I’ve held off sharing my impressions of the Mackie MCU Pro line of mixers because I didn’t wanna’ alienate anyone. Also because I wanted to be sure I had a solid understanding of the differences between the Mackie MCU Pro line and the Behringer X-Touch line (the X-Touch and X-Touch Extender exclusively). But after designing the remote maps needed to use both brands with Reason, I feel I would be letting people down by not discussing in detail why the Mackie MCU Pro line is inferior to the Behringer X-Touch line.
Getting the obvious outta’ the way
There’s some benefits of the Behringer X-Touch line over the Mackie MCU Pro line that aren’t really the focus of this article. So let’s briefly go over those benefits.
The X-Touch line (X-Touch and X-Touch Extender) has VU meters, is cheaper by nearly half ($449 vs. $1,099) and has better looks (once you take off the tacky, plastic sides). While those points help, the part that makes the the Mackie MCU Pro line inferior is down to…
Mackie’s wacky rotary encoders
The hidden drawback of the MCU Pro line are the rotary encoders. They’re completely inferior to the entire Behringer digital rotary encoder devices, from the BCR2000 to the X-Touch Extender. The rotaries of Mackie MCU Pro line devices function horribly because they don’t contain any acceleration function.
When you have to turn a knob from the full value of 0 (7 o’clock) to 127 (5 o’clock), on the MCU Pro you have to turn the rotary a full 5 times completely. In real life, it would simply take a twist of your fingers to turn a knob from 7 o’clock to 5 o’clock.
For Behringer X-Touch mixers, they support acceleration for their rotary encoders. Meaning you can turn the rotary knob slowly to change values from 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. But if you twist the rotary quickly, you can go from 0 to 127 in one motion.
In this GIF, I’m using the MJ Enhanced Combo Extender remote map I created on my X-Touch + Extender. I’m turning the low frequency gain knob of a mixer channel. The parameters in Reason for this knob goes from 0 to 1,000 and moves by 10 ticks. You can see, in one motion, I can change the value from 0 to 1,000. Yet I can also move the encoder by the smallest increments. The most important thing to focus in the GIF is the LED encoder’s position to get a visual understanding of the importance of this.
You might think this isn’t a big deal, but it’s a huge deal. In mastering, you need to sweep knobs, changing knob values quickly. This isn’t possible at all with the MCU Pro. Mackie MCU Pro and XT Pro owners don’t complain about it, but that’s simply because they either don’t realize this or they view it as an acceptable flaw. Yet if it were so acceptable, then Mackie would still be selling the Mackie C4 Pro. But…
The reason the Mackie C4 Pro was abandoned
The rotary encoders of the Mackie MCU Pro line are the reason so many people were buying the Mackie C4 Pro and immediately returning them. The MCU Pro, XT Pro and C4 Pro all use the same encoders and digital hardware for controlling the rotaries.
Mackie discontinued the C4 Pro because people were expecting to preforming sweeping actions with the rotary knobs for controlling synths, effects and other devices. Yet I personally find my most demanding “knob sweeping” needs are not when controlling synths or effect devices but controlling the mixer.
Most MCU Pro owners won’t report discontent
Many people who own Mackie MCU Pro and XT Pro’s may not complain about the rotary knobs, but that doesn’t mean these issues don’t exist when compared to Behringer X-Touch’s. Just like if you were to ask me, a Behringer X-Touch owner, if I have any complains about the quality of the motorized faders, I’ll say no.
But that doesn’t mean the X-Touch’s faders are on par with the MCU Pro’s or that the X-Touch’s faders aren’t complaint-worthy. Just because fader noise is something I “never” notice because I’m “always playing music through speakers or via headphones” doesn’t mean they won’t bother other people.
MCU Pro owners will twist, twist, twist, twist, twist their way through their rotary encoders and may not speak ill of them, but the problem doesn’t go away.
The Behringer brand gets undeserved flack
A lot of people have this notion that Behringer makes bad products or they’re of lesser quality than more expensive products. I haven’t found this to be true at all. I’ve owned products from Alesis, Akai, AKG, American DJ, Gemini, Korg, LiveWire, M-Audio, Ocean Matrix, Roland, Samson, Sony, Tascam and Teac. The products I’ve owned from Behringer have all been high quality, durable and dependable.
I don’t buy based on brand, I buy based on the merits of an individual product. So it’s telling that of all the brands I’ve mentioned, I’ve owned the most Behringer products. First was the BCF2000, then BCR2000, MS20, X-Touch, X-Touch Mini, FCA1616 and most recently the X-Touch Extender. The most delicate of those products, the three motorized mixers, were each bought used and they all function flawlessly.
Behringer almost always introduces a product later than their competitors and at a much cheaper price while many times adding additional features. Somebody spends $1,000 for a product, develops brand / model loyalty (to justify their purchase) and then another brand comes out with an alternative for only $500?
Of course people are going to talk crap. So many people hate Behringer products simply because Behringer has a habit of disrupting product categories; similar to some of the hate Apple and Samsung experience.
Behringer X-Touch is the superior device
The Mackie MCU Pro and XT Pro are very capable mixers with quieter faders, work well on flat surfaces and perform nicely with Reason (because of the MJ Enhanced Universal Control / MJ Enhanced Combo Extender). In fact, I personally view the original MCU line as being iconic and an important part of control-surface history. The Behringer X-Touch line is modeled directly off of the MCU Pro line after all. But because of the MCU Pro’s rotary encoders, looks, lack of VU meters and price, the Behringer X-Touch line is clearly superior.
Later. – MJ