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16x2 Mixers - Manley v.s. Chandler Shootout
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aryschien
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29th May 2007
Old 29th May 2007
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16x2 Mixers - Manley v.s. Chandler Shootout

The first mixer I had was a Mackie 1604. Then my friend sold me his Manley 16x2. Wow.

Last month I bought the Chandler Zener limiter, and really loved the flavor it added to the sound, without any compression yet. So I wrote to Mr. Goeke, "if I bought the Chandler Mini Rack Mixer, would I be getting 16 channels of that Zener sound?" "Yes. They use the same transformer and amplifier." I asked my friend, a local dealer, to order the mixer for me, and if I don't like it he can still sell it as new.

The Chandler mixer arrived this afternoon. I A/Bed the two 16x2 mixers in three ways: plugging the Chandler into the Manley, plugging the Manley into the Chandler, and re-connecting the speakers to each mixer in turn. I played songs, drum mixes and instruments from the PC's RME AES32 soundcard to the Lavry Blue DAs for comparison.

------

The Manley 16x2 is a mic version that has mic pres in all 16 channels. Only the main stereo bus has tubes though. The Chandler has 20 amplifiers and 22 transformers, and is therefore almost twice as big as the Manley mixer. (I've took a peep inside the Chandler mixer, and it IS jam-packed, not made bigger to look better.) The specs of both mixers easily surpass any counterparts in the market. Not to mention the big PSU of the Chandler and the HUGE one of the Manley, part of the reasons for the excellent performance from both units.

The first thing I noticed was that they both retained wonderful details. Beautiful extension, great depth and width, solid sound, clear seperation; whatever we love about a good sound image, these two have them.
Then I split the drums to eight channels (kick, snare, hi-hats, 3 toms & stereo overheads) and summed them with the mixers. Both did equally wonderful jobs. Far better than summing with Nuendo's mixer, and much better than any other analog summing devices I've heard (not gonna name them, sorry).

What I've said so far may seem like normal commercial lines. But let me tell you this: we might read these lines a lot, but rarely have we really heard them .

------

The difference in character is very easy to tell. The Manley has that tube sound, the Chandler doesn't. Yet like many other Chandler users has said, it's the most tube-like non-tube gear we've heard, both the Zener and the Mini Rack Mixer.

Overall, the Manley is deeper (in the low), darker, and with a little bit of midrange bump (compared to the Chandler), like the vocal always stands a bit further to the back and seems smaller than in the Chandler. Look from the bright side, however, it's more focused than in the Chanlder, for vocal or anything in the center of the sound image. Therefore I'd rather see the difference as a matter of taste or need.

Another user once told me "the Chandler is better for Rock and Roll, while the Manley is better for Jazz or acoustic." There's nothing I can add to his comment after I A/Bed them. The Chandler offers you really BAD drums, while the Manley offers very elegant acoustic bass and piano.

(For now I'm torn apart. I can only keep one, but seem to need both, since I'm a pop and rock songwriter that work on from very slow melodic ballads to very fast tempo pop rock tunes. If I have to make a decision right now, I think I'll sell my car....)

------

As for other aspects:

Neither of them has headphone out. My first Mackie has it you two lame companies!!! (Yes, I'm just kidding.)

Neither of them has aux outs. The line version of the Manley 16x2 Mixer has it though.

Both have more than enough gain. Unless you are recording 16 ants walking on their toes.

Both have dim and mono switches/buttons.

Both have two stereo outputs and two monitor outs. The difference is that all the outputs on the Chandler are balanced XLR, while on the Manley it's one pair of balanced XLR and one pair of unbalanced phonejack for stereo outputs and monitor outs.

Both have external input. On the Chandler, the external input seperates the mixer section and the control room section, meaning you can't listen to the stereo outs and the external input at the same time. The Manley has a switch to do that too, yet it has an additional "external input mix" knob that allows you to mix the external input into the stereo mix, which makes it more versitile.

Some cool things the Manley has and the Chandler doesn't: tape playback input (another external input that can't blend with the mix), direct out, insert, mic pre and phase invert on every channel.

Two cool things the Chandler has and the Manley doesn't: a Talkback button and input jack. The button mutes the mix when pushed. The talkback mic pre is pretty nice. I sound good with my 20 years rusty Ibanez $50 mic.

The other Chandler cool thing is the "center pan" switch. If you flip the switch on a channel, it's dead center. Great for vocal, kick, snare, bass or everyone that follows the Compass Point Pan Law.

One thing I don't like about the Chandler mixer: if you want to mute a channel, you have to pull out the volumn knob. If the volumn of the channel is not full 10, then there's almost no way not changing the volumn when pulling the knob. Also no solo button.

------

Gotta work now. I'll see what I can add later. Any questions are welcome.
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29th May 2007
Old 29th May 2007
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i've thought lot's about both of these mixers. thanks for your thoughts. if the chandler had direct outs i'd be all over it but i think it'd then be bigger and more expensive depending on how the outputs were configured. more transformers?

right now i think the most feature packed rack mixer/summer out there is the tonelux stuff... especially if you don't need mic pre's. i wonder how the mx2-D line modules sound compared to the chandler/manley etc?
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29th May 2007
Old 29th May 2007
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Great review!!

One of the best I've ever read!!
#4
29th May 2007
Old 29th May 2007
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Thanks for this review aryschien! I've been dooing some research on both these mixers and this is has been one of the mmost interesting things I've read!
thumbsup
I'd be really interested to know what your thoughts are when you've done several mixes with these.
#5
29th May 2007
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Glad to see that Manley Mixer I sold you is still doing OK in the shootout! hahaha

You might want to just use them both. Knowing you, I think that's the ONLY way you'll get what you want. Really.
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30th May 2007
Old 30th May 2007
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Excellent review... thanks!
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30th May 2007
Old 30th May 2007
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great review, really appreciate it!! I have the Manley line mixer and really dig it, but have been very curious about the Chandler. I do mostly rock and pop, so it might be better for me. I do really like the direct outs and other extras the Manley has, especially the mic pres are quite nice. I wonder if using either the Chandler limiter or maybe the new Chandler Curve Bender EQ across the buss of the Manley Mixer would give you the best of both worlds. I wish the Chandler and Manley had stepped increments for easier recall, or total recall like the SSL X-Rack. I agree, the pulling the knob to mute is a really bad feature, and soloing would be nice also, the manley mixer has way better features than the Chandler and is super solid and nice to look at.

When you compared the Manley to other high end line mixers, how was it better? I would love to know which other mixers you compared them to, PM me if you don't want to reveal online. Did you ever compare the Manley to the SSL X-Rack(I really want the total recall feature and I know the SSL AWS 900 sounds great.)?

I might even consider having both myself. How would you split up your tracks, which instruments would go to which mixer if you had both? Would you rather have both mixers, or just the Manley and some of the chandler outboard like the limiter or EQ(Curve Bender).
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30th May 2007
Old 30th May 2007
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I have a 16x2 and love the sound of it.Its really well built,simple,and sounds great.I think its an overlooked piece.I cant imagine anyone not being happy with one.
aryschien
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30th May 2007
Old 30th May 2007
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Thanks for the kind words guys. And thanks to the MPCist, for keeping your gears in great shape so that I never had a problem after I bought them from you.

------

I haven't heard a Tonelux or a SSL X-Rack so I can't compare. The others I've heard or used are smaller ones, using ICs or built-in PSU etc.. To me those boxes really don't do anything much to the sound, or sum noticably better. They are cleaner than a Mackie, but that's it. And therefore I think most of them are overpriced. But that's just me....

I got my Manley 16x2 from MPCist, and he's using the AWS900 now, so he's more entitled to answer this question than I do.

------

As for placing a Zener/Curve Bender over Manley 2bus v.s. using a Chandler Mini Rack Mixer, there are some differences here.

The first thing is that, it's different to add something on 16 channels individually v.s. on 2 bus. For example, there are only tubes on the 2bus of the Manley 16x2 mixer. If they were crazy enough to use tubes on every channel, it will sound different, for individual sounds change with the tubes BEFORE reaching the 2Bus. So you're getting 16 different degrees of coloration instead of just one.

Also, the Chandler mixer also has amplifiers and transformer on the stereo out too. Therefore after you have a balanced mix, you still have the option whether to lower the individual volumns and boost the stereo bus level to get a more aggresive sound, or the opposite. I've tried the trick and found that each channel reacts to each other differently if I drove it differently, which is something you can't do with Zener or Curve Bender.

But that's just some very subtle difference. When it's good enough it really doesn't matter.

------

If I'm keeping both mixers and mixing with them, the first thing I'll do is to decide which one is the "main mixer" regarding the music style. If it's a more intimate pop ballad, for example, I'll send the vocal, acoustic guitars and piano to the Manley, and drums, electric guitars or thoes STERILE SOFT SYNTHS/SAMPLES to the Chandler. The TG gears have amazing ability to bring the dead back to life.

If it's a aggressive rock tune, I'll send everything to the Chandler til there's no channels left, then the effect returns, the synth and the backing vocals to the Manley.

Probably. Haven't really done that, so it's just a guess. Things always sound different when you really work on them....

------

Day 2 and still can't decide which to keep. What is worse, even if I'm going to keep them both and sell my car, I still can't decide which car to sell.... I love both of my cars. Can't live without the modern, solid, punchy, ballsy SAAB (modded), or the vintage, noisy, very little headroom in the speed meter, but with the mojo, jam-packed Mini Austin (it's an original, not reissued ones!)....
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30th May 2007
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I'm really hot for one of those mixers..I use dangerous music mixer on my front end now and a spl mixdream for sum duties...the dangerous is nice very high quality and super clean,accurate mixer..I've never regretted the spl but was hesitant about getting it...the spl is very versatile and a pinch of stereo expansion works great..you can custom order a mixer from Wade with anything you want in it. im sure you could with Manley too...im getting one soon
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30th May 2007
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Slightly off topic and perhaps even a dumb question, but...

When using relatively small line mixers (such as the Manley, API 8200, etc) that have only small knobs for channel level control, can you successfully add an outboard "fader pack" without any caveats?

I love small mixers but I also love "riding faders"... nice big faders. Maybe it's that my eyes aren't so good and I have fat fingers... I like big old faders... I find tiny knobs to be tricky when trying to execute precision level riding.

If an outboard fader pack can be added to such small mixers, what is the best way to do it? I am guessing that the best way would be to access the individual "insert" points of each channel on the mixer and stick the faders there (?). Or... ???

I remember once actually speaking with Hutch of Manley Labs at AES and asking about adding external faders to a Manley 16X2 and I seem to remember him telling me it would be no problem, I think he said a mod would have to be done but no big deal... I think. Can't remember details.

Speaking of the Manley mixer specifically, I think the knobs are large enough to be able to deal with pretty easily in general. The Manley may be one of the best "small" mixers in this regard. But others, like the tiny API 8200s, you almost need a tweezers to turn those knobs... those puppies NEED fader packs. The knobs on the SSL X-rack appear to be super tiny also though I have not seen them in person yet.

I'd just like to know HOW to add big external faders to a Manley 16X2, API 8200, etc. Comments? Thanks.
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30th May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post

I'd just like to know HOW to add big external faders to a Manley 16X2, API 8200, etc. Comments? Thanks.
The Neve 8816 line mixer looks attractive because of the optional fader pack. I wonder if you could use the Neve fader pack with the Manley, either on the insert or before the manley input and how much would that effect the sound. Maybe you could have Manley bypass the level knobs and turn them into an aux send.

I agree that the Manley knobs are quit useable, and are much nicer than some of the others like the API or SSL X-Rack, but it would still be nice to have faders.

By the way, my Manley line mixer has a cool mod, a unity gain switch(instead of insert switch) which bypasses the volume knob, so it is easy to recall levels.

I did briefly speak with the MPCist about the SSL AWS 900 vs. the Manley Mixer. He said that for him the SSL was a step up sonically, but mainly the routing and flexability, EQ's, Comps are really what sold him. Of course, it is 10 times more expensive. It would be great to hear some more opinions of the Manley line mixer VS SSL X-Rack summing mixer VS Chandler VS API, Neve, Cranesong, etc...

(Most of the threads comparing line mixers completely ignore the Manley line mixer, maybe because it is quite abit more than some of the others, but if you get one with the micpre's, it is an amazing value. )
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30th May 2007
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aryschien, let us know if you decide it is worth keeping both mixers, I might follow your lead.

Anyone else using 2 different line mixers to get different flavors on different tracks?
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30th May 2007
Old 30th May 2007
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Hello Arys,
Thank you for contributing to the community here with such a well balanced and thoughtful review. You convey your enthusiasm for your craft so well. All the best to you and I hope you don't have to sell off one of your cars either! (Speaking as one who also has too many cars that each serve a specific purpose...)
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aryschien
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31st May 2007
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One thing I like about Manley and Chandler is that both EveAnna and Wade offer great service to their customers.

I'm still able to keep both for a while. That's the bonus when the dealer is your friend. Yet it also takes a while to know if the two-mixer method really works, like it always takes some real mixing jobs to tell if you love a pre or eq and what you love about it.

May take a while, but I'll let you guys know how things are going here.
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31st May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 666666 View Post
I'd just like to know HOW to add big external faders to a Manley 16X2, API 8200, etc. Comments? Thanks.
I've been curious on this too. Especially the idea of using the Tonelux Automated Faders.
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31st May 2007
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I was less fortunate with Manley mixer (several years ago). Actually I was somehow surprised that changes it did to the sound (compared to ITB) although clearly noticeable were not improvement to my ears.
I was ready to opt for ITB based on that comparison.
Chandler mini-mixer adds lot of flavor and character, but again not my cup of tea, although to my ears better than Manley. As I typically use lot of outboards, last thing I need is many transformers in summing path, but I can imagine that pure stems directly from DAW might benefit.

Anyway, review like this is always welcome thumbsup
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5th June 2007
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One of the studio's I use just went to the API DSM system and is awaiting his faders, so I guess API does have a fader option.
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5th June 2007
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Faders with API summers.

Unless something has changed, you can only use faders if you are using the API 7600 modules.
There is no way to interface faders with the 8200, or 8200A..
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5th June 2007
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OK, I called this studio for clarification. They are working with the folks at API to develop faders to interface with the DSM system - so I stand corrected, this is not yet available but API understands this is a limitation with their DSM systems and would like to have this option. Time will tell.
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1st February 2010
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external fader jack for API DSM?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lane thaw View Post
OK, I called this studio for clarification. They are working with the folks at API to develop faders to interface with the DSM system - so I stand corrected, this is not yet available but API understands this is a limitation with their DSM systems and would like to have this option. Time will tell.
any word on external fader jacks for API DSM systems?
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1st February 2010
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Hey, that was a pretty old post from 2007. The studio I was talking about got tired of waiting and finally purchased a SSL and it came with faders - go figure. I'm heading back into that studio soon and will ask him about it all although I was there a few months ago to mix one project song, and he mixed the song still without faders on his DSM.
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1st February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surflounge View Post
any word on external fader jacks for API DSM systems?
Don't know for sure, but my guess is that API's solution to this fader pack demand was the 1608.

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24th March 2010
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Something I don't understand;
If you use a summing mixer strictly for summing, don't you leave its gain faders/knobs at unity and make your balance in the DAW?

Especially if you only have 16 channels on the mixer, you'll most probably deal with stems/groups where you couldn't adjust individual channel levels.

Could one explain the typical workflow for a 16 channel summing mixer?
Thanks
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24th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djanogil View Post
Something I don't understand;
If you use a summing mixer strictly for summing, don't you leave its gain faders/knobs at unity and make your balance in the DAW?

Especially if you only have 16 channels on the mixer, you'll most probably deal with stems/groups where you couldn't adjust individual channel levels.

Could one explain the typical workflow for a 16 channel summing mixer?
Thanks
Its definitely possible that analog level control could give you better fidelity than reducing levels in your daw, its also possible for it to not make any difference. If I had a summer with level control i would be using the analog with all daw faders at zero but that's just me.

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24th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lakeshorephatty View Post
If I had a summer with level control i would be using the analog with all daw faders at zero but that's just me.

Russell
That's definitely what I'd do if I had a mixer with enough channels.
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24th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djanogil View Post
Something I don't understand;
If you use a summing mixer strictly for summing, don't you leave its gain faders/knobs at unity and make your balance in the DAW?
That's the way I do it, but it's for workflow reasons, rather than sonics. Theoretically, doing it the other way should sound better. But good luck automating volume rides on a summing mixer that has no faders or computer! All things considered, it sounds good enough to me to do all the automation in the DAW.
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25th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djanogil View Post
That's definitely what I'd do if I had a mixer with enough channels.
Wouldn't this be a console?
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25th March 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheToneShoppe View Post
Wouldn't this be a console?

indeed!
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1st April 2010
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So I just bought a Manley 16X2. Not based on the review here, but after thinking long and hard and deciding it's time to part ways with my D&R Cinemix and replace it with a control surface, summing box, and some nice preamps. The manley takes care of 2 of the new positions to be filled. Not that the D&R not a great console, but I'm doing almost everything ITB these days and I don't need all these channel strips.

Anyway-

The question for 16X2 (mic version) users I have is whether it's possible to bring both mic and line inputs into a patchbay. I'm not a complete idiot- I don't expect to use both at once. But I'm not looking forward to years of walking behind the rack every time I switch from tracking mode to mixing mode.

Any thoughts?

Thanks
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