It was - and probably still is - the biggest news of 1998: On June 30th, Mackie Designs shipped the very first of its much anticipated 56-input, 72-channel, fully automated Digital 8•Bus Mixers ($9999 list) and reaction from the music world has been, as you might expect, phenomenal. Always super quality-conscious, Mackie put every one of its first production units through a thorough real-world mix test before sending them out the door, and this led to some delays in getting enough consoles into the hands of all those people who wanted one.

Here at Sweetwater, units have been arriving just about every day and we expect to be caught up with the back order situation by the time you read this, though we still recommend you place your order now because even as the supply has increased, so has the demand.

Naturally the industry press has been raving about the D8B. Frank Wells of Audio Media Magazine (May, 1998) wrote: “The desk will find an instant home not only in recording facilities, but in video post and broadcast as well . . . Whereas the D8B can be effectively controlled by the work surface alone, few end users will want to pass up (the) stunning display (SVGA) and powerful virtual control surface.” Meanwhile, George Petersen, in a Mix Magazine Field Test remarked: “The (Digital 8•Bus) is a great-sounding, flexible and ergonomically sensible digital board that’s affordable and ready to meet the needs of the 1990s and beyond. Thumbs up on this one.”

If you haven’t been reading Sweet Notes (or Mix or Keyboard or EQ or every other industry journal) you might be wondering what the big deal is. Why are those “in the know” calling the Mackie Digital 8•Bus the most powerful digital console made today. Part of it is the basic philosophy behind the unit’s creation. When Greg Mackie put together the D8B design team, he gave them a deceptively simple goal: “Do digital right.” In other words, create a digital console that is as intuitive and easy to use as Mackie’s rightly famous analog consoles. Create a console that doesn’t compromise headroom, noise floor, bandwidth or color the sound in any way. And then make sure it’s (like all other Mackie products) an incredibly good value. Actually, Greg hired the best digital audio mixer engineers he could find, headed up by two British designers who helped design those massive, oceanliner-sized digital consoles that pro studios build $300-an-hour ‘A’ rooms around. According to Greg, “What our hardware engineers ultimately came up with was more than a digital mixer - they constructed a console with the guts and torque of a dedicated computer workstation, but with the precise feel of a great analog console.” Built with 25 integrated DSP chips, the Mackie D8B has tremendous processing horsepower. In fact, coordinating those DSP chips is a powerful Pentium compatible host computer. Needless to say, accomplishing all that took just a little longer than anyone thought it would. But when you look at this monster mixer’s feature set, well you can’t help but be incredibly impressed. So let’s take a closer look at the D8B. First of all, one of the nicest features of the D8B is its familiar analog-like interface. And yet it has, unquestionably, far more processing power than other “affordable” digital mixers which typically use less sophisticated micro-controllers to direct their audio and a few basic system functions. You often end up spending more money than you originally budgeted because you have to buy an outboard PC or Macintosh to get much done. The Digital 8•Bus, on the other hand, uses a true workstation-class 32-bit Pentium compatible CPU Processor with a full 16MB of RAM. Besides keeping track of 48 channels of audio, it can perform true computer operations like reading and writing to built-in floppy and hard drives and driving full-color monitors via a built-in SVGA Video Port. The built-in Ethernet connection allows you to dial into to Mackie’s own central computer system and upload upgrades. You can even add a PC compatible keyboard and PS/2 mouse. All told, the D8B boasts over a GigaFlop (don’t bother looking that one up in your dictionary - it’s not there yet!) or three billion instructions per second of DSP. Mixers ten times the cost of the D8B don’t have this kind of brutish digital muscle. This massive power lets you run digital functions such as EQ and full dynamics processing on all 48 channels simultaneously. And wait until you check out the D8B’s luxurious display. There’s no squinting at a tiny monochrome display (that’s not good for your eyes, after all) and you can even use your mouse to control every feature of the board on-screen. This means that nearly all onboard functions can move in realtime, simultaneously. You can’t do that on many other digital mixers, and certainly none anywhere near the Mackie board’s price range.

There are a number of other things that you’re going to love about the DB8: the bold, futuristic shape, the innovative card cage, the nearly effortless ease-of-use. There are no button sequences to remember or silly ritualistic dance moves to access the D8B’s many features. In fact, all button sequences are kept to a bare minimum and every important channel strip control - such as pan, mute, solo and EQ - is available via a dedicated button or rotary control. But even the best hardware isn’t useful without user-friendly software. This is where Mackie really went to work on blowing away the competition. The Mackie Design Team felt that conventional computer operating systems were just too slow to meet their ambitious standards, so they created the invisible, proprietary Mackie Real Time OS. It runs all computer functions, supervises all 25 DSP processors, plus dynamic and scene automation without breaking a sweat.

But aside from assembling an impressive group of engineers and product designers to make the DB8 a reality, Mackie also partnered with other cutting-edge companies like Apogee Electronics, which means that inside every DB8 is Apogee’s much-acclaimed UV22 Super CD encoding algorithm. UV22 gives your 16-bit masters near 24-bit resolution when and mastering engineers swear by it. It’s a Mackie exclusive that’s previously only been available as a (very) expensive Apogee outboard processor and Pro Tools plug-in. Apogee is also engineering Mackie’s digital I/O cards. For the DB8’s reverb sound, Mackie went to Euphonics, the software think-tank that has developed algorithms for the world’s most respected producers of outboard digital effects devices.

Plus, Mackie also created an open architecture that accepts additional “name brand” DSP software plug-ins, making this the only mixer on earth that accepts the hottest new 3rd-party plug-ins, - how’s that for the ultimate in versatility? Mackie also added a 30-day free trial of a full-blown, vocal doubling, harmony and pitch correction system from IVL, the world leader in vocal processing technology. The D8B’s optional Vocal Studio interfaces seamlessly with the mixer’s automation and features an elegant, on-screen interface. They even tossed in full MIDI Machine Control for popular digital multitrack recorders, right down to a Record Enable button on every channel strip.

Greg Mackie sums it up this way: “We think we did our first digital mixer right. We listened to users, got the best engineers, and hammered away at a design that was never compromised. With the Digital 8•Bus, we think Mackie has created the most powerful digital mixer made . . . period.”

If you want to know more about the DB8 (and who wouldn’t?), we suggest you call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer right now for a complete overview of this impressive product and your special low price on what has to rate as one of the most significant technological advances of the last few years.