Recording Saint Saëns "Organ Symphony" with Mackie DL32R
St. Louis, Missouri - August 2015... Recording and live sound engineer Dan Kury refers to himself as an old school engineer, having logged more than 40 years mixing and recording a wide variety of musical genres in all sorts of venues. But after years of hauling around a big console, outboard racks, and huge audio snakes, he concluded that for many gigs he would be better off with a digital mixer. That is, if he could find one that was up to his standards.
When he discovered the Mackie DL1608 16-channel digital mixer, he was a happy man. "The DL1608 is the first piece of equipment that changed my life," Kury begins. "The equipment, the labor, the time setting up and tearing down, the lids for the cases stacked under the table-all eliminated or greatly reduced." Besides, he says, "You don't need a console when you can grab an iPad and go up to the balcony or mix from anywhere in the venue."
Still, for some gigs, he wanted more than 16 input channels. So when Mackie released the DL32R 32-channel rack-mount digital mixer, Kury jumped on it. "Now I have a DL32R in a four-space rack, along with two wireless systems," he explains. "It sits on the side of the stage, so no need for a big, heavy snake. Setup time and teardown time is half of what it used to be with a traditional console. Not only that, now I have VCAs. What an incredible luxury!"
Kury is also a big fan of Mackie's Master Fader control app. "It's easy to get around," he explains. "The DL32R does a lot of things, so you'd think the app would be complicated, but it's so well-designed and efficient to use."
Although he was confident that the DL32R preamps would compare well with the high-priced preamp/interface he typically uses for recording shows, Kury wanted to be absolutely sure. His opportunity to compare the preamps came when he mixed the Metropolitan Orchestra of St. Louis performance of Saint Saëns' Symphony No 3 at the First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, Missouri.
Saint Saëns' Symphony No 3 is known as the "Organ Symphony," and First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood has a beautiful new Casavant Frerespipe organ, designed in the style of the great Parisian symphonic organs of the late 19th century. "It's a magnificent instrument," says Kury. "If you play the lowest C with the pedal, and you pull the 32-foot stop, the 32-foot pipe produces a root pitch of 16 Hz." This recording would indeed be a great preamp test.
"For my comparison test, I made two separate recordings," Kury recalls. "I sent the mics to a splitter, and I recorded one feed through my high-end interface and preamps and the other feed through the DL32R." Kury then sent the signals via FireWire to a Mac computer running a DAW.
The results were as Kury predicted. "The Mackie preamps absolutely held their own against the high-end preamps," he says. "In a blind test, I could not tell the difference. There is no question that you can use a Mackie iPad-controlled mixer to do a multi-track symphonic recording. If I do more multi-track symphonic recordings, I will happily use the DL32R preamps."
"The DL32R is absolutely remarkable," he concludes. "It blew my mind."