Field Report: Mackie 642-VLZ3
The mid EQ is slightly different for the upper input channels.
The rear panel sports a host of connections.
I have been using Mackie consoles for years for everything from remotes to live mixes and even an occasional production room mixer. The consoles have always performed well for the price. The issues I have continually heard about Mackie mixers is that the mic preamps were never all that great and the EQ sections left a lot to be desired. Well, Mackie apparently heard the same complaints and delivered big in both areas with the VLZ3 line of mixers.
Recently I had the chance to use a new Mackie 1642-VLZ3 for several remotes. I was also able to test it in a more controlled studio environment. The first thing I noticed is that the physical appearance is very similar to the older 1642 VLZ Pro. It has solid steel construction so it can handle the radio remote circuit without a problem. Similar to the VLZ Pro it has eight channels of mono mic/line input, two channels of mic/stereo line input and two channels of stereo line input. It also has three-band EQ with a sweepable mid frequency on all the mic channels and a four-band EQ on the stereo line channels.
The big differences with the 1642-VLZ3 are the mic preamps and the EQ sections on the console. Mackie totally redesigned the mic preamps for this line. The new XDR2 preamp does not disappoint. It offers a ton of headroom with no distortion. The mic preamp sounds like a more expensive external preamp that you may have needed with older Mackie consoles. The best thing I can say about the XDR2 mic pre is that it is quiet and adds no color to inputs, even with hot levels.
The channel EQ has also undergone a change in the VLZ3 line. The first eight mic channels have a three-band active EQ set at 12kHz and 80Hz but has a sweepable mid EQ that can be set at a peak anywhere from 100Hz to 8kHz providing the exact sound you are looking for. The remaining channels have a four-band EQ with set frequencies on all bands. Mackie claims it's designed to be “musically-correct” and it does seem to work well for line level inputs; however, two of these channels will also handle mic inputs and I did find the EQ used on the first eight mic channels to work better for mic inputs. That being said, Mackie has really made improvements on the sound of all the EQs on this console compared to earlier consoles.
The other thing I really liked abut this console — and all Mackie consoles — is that they are built tough. Mackie continues to use sealed pots in the VLZ3 consoles, which helps when a soda is dumped on the console. Mackie also has the pots ride just above the chassis so if something is dropped on the console the impact is absorbed by the steel frame and not the circuit board. To that end, even the internal circuit boards are set on shock absorbers to help prevent damage.
|Performance at a glance|
|20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
THD of <0.0007 percent
Newly designed XDR2 mic preamps
Newly designed EQ sections
Multivoltage power supply
Mic, line and stereo line inputs
Rack mountable with optional rack ears
Steel chassis construction
As I said earlier, I used this console at a number of remotes with no issues. It travels well, sets up easily and allows for a number of configurations needed for broadcasts. With the four aux sends in addition to the main and tape out, it is easy to set up different feeds for different needs. You can send a different mix to a house PA or ISDN unit or even use the aux feeds for monitor feeds for a live band mix without difficulty. Mackie also allows for some aux feeds to be used as a pre-fader send, which works great for a talkback channel to the studio.
In the studio
The console also easily fits into the studio environment. With the new, very clean sounding mic preamps and the new, better-sounding EQ sections, the 1642 VLZ-3 worked nicely in a pinch as a console for an imaging studio. It has enough direct bus outs to work with any DAW system for multi-track recording.
Mackie even built-in a power supply that easily switches between 110/120 and 240 for use anywhere in the world without needing an adaptor for the power.
Mackie really showed that it listens to its customers with the entire VLZ3 series and the 1642 VLZ3 in particular. The company took the time to rework a mic pre from the ground up that sounds much better than its previous products. It sounds good enough to save you the trouble of buying an expensive external preamp. The company also reworked the EQ on this console. Be they the three- or four-band EQ, they sound good. The EQs are cleaner with less distortion than previous attempts. My only issue, a minor one, is that mic channels 9 and 10 don't have the same EQ section as the first eight mic channels.
Mackie delivers a great product with the 1642 VLZ3, and for the price it will be tough to beat.
Smith is chief engineer at WWPR New York City and supervisor broadcast/studio systems at Clear Channel Radio-NYC.
Performance at a glance
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.
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