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Mackie 1202 Compact Mixer

Mackie Designs' 1202 mixer offers supreme flexibility, and the same standard of design and construction that distinguished the 1604. Dave Lockwood finds proof that the best things come in small packages.



You may recall that I thought rather highly of the Mackie 1604 desk when I reviewed it in these pages recently. The Micro Series 1202 from the same company is an ultra-compact 12-channel mic/line mixer designed and built to the same high standards, and it turns in a performance to match. I must admit I like the entire Mackie philosophy, both in concept and execution — the 1202 is just about the most efficient piece of audio product engineering you could wish to see.

Considering what it does, this mixer is almost unbelievably small — I have seen mixer manuals bigger than this chassis. Nevertheless, the upper section of the control surface is still used to mount the majority of the connectors in full view, which presents you with a convenient mini-patchbay. Rotary controls are used in place of channel faders, to save space, and another space-saving measure is the use of stereo channels. Only the first four inputs include mic amps and gain trims; the remaining four channels have dual inputs at line sensitivity, with one set of controls governing both sources. As on the 1604, level controls have 'click points', or mechanical detents, to mark the unity position, with 20dB of gain above that. This gives simple gain-structure optimisation and allows interfacing at either 'semi-pro' (-10dBu) or 'pro' (+4dBu) nominal level throughout the system.

THE CHANNEL



The 1202 channel strip is a simple enough affair, incorporating two post-fade (therefore post-EQ) auxiliaries, primarily for effects send usage (though the sends on the first four channels can be internally modified to pre-fade operation, making foldback use easier). On the stereo channels, the aux signal is a mono sum of the two inputs at their post-fade relative balance. 20dB of additional gain above unity in each individual send ensures sufficient level to interface with any type of device, despite the absence of conventional master controls for the Aux busses.

EQ



A simple 2-band, shelving characteristic EQ is employed (+/-15dB at 80Hz and 12kHz — just a little lower and a little higher than the 'standard' 100Hz/10kHz), with centre-detented controls. You're not going to do any radical rescue jobs with this EQ, but you can achieve some very effective general tonal shaping, subtle brightening, gentle HF noise reduction etc., without messing up the rest of the signal.

Pan on the stereo channels acts as a balance control between the two sides. This in fact allows you to retain independent level control over the sources on that channel, in spite of the ganged gain pot.

There is a master control for headphone monitoring level and another ganged pot governing the main stereo bus outputs, capable of driving +4dBu lines with 24dB of headroom. As on the 1604, the Mackie's headphone output is particularly clean and powerful, in marked contrast to some compact systems. There seems no reason why you shouldn't alternatively use this to drive a power amp for speaker monitoring (indeed, that is just what I did, without problems). The use of high-quality circuitry here ensures that it could also serve as an additional recording output.

METER SWITCHING



Output metering is via tri-colour, 12-element LED ladders, calibrated -30 to +22dBu. The 1202 has no PFL or Solo facility, but in yet another bit of typically thoughtful Mackie design, there is a switch to flip the metering to read input rather than output levels. In this mode the left column reads the sum of the mic level inputs (channels 1 to 4), whilst the right shows the sum of all the line inputs (chans 1 to 12). Metering an individual signal therefore requires that the other channels be fully attenuated, but as this sort of basic setting up should be always performed prior to starting work, this is not really a problem.

There are two stereo F/X returns; each has a ganged level control with a unity mark and 20dB of further gain, which should allow these circuits to get away with interfacing with anything from 'pro' outboard to guitar pedals. If only the left input is used for a mono return, both sides of the mix bus will be fed automatically — to return a signal to one side only you can use the right input on its own, or the left in combination with an unterminated jack in the right, to defeat the internal switching.

This wouldn't be a Mackie mixer, however, if there wasn't some little extra facility in there, and in this case it is a switch to convert the Aux 2 return into a tape input. It doesn't do anything apart from change the source from the aux return to the tape return connectors, so the input channels remain active and the feed into the mix bus is premaster control. You do need to be careful, however, that the tape machine is not set to monitor input when you switch in the Mackie's replay facility, or you will set up a feedback loop.

CONNECTORS



All connectors are firmly panel-mounted, allowing frequent repatching with confidence. There are four XLRs for the electronically balanced, 48V phantom powered mic inputs (with global phantom switching) and four 1/4" jacks for the line ins to these channels. These are self-switching for balanced/unbalanced operation but, surprisingly, inserting a jack does not disable the mic signal — both inputs become active simultaneously. Provided the line level source has an output level control, it is possible to usefully balance between this and the mic signal, giving the system a total of 16 controllable channel sources plus 4 aux returns, if really pressed. Passing through the mic trim circuitry also gives up to 40dB more gain on line sources in these channels. Each of the other channels has a pair of unbalanced 1/4" jacks; using the left jack only provides mono operation, as on the aux returns.

Main outputs are on 1/4" jacks, once again self-switching for balanced/unbalanced operation, and there are dedicated stereo tape input and output connections, conveniently via phonos. Perhaps my-one gripe about the 1202 would be the absence of insert points on the main outputs — only the first four input channels have inserts, and these have been allowed to spill over onto the rear face of the chassis, so why not mixing inserts as well? The rear panel also houses the main power and phantom switching, alongside the IEC input socket to the integral PSU.

CONCLUSION



Despite its diminutive appearance, the Mackie 1202 is a supremely versatile little mixer — there are enough inputs for keyboard submixing, there's plenty of output level to drive power amps for PA usage, and sufficient quality in the mic amps for serious recording work. You could even, with a little ingenuity, use one at the heart of a small 8-track recording set-up, using the four mic/line channels initially for sources, the 'interrupting' direct outputs available via the insert points for recording, or the aux sends (modified to pre-fade) as record busses, and the stereo channels as tape returns. Re-patching at mixdown would allow eight discrete line level channels if the stereos were used in mono.

Quite apart from its surprising flexibility and sheer usefulness, the 1202 is economically priced, ruggedly built, and has an excellent audio spec. Whether its role is that of main mixer in a very small system, or merely making a contribution to a much more sophisticated set-up, the Mackie 1202 can be relied upon to deliver clean, quiet audio, sacrificing neither performance nor operational features to its compact dimensions.

Further information

Mackie 1202 £315 inc VAT.

Key Audio Systems, (Contact Details).


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Previous Article in this issue

The New Master

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All Hail Valhala


Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.

 

Sound On Sound - Mar 1992

Gear in this article:

Mixer > Mackie > 1202

Review by Dave Lockwood

Previous article in this issue:

> The New Master

Next article in this issue:

> All Hail Valhala


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