Can it truly elevate your sound game?
I'm going to take the rare TL;DR approach to this review and start with my conclusions first, as everything after this into is purely qualitative; unless you have a specific need unorthodox routing, you will likely not do better than the Mackie ProFX12v3 analog mixer I reviewed without spending 3x its street price. It does carry the legacy "Mackie" sound, which has its detractors, but much like the iPhone camera lens, the handful of purists who decry it are dwarfed by the masses (i.e. audiences), who view it as the sound of live music.
What You Need to Know
The Mackie ProFX12v3 mixer I reviewed is the third generation release of its ProFX analog mixer series (V2 was released in 2015, V1 in 2012), building on the platform of affordable but professional solutions for small clubs and venues, houses-of-worship, and self-mixing musicians and bands. The line has been a mainstay in small-to-mid level house mixing for nearly a decade now, and it has Mackie's workhorse reputation fore reliability, function, and durability. While my review was limited to a few weeks of hands-on time, my experience left me confident that the v3 update does nothing to put that reputation at risk.
The three biggest updates in the V3 line of ProFX mixers are the upgrade from Onyx-inspired Vita preamp to the real-deal Onyx preamp, a complete HD overhaul of the effects engine, and the inclusion of Pro Tools First.
The foundation of the ProFX3 stays true to the series ethos- a simple, full-featured analog mixer with built-in effects, single-knob channel compression, inserts, and more. Here’s the high-level from the manufacturers-
Mackie ProFX12v3 Professional Effects USB Mixer Features:
· GigFX effects engine delivers 24 effects including reverbs, delays, and choruses
· 7 Mackie Onyx mic preamps deliver clear signal and 60dB of gain
· Rugged design will stand up to the wear and tear of the road
· 3 Band EQ and 100Hz low-cut filter on all channels
· Built-in channel compression
· 48-volt phantom power on all mic channels
· 24-bit/192kHz A/D for unmatched audio quality
· USB for playback music and recording into your computer
· Balanced XLR and balanced/unbalanced outputs
· Headphone output has separate volume control for comfortable monitoring
The Mackie ProFX12v3 I reviewed has Onyx preamps, which are renowned for crisp, clean, quiet amplification at a relatively low price point (their original pitch was “boutique sound at an affordable price”), on seven of the twelve available channels. These preamps are rated to 60dB and were all exceedingly low noise, even when being intentionally punished for “from the board” fuzz. If price weren't an object, there are more colorful or open preamps available, but one channel of those would cost more than the entire unit I reviewed; I didn’t find a single case during my evaluation in different environments where the preamps were ever less than stellar, let alone “in the way”. There are some frequencies (especially in the upper-mids) that feel a bit stiff in isolation, but the moment you bring a full performance into a room those are invisible.
The new effects engine, branded GigFX High-Resolution Effects Engine, which is the onboard selection of effects that can be applied at the channel or master level, is made up of 24 effects that are mostly ambient or time-based, with a sprinkling of modulation and filtering. As an audio experimentalist, I'm always a fan of getting weird, but these effects are appropriate and well tuned to enhance a sound, not warp and twist it. Adding doubling to vocals, a little "room" to the guitars, or slap-back to fill out the drums, I was happy with what I was able to dial in. While I would want more if this was my sole recording/mixing platform, these are intended for live use and excel at subtle enhancement.
The workflow is WYSIWYG, and any musician or engineer will likely access everything they need with a physical knob, from the front of the unit. Essentially, describing the ProFX experience is like MIXING 101. Easy.
While I did dive into Pro Tools First in the evaluation of the unit, I feel discussing it as a part of the review is beyond the scope of helping people evaluate the unit. Yes, it's Pro Tools, Yes, it's good. Yes, you'll almost certainly decide to upgrade to a full version if you put the time into learning Pro Tools First. It's a heck of a value to include (the plugins themselves list for more than the cost of the mixer), and if you don't already have a DAW it's a great entry. The effects plugins for the unit are great (I especially enjoyed the 304 series EQ and compression), although I was left wondering how many live applications would allow these plugins to shine.
If you’re a touring musician who provides their own sound, you’ll be pleased to hear the chassis is rugged and all the physical components felt solid and well protected. Additional side-protection is built into the unit, and short of protecting the slider-side from upside-down spills I didn’t see a thing that would keep my from trusting the units on the road. There are optional rackmount kits, dust covers, and protective bags available for the unit.
The flexibility of the unit extends beyond its core function of live mixing, and in those areas (especially recording) the limitations may become more hinderance than benefit.
For anything short of a professional recording studio or massive live venue, I’m hard-pressed to think of how the Mackie ProFX12v3 analog mixing console wouldn’t have you covered. At the price point (heck, even without the price point) it is a workhorse that just does everything well. There are more powerful, more customizable, and more expensive boards out there that may by more up your alley, but for 90% of the players and venues I know, Mackie brings the thunder. - HC -
Mackie ProFx3 Series Mixers Product Page
Buy Mackie ProFXv2 Series Mixers at Sweetwater (Reviewed Model $429.00 MSRP, $329,00)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.