Mackie, purveyors of high-quality, feature-packed consoles at prices for the common folk, have now ventured into the powered mixer market. If your wish list includes an all-in-one mixer/amp/effects unit, then read on. The PPM series mixers are selling faster than Ricky Martin CDs at a Girl Scout convention and deserve a good dose of PAR scrutiny.
I reviewed the PPM 808S, the flagship of the Professional Powered Mixer line, with an impressive feature list. It has an eight-channel mixer, a built-in digital effects unit, two assignable power amps, graphic EQs and a bunch of typical Mackie adornments. The 808S is the companion to the 808M – one is stereo-capable and one is solely mono. Rounding out the line are three other models of lesser power and fewer channels.
The 808S chassis measures 11.7″ high, 13″ deep and 20.5″ wide. It weighs 46 lb. and its cabinet is made of impact-resistant plastic. All the 808’s controls are on the front panel and only the power switch, 1/4″ speaker jacks and heat-sink are on the back.
The 808S has eight channel strips. While all eight channels have mono XLR microphone inputs, Channels 7 and 8 also have stereo 1/4″ line inputs for effects returns or stereo instruments. Channels 1 through 6 have mono 1/4″ line inputs and insert jacks for using serial effects like compression or EQ. In addition, each channel strip has an input level control, monitor aux send (pre-EQ and pre-volume), effects aux send (post-EQ and post-volume), a pan control, a volume control (rotary) and a three-band EQ section. Equalization frequencies are located at 80 Hz (+/-15 dB), 2.5 kHz (+/-12 dB) and 12 kHz (+/-15 dB).
To maximize the 808S’s potential, use the Power Amp Routing switch to suit your needs. In the up position, this switch (located in the patching section) configures the 808S’s 300 W amps (maximum power at 1% THD, mid-band, 8 ohms) for stereo mains. When depressed, the switch converts one amp channel to monitor duty. The 808S can be used alone in small-crowd settings or with an external monitor amp for larger crowds.
The master output section of the 808S is home to a pair of nine-band graphic EQs (one for mains and one for monitors), corresponding LED signal ladders, effects returns and master output controls. Each of the graphic EQs has a switchable rumble filter (75 Hz with ö18 dB/octave). There is also a global phantom power switch and a break switch located nearby. The break switch mutes Channels 1 through 6 and their aux sends, so you can chitchat without fear of embarrassing feedback occurring.
One of the 808S’s most impressive features is its proprietary 32-bit digital effects processor. The 16 presets cover a wide range of reverbs, delays and modulation effects, so there is something for everyone. There are also two parameter adjustments available for fine-tuning effects, a rarity for this type of product.
Whether amplifying voices or a small band, the 808S performed beyond my expectations. It is so light and portable that I was taken aback by its audio prowess. Its mic preamps sounded so clean I used the 808S to record a committee meeting at the National Institutes of Health, where no amplification was needed. When amplifying vocals or acoustic instruments, it was a breeze to get crisp, articulate images. The 808S’s effects unit sounds as good as many outboard units costing half as much as the whole powered mixer!
With regards to utility, the 808S is quite distinguished for such an inexpensive powered mixer. I found features like the Amp Assignments, the Break Switch, the effects parameter adjustments and the tape level control to be most welcome.
Although the 808S’s Fast Recovery amplifiers sounded clean and crisp, I thought they were a bit underpowered when configured for main/monitor use. I also think the channel input LEDs should light red, not yellow, when clipping is reached. As is Mackie custom, the 808S’s owner’s manual was full of useful tips and information, especially for someone who might be new to sound reinforcement.
The Mackie 808S is a well-designed, competent and flexible powered mixer. It is perfect for churches, institutions or small ensembles. Although it has a vast array of features, it should not prove difficult to use, even for a novice. It passed my “no manual” test with flying colors. Depending on the style of music being amplified, it could easily address a crowd of up to 200. At just $999, it is perhaps the best value I have seen in a midsized powered mixer.
Contact Mackie at 800-898-3211.