Strother Bullins 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.
Main features include 10 XLR and TRS inputs to full channels (8 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 4 Aux sends to TRS (Sends 1+2 offer pre/post switching), the fourth reserved as the DFX digital effects channel send. Other features include four subgroups, six channels of “one knob” channel compression, a 9-band graphic EQ, and simple 2-channel USB I/O plus charging USB port.
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 silk-screened 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.
One complaint, purely tactile: The plastic end-pieces of the console—featuring a chrome-effect “Alto” held on by three hex nuts, is sharp to the back of your fingers, especially working on channel 1 or at the other end of the desk; it caused me a couple of paper cut-like injuries before I grabbed some fine grit sand paper and smoothed them off just a bit. It’s really the only fit/finish issue that struck me, though—not a deal-breaker for the bargain $500 street price.
Alto 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.
Strother Bullins is NewBay Media’s Reviews Editor, AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist and clublevel sound reinforcement wrangler. email@example.com