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Old August 6th, 2010, 06:50 PM   #1
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Shopping a field mixer

I am a videographer doing more work with bands, recording them in various showrooms and clubs. I currently have two camcorders - Canon XHA1s, a Zoom H4n, and a M-Audio Microtrack II. With all of those I can record a max total of ten tracks, not that I ever will. On gigs, I usually try to get a line feed from the house soundboard (whatever I can get). I have two condenser mics that I can point at the stage.

What I don't have is a way to effectively monitor what I am recording. To make matters worse, I work alone for now, manning two cameras and recording sound.

I have no experience with field mixers. I have used a small Xenyx 802 mixer on gigs, but it's not portable and only has a single stereo out.

I am wondering if and how a field mixer might help me. I have been reading the forums and reviews on the various models, but I have not seen one in action. I think a 4 track might be a good starting point, but which ones offer the most versatility and preserve multiple outs to the recorder/s? How would I configure it?

Pricewise, I would hope under $1k but I may be dreaming.

Last edited by Alex DeJesus; August 6th, 2010 at 06:51 PM. Reason: addition
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Old August 7th, 2010, 10:20 AM   #2
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The only run & gun mixers that I'm aware of that have 'direct outs' are the Sound Devices 442 & 552. However even finding a used 442 for under $1k is unlikely.
Mixing a live band in the same room though even the best sound isolating headphones in most circumstances is not accurate,
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Old August 7th, 2010, 01:27 PM   #3
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If it were me... with the gear you already have, I'd take a stereo feed from the console into the Zoom as well as it's mics to record room amb. in multi-track mode Then I would use the built-in mics on the XH-A1s to record scratch audio for sync in post. As loud as small clubs can get with bands playing the I can play louder than the last guy game, it will be tough to monitor audio with headphones, and sealed cans can be dangerous if you can't hear localized sounds, like the guy saying hey, that you are about to back into.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 09:56 AM   #4
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What's Up With The Zoom? No Mic/line Switch?

I did a shoot last night at a club with a band that did not go too well. One problem I had was with my new Zoom H4n. I took a stereo line feed from the house sound board, but it peaked really bad. I was frantically looking for the control that switches an input from mic level to line level, but there was none. I put an inlne attenuator, which helped, but lowered the volume so much that it was unusable. Plus I only had one of them, so I coulds only use one side of the stereo feed.

I found out later through reading the forums that the Zoom does not have a mic/line switch. That it depends on the type of plug you use. In this case they were XLRs so the H4n took it as a line mic input. Had I placed 1/4 TRS adapters, supposedly the Zoom will interpret that to be a line input.

Well, I am going back to the same club to re-shoot tonight and try this new theory. If anyone is familiar witrh the Zoom, please let me know where I am off base. Nowhere in the manual does it even mention switching mic/line inputs. I have only used it once, with condenser mics plugged in. That worked okay. The onbourd stereo mic works great.

Another problem with the Zoom is that there is no way to mute or solo a track. Sad, it seems like a nice piece of equipment, but lacking features that would make life a lot easier, especially when I am also running a camera.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 10:37 AM   #5
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You could try to find a used Shure 32A or 33 or Sound Devices 302. All can be configured for dual stereo outs. You could also look into a Mackie or Behringer mixer. All would serve your purposes.
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Old August 8th, 2010, 11:10 AM   #6
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None of those devices you mention are recorders, which the H4n is. While a mixer would certainly be a worthwhile addition to his kit, he'll run into many of the same problems connecting one of the mixers you mention to the Zoom as he has in connecting the house PA mixer to it.

Another consideration is that the "line" level accepted on the 1/4" inputs is the consumer -10dBv line level. Many (most?) mixers line level outputs are +4dBu studio line level, a full 12 dB hotter than the recorder's inputs are expecting to see.

I know a lot of people disagree with me but I can't help but believe it's a mistake to make what is essentially a consumer toy one's first choice for professional or semi-professional work. Features and capabilities, such as being able to mute a track, pan an input, ride gain during the take, etc, that would be considered standard fare in professional gear are either inadequate or missing altogether. There's far more that goes into a device's usability for serious work than just the file format it outputs. Tools such as the H4n have their uses, not knocking them, they're good products for what they are, but IMHO they are a poor choice as one's primary recorder for production sound. You get what you pay for.
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Last edited by Steve House; August 8th, 2010 at 12:35 PM.
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Old August 15th, 2010, 10:42 PM   #7
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The XLR outs on the Sound Devices 302 can be set anywhere from mic level to pro line level and the tape outs would probably be OK into the consumer line in

Other mixers may have the same flexibility. Of course the SD 302 is probably overkill in this situation, just thought I'd mention it as an example.
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Old August 16th, 2010, 01:42 AM   #8
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I am expecting an Edirol R-44 in the mail soon. I'll post results.
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