Hands-On Review:Tapco Mix Series Ultra-Compact Mixers


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Complete and amazingly affordable

By Dan Day
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

 

As much as I value electronic equipment that can perform a variety of  functions with a complete set of powerful, versatile features, I also  appreciate a product that is designed to do one thing or two things well  and is not too complicated. Take, for example, my first car. It was a  1972 Ford Maverick, a hand-me-down that I shared with my brother and  sister. It was a mass production car that provided basic, no-frills  transportation from point A to point B. When you opened the hood you  could easily find the engine and perform routine maintenance such as  changing the points and plugs.

 

The same simplicity of operation applies to the sound mixer that I  had in one of my first bands. It was a Tapco 6000 with 6  inputs/channels, volume, treble and bass, a master volume and on/off  switch. It was designed in early 1969 by Tapco co-founder Greg Mackie as  the first 6-channel mixer for rock bands. It offered lots of headroom  so you could TURN IT UP! and singers had a chance to be heard against  guitarists who were upgrading (volume-wise) from Fenders® to Marshalls.  It was simple to set up and operate, truly affordable, and was extremely  durable. While traveling on the road with our band, the Tapco 6000 was  dropped, pulled from the table by a mic cord, spilled on, and buried  under an avalanche of amps in the van, yet apart from a couple of dents  and a cracked knob, it powered up each time and delivered the goods.

 

Greg Mackie left Tapco in 1977 and later founded Mackie Designs in  1988. Now ol’ Mackie’s back in town continuing the great Tapco tradition  of cost-effective quality products with the Mix Series.

 

Tapco by Mackie

 

The four compact and rugged Mix Series Tapco by Mackie mixers handle everything from small live gigs to  desktop recording. All four mixers have two kinds of inputs: XLR jacks  to handle balanced mic inputs for professional dynamic, condenser, and  ribbon mics; 1/4" jacks for unbalanced TS (tip-sleeve) connectors and  balanced TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) connectors from sources such as  high-impedance mics, keyboards, and drum machines. The mixers are housed  in a rugged metal chassis and the controls are logically laid out for  easy identification and access. Also included is a slot for a Kensington  Security Lock (which you purchase separately) to prevent your mixer  from sprouting legs and walking off the table you’ve placed it on.

 

Mix and match

 

The Tapco Mix.50 is the most compact of the new Mix Series.  At less than 2" high, 5" wide, and 8" deep it fits into your hand—about  the size of a Star Trek Tricorder. It has five inputs into three  channels. Channel 1 is a mono mic/line input with an XLR balanced input,  1/4" line input, 2-band (high-low) EQ. Channels 2 and 3 each have  stereo 1/4" line level inputs from either balanced or unbalanced  sources. The Mix.50 also has CD/tape stereo I/O. It's ideal for a solo performer who wants  to mix a microphone and a couple of acoustic instruments or keyboards  along with recordings from CD/tape.

 

The Mix.60 is a 6-input/4-channel mixer with an additional mic/line channel that  makes it highly suited for a vocal duo with instrumental support, such  as keyboards and perhaps a drum machine. The auxiliary output routes the  mix of each channel’s Aux Send to an outboard processor (such as  reverb/echo) or send to stage monitors. For more tonal control, the Mix.60 has three-band EQ (High-Mid-Low) for all four channels. This is the  only mixer of the four that has EQ controls for the line level channels.

 

The Mix.100 is a 10-input/6-channel mixer with two more channels of stereo 1/4"  line inputs so that instruments such as guitar and bass can be added via  direct input (DI) boxes. The line channels include a +4/-10 input level  switch that lets you match either the level of most consumer equipment  (-10dBv) or professional equipment (+4dBu). This makes it easier to  achieve the proper volume setting. The Main Mix level is controlled by a  slide control (fader). The Mix.100 includes a filter that cuts frequencies below 75Hz to eliminate  unwanted bass rumble from, for example, a wooden stage in a live  setting, or traffic passing by the studio. You would leave the Low-Cut  Switch on unless you’re recording a bass-heavy instrument like a kick  drum or bass guitar. The FX to Ctrl Room switch feeds the Aux Send  signal to the Control Room and Phones outputs.

 

Even though the Mix.120 is the largest of the Tapco Mix Series,  its footprint is smaller than a standard laptop computer. It has four  mono mic/line inputs and four stereo line inputs. Because my group has  three singers, this is the mixer I chose to try out. Vocal mics were  plugged into the first three channels using the XLR inputs. To get an  ambient feel to our live sound recording, I connected a high-quality  large diaphragm condenser mic powered by the Mix.120’s  phantom power. Two acoustic-electric guitars through DI (direct input)  boxes and a keyboard were connected to channels 4 through 8 via 1/4"  line inputs. The Main Out was connected to powered speakers and the Aux  Send was connected to powered stage monitors. I connected a CD player to  Tape input for music between sets and the live mix was fed to a  recorder via Control Room Out so that we could playback both practice  and live gigs to analyze our performances.

 

Total audio production

 

Leaving aside the group’s performance, the Mix.120 performed like a champ. When I picked it up it felt solid and rugged;  like its ancestor the Tapco 6000, this mixer won’t shatter like plastic  if you happen to drop it. The input connections to XLR and 1/4" felt  secure and snug. The pots rotated smoothly with just enough resistance  for accurate settings. The mic preamps and line inputs, along with peak  indicators, quietly and efficiently ensured maximum mic levels and  instrument sonority for optimal mixing and recording. The Mix Series Mix.120 did all that we asked of it.

 

Features & Specs


Mix Series

  • Ultra-portable compact design
  • Rugged metal chassis
  • Intuitive layout
  • Kensington Security Lock slot - (requires separate purchase of Kensington Security Lock)

Mix.50 Compact Mixer

  • 1 mono mic/line input with preamp gain control
  • 2 stereo line inputs
  • LED peak indicator
  • CD/Tape Input/Output
  • Phones level
  • Phone 1/4" output
  • Main Mix level
  • Main L/R 1/4" output

Mix.60 Compact Mixer

  • 2 mono mic/line inputs with preamp gain controls
  • 2 stereo line channels
  • 1 Aux Send 1/4" jack
  • Stereo Aux Return L/R 1/4" jacks
  • CD/Tape Input/Output
  • Control Room Out
  • Main Mix Level
  • Control Room/Phones Level
  • Master Aux Send
  • Aux Send Level
  • 3-band (High-Mid-Low) EQ for all channels

Mix.100 Compact Mixer

  • 2 Mono Mic/Line inputs with preamp gain controls
  • 3-band (High-Mid-Low) EQ for mic/line channels
  • 4 stereo line inputs
  • 1 Aux Send
  • CD/Tape I/O
  • Aux Send level
  • Main Aux Send level
  • Control Room Out
  • Control Room Phones level
  • Main Mix fader

Mix.120 Compact Mixer

  • 4 Mono Mic/Line inputs
  • 4 Stereo Line Inputs
  • 1 Aux Send
  • Tape Input/Output