Mackie DL1608 Mixer Review

A flexible handheld device built for iPad control. 9/19/2012 6:43 AM Eastern

Mackie DL1608 Mixer Review

Sep 19, 2012 10:43 AM, By John McJunkin

A flexible handheld device built for iPad control.

The unfulfilled pop culture promise of 40 to 60 years ago, that we’ll all be going to work in flying cars by now, is a popular Internet meme. Indeed, it appears that flying cars are still decades away, but other magical technologies have appeared—the unbelievable stuff of dreams that would have made us faint dead away just 20 years ago. Among these is the idea of remotely adjusting every parameter of a complex mixing console wirelessly with a sophisticated walk-around handheld controller. It didn’t happen overnight—it’s been cooking on the back burner for 10 or 15 years now—but what has emerged in the past year or two is near universal access to this technology. Go back five to 10 years, and only ultra-sophisticated systems on high-end tours and the very finest performance venues had this capability. Mackie have brought this technology right down into the pro-sumer domain with its new DL1608 mixer. As of this writing, there is no other sub-$1000 mixer that can be controlled remotely by pad or tablet, but expect an explosion of such mixers over the next year. I will even go out on a limb to predict that within 3 years, every digital console available from every manufacturer will have the capacity for remote control from hand-held touch-screen devices, whether those devices are integrated into the hardware, or used as a virtual duplicate.

The DL1608 itself is not actually a complete mixer. It’s one half of a two-part system—the I/O and digital audio engine that handles all the input, output, and processing of your signals. The other half of the system is the iPad that you provide to control the system. The space on the mixer that would normally be occupied by faders, buttons, knobs, and metering is an open space on the DL1608, ready to accept your iPad. And it does accept any iPad, from the first generation to the very latest. In order to use a first generation iPad, a tray insert must be removed in order to accommodate the slightly different physical attributes of the early device. At the left of the open space is a stop that features a dock connector, with pins just like the one that plugs into your iPad for charging and syncing. As a matter of fact, the DL1608 actually does charge the battery in the iPad. Once the iPad is slid into place, a “PadLock” is slid in to the right of the iPad and screwed down, effectively locking the iPad in place. Aside from charging, the other purpose of the connection is to facilitate recording of the mixer’s L-R main bus by the iPad, and also playback of any audio from the iPad. During my initial examination of the mixer, I noted an apparent oversight: the lack of stereo RCA inputs to accommodate an external CD player or iPod or iPad. I was then struck by the notion that audio from the iPad can probably be streamed directly, and was pleased to discover that my instincts were correct.

Above the DL1608’s iPad space are 17 identical knobs, 16 LEDs, and a 1/4in. headphone output jack. The rightmost knob controls output level for the headphones, while the other 16, arrayed in two rows of eight, determine input gain for each of the mixer’s 16 channels. The LEDs indicate the status of the input level— green shows the presence of a usable signal, and red indicates clipping. Continuing “over the top of the hill” to the downward-sloping I/O panel on the rear of the mixer, we find 16 inputs, the first 12 of which are standard XLR mic-level inputs, and the last four are the specialized inputs that can accommodate either XLR or 1/4in. plugs (balanced or unbalanced, in this case). There are also two XLR outputs representing the main outputs of the mixer, and six 1/4in jacks representing the mixer’s auxiliary outputs. To their left is a recessed space in the vertical plane on the extreme rear of the mixer. This space features an RJ-45 Ethernet jack used to connect the mixer to a Wi-Fi router, facilitating wireless walk-around control. There’s also a barrel connector power inlet with a screw-on outer ring to secure power. The only other notable features on the mixer’s rear panel are two rocker switches: one for power, the other for 48V phantom power.

Mackie DL1608 Mixer Review

Sep 19, 2012 10:43 AM, By John McJunkin

A flexible handheld device built for iPad control.

Clearly the physical mixer half of the system is very simple compared with other 16-input mixers. The reason for this is something I’ve dreamt for a long time—a computer-based GUI representing the entirety of the mixer’s controls. As we noted earlier, the control of consoles by computer GUI is nothing new, but the DL1608 leverages the genius of the iPad to arrive at a much simpler system that is accessible to pro-sumer level users. The Master Fader app for the iPad does indeed grant complete control over every parameter of the mixer with the notable exception of input gain and phantom power. Upon powering up the system, the iPad informed me that a firmware change was necessary to use the system with the first generation iPad I had (a very quick and hands-off operation), and much appreciated. In many systems, there is a necessary search through error numbers and a download of firmware, patches, and/or drivers. In this case, it just resolved the issue autonomously.

Once that was sorted out, I had the main display of the GUI on the iPad—the first eight channels of the mixer. From bottom to top, there is a icon identifying the channel, a solo button, a fader (with a level meter alongside), a horizontally oriented pan slider, a mute button, and an EQ display that doubles as a button that brings up near full-screen displays for EQ and dynamics processing. Each channel has a four-band parametric EQ (shelf or bell in the high and low end, and two fully parametric mid bands), a gate, and a compressor/limiter. Between the main level fader and horizontal pan slider of each channel is a horizontally oriented gain reduction meter that shows the net effect of that channel’s dynamics processing. Of course, each channel can be named, and the channel identification icon at the bottom of each strip can display a graphic representation of the signal passing through it, or even a photograph of the musician, which can be taken with the camera in the iPad.

Each of the 16 channels has six auxiliary sends, along with reverb and delay sends. To the right of the master fader are nine buttons that determine the output of the currently displayed mix: LR, auxiliaries 1-6, reverb, and delay. To increase the reverb send on channel 4, one simply taps the reverb button to the right of the master fader, and then brings up the fader on channel 4. Below the fader in any given mix is a colored line, and each of these nine mixes displays a distinct color, indicating what is under control at a quick glance.

The master output offers a 1/3-octave graphic EQ with 12dB of boost or cut, and a compressor/limiter. The mixer’s reverb and delay are very useful, and the reverb in particular sounds very good, with small to cathedral-size rooms, along with plate and spring simulations. Alongside the effects returns is a fader controlling level of whatever audio the iPad is currently outputting—perfect for playback of music between sets, or in a recording application, for overdubbing. The software behaves exactly the way you’d expect it to if you’re accustomed to the gestures of the iPad or even iPod or iPhone. The mixer responds to either an iPad cradled in the space in the front panel, or remotely by an iPad connected via Wi-Fi. Up to 10 iPads can simultaneously control the mixer, facilitating musicians using their own iPads to create their own “more-me” mixes on stage.

Mackie recommends using the most up-to-date iPad you can get your hands on, but despite using a first-generation iPad to control the DL1608, I found the experience smooth, free of glitches, and largely self-explanatory. I’m sure that a third-generation iPad with maximum RAM would make it even better. As I said before, wireless walk-around mixing with a handheld touchscreen has been a dream of mine for many years, and now that a very reliable and extensively appointed system is within the grasp of pro-sumer-level users, I will stand by my prediction that virtually every digital mixer made will have this capacity within the next three years. This is a very intuitive and satisfying way to mix, and I’ll be looking forward to advancements within this domain. Mackie nailed its first foray into this market, and I would recommend this product if you need a 16-input mixer at all, much less a remotely controllable one. This is a huge home run for Mackie.


Pros: Great audio quality, up to 10 iPads at once for personal monitor mixing Cons: Could use more 1/4in. TRS inputs Applications: Small-venue music mixing, conference, boardroom, portable AV Price: $1,249 (MSRP); $999 (street)


Sample rate: 48kHz

A/D/A bit depth: 24-bit

System latency: 1.5 milliseconds

Frequency Response (All Ins to All Outs): ±0, -1dB, 20Hz to 20kHz


THD (mic input to main output): 1kHz, -1dBFS <0.005%

Noise/Dynamic Range/Signal To Noise Ratio

EIN (150Ω termination): -128dBu

Mic input to Main output (A-weighted)

Channel/Main Faders @ unity: -79dBu

Faders down: -90dBu

Crosstalk (adjacent inputs): < -120dB @1kHz

Crosstalk (outputs): < -105dB @ 1kHz

Signal-to-Noise (ref +4dBu, 1ch/main at unity): 92dB (A-weighted)

Dynamic Range (1ch/main at unity): 109dB (A-weighted)

CMRR: >70dB @ 1kHz (60dB gain)

Input Impedance

Inputs 1-12: 3kΩ

Inputs 13-16 mic: 3kΩ

Inputs 13-16 line: 30kΩ

Max Input Level

XLR: +21dBu

¼in. TRS: +30dBu


XLR: 0 to 60dB

¼in. TRS: -20 to 40dB

Analog Main Output L/R

Impedance: 600Ω

Max Output Level: +21dBu

Analog Aux Sends 1-6

Balanced Impedance: 240Ω

Unbalanced Impedance: 120Ω

Max Output Level: +21dBu

Analog Headphone Out

Max Output Level: +18.0dBu into 600Ω; +19.5dBu max into 100kΩ


Width: 11.5in./291mm

Front Height: 1.6in./40mm

Rear Height: 3.7in./95mm

Depth: 15.4in./391mm

Weight: 6.9lb./3.1kg

Rack: Nine rack spaces

John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz., and produces and co-hosts a top-rated morning radio talk show in Phoenix, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations and provides high-quality podcast and voice production services.

Want to read more stories like this?
Get our Free Newsletter Here!
Past Issues
August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015