Desktop Mixer Advice

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
JGum
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Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:55 am

I'm looking for a 4-6 channel mixer under $150 hopefully under $100. I've looked at ALTO, Behringers, and Mackies today but am looking for some words of wisdom from a forum member instead of depending on aging reviews scattered across numerous sites.

Here's the skinny; I'd like a mixer to run into my soundcard. When it was just the microKORG & the occasional microphone, no biggy. Now that I have the microKORG, Koassilator, and even because I'm kinda silly, an iPod with iKoassilator and iMaschine. I need to be able to host these 3 devices on their own channels all the time to ease sampling whatever may come my way including live performances on them. I'd like to be able to add a mic to that, possibly a guitar, and finally maybe, just maybe, a Roland V-Drum kit. My 3 dedicated instruments and the occasional other 3 put me at 6 channels. However as I continue to shop around I see 6 channel mixers that only allow 4 channels at a time as channels 1 & 2 are usually XLR or 1/4" input, this makes it exceptionally hard shopping for a mixer that fits my needs considering my ignorance in the field of audio production.

Given the information I have provided, understand I doubt I will ever need all 6 connected at the same time, not to say I wouldn't want them, but not enough to pay extra for it. I think a proper 4 channel mixer would be nice as I could have several combinations of digital/live instruments as well as the microphone inputs to work with given any production setting that may arise.

So there you have it, a need for 4-6 channels and no idea which brand/company/product to believe in. Thanks for any words of advice/wisdom you can share.

jestermgee
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by jestermgee » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:13 am

For the channels I think your budget needs a bit of consideration :)

A GOOD 2 channel mixer can start at about $200. That's good, not great. I guess the question first would be:

- Do you need it to mix for recording or just for listening?

A cheap mixer will have cheap amps and circuits. This will normally mean they have a lot of noise (hiss) which when recorded can sound pretty plain and bad. It's ok if you have a lot of volume going through it and in a club/dj environment it's not even an issue. But in a studio it will spoil any good recording you may get. Also a lot of the time the connections will be different between DJ and Studio (EG, DJ will mainly have RCA for decks and CD whereas studio will typically have TRS or RLR inputs to suite Mics and balanced inputs).

Most "cheap" mixers will top out at 4ch BUT may have switches that allow additional inputs to be switched. I use to have an old Radio Shack PA mixer that had 6CH Line inputs and 3 CH Mic inputs which even second hand 9 years ago was $280. I was only good for gigs, not studio because the output was too noisy.

In your price range I wouldn't be looking Mackie. Behringer would be the likely bet but you will be pressed to turn up any good reviews of Behringer mixers. Second hand would be the way to go but be careful because some older mixers can be a pain when a fader is gone or on its way out.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:55 am

I wasn't looking for any brand in particular, they were just what I had found beginning my search.


Mackie has 2 I looked at the 402-VLZ3 ($100) http://www.mackie.com/products/402vlz3/ & 802-VLZ3 ($185) http://www.mackie.com/products/802vlz3/

Alto had 1 I was interested in, the ZMX862 ($70) http://www.altoproaudio.com/products/zmx862

and a Behringer XENYX 1002FX ($100) http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/1002FX.aspx though they seem to have several in this class to choose from.

The Behringer is a prime example of inputs/channels. It has 10 inputs but 6 outputs.

jester, is there a reason you advise that I avoid Mackie for the price? They offer a unit(s) in my spending range. Is it your opinion that these lower end products, though they carry the name, are not up to the brand quality?

There seems to be an abundance of mixers in this price range, offering similar functionality. Anyone with any experience using something along these lines feel free to chime in with experiences and opinions, esp regarding the possibility of noise as mentioned by jestermgee.


I never really thought of this but what you (jester) said is very true. I have a buddy with a DJ mixer that he uses with turntables a mic and such for mixing and emceeing but whenever he uses his rig to record his mixes there is always a hiss or just the presence of power in the signal always heard in the recording. Any models that reduce or eliminate this would be great.

Thanks again.

willdahbe
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by willdahbe » Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:09 am

What kind of sound card do you have?

Also, Soundcraft mixers are suppose to be pretty decent.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:46 am

I am using the M-Audio Firewire Solo.

Thanks for directing me to http://www.soundcraft.com
Something tells me this is too good to be true... http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul04/a ... ompact.htm for $200ish give or take. The review seems positive.

They also have some in their Notebook line that are what I thought I was looking for. Browsing their site you can see they are driven by the live/production demands of much larger units. It's hard to find anything there that doesn't look like it belongs on tour.

jestermgee
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by jestermgee » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:42 am

JGum wrote:
jester, is there a reason you advise that I avoid Mackie for the price? They offer a unit(s) in my spending range. Is it your opinion that these lower end products, though they carry the name, are not up to the brand quality?
Nah, it was purely because when I was looking for a mixer (though I was searching for studio use so was looking more at quality mic pre's) the prices for your basic mixers started around the $300. But additionally too I was looking for mixers that had Faders because I had a soundcraft compact4 mixer. Mackie are quite good for quality and build.

RE: willdahbe, Can't believe I skipped over Soundcraft as a brand since I use to have one. The compact4 I had was great. 2 stereo channels and 2 moni (mic) channels and silent as a mouse. But again, this was $300 when I first bought it. I upgraded to a Mackie 1402 Pro because I needed more channels and faders over knobs (harder to see and operate knobs).

This is probably where my theory on price is a bit flawed. There seems to be a lot of great choices and for your purpose, probably any of the mentioned would work well.

Spyro
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by Spyro » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:11 am

Soundcraft delivers good quality for pretty low prices!!

be tonal
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by be tonal » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:44 am

I like the ALLEN & HEATH ZED-10, good quality and features. Might be overkill, although it´s always good to have some spare channels imo.
The stuff recommended so far should be good, too. Mackie, Soundcraft have a good value for the money, but i would avoid going cheaper.

Another cheap way to connect more stuff (esp. if you dont need eqs or record many tracks at once) is to add a patchbay to a small mixer.

swishniak
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by swishniak » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:07 pm

im not sure if someone here has tried to convince you of this yet, but...

consider upgrading your soundcard to something with more ins and outs. something like a Motu ultralite will give you enough to plug in all your gadgets and be able to instantly record them (without running them through a cheap sounding board!).

and if its about knob twiddling then check out some scripts for the nanos / akai control surfaces.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:23 pm

I looked at the ALLEN & HEATH ZED-10, it's not really what I need. Too many Mic/Mono inputs, not enough stereo. These Soundcraft 4 & 10 models are right up my alley. I need to run output from computers, iPods, the kaossilator, etc things with RCA and 1/8" connectors into a single unit before hitting the soundcard. The 10 looks perfect because it's more than I need but still capable of other instruments as I do work with a drummer, emcee & a guitarist.

Before I decided to post this I read some disturbing reviews, ( http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audi ... t-10-mixer ) though it seems I can overcome that shortcoming by unplugging it or powering down all the equipment I have plugged in through a single power strip... any words of wisdom/experience from Soundcraft users?

i was looking at buying that item today but the reviews have me weary.

jestermgee
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by jestermgee » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:39 pm

Hey I wouldn't worry too much about those reviews.

The Soundcraft 4 (and I assume the 10 because it's the same thing just bigger) use a 12vDC plug pack power supply. These WILL burn out after some time and are cheap and easily replaced from anywhere. The good thing too is that being 12vDC it is possible to also run this mixer from a battery for mobile use.

One thing to keep in mind (which is probably what burnt out these peoples supplies) is that the mixer does not have a power switch so you need to unplug it at the wall when not in use. Also, these mixers produce a large Pop when switched on. This was an issue for me as I have a master cutoff switch that switches on/off all my gear and the mixer and monitors would come on at the same time to a large pop. That's the only drawback I found. Just turn on monitors last.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:41 pm

swishniak,

I use a laptop for all this, so I'm already using an external soundcard with an XLR connection and phantom power. I like it. Do you have any suggestions as to what external sound card will allow up to 6 simultaneous devices?

Also, it's not about the knobs, I just want the signal making it the soundcard without the constant pluggin gand unplugging. It's fine with me to "take turns" recording each piece of audio but I want to reduce the time plugging and unpluggin gthings just to keep working. I'd be happier if I could just jump from instrument to instrument knowing I've already adjusted their levels and play to my hearts content.

Right now if I travel, i'm only taking the laptop, soundcard, mikro and koassilator, that all fits in a single bag. so any mixer of any size is cool with me as I do not plan to use it for performances, even the suggestion of a simple patch bay was great. if I could find a small one to plug into the soundcard that could accept the 1/8" and RCA connectors, I'd be golden.

Thanks again.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:52 pm

jester, good looking out, thanks.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 9:59 pm

swishniak,

I didn't mean to overlook your suggestion of the Motu, but the price is not me, this is a hobby whose budget keeps exceeding my plans. If I bought the Soundcraft COMPACT 10 and keep my M-Audio, I'm still at under half the cost of that MOTU and I still have the options I need.

JGum
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Re: Desktop Mixer Advice

Post by JGum » Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:01 pm

jester,

I was just re-reading the reviews. They seem to state that components inside the unit were damaged, not just the wall wart, one even says the damage inside the item caused a problem that ended up frying the wall wart too though.

Do you still have your Soundcraft?, if not, how long did you have it and was it working when you got rid of it?

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