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Mackie Onyx Satellite FireWire Audio Interface


Anderton
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Originally posted by Dan Steinberg

Mike Rivers mentioned
"However, once the Firewire port becomes active (like when you connect it to the computer), the analog outputs (both the front panel headphone jacks and the rear panel CR jacks) go away. So while you can monitor with headphones while you're setting up (it's always a good idea to listen to what your mics are picking up before you press RECORD) you're deaf once you connect the pod to the computer. "


Not true, I promise. All outputs absolutely, positively stay active when the unit is connected through Firewire, all phones jacks, all control room and line level outs. So, I am not sure why Mike is having trouble, but I can safely say that it is not from a design decision, and we have never experienced this issue here

Well, all is forgiven, sort of. Blame it on my ignorance of the program (Sound Forge) that I was using with the Satellite.

 

I broke down and started up Tracktion that I still had installed on that computer, figuring that if it doesn't work with Mackie's own program, it's broke. I enabled "end-to-end" in both places (we'd been through that) and sure enough I could hear myself, but with a huge delay. But we all know about that, don't we? Any fewer than 1024 samples latency and it was click city. This doesn't make for very comfortable monitoring even if you're not overdubbing. Maybe with a long enough mic cable. ;)

 

Going back to Sound Forge, well, you'd think that when there was a check box that said "Monitor" and you checked it, you'd be monitoring. Well, apparently that button only means "monitor on the meter" and all the way down at the bottom of the screen where I wasn't looking (because I thought I had already found the button to enable monitoring), there's a check box that says "Enable audio input monitoring." Duh! I've had some unpleasant words to say about difficulty in finding my way throuhg Sound Forge (I had it for a review), and I guess I need to look for yet another new word.

 

I'm not a DAW user, so I don't appreciate how difficult it is to either get the delay down to something workable or living with. It says the buffer setting is 23 ms (1024 samples) but with everything going on, Sound Forge is giving me a monitor delay of about 93 ms. That's almost enough time to go out and get a cup of coffee.

 

But don't tell me how to solve this problem. There are pages and pages on the web about optimizing a PC for recordings, and I'm not really interested in using it this way, but you might be.

 

Apparently when the Satellite is out of its docking station, it automatically switches from direct input monitoring to monitoring through the DAW when the Firewire connection is made, (just as if you'd pushed the SOURCE./DAW button on the dock). This makes sense since you need to hear what's coming back from the DAW when overdubbing. But I sure miss direct input monitoring.

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The whine is gone! I downloaded the "CHUD" utility from Apple and unchecked "processor nap" like Craig suggested, and bam, no more whine. In fact, I can "toggle" the whine on and off with that checkbox. I think I'll choose....no whine.


Craig, you are officially my hero. I will be sending a copy of this file to the tech support folks, and having them post this solution on our forum, as well as using it to help out anyone who calls up.

 

The Mac solution is great.....if you're on a Mac.

 

For anyone who is thinking of buying a Mackie interface, I would definitely recommend going to the Mackie "support" forum first.

 

Not only do Mackie interfaces whine, but so do the customers (and rightly so).

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>

 

It's only some Macs, from what I understand, although I'm hoping some Macintel users will weigh in on the subject (I tested with a dual G5). I didn't have whine on a G4.

 

Also, I've never had any whine issues on my Windows desktop (ADK dual core) or laptop (Rain Recording Pentium-M). In fact, the reason why I tested the Satellite on the Mac was because after having no problems at all with the 400F while testing with Windows machines, I was determined to get that ephemeral whine problem people were talking about, and it seemed like the Mac would be the ticket. It was. After CHUD, it wasn't :)

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Some food for thought. The connector to the docking station looked to me like a fairly common style backplane connector. I opened up the pod and looked up the connector on the manufactuer's (Molex) web site. Yup, that's what it is, and it's specified for 500 insertion/removal cycles. That means it'll go 500 cycles before the contacts may no longer meet their specifications. That's not unreasonable for a card in a card cage where you swap out a card when it breaks, but I'm wondering if it's robust enough for something that's designed to be engaged and disengaged as part of its role in life.

 

So if you had one, how often do you think you'd unplug the pod from the dock? If you did it once a week to take it to the band rehearsal, that would be good for around 10 years - certainly good enough. But if you took it out to record something several times a week, then put it back in the dock when you got home, it might barely last long enough to get tired of it.

 

Of course after the connector wore out, you could use the pod without the dock, or if you really, really, really wanted it badly enough, replace the connectors.

 

So if you had one, how often would you use the little part by itself?

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First of all Mike, thanks for the excellent info. I've been warned that many devices claiming to deliver +48V don't, but hadn't measured the Satellite yet...so thanks for saving me the effort.

 

Second, regarding this comment:

 

>

 

I'm travelling right now, but I'm pretty sure the manual recommends that you use the pod and dock, or the pod by itself, as using just the dock doesn't provide all the options of using both together.

 

>

 

I don't think there's any way around that with the Satellite. To me, that's not a huge deal as the latency is sufficiently low it doesn't bug me, and for any signal source where I'm using plug-ins in the host, I'd prefer to hear their effects anyway. But you're right, if you have to listen to the DAW with zero latency monitoring from the Satellite, there's really no option, like a little mixer applet.

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Research above and beyond the call of duty on that Molex connector :)

 

I wonder if those specs are a guaranteed minimum, average value, worst case, or what. I'll assume guaranteed minimum, in which case whether that was an acceptable figure or not would really matter how you planned to use the connect/disconnect feature. I imagine one typical scenario would be to use the dock/satellite with a desktop machine, and the satellite with a laptop. Then it would boil down to how often do you do remote laptop recording...or if you wanted to take it on vacation.

 

I'm also assuming the "remote recording" angle because the Satellite doesn't have MIDI, but does have the really nice mic pres.

 

I can't speak for Mackie, so hopefully someone from Mackie will chime in. But my assumption is that Mackie saw the Satellite as a way to appeal to someone who wanted a desktop interface and mobile interface, and would be willing to pay a little more than either one by itself in order to have both.

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Originally posted by Anderton

And for those who want to see what Mike is talking about . .

And here's the data sheet.

I wonder if those specs are a guaranteed minimum, average value, worst case, or what. I'll assume guaranteed minimum, in which case whether that was an acceptable figure or not would really matter how you planned to use the connect/disconnect feature.

I think that's correct, it's a guaranteed minimum, but it's also statistical. The manufacturer would probably give you a new one if yours wore out in fewer than 500 insertions, but whether Mackie is willing to guarantee it (and give you a new Satellite or a free repair job) - not too likely. Besides, who counts, unless it's the person whose job is to test it and come up with the specification for the connector? ;) I'm guessing that when it leaves the dock will be when it goes to a recording gig away from home, but maybe even just to the back yard to record the crickets. Someone who figures they'll leave it in the dock except for recording the band gig every couple of months will be fine with it.

I don't think there's any way around that [monitoring through the DAW] with the Satellite. To me, that's not a huge deal as the latency is sufficiently low it doesn't bug me, and for any signal source where I'm using plug-ins in the host, I'd prefer to hear their effects anyway. But you're right, if you have to listen to the DAW with zero latency monitoring from the Satellite, there's really no option, like a little mixer applet.

With gentle application of a sledge hammer to the computer, I managed to get it to record a glitchless stereo track with the latency set to 128 samples. I haven't tried multitracking. With this setting, the throughput delay is down to around 30 ms.

 

But wait! There's more! Even with the monitor button on the dock set to SOURCE, the audio still goes through the A/D and D/A converters and whatever else it passes through in the big chip to get from input to output. The minimum input-output delay is about 1 ms. That's what I call "low latency monitoring" but not "no latency monitoring." It won't throw your playing off, but you can get comb filtering at your ears when the delayed sound from the headphones mixes with the acoustic sound coming up to the other side of your eardrum through your throat. Most people don't notice this because they monitor too loud and the headphones swamp out the acoustic sound, but at the right monitor level, it's noticable. Of course this isn't recorded, but it bothers some singers.

 

And here's another tidbit about the phantom power. I checked the current, and it tops out at 4 mA per leg. To meet the IEC standard for phantom powering, it should be able to supply 10 mA total (5 mA per leg - DC-wise pins 2 and 3 are in parallel so you get double the current). Doing a little extrapolation and applying Ohm's Law, I believe that they have the official correct value (6.8K) resistors in series with the phantom power source. If there was 48V going to the resistors, you'd have the full amount of current available. And, no, I (still) can't tell you what mics it will or won't work with, but be aware that you might eventually run into one that wants more voltage or current.

 

Also, for the benefit of anyone who actually reads the manual and follows the typical hookup diagrams, there are a couple of incorrectnesses with the diagrams on pages 13 and 14. On page 13, there's a stereo guitar effect processor with its outputs connected to line inputs 1-2 on Channel 1, and a (stero I assume since it has two outputs) keyboard with its outputs connected to line inputs 1-2 on channel 2.

 

That won't give you stereo on either one. The cables need to cross, so the guitar processor's outputs are connected to, for example, line input 1 on channels 1 and 2, and the keyboard's outputs are connected to line input 2 on channels 1 and 2. That allows you to record the guitar or the keyboard in stereo by selecting either line input 1 or 2 on both channels. Or, if you can get the levels balanced, record a mix of the two by pressing all four buttons.

 

I don't quite understand the application on Page 14 (two video decks in, and surround out) but I'm assuming tha tthe video deck's outputs are stereo, and therefore each deck should go to channels 1 and 2, not two inputs on one channel. The diagram on Page 16 (stereo output from an iPod and a TV set) is correct. Perhaps things got a little too crowded with all those wires in the other diagrams and the artist took a shortcut, or a donut break.

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These are more of academic interest, but in the interest of interest, I present for your amusement:

 

Since the "straight through" signal path goes through the A/D and D/A converters, its bandwidth is naturally limited by the sample rate. This is one of the reasons why higher sample rates are sometimes justified, and when it's set to run at 96 kHz, there's more high end than you or your dog can use. However, when the unit is running at 44.1 kHz, the high end drops off sharply at just above 21 kHz, and about 23.1 kHz at 48 kHz sample rate.

 

The Satellite wakes up at 48 kHz and that's where it remains when it's not talking to the driver via Firewire and told to switch to a different rate. Therefore, be aware that when the pod is used barefoot as an outboard analog mic preamp, the top end rolls off at 23 kHz

 

This falls more into the realm of investigative journalism than truly useful information, but It's worth noting if you're inclined to use the pod by itself as an auxilary preamp, for example, to provide a couple more mic inputs for a mixer like the Mackie Onyx 1220 or 1620 that doesn't have a mic preamp on every channel. If you think you're getting extended high end in your recording by running the mixer at 96 kHz, remember that the mic channels that go through the Satellite preamps will be limited to 23 kHz. In real life, that's probably just fine, but if you're the sort that believes that there's something to record up there and your mics are good enough to capture it, do it through the mixer's mic channels and not through the Satellite.

 

Another thing that's more academic than likely to be a practical problem is crosstalk between the channels. With a test signal connected to any input of channel 1 and the input gain fully up on channel 2, the channel 1 signal apears in channel w, not just in the monitor, but it gets recorded. At 100 Hz, this crosstalk is a fairly reasonable 60 dB down, but (as is typical of crosstalk) it rises with frequency, being only about 30 dB down at 10 kHz.

 

This appears to be due to some internal coupling. It doesn't matter which input on the dock is selected (or no input selected), even with a shorting plug connected to the selected input, with one exception. Interestingly, with a mic connected to channel 2 and the mic input is selected, the crosstalk level drops substantially, to a tolerable -55 dB at 10 kHz and a respectable (practically down in the noise) -70 dB at 100 Hz.

 

I didn't record all the data in the other direction (driving channel 2 and looking for crosstalk in channel 1) but a quick check shows that it's essentially the same in that direction.

 

Just a couple more things to worry about. ;)

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Originally posted by MikeRivers


Since the "straight through" signal path goes through the A/D and D/A converters, its bandwidth is naturally limited by the sample rate. This is one of the reasons why higher sample rates are sometimes justified, and when it's set to run at 96 kHz, there's more high end than you or your dog can use. However, when the unit is running at 44.1 kHz, the high end drops off sharply at just above 21 kHz, and about 23.1 kHz at 48 kHz sample rate.


The Satellite wakes up at 48 kHz and that's where it remains when it's not talking to the driver via Firewire and told to switch to a different rate. Therefore, be aware that when the pod is used barefoot as an outboard analog mic preamp, the top end rolls off at 23 kHz

 

Bummer, so there's no way to bypass the converters if you're using it as an outboard pre? I don't suppose there's a SPDIF connection either if you want to use it as an outboard pre on a digital console that doesn't have firewire, and avoid another stage of conversion.

 

Anyhow, once again great info, Mike! Yes there are a few of us who actually care about these things. ;)

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Originally posted by Lee Flier
Bummer, so there's no way to bypass the converters if you're using it as an outboard pre? I don't suppose there's a SPDIF connection either if you want to use it as an outboard pre on a digital console that doesn't have firewire, and avoid another stage of conversion.

No S/PDIF, but if you just want to use the preamp, you can take the output from the Insert Send jack on the docking station. That's ahead of the A/D converter and it's got all the high frequency response you'd ever want. It's 3 dB down at about 400 kHz (Sir Rupert would be proud), which I think is going just a bit too far and should be rolled off so it doesn't pass radio stations.

 

The pod doesnt' have an insert jack, however, so if you want to use it as an analog preamp, you have to deal with more bulk and an unbalanced output that maxes out at +18 dBu.

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Originally posted by MikeRivers

No S/PDIF, but if you just want to use the preamp, you can take the output from the Send jack on the docking station. That's ahead of the A/D converter and it's got all the high frequency response you'd ever want. It's 3 dB down at about 400 kHz (Sir Rupert would be proud), which I think is going just a bit too far and should be rolled off so it doesn't pass radio stations.

 

Excellent... LOL... :D Well that works, at least there's a way to do it. I am really curious to hear these preamps.

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Originally posted by Lee Flier

Well that works, at least there's a way to do it. I am really curious to hear these preamps.

If you've heard an Onyx mixer, you've heard the preamps, at least I'm pretty sure of that. Though I haven't seen a Satellite schematic, the Satellite preamps test identically to those in my Onyx mixers - same gain, same 400 kHz frequency response at the direct output, same 1 dB rolloff at 20 Hz or so at maximum gain, flatter down lower at 10 dB less gain. This is a considerable improvement over the VLZ-Pro, which is about -3 dB at 20 Hz at full gain - they cheaped out on a capacitor in that design.

 

While the Satellite has some interesting ergonomic features, and I have no quibbles at all with how it sounds, if Mackie preamps are what you're looking for, you don't need a pocket-sized 2-channel Firewire interface, and can afford about double the footprint, the Onyx 1220 mixer might be a better buy. The satellite is $400, the mixer $530.

 

With the mixer, you get four preamps (with individually switchable real 48V phantom power and insert jacks) plus four stereo line inputs, EQ on all channels (with a bypass switch), faders, pans, mutes, low cut filter, balanced direct (pre-fader/EQ recording) ouptuts, and the option of adding a Firewire interface if you need it.

 

The other day I was showing the Satellite to a friend who has a weekly radio show and has been thinking about setting up a facility at home to pre-record it when she needs to do that (though she really likes working live). As we were talking, I realized that it doesn't have a mono button. While the direct left and right input routing is fine for CD players, she needs a mic in the center which would require a Y cable to split it to both mic inputs. I haven't checked the buttons for clicks, but I suspect that pushing faders up and down would be quieter. And it's easier to adjust the level from a CD with a single stereo fader than two rotary knobs.

 

So, like so many other pieces of gear, you really need to figure out why you like it, and then decide if it's the best (or only) thing that fits that need or lust.

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Originally posted by Anderton

One thing about Pro Reviews is once a company tries one, they want to do it again. That’s a good sign, and this one is particularly interesting because Mackie holds the record for the most number of posts ever in the Pro Review for their Onyx 400F (which still, almost a year after its start, is still getting posts).


There were a few reasons why this so: First of all, it's a good piece of gear that potentially fit a lot of users needs, so they wanted to find out more about it. Second, there were a lot of interesting "sidebars" about audio quality, conversion, phase linearity, and the like. Third, although the majority of users reported no problems, a small group experienced weird FireWire "whines" and some other issues that stubbornly resisted solutions. Oddly, this seemed to be pretty much a Mac-only phenomenon, and only certain Mac models at that.

:confused:

 

At Mike River’s suggestion, I harvested the thread for stats on page 22. I found that the overwhelming majority of 400f users reported problems, and multiple, non-mac-related problems at that. Of 22 actual users (removing the single most negative and positive response):

 

- 10% were happy campers

- 30% were satisfied but with reservations / problems

- 60% were unhappy and reported multiple problems, from wobbly knobs to multiple hum and whine issues, insufficient gain issues, driver issues, etc.

 

The value of this brilliant format is that regular users post their views. I cannot recall any product that has generated so many negative ones. And they continue, unsolicited. Just the other day, I noticed that someone posted in the ever-popular ITB thread: “I've been thinking of switching from Paris, and so I've been testing out a Mackie 400f (which, turns out, has noise when the phantom power is switched on ).” Another user, another problem.

 

I have no axe to grind, and am able to filter out the crusaders whose bad experience has driven them to complain loudly. But I find the number of average users reporting problems with the 400f to be stunning. And because this is entry-level gear, there are undoubtedly novice users unable to distinguish between a hardware problem and their own inexperience.

 

I am therefore baffled by your summary. Have I misunderstood?

 

-peaceloveandbrittanylips

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Hi Guys - sorry I have not had a chance to post again earlier - I have been super busy over here at Mackie HQ.

 

Dan and I have been catching up with the review - thanks Mike for the in depth analysis and advice - I always know when we send you a product to test it will get the thorough checkout, inside and out, that it deserves.

 

Dan is feverishly typing our comments regarding the phantom power levels and driver developments and I would like to address the concerns that Brittanylips has raised.....

 

Satellite is our third generation firewire I/O product based on the latest technology, therefore an entirely different chipset and architecture than our second-generation firewire product - the 400F. We have shipped thousands of 400F's so far around the world exceeding our own forecasts and the vast majorities of users are happy and consider the product to be a market leader for sound quality. With all that said, please keep in mind that forums by nature can be perceived as negative - they are after all a primary resource for people seeking solutions to problems. Customers that are happily creating music with their products are drastically less inclined to spend the time to post.........:-) We believe very strongly in the 400F and will continue to develop enhancements, and in doing so, support both current and future Mackie customers.

 

With any technology product that is produced in these volumes the chances of issues arising with small numbers of units does exist. Here at Mackie we pride ourselves on the fact that we have an industry leading support team who take their jobs very personally and are willing to go 'the extra mile' to ensure customer satisfaction. Mike Rivers has known us all a long time and I am sure he will vouch for our integrity in dealing with these matters as quickly and completely as we can. We also consider our own forums - which we run with a very open policy not shared by most of our competitors - to be a resource for both us and our customers and this has proved to be a major benefit throughout the years. So, with that in mind, I am very happy to read both Craig’s and Mike’s positive feedback for the new Satellite interface and I am very much looking forward to reading feedback from other Satellite users as this thread progresses.

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I am therefore baffled by your summary. Have I misunderstood?>>

 

No, but I should give a full-length explanation rather than a summary. I didn't harvest the thread, and didn't do totals of who liked or didn't like the 400F. And I don't know if my comments about the unsuitable performance with WDM drivers would put me in the "satisfied" or "with reservations" column. And if someone posted that they were very happy with the sound but had a problem with something like wobbly knobs, that to me would be more favorable than saying something had rock solid knobs but sounded like crap.

 

The thing is, one tends to see things through one's personal experiences. WDM driver issues aside, I thought the sound was great, the construction was excellent, and I had none of the whine or weird noise issues people experienced (although at the time, I did not have Mac set up, only Windows machines...and frankly, my ADK desktop computer is rock solid and seems to play very well with all other hardware I use with it, from interfaces to camcorders).

 

When the comments about problems started surfacing, I tried my best to make the 400F malfunction. I couldn't, and because I couldn't, I couldn't propose a fix for the problems people were having. As a result, I spent lots of time checking out other boards and comments about the 400F to see if maybe there was a common pattern to problems as I couldn't experience these for myself. My impression was that the whine thing seemed to be more of a problem with Macs that Windows machines. There were other complaints about the unit (like the sound being "brittle," or there not being enough level at the line ins), but I felt these were less relevant. Why? Because a lot of people didn't have problems with the sound quality or thought the sound quality was excellent, and the question of levels seemed to depend on what of gear you were using with it. The thread made it clear what to expect from the levels, so if it didn't fit your needs, you could pass. Ditto sound quality: If you didn't like it, you didn't have to buy it.

 

But the whine thing would be a deal-breaker. No matter how much you liked the preamp sound, or regardless of whether the level controls did the job, it didn't matter if there was an annoying whine.

 

I never was able to get the 400F to misbehave, and I can report only on my experience. When the review was over, Mackie donated the unit to a school that specializes in teaching music to kids. The unit got a real workout there for months, under varying conditions, with varying instruments and funky computers. It didn't misbehave there, either.

 

However, I don't give up easily. I was determined to experience the problems people were reporting, particularly after receiving a private email from an engineer (not from Mackie) who said in no uncertain terms that FireWire is a lousy choice for an interface to carry audio, and that a variety of problems are bound to crop up with interfaces that use FireWire. This was supported by posts in other threads on other sites about non-Mackie FireWire devices having whines. I started to feel that these whine issues were not unique to the 400F, although as I didn't have them, I couldn't help but wonder what the variable was.

 

This is why I tested the PreSonus Inspire 1394 with the Mac, and interestingly, had whine problems that ultimately were related to a graphics problem (and once that was fixed, my personal assessment of the Inspire went from negative to positive. But the unit itself didn't change; only the context in which it was installed). This was not easy to uncover: It took a lot of posts and having Presonus send me a total of three Inspires before I found the graphics-related glitch.

 

So, this is also why I tested the Onyx with the Mac: I was hoping lightning would strike twice. And it did. And the CHUD utility ended the problem. I don't know if this is exactly the problem others experienced, but it was a problem, and fortunately, it was fixable. I have since used the Onyx as the main interface for my Riffworks pro review, with no problems other than the possibility that it may not report latency correctly under OS X, leading to a slight cutoff at the beginning of a sequence. I will do more tests to see if this is indeed the case.

 

Ultimately, my impression after taking in the entire universe of Mackie 400F info that I had -- from this thread, from other threads, from Mackie regarding rates of return and so on -- was that indeed, "although the majority of users reported no problems, a small group experienced weird FireWire 'whines' and some other issues that stubbornly resisted solutions. Oddly, this seemed to be pretty much a Mac-only phenomenon, and only certain Mac models at that." (In retrospect, it may not have been clear when I wrote that sentence that by "this" I was referring specifically to the whine.)

 

My conclusion was not based on a statistical analysis of all the info I had, and I would have to agree that a Pro Review thread is definitely going to attract more people who are having problems and are in need of a solution. I experience this every day with magazines: People write when they're upset about something. They may see me at a trade show and say "Hey, I loved that article you did," but they'll rarely take the time to write that down.

 

The ultimate indicator of customer satisfaction, I believe, is how many units get returned. You do need to allow for people who don't bother to return something for whatever reason, but Mackie told me that had less than 1% returns on the 400F and I take that statistic at face value. Even assuming ten times that number either didn't return the units despite dissatisfaction or had probllems but kept the unit anyway because it worked "well enough," to me that still indicates that the majority of 400F owners were satisfied with their purchase on some level, and I'm sure of those, a percentage was very satisfied.

 

In the end, all I can say with absolute certainty is that had I bought the 400F, I would have been very satisfied and not returned it.

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Originally posted by Dan Steinberg

The whine is gone!



Now then, since some of you guys must have grown up along with me in the eighties and it's great B movies, who can be the first to tell us what C.H.U.D. really stands for?

 

Cannibalistic Humanoid Undergound Dwellers... great flick.

(In case this wasnt already answered.)

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Originally posted by Anderton
In the end, all I can say with absolute certainty is that had I bought the 400F, I would have been very satisfied and not returned it.

 

provided you bought a "properly working" unit. :)

 

i returned 2, and a client returned 1.

 

i think there has been great confusion with this whole "whine" thing. obviously some folks had some sort of firewire related noise. call it a whine, whatever. i never experienced that.

 

HOWEVER, and i believe this is the deeper problem, (as evidenced by the 400f thread and my own personal experience with 3 different units), some 400f's make a noise when NOT connected to any computer at all.

not PC, not mac, just a 400f connected to nothing but monitors or headphones.

since the word was out on the firewire "whine," i'd bet some folks heard this and just assumed it was 'cause of the firewire.

 

what i experienced: if you have no microphones plugged in, no computer connected, and you turn up channel 4, you got a buzz. turn off the phantom power and the buzz goes away. channel 1? clean as a whistle. channel 4? not so much. this wouldn't be such a big deal if you could turn off the phantom power on each channel.

 

hell, lots of home recording folks who bought a 400f and record one thing at a time may never have even used channel 4, and so never experienced a noise at all!

 

the 400f's that i had sounded great except for the noise issues. that was a deal breaker for me.

 

so here we are with a new mackie offering. curious if someone could test this new satellite in a similar fashion? i.e. turn the gain up on the preamps, with no computer connected, no microphones connected, and phantom power on. turn of the phantom. any differences?

 

also, how is the headphone level? on the defective 400f's i had, the level was low and exhibited a weird thing where there was distortion in the middle range of the volume control. at the very low and very high settings it was clear though.

 

and before anybody pisses all over me for mackie bashing, i OWN an onyx 1620 and love it. but it isn't the easiest thing to lug around, so i'd be curious about a satellite if it actually avoids the issues of the 400f. and/or if the 1200F EVER actually ships and really works, i'll buy one of those too. :)

 

-d. gauss

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Originally posted by d. gauss

curious if someone could test this new satellite in a similar fashion? i.e. turn the gain up on the preamps, with no computer connected, no microphones connected, and phantom power on. turn of the phantom. any differences?

I did. Initially I checked it out in the docking station, connected to the computer, and found no whine, with or without phantom power. I did give it a fair chance and terminated the inputs with a "dummy mic" - a 150 ohm resistor between pins 2-3 of an XLR connector - so I didn't pick up any EMI from the air.

 

When I tried the pod by itself, initially I heard no whine, whether or not it was connected to the computer. Then I discovered that when connected to the computer, there needed to be a DAW program running and set to Input Monitor in order to get some sound to the output jacks. When I did this, at full gain both at input and output, I did hear a very faint whine in the headphones, but I couldn't hear it from the monitors at my normal working distance of about four feet. Switching the phantom power on or off made no difference.

 

I made a recording of the dummy mics with the input gain up full, amplified it by 60 dB in the DAW, and saw no evidence of a whine when looking at it with a spectrum analyzer. So my conclusion was that at a normal monitor level setting, any whine that was present was well below the ambient noise level, and under no circumstances did a whine appear in a recording. I can certainly use it. It's much quieter than the hum and noise from the aging analog console that I use all the time.

also, how is the headphone level?

With a recording of music with peaks about 6 dB below full scale (a live recording, not from an ultra-compressed commercial CD) and Sony 7506 headphones, I had a comfortably loud level at about 2 o'clock on the headphone volume control. It was too loud for me to listen to when up full. My Fostex T20 headphones are a little quieter (and less bright so I can tolerate a highe level with them than with the Sony phones) I was able to tolerate the level with the headphone volume control up full, but I wouldn't want to work that way.

 

In either case, there was no audible whine in the headphones with the volume lower than one division below full scale. It was easier to hear the whine with the Sony phones than with the Fostex, probalby because of their exaggerated mid-high frequency response.

and before anybody pisses all over me for mackie bashing, i OWN an onyx 1620 and love it. but it isn't the easiest thing to lug around, so i'd be curious about a satellite if it actually avoids the issues of the 400f

I "lug around" a 1220 and have lugged around a 1620. I don't lug around a 1640. If you can live with just two inputs to the DAW, I see no reason not to use the Satellite. The pod can fit in most laptop computer bags.

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>

 

Yes, but don't forget you'll need the AC adapter if your laptop has a 4-pin firewire connection.

 

I should also add that the satellite part is not exactly lightweight, but the good news is that means it's built very solidly. And also, as the satellite has the mic pres, you get those nice pres out in the field.

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Originally posted by Anderton

Well Mike, you beat me to it, and you're doing a great job on the Pro Review
:)
:)


Anyway, my experiences parallel Mike's exactly. So if nothing else, at least we have very similar units.

I noticed something else whineworthy. When I had it in the dock and had the headphones plugged in to either headphone jack, swinging the Control Room volume pot around its 12 o'clock position, I thought I heard the whine change pitch and volume. Acutally what I was hearing was a little zipper noise in the phones. That's without it being connected to the computer.

 

When connected to the computer, the whine volume drops, and by jogging the CR volume pot around +/- one division, the whine definitely reduces in the middle of the swing. In fact, by jogging it around fast enough, about 2-3 cycles per second, the whine practically disappears.

 

Strange. Back in the old short wave receiver days, we called those things "birdies" - the result of a parasitic oscillation somewhere, usually a wire too close to the chassis that was acticng like a capacitor.

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Originally posted by James Woodburn

Dan is feverishly typing our comments regarding the phantom power levels and driver developments and I would like to address the concerns that Brittanylips has raised.....


Satellite is our third generation firewire I/O product based on the latest technology, therefore an entirely different chipset and architecture than our second-generation firewire product - the 400F. We have shipped thousands of 400F's so far around the world exceeding our own forecasts and the vast majorities of users are happy and consider the product to be a market leader for sound quality. With all that said, please keep in mind that forums by nature can be perceived as negative - they are after all a primary resource for people seeking solutions to problems. Customers that are happily creating music with their products are drastically less inclined to spend the time to post.........:-) We believe very strongly in the 400F and will continue to develop enhancements, and in doing so, support both current and future Mackie customers.


With any technology product that is produced in these volumes the chances of issues arising with small numbers of units does exist. Here at Mackie we pride ourselves on the fact that we have an industry leading support team who take their jobs very personally and are willing to go 'the extra mile' to ensure customer satisfaction. Mike Rivers has known us all a long time and I am sure he will vouch for our integrity in dealing with these matters as quickly and completely as we can.

I understand. But in this case, you agreed to participate in a format in which the views of regular users are solicited. The idea, as originally presented, was that the views of regular users have value. If you are inclined to dismiss them as without value, then why participate in this format?

 

No other Pro Review has generated such a negative response. Other Pro Reviews include accounts of users happily making music and reporting their positive experiences. So the phenomenon of largely negative reports is limited to the 400f, and did not occur with other products the underwent the same process.

 

Furthermore, something happened in that thread which is rare on the internet and worth noting. As you say, unhappy users often flock to the net to complain while happy users are busy making music (although the Pro Review format seems remarkably immune to this). However, in that thread, a large proportion of users express a predisposition to like the 400f. They begin with a favorable impression, reinforced by Craig’s positive experience. Then, as the thread continues, as they confront problem after problem, many change their opinion from positive to negative. A change of opinion is so rare in this type of forum, it is almost an historical event, like a flower that blossoms only once every 100 years, and is therefore particularly persuasive. These were not your typical internet complainers, they were not there to complain, and their views should not be dismissed as such.

 

You mentioned Mike Rivers as a reference for Mackie integrity. I’m not sure what this has to do with Mackie integrity or Mike Rivers. This is about whether the real-life experience of a majority of 400f users in that thread matters. As for Mackie’s integrity, frankly, I’m not sure what that really means, but personally, I would have to say that my own experience with Mackie has always been excellent. As for Mike Rivers, he makes no bones of his history with the company and appears to be on something of a Mackie crusade. So although I enjoy reading his posts and learn a lot from them, I am much more interested in what Craig has to say, and the views of regular users. While Mike debated them without having used the 400f, if we take seriously the premise of the Pro Review, and recognize that many of these people are entering the thread with a favorable predisposition, then any objective reading of that thread has to acknowledge that the 400f seems to be giving the people who are actually buying it an awful lot of grief.

 

Incidentally, when the FireFace 800 first came out, audio forums were rife with complaints about driver issues, and I knew to avoid it. RME fixed the driver issues, online response changed from negative to positive, and I accumulated one. While the initial negative feedback about the FireFace is nothing like the cacophony of negative reports inspired by the 400f, the point is the same: real-life users reporting their real-life experience has value. As does the evaluation of a Professional Reviewer. Ostensibly, the Pro Review says both components have value, and if you agree to take part in it, and benefit from its obvious publicity value, then you should be prepared to accept the results. A bunch of people volunteered their time, energy, and effort to describe their honest, genuine, actual experience and you dismiss that because you don’t like what turned up. If you will only accept positive opinions as valid, and justify away any negative ones, then you are degrading the format and pooping on the time, energy, and effort that a lot of people put into that thread.

 

In any case, even though I am bothered by your response (just as I understand why you are inclined to issue it), I have been a Mackie fan for many years and look forward to anything Mackie has to make, particularly future generations of this type of interface which, as you suggest, will only get better.

 

-peaceloveandbrittanylips

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