Since mid-July I’ve had a “serious fling” with the Mackie DLM series loudspeakers. It has become a great relationship. I’ve come to love their svelt look and while they may be small, they pack some serious punch.
Like any new relationship, it has not been without it’s rough spots. There have been a few moments when we’ve gotten on each other’s nerves, like when I was trying to figure out (on the fly) just how the feedback reduction system worked. Or, when one of the tops decided it was nap time mid gig. But all of that can be chalked up to the “getting to know each other” relationship phase. And now that we have “dated” for a while it’s become a very positive, speaker-user relationship. But alas, it’s time to send them packing back to Woodinville.
The Goods: The Mackie self powered DLM series consist of the DLM8, DLM12 and the DLM12s. All of the DLM boxes sport a 2000watt class D power amplifier. That is a lot of power to push through an 8” or a 12” speaker. Actually, 2000 watts seems like enough to blow these speakers to pieces! To make sure that doesn’t happen, Mackie has put some interesting voodoo into these speaker boxes because they not only did not blow up but they sound fantastic.
The diminutive size of the speaker cabinets (made of impact-resistant PC-ABS plastic) are not much larger than the speaker itself. The full-range speakers are coaxial, which mean the high-frequency compression drivers are set in the center of the woofers. (Mackie calls it “TruSource Technology” — Go HERE for an explanation of sound waves, interference patterns and why drivers placed side by side—without some kind of waveguide—result in compromised audio and general lack of clarity.)
The added benefit of this design is greatly enhanced portability: they are smaller, lighter and perform equally as well, if not better, than their more conventionally designed brethren.
Ins and Outs: On the DLM8 and DLM12 there’s a pair of inputs (XLR-1/4” combo jacks). Channel one is selectable for either a line or mic input. Channel 2 is mic only. Obviously, this was done to make the DLM8 or DLM12 perfect for use as an acoustic guitar/singer rig. Take just one of these, add a guitar, mic and stand and just about any coffee house gig could be covered. There’s even a pair of phono inputs on channel 2 so an mp3 player could pump out the house music during your java break.
There’s also a XLR through jack, so 2 or more units can be chained together and is selectable for either channel 1 or the mix of channels 1 and 2. The full-range boxes have 3-band EQ, 16 different audio effects, and six different speaker modes. The preamp is digital, so all the settings are accessed through a LED menu screen and buttons.
The DLM sub sounds quite amazing for a 12” woofer, and at 18” (H) x 16” (W) x 21” (D) and weighing in 48 lbs, it is still very manageable for a single individual to carry. (Editor’s note: A Fender Twin Reverb amplifier weighs 64 lbs.)
The sub has a pair of XLR inputs, a pair of high pass XLR outputs, and a pair of full-range XLR outputs. There are no ¼” or phono inputs; the assumption is that if you’re using the subs, you’re using a mixing board. So the simple set up is just to run out of your mixer, into the sub, and then run a second cable (per side) from the sub out to the input of the top box.
The sub’s digital preamp looks similar to the one on the standard cabinets, but it only has sub-woofer functions (volume, cross over frequence, delay (of the time alignment variety, not the vocal effect, and memory for the presets. As with most of these of this ilk, it is best to familiarize yourself with the menu and all features in the comfort of home so they are easily accessed and navigated during the pressure of performances.
Some serious forethought went into DLM series’ settings with the realization that these speakers could be used as mains or monitors, with or without the subwoofer…and be used by DJs, bands or solo acts. There are three user programmable pre-sets, so the guitarist/singer can save his/her ultimate guitar and voice EQ and favorite delay/reverb settings, have another preset for when the speakers are used as mains, and yet another for when they’re used as floor monitors (they even have a built-in kickstand so they tilt back exactly for this purpose).
The system can be time aligned if multiple speakers are used, with delays up to 300ms. You might think that time alignment is not a feature bands or DJs will typically use and that this is more for installations at venues so that speakers placed away from the stage (i.e. mid-way in a theater) “line up” with the sound energy being projected from the speakers at the front of the stage. But you would be wrong. Again, check that link on coaxial speakers for an explanation.
They also have an on-board feedback destroyer and Smart Protect so you don’t destroy your speakers with all that available power.
Judging by the way they looked when they arrived, our review speakers’ virginity had been lost well before the brown truck dropped ‘em at Live2Play Studio North. The shipping boxes looked like they had just endured a tornado and there were no poles or AC cables included. Conclusion: these had not come directly from Mackie. (It is not uncommon for review gear to be circulated between various publications.)
Add to that the fact that in the last six months these loudspeakers have been knocked about with great regularity in our own extended durability/reliability test. Generally, there are no issues. However…I had the DLM’s out for one of my final nights of this evaluation, everything is set up per the normal routine, power up and sound check…and…nothing. I mean absolute silence. This gig was a wedding reception in a “historic” building. As most crew, musicians and DJs know: “historic” is code for crappy load in, poor acoustics and dirty power.
I began troubleshooting, checking all connections and settings from the board back. All seemed fine. It appeared that the problem was the speakers, but that made no sense, as there were four powered speakers and they were all on and plugged in…but only one appeared to be working.
Long story short, after swapping outlets for one side of the rig, both sides came to life. Like most modern day loudspeakers, the digital processors in these speakers need clean and adequate power. After addressing the power issues the DLMs partied heartily through the evening. I consider this a building/electrical issue and mention it as a little tip should you encounter a similar problem.
For most of my DJ gigs (setting up for a band will no doubt be different, but here’s a starting point) I found that the optimal placement was 10-12 feet to the right and left of the workspace with the satellite speakers on poles about 6’ high and the rig as close to the wall as possible. This set-up produced a really deep rush of bass with plenty of clarity on the high end.
Aside from the extreme ease these speakers are to cart, carry and set up, the thing that impressed us most was the imaging: especially when you find those sweet spots of speaker placement for your venue. The sound is audiophile quality, on par with really top-end install systems such as you would find in a movie theater. For a portable sound system, that is quite an accomplishment. And it has everything to
do with that coaxial design.
Just remember, this is not your ordinary speakers on sticks system. Take some time and experiment with placement and tuning and you may find it to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
– Robert Lindquist (with additional input from Jamie Rio, Jake Kelly, and Bill Evans)
Originally posted 2014-01-20 22:00:06.