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  Reviews

D8BEQ Magazine

IN REVIEW

Mackie D8B Digital Console, Version 2

Mackie releases a free major software upgrade

BY ROGER NICHOLS

Mackie has released Version 2 of the Real Time OS for the Digital 8Bus console.


NEW FEATURES

•The new Fat Channel Overview window is a great way to see every parameter associated with the selected channel strip.

• The Graphic Automation Mix Editor provides an excellent approach to mix automation.

• Four user selectable EQ types.

• Solo Latch, Solo Isolate, and Surround Bus Solo Isolate.

• Record Safe and Write Safe.

• Per-channel automation modes.

• Analog-style I/O metering in the Fat Channel screen.

• Analog-style gain reduction metering for the compressor.

• Channel List including MIDI send and receive commands from all 97 faders.

• Linking of multiple consoles (Cascading and Networking).

• Implementation for the new PDI-8 8-channel AES/EBU card.

The best feature of all? The upgrade is free of charge.

RECAP

For those of you not entirely familiar with the Mackie D8B, a little review is in order. The D8B is a 97-fader digital console that has been folded into four layers. Each layer has 24 100-mm motorized faders -- totaling 96, plus one master fader.

The first layer controls the analog inputs to the D8B. This is where you set your recording levels, EQ, and dynamics for microphone and line level inputs during the recording process. These inputs are XLR and 1/4-inch connectors located on the rear panel. The second layer is for digital tape monitor inputs. You can decide the type of inputs by choosing the appropriate card that you've inserted into the card slots on the rear panel. The third layer controls eight additional aux inputs (a fourth card) and the returns from reverb and EFX units. The fourth layer controls bus out levels 1 - 8, Groups 1 - 8, and external MIDI controllers 1 - 8.

When mixing your finished project, you can use the analog layer, the digital layer, and aux inputs 1 - 8 to give you 56 inputs from your Pro Tools or ADAT stack. Each input has EQ, compression, and gates. (I remember not too long ago when a console with these features sold for over $300,000.)

MY FAVORITE FEATURES

1. Mackie calls all of the rotary controls on the D8B "V-Pots." They are used to change parameters for EQ, panning, compression, gating, trims, and everything else that needs a value to be entered by the operator. Each V-Pot has an LED pointer that gives you a graphic indication of the level or pan position you have entered. You can see at a glance where everything is panned on a layer just by looking at the pan V-Pot above each fader. In addition to the LED pointer, an LED null indicator shows you when you have panned a channel exactly into the center. Because the resolution of the V-Pot is much greater than the resolution of the pointer LEDs, this is a great time-saving feature.

2. All 24 tape returns are on the same layer. If you have a 24-track setup, you don't have to change layers to see the rest of your tracks.

3. All of the A/D and D/A converters are 24-bit. You don't have to use external converters to get the 24-bit resolution we all deserve. Unless you want to spend $15,000 on the best external converters, nothing I have measured or listened to sounds better than the converters built into the Mackie D8B.

4. The fader resolution in Version 2.0 is 256 steps. This means that when you make small moves to the fader in the middle of the range, the moves are 0.15 dB. That is a little more than 1/10th of a dB per step.

5. The digital trim level has the same resolution. After you, for example, make complicated vocal rides in the automation, you can use the trim to see what the vocal rides would sound like if they were all done 0.3 dB lower or 0.15 dB louder. You can then easily get back to where you were before any of the changes.

6. Offline automation editing. Pro Tools owners know about editing automation data on screen to get exactly what they want. Mackie D8B owners can do the same thing with their console automation. Using a mouse and normal cut and paste actions, you can copy the complicated moves you made in one chorus to all of the choruses. After all, you pasted all of the instruments from one chorus to the others, so why not do it with the automation moves? I just finished mixing on a $500,000 console that couldn't do that. I had to spend hours matching the automation moves in all of the choruses.

7. The Fat Channel Display on the attached video monitor. Well, the best of both worlds. A digital console with analog displays on the screen showing the compressor in action. There is also a graphic display of the EQ curve. The curve changes as you change parameters, or you can draw an EQ curve and the parameters will change to match the graphic, just like on the $1,000,000 digital consoles.

8. Automation trim mode. After you write your automation pass, you can trim the moves like on other digital consoles. However, on the Mackie D8B, the motorized fader snaps to the middle of its range to give you a graphic representation of the amount of trim you are using.

9. Dual memories for EQ, compressor, and gate settings. I can only count about a million times (I had to take off my shoes to count that high) that I have tried to find a better EQ for a particular instrument, only to forget my original setting. With the D8B, you can switch to the B-memory bank, try any EQ you like, and then switch back to the A-memory bank to compare settings. If you have compiled two vocal takes that sound a little different, you can automate the switch back and forth between the two memory banks.

10. Eight aux sends to internal EFX and two stereo cue mixes. I said two stereo cue mixes. Aux 9 - 10 and Aux 11 - 12 are used for headphone mixes when you are recording. You can use them for additional EFX sends to outboard gear when you are mixing. You can copy a mix you have on the board to either cue mix, and then modify the mix as needed. Much better than starting from scratch on the headphone mix, especially if you have a good mix on the main faders.

11. Version 2.0 software update is free. (Mackie listens to its customers, and software updates are not two years apart, either.) V 2.0 contains changes asked for by Mackie customers. New updates are available on the Mackie Web site. Just download the update to a floppy disk, put it in the D8B control computer and Bingo! -- new software with all of the latest features. [Check out the new Version 3.0 upgrade (you heard about V 3.0 here first!), which is full of new features, including plug-in implementation, surround mixing enhancements, and new networking capabilities. See the sidebar.]

Maybe this would have been a shorter review if I had listed the things I didn't like about the Mackie. Let's try it. Here are the things I don't like about the Mackie D8B:

1. It wasn't my idea. Imagine: "The Roger Nichols D8B."

2. My wife wants to replace her "other digital console" in her demo studio with my Mackie.

3. I hate spending $2000—$3000 per day in a studio when I could do just as good a job at home on my D8B.

4. I don't have two of them, which I could have connected with one Ethernet cable. I guess half of this reason should have gone in the things I like area. Oh, well.

REASONS NOT TO BUY A MACKIE D8B CONSOLE

Zero.


 


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