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Agree with the last post. A&H can be run hot which is one of the many reasons why I have bought so many A&H desks over the years. I would drive the pre-amp as hard as you can with the A&H analogue desks (great sound), and then trim it back if you want to.

Mackie is cheap and cheerful – i.e. you just look at the pre-amp and it distorts and generally sounds terrible. Basically running first gain stage hot is the way to go, and is not something that Mackie can do.