Hands-On Review:Mackie DFX-12 Mixer

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Mackie DFX-12 MixerYou’re onstage with your band, or perhaps it’s a solo acoustic gig. Your playing is impeccable and the audience is actually paying attention, but something’s not right. If you could just turn up the volume on your guitar, add more reverb to the mix, and dial out some of that low end that’s on the verge of feeding back, everything would be perfect.

For those who don’t have the luxury of working with a soundman-that is, most of us-making the aforementioned adjustments on the fly can be very difficult. Only the most eagle-eyed performer would be able to find a PA mixer’s tiny knobs and faders on a dark stage. Mackie, whose DFX series mixers are specifically designed for musicians who operate their own PA’s, offers an excellent solution to this problem. With large controls and color-coded faders, these mixers are easy to tweak, even during the split second that transpires between one strum and another.

Mackie’s DFX-12, which comes with a well-written manual, is easy to set up, and the unit is clearly built to take some abuse. Since the DFX-12 is designed for musicians who work without a lot of outboard PA gear, it boasts some features not often found on larger and more expensive consoles. A five-band graphic equalizer can be assigned to either the main mix or the aux send (for the monitor mix). A built-in stereo effects processor allows the user to choose among reverbs, delays, chorus, flange and other effects. Since only one effect can be used at a time, it is most practical to stick to one of the room or hall settings. While you won’t have as much control over these effects as you would with an outboard processor, the sound produced is fairly realistic and adds warmth and depth to acoustic guitars.

The DFX-12 has 12 channels, six of which have XLR mic inputs with phantom power. The line inputs are grouped in stereo pairs. Each channel has a two-band EQ and two aux sends, one of which goes to the internal effects processor. Four of the mic-input channels also contain low-cut filters and inserts for patching in compressors or other outboard gear.

The DFX-12 doesn’t have everything: Ideally, the unit would feature separate graphic EQ’s for the house and monitors (to help fight feedback), three-band EQ on some channels and more aux sends for effects and monitor mixes. But this board is designed to function on its own, and it does a wonderful job of providing all the basics in one box. Those who must play the dual roles of performer and soundman would be wise to pick up a Mackie DFX-12, and do it fast.