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Old April 3rd, 2008, 08:39 AM   #1
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Decision on preamps, please help.

Hi guys,
Rather than hijacking the similiar thread about ENG mixer, I really want some advice(s) here.

Situation:
Doing most interviews and some music event (soft dynamic music) I really need a more quite (less noise) way to gain up my microphones. I am a "one-man-band" so to speak and don't usually have the option to hire a dedicated person for sound.
My camera is a Canon GL-2 w passive Beachtek 4p, and some microphones (condenser, dynamic). The preamp of the GL-2 is very noisy and thats why I'm going to need a better preamplifier for my mics.

I would love to have a small kit (3 channel mixer on battery) for doing different kind of job. I DON'T have a budget for Sound Devices 302, I wish I have.

So please share your thoughts about my limited budget (around 500$).


The choice of mixer:

I was thinking of PSC Promix 3 or Eng-44. Have anyone the opportunity to have tested BOTH and could recommend which has the best preamp and the hottest output? (Meaning that I don't have to gain up so much on the camera = less noise)
I noticed that Promix also had a limiter, which could come in handy for "one-man-band" gigs.

OR:

If neither of these portable mixers above will do a better job than a ordinary mixer like Mackie 1202 VLZ Pro or VLZ3, in terms of "noiseless" preamps, I would really love to know. This mixer is of course much bigger and don't run on batteries but could be an option within my budget and needs to produce a cleaner sound than my camera.

I have read so many posts here and I would really appreciate if someone could answer or give some options on mixers for my BUDGET. I know that Sound Devices makes a difference but I don't have that money, sorry.

All the Best
Ronnie
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 11:47 AM   #2
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Ronnie, the Sound Devices are the industry standar and the cream of the crop, but there are more affordable options out there for you, if you aren't as picky as some might be.

I used to use the PSC Promix3, and it worked great, but wasn't the best solution for my one man shooting setup as well. The pre amps on the PSC were pretty quiet and I was very happy with it.

I shoot live events (stage, weddings and such) and use several setups.
One is using separate audio recorders (Zoom H2, Marantz PMD620, Edirol R09, Edirol R4 (which I sold and will be getting a Edirol R-44 4 channel SD recorder) throughout the venue and mix in post.

I shoot with Sony FX1 cameras and also use a Beachtek DXA-FX box to run wireless and onboard audio into it. I do agree about the low noise floor audii being a bit loud. I was recently contacted by teh developer of a XLR box/mixer called juicelink.

He developed a small form factor XLR box 92 and 2 channel mixer) that is to be used with cameras mainly but can also be used with recorders as well.

The real good thing about these boxes is that he uses quiet onbaord preamps and thus avoiding a passive box setup like Beachtek.

He's sending me a CX2100 (2 channel unit) to test and compare with my Beachtek DXA-FX unit. I must say that I was rather impressed with the YouTube sample he posted on his site comparing the Juicedlink box to a Beachtek DXA-6 unit. Seemed very quiet.

I should have it sometime soon to do some testing, but it looks real good and looks like something that woudl be right up your alley for your needs. Especially the 4 channel mixer.

Check it out here.

Site:
http://juicedlink.com/index.htm

Video:
http://juicedlink.com/index_files/CX...comparison.htm
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 12:55 PM   #3
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Thank you very much for your reply and suggestions. :)

I am very curious on your opinion when you have tested juicelink adapter. I saw the video when they compare to Beachtek, seems amazing. So I hope that you'll find as good as in the video. One thing bothers me. Juicelink appears only to deliver their product just inside US. I'm living in Sweden... So I wonder if it's even possible for me to buy one.

1) Regarding your PSC, how is the noisefloor when you push the preamps real hard?

In some situations (like interview), my microphone (AT4031 or NTG-2) has to be about at least 2 feet from the talent for not showing up in the picture. Which means I have to crank up the external preamps real hard for not having to use so much of my noisy camera gain. And I want to have so clean signal as possible and don't want to mess with too much post processing like noise-reduction software etc. That's my problem, and that's why I'm wondering about good external preamps in reasonable pricerange.

2) How does your PSC promix match up against a ordinary mixer? (like Mackie etc)

Thanks again, and I'm sorry for my bad english.


Cheers
Ronnie
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 02:22 PM   #4
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Ronnie, I would contact them to see if they can make arrangements to deliver outside the states. Maybe something can be worked out.

As for the PSC the pre amps on the PSC are good and underrated by many I believe.

The best and only real true way to get good audio is to have your mics as close as possible to your audio source. The farther away you are the more cleanup in post you will have to do. If it's possible at all.

You didn't mention what type of recordings you are doing, as if it's a live run and gun the a wireless setup would be best. If it's an interview or closed set type option then you have several different configurations you could run.

For a one person setup a wireless will be your best option, as well as easiest or get a board feed and send it to the camera.

If you are using only external microphones (no wireless available), I would recommend getting a boom operator and have them run a boomed mic above the talent out of your frame. Or you could setup a boomed mic yourself if desired and do the same thing.

You could also hard wire external mics to your camera.

I normally run several different configurations, for a live run and gun setting, I will either mic a PA stack with 2 mics (Rode NT5's), with 1 micing the woofer and the other on the tweeter. These mics are mixed and fed into a recorder or mixed and sent to my camera via wireless. Or recorder and sent from the recorder to my camera via wireless for backup sync audio.

For studio sets I try to use wireless audio and/or placed external mics (Rode NT5's NT3's etc.) and mixed and fed to my camera either hard wired or wirelessly.
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Old April 3rd, 2008, 08:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie Lindqvist View Post
I am very curious on your opinion when you have tested juicelink adapter. I saw the video when they compare to Beachtek, seems amazing.
Performance-wise the juicelink adapter video I saw was misleading. They compare the juicelink, which has a preamp, with a Beachtek that has no preamp. They use a dynamic mic. The low output of the dynamic mic requires that the camera preamps get jacked up. In doing so, the noise level increases.

Not a fair test in my opinion.

Bite the bullet. Buy a 302. Don't look back.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old April 4th, 2008, 08:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
Performance-wise the juicelink adapter video I saw was misleading. They compare the juicelink, which has a preamp, with a Beachtek that has no preamp. They use a dynamic mic. The low output of the dynamic mic requires that the camera preamps get jacked up. In doing so, the noise level increases.

Not a fair test in my opinion.

Bite the bullet. Buy a 302. Don't look back.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Ty, now you know that I wouldn't take a swipe at you, but not everyone has the ability to run a mixer in the field, especially if they are a one man band type operation. Hell, you know that I am a sound nut as you, but I run my setups myself, and I have to keep my setup as simple and compact as I can. I personally tried the mixer route, but couldn't swing it by myself. So as a result I settled on small field recorders (Marantz, Edirol and such) as well as 4 track recorders like the Edirol R4, with good success. Thus the reason that I praise them so much for event vidoegraphers like myself.

Since I now use Sony FX1's myself, I don't have built in XLR's and require a XLR box, and like to use the quietest, smallest, and best that I can. The 302 while a great box is too large for my setup, this is why I have a Beachtek DXA-FX and will be testing the Juicedlink to see if it's better. If it's better then for me it's a no brainer and switch to a quieter box with preamps.

The juicedLink and the DXA6 have different architectures (passive vs preamp). But, they are both products intended to address the same market (camcorder adapter with phantom), which are similarly priced. As a consumer, that's exactly the comparison that I believe the test was aimed at.

This isn't as good a a 302 and I don't think that it was ever intended to be, thus it wasn't compared to a mixer, but an XLR box.

If he has the need for a good field mixer and can swing one in his setup he can do so. But if he wants a better than average compact solution for a one man band shop, this box might do the trick better than a field mixer.

As I said, I haven't tested this yet, but will be in the coming weeks after it arrives.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 08:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
Ronnie, I would contact them to see if they can make arrangements to deliver outside the states. Maybe something can be worked out.
I will do that, thanks.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
As for the PSC the pre amps on the PSC are good and underrated by many I believe.
You said earlier that you don't use PSC so mouch anymore. How come? And why do you think the PSC is less suitable for "one-man band-gig"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
You didn't mention what type of recordings you are doing, as if it's a live run and gun the a wireless setup would be best. If it's an interview or closed set type option then you have several different configurations you could run.
My recordings are usually two types:
1) Interview, indoors with person sitting down. For this I have used hardwire mic straight to the camera. The mic on a boom stand just outside the screen, about 45 degrees from the mouth and about 60-70 cm away from the talent. For really close-up shoots I could place the mic closer of course, but I like to have the freedom to change the view during the shot.

2) Music live recordings. Often classical music and smaller jazzgroups like trios or quartets. For this I use a stereo mic (Rode NT4 or AT825) also hardwire direct to the camera. If phantompower is needed I also use a small mixer like Mackie 1202 between mic and camera. From mixers output to the beachtek xlr line level-in. (My camera doesn't have phantom power capabilities)

I don't own a wireless system, but soon as I get some more money I will probably invest in some. On my wishlist there is the Sennheiser G2 100 system, but at the moment I don't have that money.


For run and gun situations (there aren't so many occasions) I will use a NTG-2 mounted on the camera with a rode SM-3 mount, unless it isn't a music event. For this I usually record audio separate on my Edirol R-09, and sync later on with cameras onboard mic in post.



Quote:
Bite the bullet. Buy a 302. Don't look back.
As I pointed out earlier, buying a 302 is not an option. My intention on this thread is to find the quietest preamps with phantompower around 500$. And if the preamps aren't any better than a Mackie 1202 VLZ Pro or VLZ3, I'll probably stick with that. The only cons (as I see them) are that I'll will loose my portability and not will be able to get decent audio where there is no power socket in the wall.


So my bottom line is:

Please help with a proper solutions within this pricerange, or on my decision whether to either buy a another "cheap" battery mixer/preamp w phantom power V.S. stick with my Mackie mixer.

Thanks for the input!
/Ronnie
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Old April 4th, 2008, 08:50 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
Ty, now you know that I wouldn't take a swipe at you, but not everyone has the ability to run a mixer in the field, especially if they are a one man band type operation.

No swipe perceived Michael :), but if one of his self-stated options is to use a Mackie mixer in the field, then he's blind and deaf to the realities of what a good location mixer can provide.

This whole immediate gratification thing really needs to be addressed.
Save up and buy right once instead of buying wrong and having to spend more money later when you finally figure out you were too anxious to get out there, bought too cheap and now have to make apologies for your work.

Unlike the favorite camcorder of the month, you'll probably use a 302 for the rest of your life.

Further, if you're only able to get two feet away from your talent, the biggest limitation to good sound is probably the acoustics of the space, not preamp noise specs.

Ronnie, you are very much at the beginning of the learning curve for audio. You will do what you do. If you stay around long enough in your career, you'll learn to appreciate what I'm saying. Stick with your Mackie.

You are shooting in a number of different setups. Optimally, each one presents its own challenges and you need to have the gear (and know how to use it to best results) to get the best sound.

Enjoy the trip.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old April 4th, 2008, 08:54 AM   #9
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As the saying goes: Buying right only hurts once...

For those who are interested in a Juicedlink, I wrote about my impressons here: http://www.hv20.com/showthread.php?t...ght=juicedlink
I ended up going with a Shure FP24 because I like the extra gain it gives me and being able to ride the levels. But if I need a simpler set-up I`ll likely go back to a Juicedlink.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 10:30 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ronnie Lindqvist View Post
I will do that, thanks.
You said earlier that you don't use PSC so mouch anymore. How come? And why do you think the PSC is less suitable for "one-man band-gig"?
/Ronnie
The reason is two fold. AS I mentioned in my reply to TY, I needed a more compact and faster to setup option, as a lot of my shooting is run and gun, and as a result I don't have a lot of setup time in between locations. And as such using small field recorders like the Marantz PMD620, Edirol R09 work out better for me. I can simply place the accordingly on a mic stand and use either external mics or the units internal mics and mix accordingly in post. A field mixer required me to still feed into something to capture the audio. I was happy overall with the PSC, and found it more than adequate for my purposes as the pres weer very quiet, and the onboard limiters worked well when needed.
I actually found that, when I needed multi channel recording at live concerts or recitals and such, that a 4 channel recorder like the Edirol R4 suited my needs much better for field recording, as the onboard pres are very quiet and the onboard limiters never failed me. So for me I had the best of both world, as I got the ability to record in the field and mix accordingly all at the same time. I would even send a wireless feed from the R4 to my camera, so I can monitor what is being recorded, as well as have backup sync audio for editing.
I r4cently sold my R4, as I pre-ordered the new R-44 recorder, which is smaller, lighter, has the same great onboard limiters and pres as the R4 line, is independently channel selectable (the R4 had to run phantom power and such in pairs), and records to SD card thus avoiding the need for moving parts like the hard drive recording on the R4.

I also found that only having the odd number of 3 channels of audio available was a limitation to the Promix3. And either 2 or 4 would have worked better for me, as I could record in stereo pairs.

For your setup, a mixer should work fine if you desire. PSC is still a good option and you also may want to take a look at the Azden FMX mixers, which I believe that TY gave a favorable review to at some point.

Mixer or no recorder is a decision that you will have to figure out before hand. For me a recorder works better, but it's what works best for me, and not he right solution for someone else.

But I do agree with what was said, that the important thing is to pickup the best tools for your use. I say that, you don't have to go top of the line, but should concentrate on quality and what's best suited for your needs.

Also remember that this is only part of the equation, and other quality tools should be sought out, such as microphones. Where you should avoid using shotgun mics (NT4 is fine, but avoid AT825. I use matched pairs of Rode NT5's) indoors, and focus on hypercariod pairs if possible. But that's also another discussion that you will get differing views on. As there are top of the line industry standards, and mid range ones that will do a great job for you as well.
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Old April 4th, 2008, 01:18 PM   #11
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Ronnie,
Will you need multiple mics? I see you are doing some stereo recording, but have a table top mixer for that. If you want the best quality battery powered preamps in your budget, there's the SoundDevices MM1. It's single channel, and not a mixer, but it has lots of cool features, including excellent limiter and very quiet gain. (Same circuitry as the SD302, just single channel.)
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Old April 4th, 2008, 02:31 PM   #12
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Thanks for your input Michel.

I live in Sweden as I mentioned before and even If I'm living in the second biggest town in this country there are very limited possibilites for me to compare different portable mixers. There are a few stores but almost none has a varaity among portable mixers.

The reason I stated an example of a mixer like Mackie 1202 has nothing to do with my knowledge of audio, it's just (the simple reason) because I have used one on some occasions and I know how it sounds, and also that Mackie-mixer is in the same pricerange as Eng-44 and PSC (here in Sweden anyway).

So my first thought was, do I benefit something in terms of audio quality with a purchase of a portable mixer like PSC Promix 3 or ENG-44? Since these mixers are not available in Sweden there is no way for me to find out, other than posting in a forum where hopefully there is someone who has personal experience of these mixers. I don't want to buy these overseas and find out that these are worse in quality than my equipment I already have.

Clarification:

I also made it clear what limited budget I am on, just for making it easier for all participants to elaborate on
(something that simply just not everybody in this forum seems to understand).

So possible answers to my question?:

1) No- you don't get any improvement within this pricerange compared to your reference/gear. It's very easy and polite to say, without judging my person or skill.

2) Yes - These mixers are about as good (or better) as your reference/gear. And beside these mixers are alot easier to carry and will be more easier to work with in a fast setup situation. - Fine, that helps me to narrow down my search a bit more.


I'm nor deaf or blind to realize that that there are a big difference between low-, medium-, high end solutions. That's not the issue here. My research is to catagorize these two mixers before I make a purchase.

I hope you mean well TY, but it didn't sound like that at all to me. Sure, I'm not familiar with PORTABLE mixers (due to the lack of these in my stores) suitable for my GL-2 and my other gear, and how much better they will (or not) improve my sound on my recordings, but that's why I'm posting here! So if your wisdom is bigger then your ego (and I'm sure it is), than it wouldn't be a problem to adress a more friendly attitude and less raillery tone and not judge my knowledge, personality etc just because I'm asking questions about devices in this pricerange.

I don't hesitate for a second that a Sound Device 302 for instance is a much better mixer. And probably will serve me well for many years. I might consider the option to buy one in the future, who knows. BUT I can't afford one right NOW or in the nearest future. 1300$ + shipping + custom fee + Swedish Tax 25% is way over my budget. If I had the luxury to buy one, I would.

But I also find it hard to deal with the concept, that it is "Sound Devices or nothing". I don't know if I'm happy with a cheaper solution or not, but that's why I'm researching on 500$ mixers with a reference to the mackie that I recently used.
Mayby a 500$ field mixer will serve my puposes for now, who knows?. If it does, then I will be able to start working right now.

In my buisness (as a musician) you just can not say: - Buy a Steinway Grand D or forget it. Don't look at that yamahapiano for a 1/10 of the price, you just gonna be sorry. That's a silly comparison I know, but even if you don't get all the dynamics and richness of sound from that piano, it's still valuable for many people in different situations.

My situation is not to broadcast on TV nor yet sell my productions, but that doesn't mean I'm not "picky" with the audio. I just want to max out the quality of what my budget allows, and to be able to continue and develop my filmmaking to my own satisfactory.

Finally:
I want good/decent gear on image and sound on a semi-professional level, and if the mixers mentioned above is not equal to my reference, please let me know. Worst case scenario - I'll just have to wait and save up for another solution (and I really don't want to wait any longer for starting new projects..).

Cheers
/Ronnie
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Old April 4th, 2008, 02:39 PM   #13
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Ronnie,
Will you need multiple mics? I see you are doing some stereo recording, but have a table top mixer for that. If you want the best quality battery powered preamps in your budget, there's the SoundDevices MM1. It's single channel, and not a mixer, but it has lots of cool features, including excellent limiter and very quiet gain. (Same circuitry as the SD302, just single channel.)
Thanks for your comments. MM1 seems nice but I think just 1 channel isn't enough. I'm looking for a portable solution with 3 channel battery powered preamps and phantom power. I might consider a 2 channel solution, but that's minimum. I really would love to skip a table top mixer, if I can afford it.

Thanks again
Ronnie
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Old April 4th, 2008, 02:44 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ronnie Lindqvist View Post
I hope you mean well TY, but it didn't sound like that at all to me. Cheers
/Ronnie
Tough love seldom does Ronnie. :)

Best of luck,

Ty Ford
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Old April 9th, 2008, 03:22 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronnie Lindqvist View Post
My intention on this thread is to find the quietest preamps with phantompower around 500$...

So my bottom line is:

Please help with a proper solutions within this pricerange, or on my decision whether to either buy a another "cheap" battery mixer/preamp w phantom power V.S. stick with my Mackie mixer.

Thanks for the input!
/Ronnie
Why not look for a near-new MixPre or Shure FP24 (the same thing with a different badge) on eBay? They turn up around $500 (especially the Shure) and you get two channels of beautiful sounding Sound Devices preamps. This is the best sonic bang-for-the-buck I can think of. If you have to have 3 channels for that price than there's a definite trade-off in quality.

Best,
Peter Rhalter
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