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  • #61
    Great review Mr. Craig! I have an 1820m, but I am looking to replace it with the new box next year, and havent found this extensive of a review on, well almost anything! Its neat if the pres are good, but I like the conversion and local control the most about it.

    Hope you're getting some sleep!!!
    http://www.myspace.com/guitarlessonsinriversideca

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    • #62
      <<I have an 1820m, but I am looking to replace it with the new box next year, and havent found this extensive of a review on, well almost anything!>>

      This is the fourth Pro Review I've done, you might want to check out the links to the other ones...they're pretty deep too! Glad you like the format, it's a gas to write.

      <<Its neat if the pres are good, but I like the conversion and local control the most about it.>>

      Honestly, I'm taken aback by the interest in this unit, I thought it was more of a niche product. There are some great comments here.

      <<Hope you're getting some sleep!!!>>

      Well, actually lack of sleep has been a bit of a problem lately...but tonight, I'm taking a break and having dinner with the owner of Maricam Studio here in Santa Fe. I just finished a cool mastering project with him and it will be nice to kick back for a while...I hear his wife is a gourmet cook

      Okay, back to work, and back to the review.
      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

      Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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      • #63
        Hi there everyone, sorry for taking so long to post again, things have been very busy at Mackie HQ lately. I will try to address some of the questions and comments I have seen come up since my last post.

        My answers came out a little long winded, but that’s my middle name, and the beauty of the Pro Review. Also, if I forgot to answer any questions so far, don’t be shy, speak up and say “Dan, you forgot to answer my question, you $%^*#”.

        WDM performance in Adobe Audition

        Craig’s experience worked out as we had predicted, that even though the 400F does not like WDM with Sonar, it works just fine with Audition. So, the good news is, the 400F’s WDM works fine, for the programs that have to use WDM.

        From what I have been told by our colleagues at Echo, Craig’s 1st theory is correct, Sonar and Audition deal with WDM audio differently.

        Sound of the D/A conversion:

        I am glad to see that the fine folks on this thread realize that one man’s “brittle” can be a very subjective thing, and have decided to try out the 400F and judge for themselves. It’s a little frustrating to read that gearslutz post and then see others just accept one poster’s opinion without listening for themselves. I am hopeful/confident that many of you you will feel that the poster’s opinion is firmly in the minority.

        It is interesting to me that some people have suggested strapping a Lucid DA9624 on the s/pdif out and seeing how that improve things. I actually have that exact D/A converter sitting in my closet, if I have time maybe I will try an A/B test and let you guys know how the two compare, since I have always loved the sound of that particular piece of gear.


        “Question for Dan. Any reason why you guys left off lightpipe I/O, seems as though you could sell more 800r's if you had included it? That expandability would have been nice and I would have liked it for integrating spdif optical consumer devices.”

        We left it off for all the usual reasons, cost, panel space, impact on time to market, and added complexity. But, for anyone who is concerned about the lack of an ADAT input, let me throw out a couple of suggestions that I hope may help:

        First, you mentioned how you’d like to use spdif optical consumer devices with the 400F. You can definitely do that for a very nominal expense. Simply purchase an optical to coaxial spdif conversion box that will take your optical spdif signal, and convert it (all in the digital domain) to a coaxial spdif signal that can come into the spdif input of the 400F. M-Audio makes a good one for about $60, and I’ve even used a no-name one from Fry’s electronics that was about $20. In fact, I’m doing this right now, I have the optical output of a DirecTV satellite receiver, converting to coaxial and coming into the 400F, which I use to listen to music channels while I work during the day.

        As for people who wish to use an ADAT input to expand the mic pre count, it’s true that you can not do that through an ADAT connection with the 400F, but keep in mind that multiple 400Fs can be daisy chained (presently available now with Mac 10.4, and available soon for Windows through an upcoming 1.06 driver we’re working on). So, it’s true you can’t go buy an 8 channel mic pre for $700-1000 an pipe it in digitally, but you can go buy a whole 2nd 400F and combiner it with the first one, for a 20X20 channel count. Hopefully that option will ease the “no-ADAT” sting for some.

        “In Digital Performer I have to set work priority to 'low' to avoid cracks and pops. Have you resolved this issue with MOTU in the 400f (and in the 1640 for that matter)?”

        From what I’ve been told, this is a result of how Digital Performer deals with any device that uses Mac OSX’s driverless “plug and play” capabilities (like our Onyx mixers and the 400F). MOTU told us that as long as you set work priority to low, that should solve the issue for all users and in fact, they put in that setting because DP needed it, to properly handle OSX native interfaces. So from what I know, it’s not so much a Mackie issue as a DP issue, and one that they said is resolved now by having that setting available. If this solution is not sufficient, let me know and we’ll work with MOTU further.

        So hopefully with the info above, you’ll feel the 400F works as well with Digital Performer as the traveler does. I am not aware of any innate advantages their hardware has with DP software over us, but let me know if there’s something I’m missing.

        Next up, Clasman wrote “Mr. Steinberg, I read a while back on another forum (forget which one) that Mackie was planning to enable DSP effects functionality (ie: compression, EQ, etc) at some point in the future for the 400f. Is this true and if so, what is the time table for that?”

        It is still a goal to do this, but I can not really say when we expect this to be ready. Up until now it has been more of a priority to have rock solid Mac and PC operation at low buffer sizes, as well as work on multiple box support. Once multiple box support for Windows is done we should have more time to dive back into this.

        To give a little more detail on what effects we’d hope to have, it would be stuff designed to make the DSP mixer act more like a standard digital mixer. EQ and compression on each channel strip, plus a couple of effects loops fed by aux sends on each channel, with a choice of reverbs chorus delays, etc.

        But, lest we be accused of not thinking outside the box, we are open to suggestions about what you’d like to see running on that DSP chip. If you have a good idea, we are all ears.

        Planet Earth Power Supply

        Craig answered this correctly. The idea is to have one single product SKU that you can take with you anywhere when you are jet setting around the world, and only have to use the appropriate electrical cord. As opposed to building one unit for US operation and a whole other unit SKU for Europe (which we used to do for products many years ago, but no longer).

        Removeable Rack Ears

        As mentioned, even though it leaves a tiny bit of open space exposed, there is definitely no harm or structural impact if you wish to remove them. I have done so often when taking the 400F on location, it keeps it from scratching up the bag it’s thrown in. And, the unit is short enough, front to back, that it becomes a pretty portable solution.

        Sound of Mic Pres

        Craig, I am glad you liked them. We really have had a lot of positive response to the sound (or lack thereof really) of the Onyx mic preamp design. So the whole idea of the 400F is that you don’t have to spend more money “augmenting” it with decent pres, they are already there.

        Comment


        • #64
          Next our good friend Ironbuddha asks

          “One of the subjects however, that I haven't seen too much about is how this unit holds up in standalone mode. I'm asking this since Mackie currently has a promo going for the 1220 with the Firewire interface free which actually comes in at less cost/input and from what I can tell is essentially the same mic pres, but more versatile for a live situation.

          I've played with the MOTU units, and they have the ability to play around with the standalone mix with a menu type GUI on their main LCD. From what I understand with the Mackie you set it and it remembers the last settings on power up, but how much control is there just with the gain knobs?

          Mr. Steinberg, maybe you could comment as well. Other than the sampling freq. and digital sync options, how much would I be losing.”


          Well, an Onyx mixer with a Firewire card, and a 400F, are pretty different. Here's a rough comparison:

          Mixer with Firewire card:

          96kHz, not 192kHz

          Gives you a great analog mixer to use for whatever you need one for

          Slightly less expensive with current free card promotion

          400F:

          Higher sampling rate
          BNC word clock IO
          Rack Mountable in 1RU space
          10 in, 10 out. The Onyx 1220 is 14 in, 2 out
          MIDI IO

          So really, you would look at your needs and then see which unit make more sense for you.

          Since some people were asking about "standalone mode" and comparing it to the MOTU, I'll compare that a little bit as well.

          As mentoned, since we have no front panel controls or LCD like the MOTU, you need to set standalone mode the way you want it at the computer, and then use those settings in the field.

          When at the computer, you get 100% of the settings, sample rates, spdif format, etc. It can all be set and remembered when you yank the Firewire cable.

          For those of you asking “but what good is a standalone mode if I can’t change settings without the computer there”, here are some examples of what you can still do (some of these are visually illustrated in the downloaded user’s manual)

          4 channel Onyx mic pre: With the computer attached, set the routing so that only input 1 is routed to input 1, only input 2 to output 2, etc, for the 1st 4 channels. Now, you have a 4 in, 4 out Onyx mic pre to use with a hard disc recorder, etc. Each mic pre is output discreetly, no mixing, and you still can use the front panel mic gain knobs, since they are in the analog domain.

          4 channel Microphone Mixer with digital out: With the computer attached, route inputs 1-4 to spdif output 9-10. Now you have a 4 channel mic mixer that routes all 4 mic channels to a 2 channel digital output, ready for feeding to that old beat up DAT deck in the closet, bypassing its old, bad sounding A/D converter. 4 mic recordings are great for Jazz and Classical groups in a good acoustic space, you can use one stereo pair up by the band and a 2nd stereo pair further back in the room , mixed in to taste.

          10 channel rack mount keyboard mixer Set all 10 inputs to mix to outputs 1-2 (which are mirrored in the control room outs and phones outs). Plug 4 stereo analog synths into 1-8, and the spdif output of a modern Roland synth into inputs 9-10. Use the synths’ volume sliders to mix the 5 keyboards volume to taste. You now have a rack mount keyboard mixer that you van use to practice at home, or use at a gig in a rack, all with no computer in sight.

          I use a variation on this at home. I have an Alesis QS8 into inputs 1-2, a Line 6 pod into inputs 3-4, a Digidesign 002 coming into inputs 5-6., and the aforementioned digital cable box coming into the digital ins. I can listen to any of these sources just by turning the 400F on, I don’t need to fire up the DAW software first and the master output volume is still controlled by the control room volume pot on the way to my powered monitors.

          “Also, I read on another forum that there are plans for the 400f to be controlled as a standalone mixer with the MCU. Any roadmap as to how this functionality will be implemented?”

          This will hopefully come to fruition one day, but again I do not have a specific timeline for it, and it has never been officially advertised anywhere in print. So, I would want people to buy the 400F on its current merits, and treat that capability, when or if it arrives, as “icing on the cake”

          In general, this Mackie Control “MCU mode” you mentioned would complete the big picture, along with effects. It would work as follows:

          Aforementioned DSP effects would be implemented and would allow the DSP mixer to have the same type of effects as a Yamaha 01V, etc.

          We would offer (for sale on the website) a Lexan overlay to put on the MCU so you know what buttons do what.

          You’d connect the 400F and the MCU together with 2 MIDI cables, no computer in sight.

          And at that point, the MCU/400F combo would basically be a small format, 10 channel digital mixer, much like a Yamaha 01V, Tascam TMD-1000, etc, just in 2 pieces instead of 1. The MCU’s screen would be used to give you feedback on channel levels, effect settings, aux sends pan positions, utility menus, etc.

          We would love some feedback from you guys if this MCU mode would be useful to you. Basically, you could take the 400F and the MCU and mix a small show at a club, as long as the interface and channel count were acceptable to your needs.

          Whew! That was a lot of typing. I think I’ve earned tonight’s sushi now!

          Comment


          • #65
            Dan,

            Thanks for your comments. One thing I won't knock Mackie on is deadication to their products!

            For spdif optical, I already have the afformentioned midiman co2 coax-optical converter, just hate pulling it out, and an extra set of digital io would have been nice to give the unit a more swiss army knife appeal. No biggy though. I really don't need the extra expandability of lightpipe io, and I realize the cost to add it (licensing from Alesis, etc) and don't want to pay for it.

            After re-optimizing my powerbook and DP settings and using the 'low' priority setting, I'd say I am pretty happy with the performance of my onyx firewire card in DP. Hope the 400f will perform as good or better.

            Good to know I can remove the rack ears. Probably will do this until you guys come out with a perfectly matched 1u shallow rack bag with laptop pocket and accesory pocket(s) with the Mackie logo on it

            Comment


            • #66
              Originally posted by Dan Steinberg
              We would love some feedback from you guys if this MCU mode would be useful to you. Basically, you could take the 400F and the MCU and mix a small show at a club, as long as the interface and channel count were acceptable to your needs.


              I really dig this idea. Any way to have a single MCU control multiple 400F's at once?

              Comment


              • #67
                Originally posted by Dan Steinberg


                It is still a goal to do this, but I can not really say when we expect this to be ready. Up until now it has been more of a priority to have rock solid Mac and PC operation at low buffer sizes, as well as work on multiple box support. Once multiple box support for Windows is done we should have more time to dive back into this.

                To give a little more detail on what effects we’d hope to have, it would be stuff designed to make the DSP mixer act more like a standard digital mixer. EQ and compression on each channel strip, plus a couple of effects loops fed by aux sends on each channel, with a choice of reverbs chorus delays, etc.

                But, lest we be accused of not thinking outside the box, we are open to suggestions about what you’d like to see running on that DSP chip. If you have a good idea, we are all ears.



                Hello all first post here, and I would like to start by thanking both Mr. Anderton and Mr. Steinberg for their time and effort.

                Now some questions and comments for Mr. Steinberg.

                Where to start...

                O.K. As I've followed this thread I've seen others refer to certain dealbreakers, to each his own I guess. I would like to focus on features that I feel will be dealmakers.

                First on my list is multiple box support for pc, I think for me two of these would be better than a 1200f. It will in fact be one or the other for me. So If you could elaborate a bit on this feature please do. For instance was this unit designed with this feature in mind from day one? Will I need to run two instances of the control panel? What will be the proper way to hook two of these up together, would they be chained together w/one cable to the computer?

                Next, I cannot help but feel that the inclusion of the DSP chip in this unit is the real wildcard here. How much DSP horsepower is still yet to be used?

                As far as what to use it on, I would say...

                1= compression.
                A great sounding one!!! that can switch from opto to vca with a vintage/modern option.

                2= E.Q.
                Sound quality, versitility and ease of use are the key here. And mabey an option for clean/character.

                3= Pre adc soft limiter/ tape emulation type thingy.
                Again simply make it sound great and be adjustable.


                4= reverb/delay.
                I would not waste any DSP horsepower on this, if anything mabey a really simple verb for monitoring while tracking.


                Thats it, simple really just make these available for TRACKING and mixing and you will have an absolute MONSTER!!!!

                I would also like to know if the 1200f will have more DSP power in the box?

                Thanks again to you both and keep up the good work.

                next time,
                jfg

                Comment


                • #68
                  Let me chime in here and say that plugins handled by the 400F's DSP processor would be AWESOME, and I really like the idea of a channel strip plugin, similar to what's bundled with the Yamaha 01V/i88x. Also, I would rather see just a couple really high-quality plugs, as opposed to a bunch of mediocre ones. It seems that Mackie has done everything possible to make the 400F a very high-quality unit, despite it's low cost. I would hope to see the same bang-for-your-buck quality with whatever plugs that are bundled with the unit.

                  I think the ability to pair the 400F with the MCU would be a great way to add functionality. A definite plus in my eyes.

                  Also, Dan, I am one who is familiar with the Gearslutz "brittle D/A" thread. I want you to know that all the reviews I read are taken with a grain of salt: obviously everything is subjective. That said, you should also know that for whatever negative things the poster in question had to say about the quality of the D/A on the 400F, he rated everything else very highly, with pre's, A/D, and ease-of-use better than the RME FireFace. He suggested purchasing the 400F along with a nicer outboard D/A, saying that combo would without a doubt top the FireFace, and come in at around the same price. That's very high praise, since the FireFace is pretty much the current standard against which all other high-level firewire interfaces are measured. It's all the more remarkable when you consider that you can get two 400F's for the price of a single FireFace!

                  I would definitely be interested, if you had the time, Dan, in a review of the D/A on the 400F versus the Lucid9624 D/A, since that is exactly the unit I would consider purchasing along with the 400F, if I decide the D/A on the Mackie is not for me.

                  I hope this post doesn't in any way sound very critical of the 400F. All-in-all, everything that I've read is VERY positive on the unit, and it seems that you have set a new value-standard for firewire interfaces, at the very least. That you have produced an interface that competes if not surpasses the FireFace at half the cost is VERY impressive, and I will be purchasing a 400F soon.

                  Speaking of which, are there any updates coming out soon, for which I should hold off my purchase?

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    I agree with my fellow forumers in that I would definitely prefer QUALITY over QUANITY for the DSP effects. Additionally, making the DSP available for both tracking AND mixing is very important.

                    In addition to their great ideas, I have a few suggestions:

                    The ultimate effect that I could possibly dream up is the "Make my song NOT suck" plugin.

                    Okay, all kidding aside, would it at all be realistic to have any modeling simulations (preamps, mics, guitar cabs)?

                    What about guitar/bass specific effects like flanger, wah, crunch (going DI into the 400f, the instrument signal would be split, and one would remain dry, while the other would be wet)?

                    In terms of the 'standard' plugs, in addition to the manual controls, I'd appreciate several templates (ie: for compression, have presets for various vocal styles, slap/funk bass vs. upright bass vs. jazz bass, strings, de-esser, soft + hard knee settings, etc).

                    Well, there's my 5 cents...I'm sure i'll have more thoughts later, but some general ideas to shoot at ya. But overall, I'd rather have 5 top notch effects than 15 mediocre ones.

                    Thanks,

                    Jon

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      I wouldn't want to see Mackie go in the direction of guitar effects...they're too subjective, and I'd rather see the bandwidth spent on really good dynamics control and EQ...and maybe a reverb.
                      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                      • #71
                        Okay, it's Sunday night and all that and I wasn't planning on posting anything, but just had a couple points.

                        1. The MIDI works fine. I've been using it all day with Reason. No surprise, I realize that, but thought I should mention this for the sake of completeness.

                        2. The Onyx 400F does not run hot at all. Very slightly warm, maybe, but it definitely doesn't feel like any component lives are being shortened in the slightest by heat. I don't think it's an issue of the all-metal case dissipating heat; it just seems to be pretty conservative thermal engineering.

                        I'm still not hearing brittle, BTW. I'm beginning to think that if the 400F had been the only interface in the world, then new ones were introduced, people would consider the new ones "muffled." The 400F does have presence, but more and more, I think the "single coil/humbucker" analogy is what's going on here.
                        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                        • #72
                          Originally posted by ticohans
                          I think the ability to pair the 400F with the MCU would be a great way to add functionality. A definite plus in my eyes.

                          Also, Dan, I am one who is familiar with the Gearslutz "brittle D/A" thread. I want you to know that all the reviews I read are taken with a grain of salt: obviously everything is subjective. That said, you should also know that for whatever negative things the poster in question had to say about the quality of the D/A on the 400F, he rated everything else very highly, with pre's, A/D, and ease-of-use better than the RME FireFace. He suggested purchasing the 400F along with a nicer outboard D/A, saying that combo would without a doubt top the FireFace, and come in at around the same price. That's very high praise, since the FireFace is pretty much the current standard against which all other high-level firewire interfaces are measured. It's all the more remarkable when you consider that you can get two 400F's for the price of a single FireFace!

                          I would definitely be interested, if you had the time, Dan, in a review of the D/A on the 400F versus the Lucid9624 D/A, since that is exactly the unit I would consider purchasing along with the 400F, if I decide the D/A on the Mackie is not for me.

                          FWIW – and not to undermine your opinion but just to be fair to “what’s out there” - the reports of brittle-sounding conversion on the 400f are not limited to a lone user at Gearslutz.

                          But as has been pointed out, it’s hard to tell when a vocal minority is dissing a product or whether an opinion voiced by multiple users from the trenches is valid. I suppose it’s all about keeping a grain of salt handy for ALL occasions (including when someone appears in a forum for the first time to defend a product!).

                          For whatever it’s worth, I love Mackie gear. For me, Mackie wins the sixth player of the year award – in my setup, it’s not a starter, but when it comes off the bench, it does its job.

                          One of the things I like about the 400 is its all-in-one-ness: All those functions stuffed into one neat package. So, I really don’t follow the logic of buying a 400f and an additional converter. If someone is not happy with sound of the 400f, and would add the bulk and expense of another converter, that just doesn’t make sense to me when you could put the extra money into a higher-end all-in-one and get just what you want.

                          For me, these super-convenient all-in-one interfaces are “sweet spot” products – people buy them because they hit the nail on the head. And since there’s a range of units out there, there are plenty of nails to choose from. And certainly the 400f seems like a nail with a pretty big head. I might even buy one of these suckers myself to use with my laptop as a portable rig.

                          But to buy a 400f AND a redundant converter if the one in the 400f isn't adequate just doesn’t make sense to me when there are other all-in-ones that would give you everything you need in one neat package.

                          Maybe it’s also a philosophy – in the old days, it seemed that the more components, the better. But since quality is progressively NOT sacrificed for the sake of convenience, it seems that every day there are less compelling reasons to litter up a studio with boxes and cables.

                          FWIW, I appreciate all of Dan’s information. What a wonderful privilege to get info straight from the horse’s mouth. But I would not be interested in his “review” of a competitor’s product for reasons that are, you know, kind of obvious.

                          Also, FWIW (and in case you don't already think I'm a big enough jerk ), to repeat that someone speculated that adding an extra converter to a 400f would make it top the FireFace at half the price is meaningless speculation. Anyone can say anything. Which is why multiple opinions from the trenches - feedback from actual users actually using the equipment (God bless the internet!), and evaluations from known and respected reviewers who do not work for the companies they review (God bless the internet!) are so valuable.

                          -Peace, Love, and Brittanylips

                          Comment


                          • #73
                            But to buy a 400f AND a redundant converter if the one in the 400f isn't adequate just doesn’t make sense to me when there are other all-in-ones that would give you everything you need in one neat package.


                            ...not for the price of the 400f + outboard D/A.
                            Nope, not even close!

                            Does it make sense now?

                            - P

                            Comment


                            • #74
                              Dan,

                              Thanks for taking the time to address everyone's comments on this. I think it is really commendable when manufacturer reps can actually offer insightful comments about their own products without having to flame their competitors. It inspires some integrity regarding the business practices of an organization.

                              I must admit, I really like the idea of the MCU being compatible with the 400f to bypass a computer for small rehearsal + recording or live applications. Like others have indicated, I would like to see the DSP be capable of handling high quality compression, EQ and reverb. I think the domain of various instrument specific effects and emulation be left to those who focus on that specifically.

                              In my humble opinion, the 400f and onyx mixers already pack a lot of bang for the buck in terms of features, but I'd much rather they concentrate on the quality of the signal going in and channel strip function DSP and do it well.

                              Personally I'm leaning towards the 400F myself. Seems an incredibly versatile unit, and capable of some field recording with a laptop and as Dan said, DSP and control with the MCU would really complete the picture here and change the landscape of the competition in terms of an integrated control surface and interface in that it would have a much more powerful mixing engine. I hope Mackie does implement a roadmap to this, but regardless the 400f is a very versatile product and there are not many in its class for the price to performance ratio.

                              But being a technoweenie, I'm not happy until i've researched and exhausted all options, so just to mix things up a bit though, I'm going to throw another curveball. Any idea on how this product compares to the audiofire units from the 400f's co-designers at Echo? The design of the 400f appears to be a direct sibling of the audiofire 8, save only 2 different mic pres and 96khz as opposed to 128kHz. I'd be interested in how these two units compare.

                              Craig and Dan, as always your comments are welcome. (hope i'm not getting under your skin too much yet).

                              Cheers.

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                Originally posted by Pleasant
                                ...not for the price of the 400f + outboard D/A.
                                Nope, not even close!

                                Does it make sense now?

                                Not to me. As I see it: buy something and be happy with it. I wouldn't buy something knowing that I needed to buy something else to compensate for what I perceived as a flawed component. For me, I like to love my equipment in its entirety!

                                There's so much stuff out there in the "all-in-one department," there's really no need to cobble stuff together. You can get just what you want! And I'm sure that for many people, the 400f is just what they want. But if you're not happy with its converters (if that's your opinion), you CAN get something else for the price of a 400f + outboard D/A, if that's what floats your boat. Alternatively, if you love the 400f and want an external D/A, well then do that! That's what makes horseracing, as they say.

                                -PL&B

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