Next, I started fooling with the iPhone. There's a cut-down version of the control app called My Fader that runs on an iPhone (any iPhone, 4 or newer). The idea behind My Fader is that a performer on stage could adjust their own monitor mix, or if you mix your band from the stage, a trusted friend with an iPhone (or iPod Touch) could make mix adjustments in the house. My Fader offers minimal control -- channel and master levels only. But, it's pretty handy nonetheless. It's really neat to watch the faders on one app move when you touch another device.
One thing not shown in the snapshots here are all the meters in operation. That's because I made all the snapshots before I actually had the mixer in hand. Each channel features input level monitoring. I think the pick-off point for the metering is just after the preamp, and before anything else, so it's a really good gauge of input levels. The main output meters are stereo, and the aux outputs meters are mono.
An iPad that's docked to the DL1608 can be a source of backing tracks or break tunes, if desired, and there's a dedicated fader for that purpose. It's not documented anywhere that I've seen, but that feature also works with an iPhone (at least, it works on my iPhone 5) if it's plugged into the dock connector. Additionally, a docked iPad can record the stereo mix to, oddly enough, a .WAV file at either 44.1KHz or 48KHz, with a bit depth of 16- or 24-bits, assuming you've got enough free space on the iPad's internal memory. These functions do not work with devices running on a WiFi connection.
There's a whole lot that can be done with stored "shows," "snapshots," "view's," and "presets" to make setting up quick and easy -- once you've done everything the first time. For instance, views can be set up that only include some of the faders, and they can be switched out on the fly. For example, my band is a five-piece. We have four singers, one guitar player, a bass player, a drummer and me on keyboards. We sometimes do a shared show with another band that's a four-piece. They have two singers, three guitars (two players), bass and drums. With the DL1608, if I plan well enough in advance, I can set up a show that includes all of the required inputs (4 vocals, 4 guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums), but display only those channels required for the band actually on stage. When changing views, changes don't get pushed automatically to all connected devices, but it's not difficult for users of other devices to switch between views.
So, what's missing from the DL1608? Really, not much.
- I already mentioned that the pre-amps aren't digitally-controlled and their levels can't be saved and recalled.
- I also already mentioned the in-ability to cross-feed the effects without wasting aux buses.
- There are no sub-groups, which I used to use all the time, but find myself using less and less. Subgroups are handy for doing quick balances between, say, vocals and instruments, or doing quick multi-track recordings. A lot of years ago, I used to mix a band on a board that had 4 sub groups. With that band, I sent all the vocals to sub-group 1, instruments except drums to sub-mix 2, drums to sub-mix 3, and effects returns to sub-mix 4. If the drummer got louder as the night wore on, it was an easy matter to back off sub-group 3 to settle him back into the mix, as opposed to having to twiddle six faders at once.
- You can't plug more than sixteen inputs into the board. But what do you really expect for a digital mixer in this price range? I know prices of cool electronics keep dropping, but right now, sixteen is about all you get for this kind of money. If I'm doing something that needs more than 16 channels I'll likely also need more PA than I own, so I'll just rent a whole system that's got a bigger mixer.
- Finally, you can't dash up to the board, grab a fader or knob, and make a quick adjustment (except for input gain) or shutting off the board. I'm certain I'll run into other limitations down the line. But, depending on what it is you need to grab, the same is true of most digital mixers to some extent -- you have to tell the mixer what set of functions to access before the controls do what you need them to do. In general, working with digital mixers requires you to think a little more and drink a little less during the gig -- not necessarily a bad thing.
So, there you have it. My initial thoughts on actually owning a Mackie DL1608 digital mixer, which I've wanted since the day it was introduced two years ago.
Oh, yeah, at the top of this article, I mentioned more power and more monitors. They should all arrive sometime next week...
[I've added a follow-up post covering moving from the Mackie DL1608 to the Behringer X Air XR18 which might be of interest]