The Mackie Onyx 1640 flagship mixer meets Mackie's goal for the Onyx series mixers: to bring premium analog sound, expanded features, and streaming FireWire connectivity to both recording and live sound environments.
To pull all this off, Mackie started with a team of veteran audio product engineers from the great Pacific Northwest (aka Woodinville, Washington). The Onyx team quickly set out by specifying the highest-quality analog components--from premium op-amps to IC chips costing exponentially more than previous designs. In many cases, they developed components completely from scratch. With Greg Mackie himself steering Onyx mixer layout and design, they took a "real world" approach to the entire process.
Mackie Onyx 1640 Features
ONYX MIC PREAMPS
- Premium 16-channel/4-bus small-format analog mixer
- 16 new ONYX mic preamps comparable to boutique preamps
- New 4-band Perkins EQ with dual sweepable midrange controls provides warm, musical sound
- 96kHz FireWire option for streaming 18 independent channels of audio to computer with near-zero latency
- 2 channels of monitoring from computer via FireWire option card
- 6 Aux sends with Pre/Post & Solo switches
- 4 stereo line-level inputs
- 4-bus architecture for flexible sub-grouping of channels
- Built-in Talkback section for use with internal or external mic
- True hardware EQ Bypass
- "Planet-Earth" switching power supply for worldwide use
- Linear taper 60mm faders with ultra-smooth response on all channels
- Balanced direct outs for every channel via DB-25 connections
- Selectable Instrument inputs on first two channels—no DI box needed
- Rotating I/O pod for desktop or rackmount operation
Because a great mixer starts with great mic preamps, Mackie invested significant R&D efforts into developing their new flagship Onyx mic preamps. These preamps build upon Mackie's already-impressive XDR design to meet or surpass expensive esoteric standalone mic pres in terms of fidelity, headroom and transparency - as well as improved radio frequency (RFI) rejection and wider dynamic range.
Onyx Mic Preamps: Studio Preamp Performance in a Compact Mixer.
PERKINS EQ CIRCUITRY
Developing Makie's flagship Onyx mic preamps presented a unique challenge. On one hand, they wanted to deliver traits more commonly associated with boutique studio mic preamps: a tight, focused high end, superior ambience retrieval, detailed lower bass octaves, and highly textural midrange—no matter what type of microphone was plugged in. On the other hand, Makie knew Onyx mic preamps would have to function in the real world of mixers, which often includes high levels of radio frequency and microwave energy, long cable runs and the occasional “hot patched” cable.
Solving this paradox, the Onyx mic preamp builds upon Mackie's already very impressive XDR mic preamp design (found in their VLZ PRO mixers) and adds custom high-performance IC chips developed specifically for low-noise, high-headroom audio. The end result is a level of accuracy and transparency unsurpassed even in expensive esoteric standalone models—as well as gobs of dynamic range (yes, that’s the technical term).
Specifically, the Onyx mic preamp delivers outstanding, verifiable specs like 123dB total dynamic range, –129.5 dBm Equivalent Input Noise, and 0.0007% Total Harmonic Distortion. Onyx mic preamps also address things like input impedance and linearity, maximum input level handling at low gain settings, shielding and grounding effectiveness, overload recovery, and radio frequency interference better than any preamp in Mackie history. And because Onyx mic preamps are designed for use at “real world” gain settings, they’ll easily handle anything from +22 dB line level down to microvolt-level signals from a ribbon mic, without adding noise.
But commonly published specifications and technical talk tell only part of the Onyx preamp story. The real test comes when you plug a really good studio condenser mic into an Onyx mixer. Listen to the depth, headroom and immense detail. Then plug that same mic into any other small-format mixer, or even much more expensive stand-alone mic preamps. We think you’ll agree the Onyx preamp gives you transparency and fidelity on par with any preamp on the market.
When it was time for the Onyx EQ section, Mackie turned to veteran audio engineer Cal Perkins to develop their new Perkins EQ circuitry - a "neo classic" 3- and 4-band design based on classic "British EQ" circuitry from mixing desks of the '60s and '70s. Cal devised a way to give Perkins EQ that sweet "British console" sound, but with greater filter control and minimum phase shift.
Perkins EQ: The Sweet, Musical Sound of British EQ on Every Channel.
LISTENING TO THEIR CUSTOMERS
Before we introduce you to the Onyx mixers’ Perkins EQ section, we should probably introduce you to its designer, Cal Perkins. Along with Greg Mackie, Cal has been the driving force behind Mackie innovations like XDR mic preamps, HR Series monitors and more... not to mention his 30-plus years of experience designing classic audio gear for other folks.
The goal of Perkins EQ was to bring the classic EQ sound of British mixing consoles of the ’60s and ’70s and put it into a small-format mixer, for the first time ever. So Cal started with the Wien Bridge circuit topology - a very musical design made popular by mixing consoles from the hallowed “British Invasion."* This design basically trades boost/cut capability for a wider, highly musical Q filter. So you get a very sweet sound, but less control than you might find on modern mixers.
That’s where Cal decided that you deserve a better bargain.
To get past the tradeoffs of the Wien Bridge, he wrote 20 pages of equations describing the seemingly simple Wein Bridge circuit in complete detail. After solving the equations with calculus, Cal was able to specify capacitor and resistor values that would give Onyx mixers an extra 6dB of control (±15 dB) without excessively narrowing the "Q" or bandwidth of the filters. Next, Cal employed combining filters for minimum phase shift, making the entire EQ section as musical as possible. And finally, he added an individual hardware bypass on every channel that completely removes the EQ circuitry from the signal path.
The end result is a sweet, very musical analog EQ section that sounds great when it’s "in" and is completely invisible when it’s "out". One knob twist and you’ll hear a world of syrupy smooth difference.
* The truth is that there were almost as many different types of "British EQ" circuitry as there were British mixing console designers in the 1960’s and 1970’s. But the Wein Bridge topology Cal used for Perkins EQ is generally considered to be among the sweetest. (You can now pick the "Debunking Audio Myths" category on Audio Jeopardy.)
Mackie rounded out the Onyx 1640 feature set by answering some common requests from our compact mixer customers: adding individual 48v phantom power and balanced direct outputs on every channel; a full Auxiliary section with Pre/Post control; and a new Talkback section with a convenient built-in mic. They even developed a "Planet Earth" switching power supply for worldwide use.
ONYX Mixer Design : Listening To Our Customers.
FIREWIRE I/O OPTION CARD
After 15 years of designing and building the world’s best-selling professional compact mixers, Mackie knows a thing or two about what their customers want. (Naturally, they also hear it regularly and vocally on the forums of their website.) With the Onyx series, Mackie considered a host of these user-requested mixer features and made them so.
Balanced Direct Outputs
Because you can never have enough direct outputs, Mackie gave every single channel of the Onyx mixers a balanced Recording output via a pair of rear-panel multi-pin DB25 connectors. These industry-standard connectors will let you plug Onyx mixers directly into a wide range of digital consoles, hard disk recorders, and analog and digital tape machines, recording the cleanest possible signals coming right off the individual channel preamps (12 channels on the 1220; 16 channels on the 1620 and 1640). Importantly, these direct Recording outputs are post-channel gain, but pre-EQ, pre-Insert, and pre-fader. So you can, for example, mix a live gig using mixer EQ, outboard processors on channel inserts, and adjusted fader levels - without affecting the signal going to your recording device.
Onyx mixers also feature a convenient Talkback section with a built-in mic—a first in this class of mixer. Using the Talkback section, you can quickly communicate with vocalists, musicians, and even drummers, simply by pressing the spring-loaded Talkback button. The Talkback signal can be routed to the Control Room/Phones output, to Aux. 1/2, or both. If you prefer, you can even connect an external mic—letting your executive producer scream orders from the couch.
Individual 48v Phantom Power
Answering another often-heard request from our compact mixer owners, Onyx mixers offer individually switchable, true 48v phantom power on every preamp. That's because, despite the widely-held notion that dynamic microphones don't "see" phantom power, the presence of phantom power where it’s not needed can adversely affect overall sound or even damage sensitive ribbon mics. With individual phantom power on every channel, problem solved.
Full Aux Sections
All Onyx mixers feature fully discrete, high-quality Auxilliary sends with individual Pre/Post switches (1220, 1620, 1640) and Solo control (1640 only). Additionally, each send offers a dedicated Master control so you can dial in the perfect level for your stage monitors, for example. The Onyx 1220 offers 2 Aux sends; the 1620 has 4 Aux Sends; and the 1640 gives you a whopping 6 Aux Sends—perfect for live sound applications.
"Planet-Earth" Power Supply
OK, power supplies aren’t the most sexy feature of the Onyx mixers. But developing a "Planet Earth" switching power supply for one of the world’s quietest and most rugged audio mixers was no easy task. Because Mackie wanted Onyx mixers to perform flawlessly wherever and whenever you plug them in, they enlisted the services of one of the Pacific Northwest’s top power supply designers. (He's the same guy who designed the power supply for the gaming console from the world’s biggest software company.) The end result of all this power supply design is that the Onyx mixers will work wherever in the world you plug them in. Just use the appropriate IEC power cable (Mackie has included both 220v and 110v versions in the box).
In the category of "Why didn't someone think of this sooner?", Mackie gave the Onyx 1640 an optional FireWire I/O card, which bridges the analog-to-digital gap by providing up to 18 independent channels of high-quality 24-bit/96kHz audio that you can plug right into your FireWire-equipped Mac or PC. And bring a stereo mix back from your computer for monitoring purposes.
For those who record and produce music on computers, Mackie has given Onyx mixers another "world’s first" – an optional user-installable 24-bit/96kHz FireWire I/O card with the ability to send up to 16 individual channels of high-quality digital audio direct to any FireWire-equipped computer (Windows XP or Mac OSX.3 or later). The FireWire card also sends a Left/Right stereo "quick mix" to the computer, with a level trim control that boosts or cuts the mix by ±10 dB as it is sent to the card — again letting you set levels independently for the live L/R mix and the recorded tracks.
Better still, the FireWire interface returns two channels of audio from the computer to the mixer, letting you monitor your computer through the control room/phones matrix (pictured at left). So with FireWire, Onyx mixers can record everything from live gigs to studio sessions, with higher quality and lower latency than many dedicated computer audio interfaces. (In fact, an Onyx 1640 mixer with FireWire rivals the specifications and performance of dedicated studio A/D converters costing more than the entire Onyx 1640 mixer. Not to mention giving you waaaay more channels and flexibility.)
Reviewed: Onyx 1620
"Holy crap! ... I have to admit that (the Onyx boards) sounded phenomenal. One of them is already working in Britney's dressing room. The other one we are passing around within the audio department at the moment doing everything from recording the band to routing talkback microphones."
-Monty Lee Wilkes
Britney Spears' Front of House Engineer
Reviewed: Onyx 1220
"We do a lot of writing and recording on the tour bus, so the rig is really important. You need gear that sounds great in the space you’re in, can travel around the country, and is compact enough to fit in a limited space. The preamps on the Onyx have a really good sound, and the EQ feels just right to me. I run most of my keyboard modules through it."
"It’s also built really solid - I can take it from the studio to the bus, and it’s tough enough to get knocked around and still sound great."
-Mike Shinoda, MC & Vocals, Linkin Park
Evaluated: Onyx 1620
"I have a couple of very high-end preamps I use in the studio, and one of them went down during a session. We plugged straight into the Onyx and were blown away with how good it sounded."
"The EQ on this mixer is very usable and musical. A little goes a long way."
"I’ve always liked Mackie mixers, but the Onyx is the best sounding boards they’ve ever come out with. It’s been getting a lot of use, both in the studio and on the road. It’s a total workhorse, and a great sounding one at that."
-Steve Berlin, Sax Player, Los Lobos
Evaluated: Onyx 800R
"When I first set it up, I recorded bass and compared it to some 70’s vintage API mic preamps, and was shocked with the fatness of the Onyx. It was so rich and wide, like 3-d! It blew my mind!"
"This piece really blows my mind. First of all I love that it has two instrument inputs, and secondly, I love that it has an impedance selector on the first two channels. It’s going to get used everyday!"
"I’ve been working pretty intensely with the Onyx and it’s elevated my stuff to a new level. I love this product! I can’t see myself without it now. It is truly filling a gap in my set up."
-Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Bass Player for Beck, Air & Imarobot
Reviewed: Onyx 1620 with FireWire Card
"Mackie combine a completely redesigned 16:2 mixer with a multi-channel Firewire audio interface-what more could you want?"
"…the overall styling is an exercise in clarity and functionality."
"I’d have no worries about using (the Onyx preamps) for normal recording-to get something of this quality in a relatively inexpensive mixer is very good news indeed."
"…I really like this EQ…"
"(Mackie has) recognized the importance of integration with computer-based digital workstations without forcing you to pay for this capability if it isn’t required."
-Sound on Sound Magazine, October 2004
Paul White, Editor
Reviewed: Onyx 1620 without FireWire card
"there’s nothing like the instant access and visual feedback of an analogue console. With the Firewire option installed, the Mackie Onyx provides the best of both worlds."
"The (Onyx) mic preamps are based on Mackie’s XDR (eXtended Dynamic Range) and sound clean and quite transparent."
-Music Tech Magazine, August 04
Bod Damon, Contributing Editor
Reviewed: Onyx 1620 with FireWire card
"…a full open preamp with plenty of headroom, especially noticeable when using a quality condenser."
"The EQ sounds smoother too, the Q on the mid range giving a more musical sound on boosting frequencies."
"There’s plenty of room for chubby fingers between the controls; an achievement worth noting, especially when you consider the new EQ section is now 4-band, rather than the 3-band VLZ Pro users will be familiar with."
"After spending months getting rid of all my hardware, the Onyx mixer made me miss a real desk. Plug-ins are fine, but the immediacy of hardware is still unrivaled."
"The mic amp and EQ circuits are really pretty impressive at this price and make the Onyx a good buy."
"For recording a small band setup, orchestral and writing studios, I think this and a laptop is going to be a hard setup to beat."
-Future Music Magazine, September 2004
"Mackie has got ahead of the game here by making it easy to interface a compact analogue desk with digital multitrack recorders. As such, the Onyx offers a sweet-sounding front end, a versatile monitoring system and an intuitive mix surface for a wide range of recording set-ups." ahead
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