Although Mackie is one of the best known mixer companies out there to the uninitiated this is not a result of their incredibly high quality. Rather it is the result of there ability to produce a passable board at a lower price point than many other companies. With the exception of the Mackie 8 Bus board that they no longer make I now shudder when I am placed in a situation that requires me to mix using a Mackie board.
I too used to be one of those who believed that Mackie boards were the best boards. When most of your expereience is on consumer grade mixer amps, or worse yet, Radio Shack grade DJ mixers you are amazed by a Mackie board the first time you get to use one, or even see one. I'll admit that Mackie boards have a clean sound, but they also have a very sterile sound. They are also designed in such a way to make repairs very costly and very painful.
A lot of people are familiar with the Mackie boards because it is the best thing that there local guitar or music store sells. Just because they don't have anything better doesn't mean that something better doesn't exist. Buying pro sound gear from your guitar store is a lot like buying furniture from Wal-Mart. It serves the purpose, but don't think that its the best that money can buy.
If you are thinking about buying a mixing board, and all you have considered is a Mackie board than you really need to have another look. Here are a few ideas for you:
Allen & Heath
Yes they are more expensive, and if you can't afford them then by all means get the Mackie board, its better to have you out there being productive and creative than for you to wish that you had the tools that you needed. Just don't buy the Mackie board because you think its the best thing out there before you've even compared it to anything else.