Q: “What exactly is the Mute/Alt button on the (Mackie) 1202 (VLZ-Pro)?”
A: The dual purpose MUTE/ALT 3-4 bus is a Mackie signature, and has been on some Mackie mixers from almost the beginning of Mackie. The story is that when Greg Mackie was designing one of his first products he had to include a MUTE switch for each channel. Rather than leaving the MUTE switch to perform only one function (which is to turn off the signal by routing it nowhere), he decided it would make sense to route the MUTE-ed signal somewhere functional, like an extra bus. So, you can use this button simply as a MUTE, and/or you can use it to bus that channel to an alternate set of outputs known as ALT 3-4. Something additionally useful about this MUTE/ALT 3-4 thing is that you can use it for subgroup mixing – even in the main mix. Now you’re thinking, “I thought that if it’s MUTE-ed then it wouldn’t pass through the main output?” Well, you would be right, except the brainiacs at Mackie thought of everything. When you assign channels to the ALT 3-4 bus (by pressing in the button on the respective channel), engage the ALT 3-4 function in the SOURCE matrix of the master section and the signals will appear at the CONTROL ROOM and PHONES outputs. Next, route that signal to the main mix by engaging the ASSIGN TO MAIN MIX switch. Now the CONTROL ROOM/SUBMIX level control becomes the one knob to control the levels of all channels assigned to ALT 3-4. This may seem like a long way around the barn, but it really is a neat way to get an extra pair of subgroups without adding any more knobs and faders to the mixer (you’re using controls that, depending upon a switch position, normally take care of other things and have to be on the board anyway). This type of clever design is one reason why Mackie is able to deliver such a high quality product as such a low price.