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Old September 9th, 2007, 11:51 PM   #1
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Your opinions on Field Mixers under $675.00

I am looking for a proper field mixer to use with my XL1 (with MA100 XLR Adapter). I mainly plan to use it for narrative film work, but it might see some documentary action. The stuff I do is all no-budget indy stuff with volunteers who are generally local film students. I think I need the mixer for the following reasons.

Provide 48v phantom power for condenser microphones
Provide quality microphone pre-amplification
Provide quality monitoring for the boom operator independent of the camera
(Splitting the headphone output from the camera is cumbersome and results in an unacceptable loss in level in my experience. I would still have the camera-op monitor sound from the camera as a back up)
Providing multiple source inputs
(Most of the time I work with only one microphone. I am assuming there might be times when a second mic would be helpful, but I would like some thoughts from those who have mixed sound for films about what I should consider as a minimum)

I would say my budget is about $675.00, but like everyone I want to get the least expensive thing that will get the job done properly. This price range barley includes the Sound Devices MixPre, the PSC Promix 3 and Promix 1, Sign Video ENG44, Azden FMX-32 and a few others.

What I would really like to know from someone who’s been there and done it, is why I might need more inputs than I can get from the Mix Pre (which I assume is a quality device), or why the quality or features of one of lower priced mixers would or might not be satisfactory. I would love some hands on info from people who have used any of the above mixers (or others they consider worthy contenders).

I understand nothing will replace an experienced sound professional, but I still want to so the best I can with what I have to work with.
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Old September 10th, 2007, 10:09 AM   #2
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I have used the SD Mix pre and would recommend it.
I own the SD 302 and SD MM-1... I like their products, good sound, built tough and has the features you need for production sound.

I would rule out the Azden.. never use it and don't know anybody that has, but looking at the picture right off not good enough metering. Looks like a Shure FP-32 made on a budget. I have use the Shure FP 32- and 33.

Just received a PSC DV Promix 3 in trade, and I think it's a pretty good unit.

Haven't used the Sign Video ENG44, but another poster, I think Ty, said he used it and wasn't bad. Looks interesting for the $.

Wendt is good, haven't used them.

I think you are on the right track. Using gear made for production sound is a must. And after all is said and done,

You get what you pay for!!!!!!! There is no shortcut here!!!!!
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Old September 10th, 2007, 10:15 AM   #3
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I bought the SD MixPre and I'm very happy with it; very low noise and bullet proof build. I spent a long time mulling over whether to spend more on the SD 302:
Pros: More inputs and some extra features
Cons: More cash, heavier, more battery power required

In the end I decided that 2 inputs would be fine for the majority of the shoots I do (interviews, docs and v low budget films) so I went for the Mix Pre. I usually run a boom, sometimes with a lav or 2 lavs for interviews.

If you need 3 inputs, you can always mix both channels on the MixPre into 1 input of the camera and feed the second camera channel with a microphone - a bit messy but it works. Don't forget to set the camera inputs appropriately for line level or mic level.

I'd also recommend buying or making a cable to take an audio return from the camera to the mixer so that the mixer op can periodically check what the camera is getting. You can't always rely on the camera op and (as I found to my cost once) what you hear at the mixer is not necessarily the same as what gets recorded at the camera........
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Old September 10th, 2007, 10:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooks Harrington View Post
Wendt is good, haven't used them.
I use to own both the Wendt X2 and Wendt X4. Both of these are very solid and very well built. They sound wonderful and I would highly recommend any of the Wendt mixers. However, they do fall outside the $700 price range.

Wayne
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Old September 10th, 2007, 05:40 PM   #5
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I own the Sign Video ENG44 ( as an inexpensive mixer ) and Sound Devices MM-1 ( as a boom-op preamp ). Both work well and sound great.

The Sound Devices gear is built much tougher than just about anything else on the market, but I'm prepared to baby the Sign Video mixer until I can afford to replace it with a SD 302, which probably won't be this year. ( I am saving my pennies for a SD 702T recorder )

In the long run I will probably keep the Sign Video mixer as an emergency back-up to the SD 302.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 07:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Fleming View Post
I am looking for a proper field mixer to use with my XL1 (with MA100 XLR Adapter). I mainly plan to use it for narrative film work, but it might see some documentary action. The stuff I do is all no-budget indy stuff with volunteers who are generally local film students. I think I need the mixer for the following reasons.

Provide 48v phantom power for condenser microphones
Provide quality microphone pre-amplification
Provide quality monitoring for the boom operator independent of the camera
(Splitting the headphone output from the camera is cumbersome and results in an unacceptable loss in level in my experience. I would still have the camera-op monitor sound from the camera as a back up)
Providing multiple source inputs
(Most of the time I work with only one microphone. I am assuming there might be times when a second mic would be helpful, but I would like some thoughts from those who have mixed sound for films about what I should consider as a minimum)

I would say my budget is about $675.00, but like everyone I want to get the least expensive thing that will get the job done properly.
Yes, me too, but a mixer with those features doesn't exist, period, much less at that price.

Spliiting your headphone send should not be a problem with a camera that has a good headphone output. Some don't. That's a camera problem, (a single digit salute to mfgrs who skimp on the headphone circuit) not a mixer problem.

My SD 442 mixer has two headphone jacks. It also has a input trim control for the headphone return. That doesn't always make up enough gain from those puny headphone outputs, but it helps balance the sound so when I switch from mixer to return, the level stays the same.

I have one mixer/camera link tha has an extra mini jack on the camera end so the ccamera op can plug in, but mostly I just plug in to the other mixer jack.

You have an XL1. If that's like my XL2, the XLR inputs are mic level, NOT line. For you, I think a Sound Devices 302 has the most bang for the buck.

You can use the MixPre if you get the custom output leads that Sound Devices sells that knock the line level down to mic level.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old September 11th, 2007, 10:10 AM   #7
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Thanks for the feedback. The MA100 XLR adapter on the XL1 is switchable in the camera from Mic Level, Mic Level -20db, and Line Level so using the Mix Pre might be an option without adapters. I am feeling fairly good that even if I buy one for $665.00 I would be able to sell it later if I decided I needed somthing more. Consequently, if anyone has any tips on where I could find a clean used one, I would love to know where to look.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 10:23 AM   #8
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David,

Or, you can gang it with a 302 or 442 for more inputs.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old September 11th, 2007, 10:43 AM   #9
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While it's true that the camera menu has those three level choices, the MA-100 can't accept line-level signals at its XLR inputs.
Many MA-100's also receive noticeable interference from their power connection to the camera.
I try to avoid using the MA-100 whenever possible and use either short unbalanced cables from a mixer if the camera will be stationary or connect the mixer to a BeachTek-type adapter on the camera for longer, balanced runs with locking connectors.
There are two versions of the MixPre and their XLR outputs are different. The original model from long ago had impedence balanced connectors but the entire signal was carried on Pin 2. The newer and more common version has normal balanced outputs. The model you end up with, and what you're connecting it to, will determine whether you need to buy or make custom cables. In many cases with the new model, you can use standard attenuators.
You can distinguish the new model because the power connector is a small 4-pin connector. The old model used a typical co-axial power connector.
See the following for more info:
http://www.sounddevices.com/notes/fi...ng-topologies/
http://www.sounddevices.com/tech/mixpre_to-xl1s.htm
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Old September 11th, 2007, 11:13 AM   #10
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Thanks for the great links to Sound Devices site. They seem to say unbalanced cables will be cleaner than using the MA100 adapter with attenuating circuits when using shorter cable runs. For most things I do, I would say the sound guy is within 15 feet or less of the camera. Does this sound like an acceptable distance for an unbalanced cable run?

Also, how likely will connecting a montor return (from camera to the mixer) cause interference on the unbalanced input into the XL1?
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Old September 11th, 2007, 09:01 PM   #11
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I guess I will ask the ultimate final question. If you could have one of these, and it was all you had, and you were going to plug it into an XL1 which would you buy.

$665 – Sound Devices Mix Pre
$479 – PSC DV Pro Mix 3
$529 - Sign Video ENG-44

Thanks again for all the great input.
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Old September 11th, 2007, 10:13 PM   #12
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Easy. The Sound Devices Mix Pre.

Ty Ford
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Old September 12th, 2007, 09:14 AM   #13
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While the length of unbalanced cables is important, it's more the activity or movement at either end that can be more of a problem. The unbalanced mini output on the MixPre and to a lesser extent the RCA connectors on the camera are easily unhooked and fragile compared to XLR connectors.
I don't think hooking a return line to the mixer will cause problems, but the headphone output of the XL1 is very weak. I don't know if they improved it on the XL-1S or which one you have. I have used a headphone amp available at Radio Shack, Best Buy and online vendors that worked well with that camera.
I have both the MixPre and the PSC Promix 3. Certainly the MixPre is higher quality. You can hear the difference in the preamps and especially the headphone circuit. However, the PSC does have a lot of capability with one more input and both input and output level switching.
I don't have any experience with the ENG-44.
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Old September 12th, 2007, 10:01 AM   #14
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Jay,

Input output switching?

If you pull out the headphone amp (or master, I forget) of the Sound Devices MixPre, I think you get the camera return, no?

Regards,

Ty
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Old September 12th, 2007, 10:13 AM   #15
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My vote is for the SD Mixpre.
I'd get some Sescom attenuators, or the cable pre made from SD to go into your camera. If you put the unbalancing Sescoms on the end near the camera, it's not really going to matter what length cable you run.
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