Mackie Onyx 1640i Firewire Console Review: A Great Choice For Studios On A Budget

After a while of mixing “inside the box”, I wanted to start mixing on an analog console just like I used to. I missed reaching for faders and eq knobs. I find that using a console can really speed up my creative workflow. Sure, it has it’s limitations such as no recall, but I can live with that. After much research, I decided to purchase the Mackie 1640i. For the price, it’s a remarkable mixer that works great for any small or project studio setup.

Why go analog?

To me, mixing with an analog/digital hybrid set up is the way to go. Using analog eq’s seem to give my mixes a more 3 dimentional sound with far less work. I was getting tired of stacking tape, tube and distortion plugins on tracks while mixing ITB just to get things to gel. I find I don’t have to do that when going through a mixer, unless I’m going for a particular effect.

Setting Up

I’m using a Macbook Pro Retina, so I simply hooked up the mixer via a thunderbolt to firewire adapter (into another adapter that switches firewire 800 to 400) and it’s ready to record, just like that. No driver issues, no headaches; it just works.

With the Mackie 1640i you get a lot of value. You have 16 mono channels with preamps , inserts and faders. Each channel has 6 aux sends (for effects or headphone mixes). You also get 16 channels coming back to the mixer from your computer, so you can mix individual tracks in the analog realm and send it back through firewire as a final mix. With one firewire cable to your computer, you are ready to go. Track your band through the mixer, then press the firewire button on each channel and you can mix it using the high quality eqs. You can choose to patch external effects units, or, just as I did is simply, set up the aux sends to 6 separate plugin effects in my daw through firewire. You can use your favourite plugins, controlling them through the aux send knobs on the mixer.

Mackie Onyx 1640i Firewire Mixer

(16 full channels with preamps, eq and aux sends. Other mixers such as the Midas Venice 16F don’t give you full channels. Instead a few of the channels are stereo)

How does it sound?

I really like the sound of the mixer. The eq is fairly smooth and running tracks out of my daw and into the mixer instantly gives it a more aggressive sound. I use external preamps to track, but the built in preamps are more than adequate to tracks drums, vocalists or other instruments. They are clean and neutral, so you’ll probably reach for something else if you want more character. But the eq’s sound phenomenal.

Limitations

I really like everything about this board, except for one thing. I like to use an an analog compressor on the mix bus. For some reason, the insert on the main bus is wired “pre firewire” which means if you export your mix through the board, it doesn’t include the bus compression. So how do you fix this problem? There are 3 ways you can go about this. You can choose to sacrifice 2 channels on the board and patch the main outs into it, recording the main mix with compression. You can choose to get get a separate sound card on another computer and record the final mix that way (some people on OSX suggest creating an aggregate device with another sound card, but chances that you will get it to work without having sync/clock issues are pretty slim). Finally, a workaround that I find works is to send each channel to bus 1-2 (make sure the firewire 1-2 channel or the main mix button on each channel is NOT engaged). Connect your mix buss compressor to the sub 1-2 and the output of the compressor to an aux return, and raise the aux return to a reasonable level. Now when you want to bounce the mix, engage firewire 15-16 and your mix will bounce with mix buss compression. I really wish I didn’t have to do this, but, it does work.

Mackie onyx 1640i back connections

Conclusion

For the price, I don’t think you will get a better firewire mixer. Other competitors are the Midas Venice F16 and the Allen & Heath ZED R16 and offer similar features but at a higher cost. You have to really research and decide what would work best for your setup.

Comments are closed.