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Old February 2nd, 2014, 09:51 AM   #1
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Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

I am currently using a Canon XA20 and would like to improve the quality of audio captured. My rig needs to be as compact as it can be at all times.

I’m using a range of shotguns, lavs, and wireless mics but never more than two at once. It depends on the situation, These mics vary from mono to stereo, balanced to unbalanced.

The Sound Devices 302 Compact Production Mixer is an excellent choice but it is 1) A little bigger than I would like and 2) out of my budget.

So I have been thinking about the Sound Devices MixPre-D Compact Field Mixer. Its size and price is appealing. Unfortunately I can’t try one out locally to me.

So I was wondering if this would suit my needs. Any feedback from users would be greatly appreciated.

I am assuming from what I’ve read that I can feed the mixer into the XA20 via the two XLR inputs. I believe it would have to be set to line on the camera. Is that correct? I suppose it is asking too much for the XA20 to bypass the mic preamps when I set them to line level?

I’m assuming that I’ll have no problem running phantom power from the MixPre-D for my shotgun mics? Such as the NTG-1, … or running my wireless kit that doesn’t need phantom.

However, would it be possible to run a stereo mic such as the Canon WM-V1 from the mixer? Strange question I know. It has a 4-pole 3.5mm stereo jack.

Also does the MixPre-D have a tripod mount?

Thanks for any help :)
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Old February 2nd, 2014, 12:21 PM   #2
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

All the Sound Devices products are Top Drawer and have mic preamp circuits with stellar reputations. If you like the 203 there is no reason you wouldn't like the MixPre-D.

Yes, you would use XLR cables from the XLR outputs on the mixer to the XLR inputs on the camera.

No, you cannot bypass the mic preamps in the camera. As with virtually ALL camcorders, they simply switch in a pad to accommodate line-level through the mic preamps which are always in circuit.

Yes, the phantom power from the MixPre-D would power the microphones that need phantom power. And you would turn OFF phantom power for mics (or wireless receivers) which do not need power. We would expect that tuning on phantom power significantly increases battery drain.

Yes, it would be possible to construct an adapter that would allow you to connect your WM-V1 receiver to an XLR input like the MixPre-D or directly into your XA20. However, I would NOT expect that even a premium mic preamp/mixer like one from Sound Devices would "improve" the sound from a very low-end gadget like the WM-V1.

Overall. I am rather dubious about the ability of even a high-end preamp/mixer to "improve" your sound. It seems quite more likely that your choice of microphones, and how you are using them would be a more productive area for improvement. Assuming we are guessing what you mean by "improve" which is a wide-open question in the absence of any details.
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Old February 2nd, 2014, 01:57 PM   #3
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

The MixPre-D is a later design, and superior in some ways to the 302. Of course the 302 has more inputs.

In particular, the MPD allows quick switching between mic level and line level outputs, a dedicated output at mic level for typical dSLR hookups, easier adjustments of return levels, and a couple other functions that make it easier to use from the front panel.

The 302 does have more setup variations, but they are harder to get to. If you must have various ballistics on the meters, the 302 is the one.

After using the 302, I'm quite satisfied with the MPD for under-camera use. It is a versatile little box.

Yes, it has a tripod socket in the bottom. To mount below the cam, you need to add the $96 USD accessory mount to the top. Expensive but well engineered, like everything Sound Devices.

Having said all that, the MixPre-D is really in its element providing better connectivity, monitoring, and limiting for a dSLR. Yes, it will work great with the XA20, but as Richard wrote above, the quality improvment is small on an XA20 or similar. Better meters and monitoring can contribute to better quality, but indirectly. The better limiters may save you sometimes. But for run-of-the-mill sound recording, we're talking 5-10% improvement. Not real significant.

There are other reasons to buy a mixer. If you have a separate sound op running a boom, they need at least a headphone amp, and it makes sense to give him or her the mixer and mixing duties. The MixPre is going to work fine for that. Get a breakaway cable for the mixer-camera run.

When you're solo running camera you should be keeping your eyes on the viewfinder/lcd, and the meters there. Better preamps are going to get you a little improvement, yes, but recording with manual level controls, with decent mics, and excellent mic placement/technique is going to get you very close indeed.
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Old February 4th, 2014, 11:48 AM   #4
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Thanks for the replies guys much appreciated. I should have clarified my question better but as it happens you both answered all my questions.

The main reason for having a mixer is purely about being able to adjust levels and generally having control of the audio without having to keep tapping the touch screen menu while the camera is rolling and inducing shake.

Hopefully my budget will allow for better mics in the near future :)
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Old February 5th, 2014, 04:17 AM   #5
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

There is another option in the shape of the AETA MIXY.

A step up from the SD - it has 3 x mic/line inputs on XLR, plus a stereo line in and digital in.

Outputs are Analogue pro level on XLR
Analogue consumer level on 3.5mm jack
Digital S/PDIF
Digital Optical
Digital AES3
Digital USB

So - you can use the consumer analogue out to the camera while, at the same time, sending a digital signal to a small recorder used as a "bit bucket" (eh: Sony PCM-D50 or PCM-D100, Tascam DR-100II or Marantz PMD 661).

It also has an MS matrix if you are using an MS microphone set-up.
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Old February 5th, 2014, 08:33 AM   #6
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Thanks for the suggestion John! That looks really good. I've just had a good look at it on the UK distributors website - it would be good to know how much and where I can get one in the UK (I'll shoot them an email) before making a decision.
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Old February 5th, 2014, 08:53 AM   #7
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

That mixer does look very nice.

The US dealer Professional Sound Services in NYC website says $2100.
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Old February 5th, 2014, 10:56 AM   #8
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Massengill View Post
That mixer does look very nice.

The US dealer Professional Sound Services in NYC website says $2100.
It certain does look like a neat piece of kit but at that price it would be out of my current budget.
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Old February 5th, 2014, 11:33 AM   #9
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

If recording an AES digital output from the mixer onto a recorder that has digital inputs appeals to you, FYI the MixPre-D also has AES out.
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Old February 6th, 2014, 06:23 AM   #10
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Thanks Seth :) Yes, that does appeal to me but didn't realise that the MixPre-D also has AES out!
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Old February 13th, 2014, 05:11 AM   #11
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Inglis View Post
Thanks for the suggestion John! That looks really good. I've just had a good look at it on the UK distributors website - it would be good to know how much and where I can get one in the UK (I'll shoot them an email) before making a decision.
The UK price list is on the UK website here (third page).

You can buy direct from the distributor or via pro-audio dealers in the UK. It will be at BVE in Excel in a couple of weeks if you want to see it in the flesh.
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Old February 15th, 2014, 10:54 AM   #12
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Thanks John. Great info! Unfortunately it is out of my budget for this project but will consider it in the future :)
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Old February 16th, 2014, 04:16 AM   #13
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Another range of products to look at are the Beachtek mixers , sold by Canford Audio here in the UK .

Pricing is perhaps a little more reasonable .

Actually , having just looked on Canford's website , this might suit ?

http://www.canford.co.uk/Products/22...ortable-DV-cam
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Old February 16th, 2014, 06:04 AM   #14
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Thanks for that Derek! That looks like a nice mixer. A bit bigger than the MixPre-D though. Ideally I need to mount it under a Canon XA20 which is a pretty small camera.

I can’t find any Beachtek Mixers on Canfords website. I’m looking in the Portable mixers and location accessories section.
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Old February 16th, 2014, 06:17 AM   #15
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Re: Compact Audio Mixer (Smaller the better)

Yes , I just looked again !

I was sure they used to have a few more products listed , but perhaps I was thinking of something else :(
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