Mackie Onyx 1220

March 14, 2005

Back in the early ’90s, Mackie sparked a revolution in personal recording with the introduction of the CR-1604 compact mixer. With its high-quality mic preamps, 3-band EQ, four aux sends, and four buses—all at a price that musicians could afford—the 16-channel CR-1604 was used to create countless recordings. Since then, Mackie’s mixer line has evolved to include several series of small and large models, and the new Onyx Series 12- and 16-channel analog mixers are the latest additions.

The Onyx 1220 ($639 retail/$545 street) provides 12 input channels (four mono/four stereo), four of which boast Mackie’s new Onyx mic preamplifiers, and all feature Perkins 3-band EQ and two aux sends with stereo returns. Channels 1-4 have both XLR microphone and q" line inputs (two switchable to guitar-friendly Hi-Z), switchable 48V phantom power and rumble filters, and swept mids in their EQ sections. Also included are a number of impressive features not typically found on small mixers, such as a full-on Talkback section using a built-in or external mic, a switch to route effects returns to the monitor outputs only, pre/post-fader switches for both aux sends, hardwired EQ bypass switches, and two DB25 recording outputs. When equipped with the optional FireWire card ($499 retail/$399 street) the 1220 is transformed into a recording interface.

I used the 1220 to mix several jam sessions directly to a Tascam CD-RW5000 CD recorder, and as a multi-channel digital-audio interface when recording (and monitoring) with MOTU Digital Performer. The first thing I noticed was the Onyx mic preamps sounded wonderful with a variety of dynamic and large- and small-diaphragm condenser microphones. Acoustic stringed instruments, hand percussion, male and female voices, and miked guitar amps all came through clearly with tightly focused detail.

The 1220’s EQ section proved even more impressive. Designed by veteran Mackie engineer Cal Perkins to emulate the broader “Q” and softer response of famed ’60s/’70s British equalizers, his namesake EQ is nonetheless surprisingly versatile and robust sounding. The low band is positioned at 80Hz (just where you want it to boost modern bass sounds), the highs are at 12kHz (for sparkle and presence), and the mids are at 2.5kHz on the stereo channels and sweepable between 100Hz and 8kHz (the top end of the critical guitar frequencies) on the mic channels. I was continually delighted and inspired by the results I achieved equalizing a broad selection of instruments and other sound sources.

Considering the substantial sonic firepower you get for just over half a grand, the Onyx 1220 represents an even greater feature/price breakthrough than did the seminal CR-1604. Add the optional FireWire interface, which comes with Mackie’s innovative Tracktion DAW and FinalMix mastering software, and you’ve got a complete hard-disk recording system with enough I/O to handle most personal studio tasks. Does the world need another compact analog mixer? Obviously!

Mackie, (425) 487-4333

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