I guess you can credit Mackie with this whole “affordable” concept. This is the company that has historically developed mixers, power amps and speakers that are cost effective, yet reliable and durable. This is a good thing if you are on a budget and cannot afford the biggest, coolest and most expensive audio gear. The latest addition to the already well-known line of Mackie products is the SR 32/4-VLZ PRO mixing console.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound for clubs and churches, home studios
Key Features: 28 mono channels; two stereo channels; sweepable mid channel EQ
Contact: Mackie Designs, Inc. at 425-487-4333 Web Site
+ Good mic preamps
+ User friendly
+ Well-written manual
+ Lightweight, 40 pounds
– No insert points on the aux masters for monitor use
The Score: This board is intended for club gigs and folks that need reliable mixers with good features.
The Mackie VLZ PRO mixer ($1,999) has 28 mono channels, two stereo channels, four submasters, as well as stereo and mono master outputs. The mixer is well laid out, with a logical order to the controls.
The mono channels begin with the input sensitivity rotary control (fully variable 60 dB range) at the top of the input module. Next is the auxiliary section, which features six aux sends, divided into three types: the first two sends are always pre; the next two sends are normally post, but are switchable to pre on a channel by channel basis; the last two sends are always post.
The equalizer section of each mono channel is three-band, with the lows fixed (shelved) at 80 Hz, the highs fixed at 12 kHz and the mid frequencies are infinitely variable from 100 Hz to 8 kHz. The EQ section also features a 75 Hz, 18 dB per octave high-pass filter engaged by a pushbutton.
The lower section of the module contains the L/R pan rotary, flanked to the right by the signal-present LED in green and a signal-clip LED in red. The Solo button and the channel output assign to any or all of four submasters, or directly to the L/R master fader, and the actual channel fader resides directly below. The stereo channels contain a similar layout, with the exception of the EQ section, which features a four-band control, with frequencies fixed, at 80 Hz, 800 Hz, 3 kHz and 12 kHz.
The master section provides the six aux masters, four group or submaster faders, each with independent rotary pan capability. The submasters have an interesting accessory that allows a 10 dB boost centered at 16 kHz. Called AIR, it offers a presence boost to assist in vocal mixing, or accentuating a given instrument group.
A couple of other features designed to assist in the recording process are also present. These are the talkback – the tape return to either headphones or control room – and the solo mode button. The back panel is clean and accessible, and contains all the input and output XLRs, as well as the input channel’s line inputs (1/4-inch TRS). All the insert connections are TRS, containing both the insert send and insert return in one Y-cable.
I took the Mackie VLZ PRO mixer to several shows and allowed the sound engineers for local bands to try it out. The bands required 24 to 26 inputs, four monitor mixes and two outboard effects processors – which is exactly what this mixer was designed to do.
The 32/4 performed admirably and each of the engineers felt quite at home on it. I tested the microphone preamps by having vocalists actually shout into the microphones, and I found the Mackie maintained quite nicely, with no audible distortion.
Everyone seemed to agree that the EQ section was responsive and accurate, and the board had good headroom at both the inputs and outputs. The aux section drove the monitors to good working levels and, coupled with the effect returns in the master section, the effects sends complemented the VLZ PRO well.
The Mackie SR32/4 VLZ PRO console is a well-designed product with good sound quality. The microphone preamps handled a variety of input levels quite well, the EQ section was reasonably responsive and, all in all, the Mackie mixer performed quite well.
If you are in the market for an affordable console for club gigs or a home studio, this is a good bet. The VLZ PRO is affordable, well constructed and durable – and Mackie has an excellent track record at producing good stuff at an affordable price.