Strother Bullins on Alto Professional Live 1604 Analog Mixer

Alto Pro’s Live 1604 is trustworthy, usable, nice, and affordable.
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The Live 1604 is a clear progression in the evolution of Alto Pro mixing products. Today’s Alto Pro is building gear that can indeed sit on professional stages—e.g., its Black Series Powered Loudspeakers, which I reviewed last year with quite impressive results.

Alto’s Live 1604 exhibits the company’s propensity to grasp what features end users need most in a small-format mixer while delivering familiar analog ergonomics. Most notable are the overall build quality, quiet and clean performance, and the Alesis DFX digital effects that had me diving in for simple reverbs and delays plus flange/verb, a Leslie cabinet effect, and a plate—useful if I need them.

Main features include 10 XLR and TRS inputs to full channels (eight with inserts) with clean preamps (+30dB line, +50dB mic), plus four stereo TRS-equipped channels, two of which also have mono XLR input/mic preamps. All channels feature a 3-band EQ with fixed-Q sweepable mids and four Aux sends to TRS (Sends 1+2 offer pre/post switching), the fourth reserved as the DFX channel send. Other features include four subgroups, 6 “one knob” fixed threshold channel compressors, a 9-band graphic EQ, and simple 2-channel USB I/O plus charging USB port. Though I’ve listed it last, USB I/O is always a good thing in mini analog consoles because most users want to capture or playback digitally on a regular basis, and we’re all tethered to consumer equipment, especially in the world of portable PA (PPA).

For a month, I used this mixer like it was my only mixer. It covered all my live sound reinforcement needs, anywhere between singer/songwriter to full band applications. I used it to record 2-track live performances. I “cheap DJ’d” requested playlists between live performance sets. I used it to record multitrack productions (via analog channel inserts) with great results, too. Paired with powered studio speakers, I monitored everything from recent iTunes-based Logic Pro X mixes to my favorite reference tracks and others that came across my desktop.

I have to comment on the 1604 Live’s aesthetic and feel. Its silkscreened labeling is clear and detailed yet not flashy; the gunmetal grey work surface is classic in its look and feels rock solid to the touch; and the black/tastefully color-coded knobs and faders are small and solid. It’s overall stylishly classy but not necessarily intentionally so. Considering that all the above is available for $500 street, it’s an attractive bargain.

Alto Professional is still a new name in the pro-aspirational PPA league. Perhaps that’s to our benefit, as they are offering products like the Live 1604 at a better price than similarly equipped/sized analog mixers. The Live 1604—like the aforementioned Black Series—is trustworthy, usable, nice, and affordable.

Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s reviews editor, AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist, and club-level sound reinforcement wrangler. sbullins@nbmedia.com

PRODUCT SUMMARY

COMPANY: Alto Professional | www.altoproaudio.com
PRODUCT: Alto Professional Live 1604 16-Channel 4-Bus Analog Mixer
PROS: Very affordable for its feature set and build quality; intuitive
CONS: Slight trim work/cosmetic irregularity (due to the review unit being an early production sample, though this problem has now been corrected)
APPLICATIONS: small club/music venue, portable PA/cost-effective touring, houses of worship, theater
PRICE (STREET): $499.99

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