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Seeking good mixer options for DAW mixdown (Soundcraft 200B vs. Onyx 1620)
Old 20th April 2007
  #1
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Synth80s's Avatar
Seeking good mixer options for DAW mixdown (Soundcraft 200B vs. Onyx 1620)

I use analog outboard gear when tracking to my DAW and I've been mixing ITB for a few years. I'd like to be able to mix down 8-12 channels (4-6 stereo buses really) to stereo in the analog realm so I can make use of my outboard equipment during the mix. I'm playing with external sends and returns in Cubase to incorporate outboard reverb, etc., but emulating inserts is a pain in the ass.

I'm considering a couple different directions, but I can't decide which to take. I know this kind of question drives people nuts, but here it is: for $500-1,000, would I be better off using something new like a Mackie Onyx 1620 or should I try to find a used Soundcraft, A&H or other mixer from the "golden days" in good condition?

My priorities:

1) Quality audio path w/ample headroom
2) 12 inputs total -- 8 TRS channels input w/TRS inserts on at least 8 channels and a couple stereo channels would work or 12x2 is fine as well
3) 4 aux sends (stereo returns are nice or I could use inputs)
4) Decent 3 or 4 band EQ (defeatable EQ is a plus)
4) Compact in width (no more than 22" wide would be ideal)
5) Not a maintenance nightmare
6) Individual buses not necessary since I'll be mixing to stereo
(8x2 or 12x2 is best, 8x4x2 or 12x4x2 is OK)
7) Inserts on stereo bus (every mixer seemingly has these)

Here are the boards I'm considering w/notes:

Soundcraft 200B, Delta 200 or Delta SR -- I've seen some of these that have been well-maintained and recently cleaned/serviced and maintained, but all will have 20 year old caps, etc. Am I nuts to consider one of these (even one that's been recently serviced) if I'm maintenance averse?

Allen & Heath MixWizard 16:2 DX, GL2 or Scepter (just missed one of these) -- I don't have a good feel for this line. I've read that earlier MixWizards (not the MW3 line) have discreet compoenents but I've also read mixed reviews on the headroom. Newer MW vs. older models? I dunno.

Mackie Onyx 1620 -- This seems to hit on all counts and, like 'em or not, I haven't seen anyone complain about the audio quality. It seems like the obvious choice, but...

Soundcraft M8 or M12 -- I've read mostly positive reviews on these but can't get a feel for how they compare to something newer like an Onyx.

Rane MX508 -- Seemingly meets all my needs except it has only 2 AUX sends (not a total deal killer). No faders? Not a huge deal.

I don't have room for a big console and most summing boxes are either too streamlined for what I need (no auxes, EQ, etc.) or too expensive. I'm not expecting "giant analog vibe" from a relatively inexpensive mixer but rather a functional option for using analog outboard during the mix.

Comments? Other ideas? All input welcome!

Thanks,
Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Synth80s View Post
7) Inserts on stereo bus (every mixer seemingly has these)
After writing this, I thought to double-check. Turns out the Mackie Onyx 1620 doesn't have master inserts. What the hell, Mackie?!!?!

-Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #3
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I know it's hard to hear (i had to tell myself the same thing) but... you know you wont be satisfied until you acquire a really good sounding board or summing box. I'm shootin' for either the 8816 or an Xrack. What does this mean???

Save up.

Old 20th April 2007
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonicdefault View Post
I know it's hard to hear (i had to tell myself the same thing) but... you know you wont be satisfied until you acquire a really good sounding board or summing box. I'm shootin' for either the 8816 or an Xrack. What does this mean???

Save up.

I hear what you're saying but your advice suggests that all of the mixers I mentioned will significantly degrade the sound quality of my mix or that I'm looking for the mixer to give me a sonic advantage while mixing.

To be clear: I'm not expecting the mixer to solve any sonic deficiency or to give me additional sonic character during mixdown and I'm not convinced that mixing ITB can't sound fine. I simply want an easy way to incorporate my analog outboard gear into my DAW mixes without having to deal with potential latency and phasing issues involved in busing tracks in and out of the DAW to create pseudo-inserts.

In short, as much as I'd like one, I don't think I need a $4,000+ mixer to meet my defined requirements.

Thanks,
Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #5
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I would highly recommend you find some way to test drive each of them to make sure they're going to give you what you want. Its important to consider that all of those mixers are really "budget" models and compromises had to be made inorder to meet their pricepoints. I'm not trying to be snotty, but just playing devil's advocate...

If you're patient and look around, you can find some great deals on nicer used consoles.
Old 20th April 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dokushoka View Post
I would highly recommend you find some way to test drive each of them to make sure they're going to give you what you want. Its important to consider that all of those mixers are really "budget" models and compromises had to be made inorder to meet their pricepoints. I'm not trying to be snotty, but just playing devil's advocate...

If you're patient and look around, you can find some great deals on nicer used consoles.
Which models do you suggest to meet my requirements?

Ideally, I'd be able to shop and compare all of the models, but I think that's a bit unrealistic given the mix of brands and product age I'm considering. I think it's fair l to assume that I won't find any easy way to test drive all of these mixers in person, especially back to back. Even in LA, where would I go to listen to a 200B, MixWizard and Onyx back to back? This is where the internet and used gear are a match made in heaven. I can try something out for a while with little or no loss if it doesn't meet my needs.

This is the second reply insinuating that any/all of the models I've mentioned will degrade my audio quality, almost to the point that I should reconsider this idea altogether. I know there are better mixers out there, but are all of these models really so bad that it's not possible to get a decent mix out of them with patience and skill (both of which I have to some degree)? I can't imagine that they couldn't produce good results in the right hands.

Is there some ideal mixer I'm overlooking that would, regardless of price point, meet my requirements (especially the small form factor)?

Thanks,
Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #7
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dokushoka's Avatar
 

Quote:
I know there are better mixers out there, but are all of these models really so bad that it's not possible to get a decent mix out of them with patience and skill (both of which I have to some degree)? I can't imagine that they couldn't produce good results in the right hands.
Well, they're not bad, but for me, honestly, I'd most likely prefer to stay inside a DAW then mix on these.

That isn't meant as a big insult to these boards, its just that mixing in the box, you're not going to deal with noise issues, a mixbuss that craps out under stress, worn out caps, etc.

For all the bad rap that mixing ITB gets, its much better then just about ANY "budget" console.

I'd honestly just invest in a system that allows you to easily integrate analog outboard gear to your DAW. I'm not sure how that works with cubase, but there must be a decent solution.

Like I was saying before, there are some ok deals out there if you're willing to watch and wait, but all of the boards in the lower price range are either going to have one (or any combination) of the following problems:

- lack of features
- poorly maintained/tech issues
- poor sonics

It kind of sucks, but if you're gonna invest in an analog console, you may as well get a board that you're not going to outgrow in a year or so.
Old 20th April 2007
  #8
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Synth80s's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dokushoka View Post
That isn't meant as a big insult to these boards, its just that mixing in the box, you're not going to deal with noise issues, a mixbuss that craps out under stress, worn out caps, etc.
A few of the boards listed are still available as new models (Soundcraft M-Series, A&H MixWizards, Mackie Onyx) so I wouldn't expect noise, crackling or worn out components. I can't imagine that all of these models are simply unusable just because they aren't expensive vintage mixers.

I have to ask: have you actually used any of these models or are you just assuming that they can't be any good because they're "budget?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by dokushoka View Post
I'd honestly just invest in a system that allows you to easily integrate analog outboard gear to your DAW. I'm not sure how that works with cubase, but there must be a decent solution.
You'd think so, but it's really not that easy. Cubase has a "ping" test to measure and compensate for latency when using outboard gear as external effects, but getting this to work accurately is not easy. I have used it effectively with the send/return paradigm (I've successfully integrated two outboard effects processors as FX tracks in Cubase) but to my knowledge there's no easy I/O equivalent to inserts in the DAW world and I don;t want to sue plug-ins all the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dokushoka View Post
It kind of sucks, but if you're gonna invest in an analog console, you may as well get a board that you're not going to outgrow in a year or so.
That's the thing -- my workflow is pretty consistent and I don't/won't need something big any time soon. Given what I do, how I use my equipment and the size of my rig (it's not huge and I don't plan to expand it to any great extent soon), I won't need anything more than 12 channels for a long while. Did anyone make a GREAT 12-channel board with 4 aux sends? 8-channel?

Thanks,
Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #9
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Quote:
A few of the boards listed are still available as new models (Soundcraft M-Series, A&H MixWizards, Mackie Onyx) so I wouldn't expect noise, crackling or worn out components.
The M series is pretty lousy, IMO. I was wholly unimpressed by them, inspite of their features...

The Mixwards sound ok for live stuff, but I wouldn't want to mix on one. Its the best of the 3, IMO, that you listed there though.

The Onyx has ok pres, but so does the Behringer AD8000 (I just used them side by side for a freebie live recording I did for a friend). So I don't see that as anything to buy it for (seeing as you could get "OK" pres for less via the AD8000...) I found the mix buss on the Onyx to consistently be a "disaster." It just has no headroom and sounds small as hell to me.

Quote:
I can't imagine that all of these models are simply unusable just because they aren't expensive vintage mixers.
In general, I am not a fan of mixing on "vintage" consoles. Tracking yes, but generally, mixing no. I just thought I should mention that to provide a little context for my comments. I like modern consoles that are more "open" sounding.

Quote:
You'd think so, but it's really not that easy. Cubase has a "ping" test to measure and compensate for latency when using outboard gear as external effects, but getting this to work accurately is not easy. I have used it effectively with the send/return paradigm (I've successfully integrated two outboard effects processors as FX tracks in Cubase) but to my knowledge there's no easy I/O equivalent to inserts in the DAW world and I don;t want to sue plug-ins all the time.
I hate to say this, but maybe look into a used HD system? It intergrates outboard well enough that its very workable in most situations. It gets hairy if you do lots of parallel processing, but if you don't, its pretty good.

Quote:
That's the thing -- my workflow is pretty consistent and I don't/won't need something big any time soon. Given what I do, how I use my equipment and the size of my rig (it's not huge and I don't plan to expand it to any great extent soon), I won't need anything more than 12 channels for a long while. Did anyone make a GREAT 12-channel board with 4 aux sends? 8-channel?
By "out grow" I meant more the sonics and not the size.

I like the Soundtracs stuff when it comes to budget consoles. Particually the MRX, FM and whatever the other one that was just like those were. They're not great, but they have a sound that works well with digital tracks and they have all the features that you need. I had a topaz, briefly, and I sold it because the mixbuss was very compressed sounding and I ddin't want that kind of vibe. I also had an FM and worked tons on a Solitaire. My buddy has the MRX that he is actually selling (tiny studio space). They're all workable and have different strenghts.

After that, I scored a fixer upper Audioarts 8x that I fixed up and it was better sounding but still compromised in its workflow/sonics to a degree. After that I was working on a 80 series Neve which I didn't like mixing on (for sonics and lack of features) and an API Legacy Plus (which was as close as I've come to wholly liking a console.) I just recently bought Brian Lucey's TT m4000 althought I've not gotten it in yet. I have high hopes for it though...
Old 20th April 2007
  #10
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Synth80s's Avatar
Thanks for all the additional info -- the more specific you are, the more helpful it is for me to understand your perspective.

Sorry if I sound snippy... (long day) I'm not in denial and I'm not expecting a miracle, but I'm hopeful that I can make the best of my budget if I don't push the mix bus on any of these mixers or try to "overuse" them. In reality, I only need to use an analog mixer as an audio router for my outboard gear. I still plan to do most of my mixing (levels, automation, etc.) in Cubase and I only want to mix a maximum of 4-6 stereo stems. I have decent A/D and D/A and I have a few fun outboard pieces, so I think it's worth the stretch as long as I don't risk trashing my audio.

The A&H MixWizard 12:2 is looking attractive for my needs.

-Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #11
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I would advise against purchasing any Soundcraft 200 desk from your list...the Delta as well. I've heard all three, and they are all noisy as...especially the 200B. If I had to choose any from the 200 line it would be the 200 SR...it was a modular rackmount...and that might be the only reason.heh

I did not like the A&H Mixwizard at ALL. Thin and lifeless. The GL2 was better, but not by much...and I haven't heard a Sceptre.

Plenty of people I know like Mackie, the Onyx most certainly...I never liked them, but they are nicely transparent. Crisp. Exxactly what I didn't like.

The M12 has a lot of optionz, and isn't a bad desk for the price. I have heard of phantom power problemz, though...but a friend of mine has used one for yearz with no problem.

The Rane I couldn't tell you about.



I am a vintage console lover, and I would certainly take an older desk over a newer one 99.9999% of the time. Why? I want coloration...I want character...so that would [most assuredly] make me fairly unorthodoxx around here.


But, I am also very familiar with a number of old deskz as a result.heh
Old 20th April 2007
  #12
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You can also buy an second hand desk with better sonics for a cheap price than a cheap new one. Of course some channels may be a bit tricky (due to age) but the sonic side of the working channels wil be way better

a friend of me bought recently an Amek Big 28ch console for 3500 € (only one channel is has a unrealiable switch, for the rest in perfect state), an other bought an full working Tascam 2524 24ch for 1000 € (wich is a bargain for this mixer), ... so if you search wel, you can find a way better deal than those you mention for your budget.
Old 20th April 2007
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waxx View Post
a friend of me bought recently an Amek Big 28ch console for 3500 € (only one channel is has a unrealiable switch, for the rest in perfect state), an other bought an full working Tascam 2524 24ch for 1000 € (wich is a bargain for this mixer), ... so if you search wel, you can find a way better deal than those you mention for your budget.
I don't have room for a 3-5 foot wide console. I'm looking for something in a more compact form factor (8-12 channels, up to 24" wide). It's only a good deal if it fits my requirements. heh

-Synth80s
Old 20th April 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Synth80s View Post
I hear what you're saying but your advice suggests that all of the mixers I mentioned will significantly degrade the sound quality of my mix or that I'm looking for the mixer to give me a sonic advantage while mixing....
Hello again synths. No, my advice was speaking towards your level of satisfaction... and I'm speaking from experience. You seem pretty serious about the music, and as a fellow slutz... we know what that means $ $ $

Outboard mixers or summing boxes aren't simply about sonic character... And I'm quite sure you would hear a difference between an Onyx and an Xrack. Not to slam the Mackie, but there is a difference. IMO, if you're not going OTB into something serious, you might as well stay ITB unless your outboard gear is really that much of a factor (i know that's essentially what you're saying.) And even then I'd still say... save up Sorry though, if I haven't helped much.

I hope things work out well for you.
Old 20th April 2007
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonicdefault View Post
Outboard mixers or summing boxes aren't simply about sonic character... And I'm quite sure you would hear a difference between an Onyx and an Xrack. Not to slam the Mackie, but there is a difference. IMO, if you're not going OTB into something serious, you might as well stay ITB unless your outboard gear is really that much of a factor (i know that's essentially what you're saying.) And even then I'd still say... save up Sorry though, if I haven't helped much.

I hope things work out well for you.
All the replies are helpful, so thanks!

Yeah, this whole exercise is definitely about using my external EQs and compressors without dealing with latency/delay issues as an alternative to all plug-ins all the time. I love my UAD-1s and my Voxengo plugs, but man cannot live on plug-ins alone!

Maybe I'm living in a dream world -- could an Ashly MX-508 really be that bad? Looks to be simple and built like a tank -- many positive reviews in these parts.

-Synth80s
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