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Mackie d.2 Pro Mixer with Firewire
Reviewer: Gizmo • Date: March 2008 • Price: £699/€799/$899 • Link: Mackie


mackie d.2 Pro review

A couple of MusikMesse’s ago, we stumbled across the original Mackie d.2 quite by accident. Mackie aren’t exactly known for their ventures into DJville so seeing a 2 channel battle mixer on their did knock us a little sideways. After pointing out a few issues on the somewhat fragile prototype, word was passed back to HQ and some of those changes were incorporated. Go skratchworx!

But for whatever reason, we never got to see one round these parts for review so the first incarnation missed out on the skratchlab review cycle. But here’s the second incarnation, ready to be torn apart and analysed to death. There are some changes, but largely the old d.2 and new d.2 pro model are much the same, so pick out what you need from this review should an older one come your way.

First impressions

mackie d.2 pro review

“Damn, that’s a deep mixer” I said to myself, and not in an intellectual sense. Looking around me, I have 3 other mixers - all measuring a standard 87mm tall. The d.2 Pro comes in at 99mm. The reason why this sticks out like a sore thumb is that most mixers are designed to stick perfectly against Technics decks, but for some reason, Mackie decided to buck the trend and make this much taller. Strange decision.

mackie d.2 pro review

Quality wise, there’s no complaints at all. Obviously the extra 12mm of metal adds to the weight but the construction inside the d.2 Pro is as solid as anything on the market. I like some of the small touches such as the top plate of the mixer that wraps around the front, eliminating the sharp edges that tend to snag your expensive t-shirts. And when you look at the general construction of the d.2 Pro, a lot of time has gone into making sure that everything fits just so. All the curved faces match up perfectly, as do the cut-outs for the meter LEDS. Mackie certainly haven’t messed around with the build quality of the case.

mackie d2 pro review

The controls are also equally heavyweight - even the narrow pots don’t flex as much as I’d expect. The larger than normal EQ pots are a welcome addition, especially with the neon blue LEDs inside making them a whole lot easier to find in a darker environment. The implementation of the fader controls on the front is especially clear. Top marks Mackie.

Layout wise, it sticks rigidly to the 2 channel rule book. The fader area is especially clear of clutter and the top of the d.2 Pro is laid out as you might expect. Making the transition from another mixer to the d.2 Pro should be easy.


Mackie d.2 pro review

The d.2 Pro, like the d.2 before it uses an Infinium crossfader (apparently called “Scratchy”). This is a non-contact optical fader, meaning no cleaning and operation in even the harshest of DJ environments (is there such a thing?). As standard, the Infinium is very lightweight, partly down to the lack of contact but also a 4mm stem. You can however adjust the tension via a large screw hole on the faceplate, once you’ve removed the fader cap that is. Less known is that lag adjust on the Infinium. You’ll need to take it out to get access to the small screws in the fader body, but if the less than 1mm lag is still too much for you, you can fine tune it to infinitely small amounts.

As I recall, there was an issue with the fader cap rubbing against the faceplate on the old d.2 mixer. This appears to have been fixed now. There has also been some discussion about the quality of the Infinium. While it’s not a solid metal body as found in other mixers, the Infinium in my Rodec Scratchbox gets a daily beating and has yet to show any signs of wear, malfunction or even needing a clean, so I have no reason to expect that “Scratchy” will be any different as it appears to be the same construction. I did for a short time think that the fader was loosening up dramatically but it turns out it was simply the fader cap. You’ll need to watch out for this - the demo unit has come loose in a couple of months of semi-regular use.

mackie d.2 pro review

The line faders are long bodied Alphas, which do feel very smooth in hand. The problem here are the line fader curves. Like many DJs, I’m used to a sharp line fader curve, one that goes sharp/linear/sharp on a full turn of the curve knob. The d.2 however is very limited in this respect, allowing for not that sharp/linear/soft only. The cut-in distance is something like 7mm at its sharpest, so you can forget crabbing on these line faders.

mackie d2 pro review

Just mentioning the controls again, the curves and reverses are on the front face. They’re solid and tactile and laid out in a way that means you can’t get confused when fumbling around in the dark. Of all the 2 channel mixers I've used, the Mackie's controls are the best laid out.

mackie d.2 pro review

Wrapping this section up are the transform switches. Yes, people do apparently still use them and these are a welcome addition. The one thing skratchworx did suggest to Mackie was offsetting the switches from the faders as they did interfere with line fader operation. This they did and the d.2 was all the better for it. As well as being on/off, there’s also a momentary on as well which springs back to the middle off position. Makes flares a lot easier to pull off, if a little sharp. You can also rotate the switches to suit your style.


mackie d2 pro review

As is the way of such things, the d.2 Pro has 3 band EQ giving a 10dB boost and all the way down to kill. In the middle position, the sound is linear but still especially punchy and pleasing. Sound is obviously subject to so many variables, but the d.2 Pro shows it’s pro audio production heritage. To my old ears coming from a pair of ATM.6s, the d.2 Pro is as good as anything I've heard.

Metering is available for both channel and master output, although the 12 part LED meters are all the same blue colour, bar the overload one at the top which is white. For those who are used to green, amber and red, these could take a little getting used to. But fear not as distorting the d.2 Pro proved to be near impossible despite hitting the overload light all the time.

mackie d.2 pro review

And for the ultimate in control, each channel has a pan control - something often missing from a 2 channel mixer, but something I might have liked on the monitoring controls. You get to monitor the channels or the master - both post EQ, but only to crossfade between them in both ears. An option of split cue would have been good.


mackie d.2 pro review

One of the key differences between the d.2 and the new Pro version is the inclusion of Firewire as standard. The original model had it as an option, but to compete with the big boys and give it an edge in the 2 channel market, Mackie have thrown it into the deal but still coming in at a reasonable price.

There are 2 Firewire ports offering 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96kHz/24 bit sample rates and offers real bi-directional playback and multitrack recording if connected to a suitably powerful computer. With 6 out and 14 in, the Firewire offers a serious amount of flexibility for playback and recording on your laptop.

mackie d2 pro review

Plugging the d.2 Pro into my Powerbook immediately showed it as a connected device without need for extra drivers, allowing me to output my system audio through the d.2 Pro without an issue.

If I'm honest, my Mac based experience has been hit and miss. Plugging it in shows up right way but it's control over the channels within audio apps where I've had some issues. Selecting the d.2 Pro as an input device in the system preference panel clearly shows the input as pre-fader but post EQ. In Logic, I'm able to record from the master and in Peak 6, all the channels show up but I can't get an audio signal to record. Audacity also shows the various channels but gives me no signal to record.

Mackie d.2 Pro reviewWithout a doubt, the most compatible app was Ableton Live 7. It saw all the channels and via a drop down menu, I was able to select all the input channels I wanted from the d.2 pro and see the audio that was being recorded.

You'll see that the menu also shows active audio in the channels, so it's very easy to see if there is any audio at all coming through the respective Firewire channels. In the example on the left, you can see various channels coming through, sometimes deliberately too loud for display purposes:

1/2 and 3/4: Channel signal - pre-fader, pan and EQ/gains
5/6 and 7/8: Channel signal - pre-fader, pan but post EQ/gains
9/10: Mic and null
11/12: FX loop
13/14: Master out - post-fader, pan and EQ/gains but unnaffected by master volume control.

It's a shame however that Mackie couldn't allow for post fader and EQ recording of the channels. Perhaps a firmware upgrade could enable this, or at least give you choice.

Installing the Ableton demo did somewhat restore my faith the d.2 Pro's Firewire capabilities as it did work exactly as expected. But quite why other apps don't perform as expected is a shame. I guess being a pro audio app designed to do this kind of work means that Live does specifically look for this type of functionality.

Not having a PC at hand means I can't test it with Windows apps. If Deft's experiences with the d.4 Pro are anything to go by, you'll have more luck that I did. But it's Traktor Scratch I specifically wanted to test the d.2. Pro with. Wearing the "Traktor Scratch Certified" badge should mean a smooth ride, so let's see if this is true.


Mackie d.2 pro review Traktor Scratch certified

As with any DVS system, you need an interface and several miles of cabling. With the d.2 Pro, you can happily replace that pain in the rear end clutter with just 1 Firewire cable. This single cable gets you the full functionality of the entire Traktor Scratch package, but without the extensive cabling or Audio8 interface.

Without going over old ground and digging too deep into Traktor Scratch again, I put it through it’s paces and was almost entirely happy with what I found. The performance was as good as can be expected on my g4etto Powerbook and possibly slightly better than with the Audio8 card, although I have added an extra gig of RAM since I did the review and there’s been an update to the software - both Traktor and OS X.

But the Firewire implementation has some holes. Aside from it randomly dropping off my Mac from time to time and needing a good amount of switching off and on to get it to be recognised, the Traktor Scratch side of things did present a couple of problems. Firstly the handling of post fader effects. Traktor Scratch has 2 types of effects:

Insert - applies the effect to the pre fader audio internally and when routed out to the channels pre fader, so closing them clips any effect like reverb, echo or delay.
Send - routes the audio back out to the mixer and then back in again (making it post fader) where the effect is applied and routed back into the master bus, thus preserving the post fader effect.

mackie d2 pro review

The d.2 Pro however seems to be applying the effect to the post EQ pre fader signal and simply routing back into the master post fader, the only control being with the d.2’s “RETURN” control. This seems like a really bad way to do it and doesn’t match the established Audio8 way of doing things. Because of Traktor Scratch’s lack of control over inputs and outputs, there’s no way to fix this. And even then, I’m still not sure it will fix it without some help from Mackie.

Another issue can be found when recording your set. Having already discovered the effect issue, this is further compounded by Traktor Scratch not recording effects at all or for that matter channel 2. So basically you get the left deck recorded post fader and that’s your lot - not really what you would expect at all. You can still use the RCAs on the back of the d.2 Pro to record your set and possibly with less load on your computer - Traktor Scratch is a tad resource hungry.

So while conventional Traktor Scratch usage seems to be working, pushing the Firewire routing that little bit further will start to make things go a bit pear shaped. When you factor a computer into the audio chain, it’s like unleashing a big bag of variables into the mix. I have a Powerbook, running a beta version of OS X and Leopard does appear to have it’s fair share of Firewire issues as well. I do however feel that the issues are probably more in the hands of NI and Mackie.

Wot - no MIDI?

With MIDI being more essential that faders these days, and it being added to everything with a plug, I might have expected a much wider implementation of MIDI goodness in the d.2 Pro. Sadly it's limited to the crossfader only. So while you're using Traktor Scratch directly with the d.2 Pro, you're not controlling it as such. Worth noting if that's the kind of thing you were expecting.

Round the Back

Mavkie d.2 pro review

Having just covered the Firewire, I guess we can get right on with the rest. This is of course a 2 channel mixer but each channel is split into 3 inputs with a line/phono channel, CD and Firewire - all switchable from the face and the line/phono switched at the back. Next to those are the FX loop jacks paired with balanced booth jacks.

The master output has a neat twist - while being balanced XLR outs, there's also a button to dip the output by 30dB so that you can daisy chain the d.2 Pro to another mixer without blowing circuits. There's also one more output for recording, and you can switch this to either record the output directly post-everything or hit the switch and record the pre-master stereo channel.

There's also the obligatory mic input, in this case Neutrik. But the mic channel has a full 3 band EQ and even a pan control.

Summing Up

d2 pro review mackie

This is quite a tough call. On the face of it, you have an extremely well built mixer, with solid faders, good curves, cracking audio quality and a near seamless integration with your computer - but it's quite a serious price tag attached to it. If for example you went down the Traktor Scratch route so that you could rationalise your DJ setup and remove need for a sound card, you save around $300. But the Firewire is useless where SSL and Torq are concerned as they both require their dedicated interfaces to run. As a Mac user, I'm unable to run MixVibes, but when I first saw the d.2 and d.4 pros at PLASA, it was running just fine.

The d.2 Pro without Firewire offers little wow factor over an already busy 2 channel mixer market other than being built like a tank. For me, Firewire is the deciding factor in your buying decision and that is limited to perhaps Traktor Scratch if you're trying to save cash. For SSL and Torq, you still need their interfaces to get running, leaving only a small handfull of sound card generic options. But with the apparent limitations with Traktor Scratch and the d.2 Pro, you also have to balance out if you're willing to pay more for a full package to get the extra functionalities such as digital recording directly to your computer.

Having read much about the original d.2 and played with it myself a few times, my expectations of the pro model were relatively low. but having spent a couple of months with it, I've become quite attached as a day to day mixer. I really wanted to hate the d.2 Pro after they didn't fix the line fader curve problem but I couldn't. The build and sound quality are outstanding and the obvious Firewire abilities are cool. Replacing an interface and a tangle of spaghetti for one Firewire cable is a godsend. I just hope that Mackie and NI can iron out the wrinkles in the implementation.


Build Quality - 9/10
It's a beast, with more heavy metal than a complete collection of Kerrang mag. Shame the fader cap wobbles in record time.

Sound Quality - 9/10
It's Mackie. Nuff said.

Features and Implementation - 8/10
The Firewire implementation is near complete but there are still some issues with full Traktor Scratch compatibility. And why not tighten up the channel curves?

Value for Money - 8/10
You get a high quality 2 channel mixer that plugs seamlessly into your computer and lets you use DVS systems without needing a sound card. But you have to pay a hefty price for it. Had it not been for Ableton coming through and saving the day, I'd have marked it down.

Bottom Line

For a 2 channel mixer, the d.2 Pro punches above it's weight and simplifies the whole DVS setup - provided you want to pay the premium.

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