PAR for the Course: First Impressions on the Mackie DL32R

From an applications standpoint, the DL32R covers the broadest range of audio tasks in the simplest way of any single product I’ve reviewed, ever.
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Late December 2014 I received a DL32R—Mackie’s new 32 channel wireless digital mixer via iPad Control—for full review within NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. From an applications standpoint, the DL32R covers the broadest range of audio tasks in the simplest way of any single product I’ve reviewed, ever. Yes, the DL32R inherently requires a systems-wide commitment to its architecture, but that’s not much more complicated than buying an iPad, interfacing with the 3U rack-mount chassis for its physical I/O and learning a well-designed app and wireless network system.

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Considering its feature set and Mackie’s presence and power in the industry, the DL32R is poised to be the next big thing in all-inclusive audio capture, control, mixing and production at $1,999 street (add iPad, mics, cables, powered loudspeakers, and that’s about all for a complete, super-capable mixing/recording system).

So far, my real-world applications are proving this to be true; stay tuned to prosoundnetwork.com and Pro Sound News for the full evaluation.

FOH Anywhere

While totally pro environments offer a proper front-of-house position, most venues hosting live music do not. Most don’t provide a full-time audio engineer, either. This is simply the reality of club, small venue, DIY touring and worship-based audio jobs; “mixers” are often found simultaneously mixing drinks for customers, attempting to enjoy the music and/or message while managing the mix, or playing in the band itself. The DL32R unchains these folks from traditional mix locations, allowing them to adjust levels from wherever they need or desire to be.

Truly Comprehensive I/O

This is all accomplished quite powerfully, too—for example, with up to 32 channel mixes, complete with multitrack recording and playback (currently 24x24 direct-to-disk with 32x32 coming soon); up to 10 iOS-controlled personal monitor mixes; 6 matrix busses (providing auxiliary mixes for extra listening spaces such as outside club decks, church nursery cry rooms, etc.); and most every feature you’d expect from a fully-professional live mixing digital platform. The DL32R is also Dante-ready, so it’s rather “future-proofed,” if you will.

Silver Bullet Status

While Mackie doesn’t mainly tout the DL32R’s recording and music production features, creative end users will soon be using its 32 super-clean Onyx preamplifiers and essential, well-chosen DSP offerings to record complete performances for subsequent production and mixdown, largely thanks to the Master Fader app, a free download from the iTunes App Store. These same features allow for virtual soundchecks, just like those our industry’s biggest touring pros rely on. Short of providing the necessary transducers on either end—capture and sound reinforcement—the DL32R can be a recording/mixing silver bullet for many.

Few Limitations

Are there any negatives to the DL32R’s iPad-centric design? No, not unless you’re opposed to working within an iOS architecture—complete with its limited-sized UI and mandatory “additional purchase” of at least one iPad.

However, I believe the DL32R’s iOS nature offers more benefits than drawbacks: most every music-centric/tech-savvy pro inherently knows iOS “flow” these days; the Master Fader app is refreshingly simple compared to many digital mixers with incorporated touchscreen and proprietary OS; and any user with an iPad can provide and work with their own work surface. Further, the recording industry has been largely tethered to Apple and Mac OS for decades now; only live sound is relatively new to arriving at this end—a consumer product-dependent reality for live sound production.

Ultimately I’d wish for Android OS support, too, at least for control of personal monitor mix features; currently the DL32R is iOS compatible-only. Worldwide, Android accounts for nearly 85 percent of smartphones and at least 60 percent of tablets and rising. Notably in houses-of-worship, this means an inevitable number of volunteers and musicians that won’t be able to use their own smartphones with the DL32R. [See my recent report on Android’s glaring absence from pro audio products here: http://www.prosoundnetwork.com/androidvoid—Ed.]

A Game Changer?

Back in the late 1990s, I was thrilled to discover the groundbreaking features of a Mackie d8b digital console and HDR24/96 multitrack system. Today, the DL32R represents the same kind of leap forward for the budget-restricted but aspirational audio professional, yet this time it’s within the live sound realm. While I generally shy away from labeling any product a “game changer,” the DL32R certainly hints at becoming one in 2015.

Strother Bullins is the Reviews Editor for NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group. sbullins@nbmedia.com