Jumbo Sunshade - Ezine

Music Gear Review - Mixer
Mackie DFX12  Versus  Behringer UB1222FX

              

From a design standpoint, there are very few differences between these mixers.  The biggest difference, price, is no surprise: Behringer is known for being very inexpensive and Mackie... isn't!   :)
Here's a quick head-to-head comparison with differences in red:
 

  Mackie DFX12   Behringer UB1222FX
Price $250 (Guitar Center)   $150 (Musician's Friend)
Total Inputs* 12   16
Channel Preamps 4   4
Inserts 4   4
Phantom Power Yes (top)   Yes (back)
Main EQ 5-band   7-band
On-board FX 32-bit**, FS on/off   24-bit, FS on/off
FX Presets 16   99
Vocal Cancellation (Karaoke) Yes   Yes
XPQ Surround     (Behringer specific)
FBQ Feedback Detection     (Behringer specific)
*  Behringer counts L/R channels as 2 inputs; Mackie counts them as 1.  Both boards actually have the same number of inputs.
**  From the Mackie manual: "16-bit, 2 channel" (more on this below).
       
INPUT Mackie DFX12   Behringer UB1222FX
XLR / Line 4   4
XLR / LR 2   2
1/4" L/R 2   2
Aux Return L/R 2 (L/R)   2 (L/R)
CD in L/R (RCA) 1 (L/R)   1 (L/R)
       
OUTPUT      
Aux Send 2   2
Tape Out (RCA) 1 (L/R)   1 (L/R)
Main XLR Yes   Yes
Main Bal/Unbal 1/4" Yes   No
Headphones 1/4" stereo Yes   Yes
       
CHANNEL STRIP      
Low Cut (XLR/Line channels only) 75 Hz, 18dB   80 Hz, 18dB
EQ High 12 kHz Shelf   12 kHz Shelf
EQ Mid No   2.5 kHz Peak
EQ Low 80 Hz Shelf   80 Hz Shelf
Aux1 Send (monitor/pre) +6 dB   +15 dB
Aux2 Send (fx/post) +6 dB   +15 dB

PRICE: features, performance & reliability
Ok, lets address the huge difference in price between these two boards.  Loyal Mackie users would say that "you get what you pay for" and those with the Behringer gear would reply that "clearly, some things are just over-priced".  I go pretty far back with Mackie but i've also used my fair share of Behringer gear.  My personal opinion is that there's a bit of truth to both of the above statements most of the time.

In terms of features, the Behringer at worst breaks even and at best wins hands-down.  I haven't had occasion to play around with either the XPQ Surround or the FBQ Feedback Detection so i can't speak to their effectiveness, let alone their usefullness; but anybody who used the standard on-board FX would obviously have A LOT more options with the UB1222FX versus the DFX12.

For me, performance and reliability are one in the same, but you have to be realistic within whatever price range you're dealing with.  In this particular price range, i don't expect these mixers to bring anything special to the table in terms of signal-to-noise ratio.  I couldn't seriously judge either of these two mixers by how "musical" or "transparent" their preamps sound.  Also, i have low expectations from on-board reverb (based on experience).
And while the Mackie mixers are by no means bullet-proof (i've come across many a Mackie board with dead channels), it has certainly been my experience that the Behringer equipment is VERY inconsistent with regard to operation and failure.

PREAMPS
At $150, i'm surprised that the Behringer is as quiet as it is.  With that in mind, a direct comparison to the Mackie leaves me wondering about the $250 price tag because the DFX12's preamps have less headroom than the UB1222.  More on this below.

DESIGN/LAYOUT
The boards' layouts are fairly similar.  The Mackie is a bit wider with the sides sticking out.  The Behringer's top, despite having two less outputs, is very cramped in part because of the little FX preset chart they have printed in the upper right corner.

Behringer's problem with a cramped space isn't helped by the inclusion of their XPQ and FBQ features.  Something that isn't in the way but should be, are balanced/unbalanced 1/4" main outputs.  Did Behringer leave this out because they ran out of space?  Anybody using the UB1222FX out live had better bring an extra XLR-to-1/4" cable with them (what a drag).

A seemingly small but very important difference in design is the shape of the mixers.  With its low profile at the bottom of the channel faders, Mackie's DFX12 design is exactly what you'd want when spending alot of time mixing.  There is enough room below the DFX12's faders that you can actually use labeling tape.
Behringer's UB1222FX on the other hand, is more for the live show "set it and forget it" kindof gig where you won't be riding the faders.  Behringer gives you the option of rack-mounting this mixer (included ears).

Mackie's phantom power switch is located on the top, whereas Behringer's phantom power switch is located in the back.  Depending on how you work (making adjustments, plugging/unplugging, physically moving the board around) there are advantages and disadvantages to both locations.  Mackie's DFX12 is more of a studio board, and so the top location makes more sense.  Beheringer's UB1222FX being more a live board; the back makes more sense to me.
On the Behringer, there are plastic pieces on either side of the Standby (mutes all mic channels) switch so that it's harder to press it accidentally.  This should be a standard feature for phantom power switches on all mixers regardless of location of the switch.

One of the things i can't stand about Behringer boards is their power LED, which is ridiculously bright.  It's annoying enough in a well-lit room, but in the darkness of the bar it becomes this torturous retina-piercing beacon that glows horribly bright in the furthest reaches of your peripheral vision.  You never want to put tape on somebody else's equipment but you have to wonder about the risk of seizures after a certain amount of time.

EQUALIZATION
For the money, it's very disappointing that Mackie would go with only a 5-band Main EQ and omit the Mid EQ on every channel.  Are they even trying to be at all competitive?  I realize that this isn't a hugely important issue for *home studio* applications, but you have to think that one of the reasons somebody would buy a board like this is because it can pull double duty live.  And live is where you would absolutely want to have that Mid EQ channel option.
In fact, if i were choosing between these boards for use with singer/songwriter acoustic nights at the pub, that Mid EQ alone would be a deciding factor.

Behringer's choice in Main EQ frequencies are: 63Hz, 160Hz, 400Hz, 1kHz, 2.5kHz, 6.3kHz, and 16kHz.  I think that going with 16kHz versus Mackie's use of 12kHz is a mistake on Behringer's part.  12k for a Main EQ on this type of board is just *way* more useful, and here's why:
These small boards are made for smaller venues/events; basically anything where you wouldn't need to mic the drums (because you can't, without another board feeding into this one!).  With these type of gigs, if you don't have a 1/3 octave graphic EQ in your rig, you control feedback like this: don't have ridiculous stage volume; don't point your microphone toward the speakers.
In my opinion, there is more utility in 12k with regard to vocals and room (size/design) limitations.
Yes, for use with Behringer's Feedback Detection System, 16k makes more sense, but then you have to wonder how wide they're setting the bandwidth for this frequency.  If it's a narrow Q, it's not gonna be as effective in all the different rooms you'd play.  If they've gone with a wide Q, it's gonna be that blanket-over-the-speakers effect when trying to "notch" out feedback.

Behringer's main EQ sliders have LEDs built in to each one.  I LOVE this on a $150 mixer!  In addition to the obvious utility of easily visible sliders; when using Behringer's Feedback Detection the LEDs are used to identify the looping frequencies (again, i haven't tested FBQ and couldn't say how well it works in the real world).

EFFECTS
On lower-end boards like these where you do have Inserts, you would basically only be using on-board Reverb 90-something percent of the time (does anybody really need dedicated flange across the board?!).  Compression or other FX would be inserted on a per-channel basis.
You can't expect the on-board effects to sound great, but they could only be so noisy before they'd be useless.

I have used the DFX12 on-board reverb for acoustic gigs and it is useable but just barely.  Pushing any more than a bare minimum of the FX Aux results in a hiss that is very obvious when the only thing coming through the speakers is vocals and guitar.

Mackie claims to have 32-bit FX but it's described as "16-bit, 2 channel".  I have never heard a processor spec described that way.  It's kindof confusing, but then i have the board right in front of me so...
I have used the ubiquitous Alesis MicroVerb since around 1990, and i can say with complete certainty that the DFX12's on-board verb is every bit as noisy and clouded sounding.  If this is Mackie's idea of 32-bit, it's a good thing they didn't settle for 24 (which i'm assuming would've been "12-bit, 2 channel"! lol).

Of the seven verb presets available on the Mackie, i personally only find one to be useful for vocals (and acoustic guitar).

Just like with the preamps, it is surprising to me that the FX on the Behringer are as quiet and decent-sounding as they are.  Anybody who considered the on-board effects of these low-end compact mixers an important factor in their decision would pretty much have to go with the Behringer over the Mackie.

I have used full-sized Behringer boards at plenty of gigs with a full band, but we always have dedicated verb and compression - can't imagine using the on-board FX.  I have used the UB1222FX out live a few times for solo acoustic and i honestly could not be happier with the fidelity and noise floor considering the price range.

I have only used one verb preset (#10) out live with the Behringer so far.  But for this review i ran through all 24 of the verb presets available on the UB1222FX and i think at least 5 would be useable for solo acoustic gigs (just my personal taste/opinion).

Behringer offers another FX routing function that is worth looking into for anybody who would be using on-board effects live AND in their home studio: Insert FX (compressor, expander, gate, exciter, guitar amp, test tone, and more).  I didn't have time to test any of it myself, but it might be worth looking into for some people.

VOCAL CANCELLATION/ELIMINATION (KARAOKE)
The effectiveness of voice cancellation really depends on how the music is mixed, and results vary greatly.  From what i've read, nothing goes away *completely*.

Admittedly, i'm not a karaoke kindof guy, but it seems to me that anybody doing this out in public would just be better off buying the karaoke versions of the songs.  The voice cancellation technology is just too hit or miss - you'd have to run through all of your CDs/MP3s at home first, figuring out which ones would work.  My guess is that anyone purchasing either the Mackie DFX12 or the Behringer UB1222FX in part because of the karaoke feature will be disappointed.

Anyway, for this review i went through most of the reference tracks that i use for other things in the studio.  Results were interesting.

Something is going on with the low frequencies.  I don't know if this is frequency-dependent, or if something is being added after the phase is flipped.  But clearly an attempt is being made to to keep things like bass guitar and drums from being affected by the cancellation process.
It's very noticeable on Burden In My Hand (Soundgarden).  Chris Cornell's vocals are for the most part effectively eliminated, but you can totally hear something going on with the lowest frequencies of the vocal track.  It sounds like either air is hitting the mic diaphragm, or a room frequency is resonating.  It's actually pretty cool.
None of the bass-heavy songs that i tried sounded *good*, but some sounded better than others.

Backup vocals in every song i tested were right there in the mix, which i would assume is a good thing for karaoke.  But on alot of tracks, the guitar and/or snare was either missing or altered to the point of distraction (at least to my ears).  For some tunes you wouldn't necessarily *miss* specific guitar parts, but on other songs it's pretty much critical (Sweet Home Alabama; Cold Shot).

Voice cancellation worked really well on some tunes (Black Water) but completely ruined others (Criminal).  I wanted to post some recordings i'd made but i'm afraid of the RIAA suing me so i probably won't ever get around to doing it!

CONCLUSION: MACKIE DFX12
The layout of the DFX12 really doesn't make it the best choice for a live gig.  It's not rack-mountable.  It doesn't have a Mid channel EQ; and the main EQ is only five bands.  The available effects are limited and noisy.
The Vocal Elimination seems gimmicky to me (it worked on less than 50% of the pop music i tested), but if it helps them sell units i guess i understand.
The Mackie does look really good sitting in the studio, and it is clearly designed to facilitate long hours of mixing.  But the reality is that in the studio these days people are mixing on control surfaces, not mixers.
Mackie's layout does make complete sense.  All of the things i use are right where i'd want them to be and none of the things that i don't use get in my way, which is nice.
I have spent many hours using this mixer live and in the studio, and i don't dislike it.  I just don't think the Mackie DFX12 is worth the money when better boards are available for far less money.

CONCLUSION: BEHRINGER UB1222FX
I kindof wish that Behringer hadn't tried to cram so much into what is supposed to be a low-end compact mixer.  I like that it is compact but they could've made better use of space without the "feedback detection", Surround, and Vocal Cancellation; let alone that guide to 99 FX presets in the upper right corner.  You're only gonna be using 1 effect and chances are that'll be the one you use all the time.
I think that Behringer made an absolutely huge mistake in not having 1/4" main outputs available in addition to the XLR outs.  Clearly their market research has failed them on what people buying this type of board are using it for.
Having said that, i basically like the UB1222FX.  It does everything i would expect this type of mixer to do, but more importantly, their preamps AND the FX processor are way more clean than i'd expect them to be for $150.

MACKIE DFX12 VERSUS BEHRINGER UB1222FX
The three things i like better about the Mackie are: 1/4" main outputs; their choice of a 12k band on the Main EQ; it's definitely a more comfortable board.  In my opinion though, the Behringer is a better board in many other ways.  The Behringer is quieter, smaller and has more features and options than the Mackie.
I've spent lots of stage time being routed through various Behringer mixers and haven't experienced one dying yet, but i've seen enough other Behringer gear die that it is something i think about.  Still though, even if you added the cost of say, a 24-month extended full coverage warranty, it's still totally worth the money (as long as you have other boards available as backups if/when your Behringer goes crispy on you!).

Copyright 2008 jumbosunshade.com