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The Mackie DL1608 - A digital mixer with iPad control

The Mackie DL1608 is a digital mixing console aimed at the live sound market. But would a beginner in audio benefit from iPad control?

You can't be interested in audio without being interested in equipment. At least, I have come across almost no-one who works in the studio or live sound who doesn't take a huge interest in equipment - new equipment and new developments in particular.

What we have here is a 16-channel live mixing console that the operator controls from an Apple iPad. There are two things that are good about this...

Firstly, you can operate the DL1608 from a distance. So the mixer itself can be positioned close to the stage while you mix from a better listening position towards the back of the room. Pros do this of course, but they use multicore cables to bring the signals from the stage to the mixing console. At small gig level, this is an inconvenience that it would be better to do without if possible.

Secondly, by harnessing the power of the iPad, a lot of sophisticated audio processing is available, while keeping the hardware cost of the mixer itself down.

So for anyone who is experienced in live sound mixing, they might look at this as something of a godsend. If you know what you want and why you want it, then it shouldn't be too difficult to make a purchase decision.

But what if you're a beginner?

Well you'll still be able to learn how to operate the DL1608. That shouldn't be a problem at all. What is a problem however is that if you gain your first live sound experience on such an individual piece of kit, your knowledge won't translate all that easily to any other situation.

When only analog consoles were available, it was easy to learn one console and then transfer to another. When digital consoles first came out, they were all very different to each other. Those that looked like analog consoles were easy to learn. Those that took more advantage of digital technology, such as assignability, were harder. And changing from one digital console to another involved another learning process.

Digital consoles now seem to be converging, so an unfamiliar digital console doesn't have to be the fright that it once was. Mixing via software however is potentially another issue.

Of course I would never say, "Don't do it". But a newcomer to live sound would have to ask themself whether they want to learn on commonly-found equipment, or on something that is one-of-a-kind. It's important.

Longevity

For anyone, beginner or pro, I would also prompt the question of what the longevity of this mixer might be? Will it work with the iPad 4 (it works with 1, 2 and 3)? The iPad 5 of 2013? The iPad 6 of 2014?

An ordinary mixing console, analog or digital, would expect to see a good ten years of working life span. I suspect the practical life span of the DL1608 may be rather shorter, but we'll see.

In summary, I'd say this is a great item for someone who is experienced in live sound and knows why they want it. There is no reason a beginner shouldn't learn on this, but they may find their knowledge more easily transferable if they learn on something more conventional.

Praise to Mackie though for pushing the boundaries. This is how progress is created.

By David Mellor Monday October 29, 2012