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Spirit Folio Lite

Article from The Mix, October 1994

Miniature mixer


The Folio Lite mixer from Spirit is about as slimline as they come, yet its controls and features have big-desk proportions. Danny McAleer straps it to the back of his bicycle and hits the road...


In recent years Soundcraft have shown an almost Japanese mania for miniaturisation. And the design of the new Folio Lite seems to owe more to the laptop computer than the traditional mixing desk. The generic son of the Spirit Folio, it bears many resemblances to the Mackie 1202 mixer, cramming in as many features per square inch as possible.

But the Folio is an altogether sexier piece of kit than its Mackie rival, retaining that 'Spirited' demeanour, with a rainbow of pastel shaded pots set against a rugged grey backdrop. All the connectors are robust, and will probably last a while if treated with a little care. The pots and inputs are all clearly labelled, which may not seem immediately important, but six hours and five beers into a recording session, the eyesight might not be so sharp and they'll seem like the best thing since sliced bread.

Each of the four mono line/mic inputs features a choice of balanced line XLR or 1/4" jack sockets (which are also balanced), and an insert point - something that is infinitely useful and which the Mackie mixer lacks. Other than these features, the stereo inputs (which are balanced as well!) have the same functions as the mono channels (except, of course that the pan becomes a balance control). However, when there is only one jack plugged into the left input of a stereo channel, the stereo channels act as mono ones, responding to the balance control with stereo positioning.

Familiar Spirit components grace the front panel of the smallest-yet Folio.


All of the channels have two auxiliary sends, the first of which is switchable between pre- and post- fade, which gives the Folio Lite that much more flexibility in its range of applications. For example, in a live situation, the auxiliary 1 send could be switched to pre-fade for a monitor mix independent of the channel fader level. On the other hand, using it as a post-fade send gives you another output to an external processor. Quite a choice. And the signal from the auxiliary sends is routed back through a single effects return pot for adjusting the balance between the dry and effected signal.

The EQ is only two band, but then something has to give on a mixer that will fit in James Bond's attaché case. Personally, I had no reservations about how the EQ section performed. The HF pan pot served up some sparkling treble whilst adding little or no noise, and the LF EQ was just amazingly low. With so many two band EQs on budget equipment failing to give an ounce of musical clarity, this one was a revelation. Of course, should you not want any artificial coloration, the Folio Lite's EQ pots, like the pans, are all centre-indented for easy alignment.

Monitoring has been made equally painless, with a straightforward method of PFL switching. Each channel has its own button, and when depressed in conjunction with the master PFL button, allows individual monitoring of channels using the three-colour bar graph meter. In this way, groups of channels can also be monitored, which is a lot easier than having to turn everything else down as the Mackie mixer expects you to do.



"The design of the Folio Lite seems to owe more to the laptop computer than the traditional mixing desk."


In Use



Get connected! Balanced inputs and phantom powering shows that this mixer means business.

Getting a signal in and out of the Spirit Lite is child's play - it really is as user-friendly as a mixer can get. Using both auxiliaries together (as left and right sources respectively) I was able to process signals in true stereo, while still being able to add separate EQ and mono effects using inputs 1-4 and their respective insert points. As well as all this, the two track return doubles up as another two inputs at mixdown, giving a total of 14 inputs. The 2Trk return's corresponding controls are to be found in the master section, and feature a pot for monitoring the signal returning from tape, plus a switch to send the 2Trk inputs to the mix. You'd be ill-advised to use the latter function while recording, else some rather nasty sounds might occur. Still, a little caution and above all sense, will enable you to make the most of this function without exploding your speakers.

The master section also offers two 'faders'; a mix fader, which controls the overall level of all channels to the mix/tape outputs, and a monitor control that offers independent level control from the mix volume. This way, you can hurl as much (or indeed as little, if you value your hearing) through your monitors or headphones, without affecting the levels going to tape. Another deft press of a button flips the monitor signal between the mix and 2Trk return.

The sound quality of the Folio Lite is consistent with its vast array of features. I plugged about as much as would fit into the little beastie with very little resultant noise. The EQ is quiet, and equally good at filtering out unwanted hiss or bass rumble. Desperate to find something amiss with this mixer, I thrust all the levels up and listened attentively for some noise, but alas to no avail. As we go to press, I am still searching (for the lost chord? - Ed).

Verdict



The Folio Lite's features certainly don't compromise its professional credentials. Balanced inputs, 48v phantom powering, independent monitoring (and that all-important headphone socket) set it apart from its pint-sized rivals. Film sound recordists or sound effects gatherers will equally appreciate its handy size and weight. Where it does falter against the Mackie 1202 mixer is in build quality, the Mackie being built like a tank. It also requires an external power supply. But only a minority of users will want to throw their mixers from a moving truck, and even fewer, I suspect, will object to a plug only a little bigger than a regular sized one.

Perhaps the only thing that is a touch inflexible is not being able to split the stereo input channels so that the Left channel outputs via auxiliary 1, and the Right via auxiliary 2, to give true stereo processing of signals. But I'm a pedantic so-and-so, and such recording practices are rare at this end of the professional chain. If you are a little apprehensive about buying a mixer this size, you need only to read the first page of the manual to convince yourself that you need one - its cable wiring diagrams and glossary of recording jargon are as user-friendly as the unit itself - and that's no mean achievement!

The essentials...

Price inc VAT: £311

More from: Soundcraft, (Contact Details)

Spec check

Frequency response: 20Hz - 30kHz, relative to 1kHz +/-1dB
Mix Noise: Input faders down, master faders up <-81dBu
Aux Noise: Input sends down <-88dBu
Distortion: Mic gain 30dB, Mix Out at +14dBu <0.007% @ 1kHz
Crosstalk: Input Fader Attenuation >85dB
Aux Send Attenuation >84dB
Adjacent Channel >90dB
Stereo Separation >75dB
Input & Output Impedances: Mic Inputs 2Kohms
Line Inputs 10Kohms
Outputs 75ohms
Input & Output Levels: Mic Input (max) level +16dBu
Line input (max) level >+30dBu
Any Output (max) level +21dBu
Headphone Output 130mW into 600ohms (each side)
Weight: 2.5Kg (3.1 Kg including power pack)
Dimensions: 300mm x 28.50mm



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Master race

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Through the Square window


Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...

 

The Mix - Oct 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Chris Needham, James Perrett

Control Room

Gear in this article:

Mixer > Soundcraft > Spirit Folio Lite

Review by Danny McAleer

Previous article in this issue:

> Master race

Next article in this issue:

> Through the Square window


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