Mackie 1402VLZ4 Vs. Zoom LiveTrak L 12: Compared And Rated

Choosing the right mixer when there are so many on the market these days isn't easy.
Especially when many of them are built for one specific need but being marketed as an all-rounder 🙄
But not to worry, I've got ya!
I have taken a deep dive into two beasts in the audio-mixing game and gone head to head with them: Mackie 1402VLZ4 vs. Zoom LiveTrak L 12.

We're looking at things like:
  • Sound Quality: This is the heart of the matter, right? How each mixer holds up in delivering crisp, clear audio. Are we talking about a mixer that makes your tracks sound like they're live from the garage, or are we hitting studio-quality sound?
  • Ease of Use: Nobody wants to spend hours figuring out which button does what. I’ll break down the user interface of both Mackie 1402VLZ4 and Zoom LiveTrak L 12. Are they plug-and-play easy, or will you need a PhD in mixology to use them?
  • Features and Functions: Ie. What's under the hood? Let's find out what sets them apart.
  • Durability: No matter your reason for buying, you want something that's gonna last, not fall apart after a few light sessions.
  • Price Point: Yep, money talks. When it comes to prices, we need to see which mixer gives us more bang for our buck. Is the higher price of one justified by its features, or is the other a hidden gem at a bargain price?
  • Customer Reviews and Feedback: What's the word on the street? Sometimes real-world use tells a different story than what the sales page says.

Mackie 1402VLZ4

I'll be honest, I only bought the Mackie 1402VLZ4, a 14-channel compact mixer, to test it out and review, but here's what I think…

First Impressions

Right out of the box, the mixer's design caught my eye. It's sleek and not as bulky as some of its counterparts, making it a good fit for smaller spaces. The build, however, felt a bit different compared to the older VLZ3 models. The glide knobs, for instance, seemed a bit on the cheaper side. Despite this, the sound quality didn't disappoint. It's that clear, crisp Mackie output I've come to expect from their mixers.

Usability and Features

Functionally, this mixer does its job well. The monitor mix setup is simple and intuitive. Especially useful was the way the first monitor mix worked with the monitor master and the second with the slider control. This distinction is great for managing different vocalists or instruments. The mixer’s sound is good and quiet, which is a plus for recording or live settings.

Durability Concerns

A notable change from previous models is the move from a metal to a plastic case. This shift might raise some durability concerns. I can't shake off the feeling that it might not withstand the rigors of frequent transportation or heavy use.

Quality and Longevity

While the overall performance of the Mackie 1402VLZ4 is commendable, it's hard to ignore the change in quality over the years. There have been some issues with the volume trim pots becoming scratchy or cutting out prematurely, which can be frustrating. It seems like a step down from the legendary durability Mackie mixers used to boast.

Zoom LiveTrak L-12

Zoom LiveTrak L-12: A Multifaceted Digital Mixer

Practical Design, Impressive Functionality

After spending three months with the Zoom LiveTrak L-12, I've found it to be an invaluable tool for a musician, offering versatility in numerous situations. Its compact size belies its powerful capabilities, making it ideal for various settings from practice to live performances.

Rehearsal and Practice Sessions Elevated

Integrated Metronome and Recording Ease

The L-12 excels in practice environments. Its ability to connect multiple devices, such as a computer via USB for playing along with Spotify, is highly convenient. The built-in metronome and easy recording to SD cards are perfect for pinpointing and working on challenging sections. The recording feature is intuitive, simply arm the desired tracks, and you're set.

Rehearsal Powerhouse

Individual Monitoring and Built-in Effects

In low-volume rehearsals, particularly where everyone uses headphones, the L-12 is a game-changer. With five independent aux sends to 1/4″ headphone jacks, it offers personalized monitoring for each musician. The built-in effects, like reverb for vocals, add to the mix's quality.

Writing and Recording Made Simple

Instant Recording and DAW Integration

Capturing spontaneous musical ideas is effortless with the L-12. Its standalone recording capability, combined with the metronome, allows for quickly laying down initial ideas and building upon them. The seamless integration with DAWs for further editing is a significant advantage.

Live Performances and Mixing

Flexible Output Options for Shows

Though more suited as a sub-mixer, the L-12 can handle a full show, especially when using in-ear monitors. It offers up to five different mixes for in-ear monitoring and has both XLR and balanced 1/4″ outputs for speakers. Recording live shows for later mixing is a breeze.

Adaptable for Socially Distanced Rehearsals

Effective for Diverse Rehearsal Setups

The current pandemic has made music rehearsals challenging, but the L-12 adapts well to different scenarios. Whether it's playing in separate rooms or outdoors, it allows for effective mic setups and clear monitoring of all instruments. The ability to quickly transfer recordings to a DAW like Logic Pro X is highly convenient.

Areas for Improvement

Minor Setbacks, But Still a Top Choice

Despite its many strengths, the L-12 has a few areas that could be improved:
1. The compression always writes to the recording and isn’t of the highest quality.
2. The preamps are adequate but not exceptional.
3. The file naming system, while functional, can be cumbersome to navigate.
4. The lack of motorized faders means manual adjustments are necessary when switching mixes.
5. There's no option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs in live situations.
Despite these minor issues, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 stands out for its versatility and comprehensive features at its price point.

Final Verdict

A Robust, Versatile Mixer for Various Needs

Concluding, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is an excellent choice for musicians and sound engineers looking for a versatile, all-in-one mixer and recorder. Its strengths in various environments, from studio to stage, make it a valuable asset. While it has some limitations, its advantages far outweigh them, making it a highly recommended tool in the music and recording industry.

Head 2 Head: Mackie 1402VLZ4 or Zoom LiveTrak L 12

Zooming into the Mackie 1402VLZ4

Naturally, one might be inclined to think that a compact mixer like the Mackie 1402VLZ4 would be all about size. But as they say, never judge an audio mixer by its cover. The 1402VLZ4 is more than just a pretty face. With a sleek design that would make even the most ardent minimalist nod in approval, this analog mixer brings something to the table for both live sound and recording. Let's talk usability. This mixing desk does not skimp on features. The monitor mix setup is as intuitive as your favorite mobile game, and with distinct controls for managing vocalists or instruments, it's like having your very own personal soundboard assistant. However, there's an elephant in the room we need to address – durability. In their quest for modernity, Mackie swapped out their metal case for plastic on this model. Not exactly the kind of change that gets a standing ovation from frequent users who are always on the move. And while we're on the topic of change, there have been murmurs about a slight dip in quality over time with this model. Some users have reported issues with volume trim pots getting scratchy or cutting out prematurely – not something you'd expect from an industry veteran like Mackie.

The Zoom LiveTrak L-12: More Than Meets The Eye

Switching gears now to another contender in our digital mixer showdown – enter the Zoom LiveTrak L-12. If you've ever wished for an audio Swiss Army Knife – versatile, reliable and compact – then this might just be your dream come true. From practice sessions to live performances, this recording console has got you covered. It even comes with built-in metronome and recording features that make it a breeze to work on those tricky sections for your next big hit. And with the ability to connect multiple devices, you can jam along to your favorite Spotify playlists without breaking a sweat. The L-12 also shines in low-volume rehearsals. With independent monitoring for each musician, it's like having your very own mixing desk right in your headphones. And let's not forget the built-in effects that can add that extra sparkle to your vocals. But what about live performances? Well, the L-12 is more than capable of handling a full show. With flexible output options and personalized mixes for in-ear monitoring, it's got all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a high-end live sound mixer. Despite its impressive feature list, there are a few areas where the L-12 could do better. The compression quality isn't top-notch, the preamps could be better and navigating the file system feels like solving a Rubik's cube at times. Plus, there's no option for individual stereo or mono pairs for monitor outputs during live performances.

And The Winner Is…

After going head-to-head with these two heavyweights, I'm inclined to crown the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 as our champion today. While both mixers bring their unique strengths to the table, I believe that versatility is key in this day and age. The L-12 is not just an audio mixer; it's an all-in-one solution that caters to various needs of musicians and sound engineers alike. Whether you're rehearsing in your bedroom or performing live on stage, this digital mixer has got you covered. As for Mackie’s 1402VLZ4 analog mixer – while it has its merits, particularly in terms of sound quality and usability, the concerns about durability and longevity cannot be ignored. In the end, it's all about finding the right tool for your needs. But if you're looking for a digital mixer that can do it all without breaking a sweat, then the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is your best bet.