer circuit", I found a noticeable degree of tonal colouration, even with the EQ controls set flat — and because there are no EQ bypass buttons, this is something you're stuck with. Furthermore, there are no centre detents on the EQ cut/boost controls, which makes me feel uneasy about setting the EQ in neutral.

Subjectively I have to confess to finding the EQ rather over‑harsh, and the bass control just seems to add or subtract boom rather than creating a tight 'punch'. Cutting the mid‑range slightly improves the sound, so perhaps the centre EQ positions aren't quite as central as they should be. Winding up the high control seems to add 'presence' rather than 'top', but again, this sounds rather hard and peaky to me.

On a positive note, the mixer is quiet in use, the mid control can be used to add some edge to bass sounds, and there's very little crosstalk between the channels.

In A Nutshell

Budget desks used to be really noisy, but the widespread use of low‑noise chips means that these days even inexpensive desks are usually good performers. As a small PA desk or keyboard mixer, this little console is fine and sports some useful and relevant features — such as a clear layout with totally accessible connections and controls, three‑way EQ powerful enough to bend an intransigent sound back into shape, two stereo returns so that you don't waste input channels handling effects, and the extra mono output, which is really practical.

In the studio, where sonic subtleties are perhaps more important than in the local pub or club, I feel that the slight tonal colouration, the lack of EQ bypass buttons and the rather unsubtle EQ count against this desk, though I concede that EQ is a subjective aspect of any console and one man's (or woman's) 'harsh and peaky' might be another person's 'positive' or 'powerful'. In other words, by all means use my impressions as a guide, but let your own ears be the final judge. In all, though, this is a well‑specified desk worthy of your consideration if you're in the market for a compact, mainly live‑orientated mixer.

RCS1602 Features

  • 16 inputs, all featuring line and balanced XLR mic inputs.
  • Three aux sends.
  • Two stereo returns.
  • Insert points on all inputs.
  • 3‑band EQ.
  • Pre‑Fade Listen.
  • Peak LEDs.
  • Globally‑switchable phantom power on all channels.
  • Separate tape output.


  • Frequency response 20Hz‑20kHz, +5/‑1dB
  • THD 0.02%
  • EIN (Mic) ‑130 dB (150 Ohm load, A‑wtd)
  • EIN (Line) ‑101dB (10 KOhm load, A‑wtd)
  • Channel crosstalk 80dB (5kHz)
  • Nominal Headroom 17dB (above +4dBm output)
  • Phantom Power +48V (all mic inputs)
  • Dimensions 706mm x 90mm x 438mm
  • Weight 11.4 Kg


  • Rugged construction
  • Clear layout
  • Good range of facilities
  • Phantom powering


  • No EQ bypass
  • Harsh EQ


A well‑priced and practical console designed for and best suited to small‑scale PA work.