Strother Bullins on Mackie PROFXV2 Series Mixers

The refined, super-clean mixers offer an improved preamp, refined floating point DSP effects and more input options.
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Mackie’s ProFX analog mixer series has proven to be an ideal solution for many applications: small clubs and venues, houses of worship (HOWs), and portable PA-reliant, self-mixing musicians and bands, etc. In mid-2012, I reviewed Mackie’s flagship first-generation ProFX console, the ProFX22, in a cover story for Pro Audio Review. For the money—clocking in at $650 street—it’s one of the most useful affordable analog mixers I’ve had the opportunity to use. Since then, I’ve recommended it numerous times to those looking for a solid analog mixer with built-in digital effects and a few extra perks, such as “one-knob” channel compressors, channel inserts, a stereo bus graphic EQ, etc. It absolutely excels in “street-level” live sound applications and beyond.

On April 15, Mackie announced the ProFXv2 reboot, effectively expanding the line from four to six models with smaller (4-channel ProFX4v2) and larger channel-count versions (the 30-channel ProFX30v2, reviewed here) while further refining some of the key goals of the original ProFX launch. Now the ProFX Series features even better-sounding digital effects as well as a new-generation microphone preamp influenced by Mackie’s proven Onyx preamp technology. I’ve had the ProFX30v2 to use for nearly a month now and it’s quite impressive, to say the least.

Our review unit, the ProFX30v2, features all the attributes of the original ProFX console reviewed back in 2012, and more. As I wrapped this review, I reached out to Mackie Senior Product Manager Matt Redmon for some extra insight on Mackie’s motivations behind v2.

“In Mackie product management, we’re constantly engaging with our users in different ways—through in-depth interviews, surveys, and other market research means,” he explains. “Through those interactions, it’s consistently made clear to us that audio quality is the No. 1 requested ‘feature’ of any mixer, loudspeaker, or studio monitoring product. Simply put—musicians and engineers demand good sound.”

According to Redmon, markedly better-sounding digital effects were the first goals in improvement. Personally, I thought they were very good in V1, especially at the series’ price points. But yes, I have to agree that they do now sound “better”—perhaps richer, more complex, or evolved in ProFXv2.

Upgraded from the RMFX 32-bit mono-in/stereo out digital effects in v1, Mackie’s new ReadyFX engine offers 16 reverbs, choruses, and delays via all-new floating point DSP for more complex audio signal processing. “Specific to the original ProFX series, we went one level deeper to discover that the integrated effects should be a focus area of development, so we endeavored to find a better effects chip, employing better reverb and delay algorithms than previous generations,” Redmon confirms.

Recalling how good the microphone preamps in v1 sounded to my ears, I was truly impressed upon auditioning the new Vita preamp in ProFXv2. Mackie touts Vita as “virtually noiseless,” and I’d have to agree; wide open with a variety of sound sources and microphones, the only hiss I heard was from the powered monitors I was using. Multiplied by the number of channels employed and with ReadyFX applied across the mixer, I found the ProFXv2 to be super clean with an impressively professional-grade sound.

Redmon on the Vita amps: “We also took the opportunity to redesign our preamps with a focus on live sound environments, employing Class A front-end design, dual feedback stabilization, and bias current optimization—yes, the same technologies employed in our Onyx preamps design—for a better-sounding, lower-noise front end than previous generations.”

Since the launch of the Onyx preamp, found in both Mackie’s flagship recording and live-sound devices, I’ve felt they could stand alongside most any boutique preamp, holding their own. The Vita amps now bolster the ProFX line with very similar aural characteristics.

Some of the most appealing aspects of the ProFXv1 Series are still found in v2, including the seven-band graphic equalizer with well-chosen frequency points (125, 250, 500, 1K, 2K, 4K and 8kHz, +/-15dB), switchable between Main Mix and Monitor 1 outputs; stereo/dual mono USB I/O (subgroups 1 and 2 or main L/R via USB to a user’s DAW of choice, Mac or PC); and lovely-sounding three-band EQ with sweepable midrange on its mono channels.

On my review unit, also found in ProFXv1, mono channels 19-22 offer “one knob,” fixed threshold compressors—most often useful for very simple dynamics wrangling tasks. On the ProFX30v2, four additional channel strips—23/24, 25/26, 27/28, and 29/30 are stereo, sans sweepable mid EQ; the first two channels include one XLR input each, with all four providing dual TRS inputs.

The largest ProFXv2 (the 30-input) measures 3.8”x33.6”x16.6” and 25 lbs., the ProFX30v2 is still small enough to easily carry around and position in the vast majority of portable PA applications. It’s also a super choice for budget-conscious HOWs and smaller music venues aren’t interested in jumping in the digital pool yet but want the latest advances in whistle-clean mixer technology.

I love reviewing smallish analog consoles, mainly because most of the musicians/end users that I regularly collaborate with inherently understand them, lending me extra insight on what makes certain makes and models appealing (or not). Like its slightly smaller predecessor, the ProFX22, the ProFX30v2 was useful and well received everywhere I would choose an analog mixer with plentiful I/O and solid effects. It shined as a premium small club mixer, impressed both others and myself as a recording/tracking mixing console, and was intuitive to nearly everybody that put their hands on it. The latter is worth its weight in gold, as no one wants a club-level mixer that takes more time and thought to decipher; there are always other more time-consuming tasks at hand—load-in/load out, “ringing out” of the PA, even merch table setup, networking/socializing, etc. The ProFXv2 doesn’t exactly have an “easy button,” but it makes you feel like it does.

I also brought the ProFX30v2 to a local church for evaluation. While my HOW-based end users were slightly less tech-savvy than the musicians referenced above, they still found the mixer to be logical in application and similar enough to other familiar mixers to make it comparatively easy to use.

It’s not often that the 24 XLR inputs of the ProFX30v2 are needed in small club/HOW applications, especially for small acoustic groups. While it’s always best to have too many available channels than too few, in most cases the ProFX16v2, for example, would cover the input needs of the majority of applications, sufficing in typical HOW setups and average input counts of most club-based musical acts. On this note, Redmon acknowledges the broadening of the ProFX series as the “third most important upgrade” in v2. “For singer/songwriters and/or solo musicians on the go, we created the ProFX4v2 with two mic inputs a built-in DI, the full suite of effects and even a dedicated auxiliary bus for monitors,” he explains. “Meanwhile, for larger bands needing to mic a full drum kit and send individual mixes to each performer, we created the ProFX30v2, with 24 mic inputs and an extra auxiliary compared to other models.”

Now with two extra models and the improvements detailed above, the ProFXv2 Series graduates to a proven analog mixer that’s even better than its already-impressive predecessor. With an MSRP price range of $169.99 to $1,149.99 for the ProFX30v2 reviewed here, it’s still affordable to buy a nice padded bag—or better, a hard shell case—and hit the road with an intuitive, great-sounding compact analog mixer that should last a good long while.

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

PRODUCT SUMMARY

COMPANY: Mackie | www.mackie.com
PRODUCT: Mackie ProFX30v2 30-Channel ProFXv2 Series Professional Effects Mixer
PROS: Comprehensive I/O and effects; affordable; intuitive; proven by success of v1.
CONS: None noted.
APPLICATIONS: small club/music venue, portable PA/cost-effective touring, houses-of-worship, theater.
PRICE (MSRP): $1,149.99

SPECIFICATIONS

DIGITAL EFFECTS, NUMBER OF PRESETS: 16
METERS, MAIN L/R MIX, TWO COLUMNS OF 12 SEGMENTS EACH: OL (+20dBu), +15, +10, +6, +3, 0 (0dBu), -2, -4, -7, -10, -20, -30
GRAPHIC EQ, FREQUENCY CENTERS (7-BAND): 125, 250, 500, 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K; Gain: +/- 15dB; Assignable to Main or Monitor, bypassable.
USB: Format, USB 1.1; I/O, Stereo Input/Stereo Output; A/D/A, 16-bit, 44.1kHz/48kHz.
PHANTOM POWER: 48VDC to all microphone channels simultaneously.
HEIGHT: 8.1in.
WIDTH: 28.4in.
DEPTH: 20.4in.
WEIGHT: 24.5lbs.

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