I remember when the Digital 8*Bus was first announced back in September 1997 – it created quite a buzz. Now into software Version 3.0, Mackie has tweaked its initial entry into the digital field and set a pace for others to follow. I recently had a chance to give the console a close look at Sony Studios in New York City.
Product PointsApplications: Digital recording; project studios
Key Features: Fat Channel viewer; 100mm motorized fader; onboard computer; Mac/PC emulation
Contact: Mackie Designs: 800-898-3211
+ Musical sound
+ Outstanding automation package
+ Third-party plug-ins available
– Weak onboard FX package
The Score: An excellent sounding, full-featured digital console in its class.
The Mackie D8*B is an automated, 56-input, 8-bus digital console. It features a full meter bridge, trim control, mic/line switch, mute and solo 100mm motorized faders. The innovative v-pot and v-strip offer rotary control with single button-push accessibility to auxiliary sends and pan. There are 12 aux sends, pan, four-band parametric, compression and gating on all 48 channels, as well as main, L/R, EQ and dynamics.
The two onboard global effects are controlled from rotary controls in the Fat Channel. The onboard computer offers a 1.2 GB hard drive, 3.5″ floppy drive, SVGA output, keyboard and mouse port. The whole system runs on the exclusive Mackie Realtime Operating System. Extras include optional analog and digital I/O cards, sync cards, upgradable and expandable effects cards, as well as surround sound capabilities (standard).
In my test of the D8*B, I performed a tracking session and a mixing session, interfacing it with ADATs, DA-88s and Pro Tools. The D8ðB’s front panel design is outstanding. The only other console comparable in terms of design is the Sony Oxford, priced hundreds of thousands more.
The console’s user-friendly design encompasses multi-use knobs called v-pots, and smooth 100mm faders. Learning the D8*B is a snap for anybody used to an analog console.
The D8*B’s operating system is straightforward, stable and easy to learn. Anybody with previous experience on a Mac-based or Windows-based computer will find it familiar.
Interfacing the D8*B with a digital multitrack is easy; all that is necessary is an interface card for your multitrack and you’re ready to work. Getting my sequenced material from my drum machine and synth modules to tape was a breeze due the logical back panel input design of the D*ðB.
The D8*B provides 24 line inputs. The flat sound quality of the D8*B is remarkable. When I heard it, all I could think was “so that’s what my gear is supposed to sound like.” The D8*B performed all my tracking needs effortlessly. The D8*B’s automation came in handy when alternating between performers in a given session. This allowed me to provide a different cue mix to suit the individual performer’s needs.
The busing system is laid out logically and is user-definable, which lets you configure the setup that best suits your needs. While tracking vocals, my vocal chain consisted of a Sony C-800 mic going directly into a Martech MSS-10 mic pre, then into an LA 3 and then into line channel of the D8ðB for busing. By using this chain, I could deliver a professional-quality vocal sound that rivaled anything obtainable in a high-end studio. The sound of the D8*B was transparent.
Although the D8*B is a great console for tracking, it is in the mixing process where the D8*B shines. In my test, fader and mute commands reacted seamlessly, as did the EQ and compressor settings (which are fully automatable). Another outstanding design feature of the D8ðB is what Mackie calls the Fat Channel. Double-clicking on the select button of a particular channel provides a full-screen view of that channel. This makes it easy to focus on the EQ, compression, busing, etc., on one channel at a time, easily toggling back to the full mix screen.
The D8*B accepts many popular third party plug-ins and more are promised soon.
The D8*B, priced at $9,900 (plug-ins and digital I/O cards extra), is a great sounding, full-featured digital console in its class. Its 24-bit digital converters offer 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio, 106 dB dynamic range and 128x oversampling. The console produces a warm musical sound that will make even the most adamant analog die-hard happy.