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Mixer Special (Part 1)

Article from One Two Testing, May 1985

start of a three month OTT investigation into recording desks. This issue - eight mixers up to £600

One-off mixer reviews are close to useless, we decided the other day. Everything usually sounds... well, OK.

With One Two's customary assertion that things should be done properly, therefore, we teamed up with the helpful, knowledgable and generally spiffing people from Gateway Education Services, and tested 18 mixers in three price brackets at a weeklong session in Gateway's south London schoolroom, surrounded by all the tape machines, monitoring and chocolate biscuits we could hope for.

THE TESTING TEAM: Dave Ward, boss-person and prime mover of the Gateway School of Recording and Music Technology; Mike Nelson, attached to Gateway's education and technical services department, and a sparkling engineer and pharmacist; Philip Murphy, similarly attached to Gateway's edu-tech department, Australian, and working at the time of the test on the live sound of "Adrian Mole " at Wyndham's theatre in London; One Two's Ben Duncan, who carried out the technical measurements amid a barrage of meters, switches and mugs of Earl Grey; and notebook-holder Tony Bacon.


MTR Six-Four-Two 6/4/2 £258.

Made in UK
Contact: MTR, (Contact Details).
13½in x 22½in x 4¾in. Weighs 15lbs 7oz.
Attached power lead, no on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Channels 1 and 2 switch between mike/line; channels 3-6 switch between mike input and four tape returns; gain; EQ: high, mid and low, all fixed; Aux 1 — channels 1 and 2 pre-fade or post-fade — channels 3-6 switchable between pre-fade send and return from tape inputs to feed recorded material into a foldback system (with no master level control at end of Aux buss 1); Aux 2 straightforward mono post-fade send; channels 3-6 monitor pan control which routes tape return signals to Left and Right (L/R) output sockets but does this without any level control; pan; two solid buttons for routing to group outputs 1-2 or 3-4 — when both in "out" position, routed to L/R mixdown buss; "PPI" LED flashes for peak overload; fader.

OTHER CONTROLS The Aux Send and Monitoring system was initially confusing, but we grasped it eventually — a well set-out manual with a schematic would have speeded up things no end; with monitoring, there's no level control for tape returns going into the monitoring section. This seems odd because the level you'd send to tape would be optimum level for recording and not necessarily the level at which you'd want to monitor tracks; things became slightly clearer when we realised that mike/line inputs route tape return signals either via channel pan-pots and faders or via monitor pan, and bypasses the rest of the channel function (except Aux 1 if in tape cue); one mono auxiliary return, which can be panned between L/R busses and group outputs — however, on mixdown, if you wanted stereo reverb it would be necessary to use the line inputs of channels 1 and 2; monitoring is switchable between stereo output buss and the return of a stereo tape recorder.

INTERFACE (all jacks) six mono mike inputs; four tape returns; four group outputs; insert sends and returns of the six channels (stereo jacks); return for 2-track; stereo out; monitor output; auxiliary sends; mono Aux return; two headphone sockets — one can be controlled by L/R faders, the other linked to Aux 1 for foldback cues.

IN USE No obtrusive noise noted, though some minor switching pops. The EQ we found OK for fixed controls, with punch bass, sparkly top, but a rather un-presencey mid. We liked the two headphone sockets and the firm, positive faders. We disliked the inadequate and photocopied manual, the lack of XLR inputs, and the lack of individual monitor controls.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS The input on this mixer was stated as being suited to low impedance mikes, but the input noise was 20dB (=10 times) under par, ie below what other makers managed. The upshot is that low impedance mikes will be hissy unless the acoustic level is high. The input gain control had infinite shutoff, meaning high-level signals could be handled without crunch-up. But the channel peak LED was found to come on 2dB after full overload, and therefore can't be relied on. The mid and top EQ were satisfactory at ±14dB, although this differs from the quoted 17-18dB. The bass EQ, though, was OTT, peaking at +30dB at 40Hz — good for reggae but a nuisance in most other situations. Two other points: the mixer's guts weren't roadworthy, and no attempt has been made to insulate incoming mains.

LOOKS Dave: "Solid and business-like, nice to see real pine sidecheeks. It didn't frighten me." Mike: "Didn't like the wooden sides, otherwise reasonable." Philip: "An OK panel, slightly cheap looking sideboards."

SOUND Dave: "Inoffensive. An independent volume control for monitoring would be useful." Others OK.

FEEL Dave: "All faders smooth and solid — but no indication of 0dB point on reviewed model." Mike: "Quite goodpushbuttons very positive." Philip: "Robust."

CONCLUSION Designed for 4-track work, and also usable for PA applications. Ergonomically it wasn't too difficult to understand, but would have been much easier to work with a suitable manual. The lack of any metering seems a poor choice, and the peak LEDs were unsatisfactory. We feel this is not a successful mixer, both technically and in use.

STUDIOMASTER 6-2-1 6/2 (will mix to mono) £374.

Made in UK.
Contact: Studiomaster, (Contact Details).
17¼tin x 12½in x 3in. Weighs 10lbs 5oz.
Euro-plug mains connector, on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Mike/line switch; gain; EQ: treble, middle, bass, all fixed; Aux Sends — one pre-fade ("MONITOR"), one post-fade ("EFFECTS"); pan pot (without detent); rotary channel output control (with peak LED conveniently situated nearby).

OTHER CONTROLS Master controls from FX send and monitor controls; two FX returns pannable between L/R output controlled, again, by rotaries (0dB points marked at 2 o'clock); L/R LED metering, to which one can route L/R outputs, mono (summed) output, or output of monitor buss; headphone level control.

INTERFACE six line inputs (mono jacks, unbalanced); six mike inputs (XLRs, balanced); insert points (stereo jacks); output L/R and mono output ("SUM"), on jacks or XLRs; monitor L/R output (jacks); monitor buss 0dB output.

IN USE Very quiet. The EQ was effective, though detenting for flat setting would have been a helpful bonus, and the mids were a bit low on presence for vocal treatment. We were irritated by Studiomaster's usual habit of numbering channels back to front (ie right to left — a disco hangover?), but guess you'd soon get used to that. We liked the comprehensive, instructive and clear manual, the colouring and layout of the controls, and appreciated the space-saving effect of rotaries for channel output control. We didn't like the Auxiliaries not having pre/post switching, nor the riveted XLRs.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS The front-end of this mixer was excellent measurements indicated it could cope with the full range of likely rock'n'roll signals, and what's more the peak LED lit a full 10dB below overload. The LED metering (calibrated so the zero was at -10dBU, the "Tascam" level) was altogether excellent in its ballistics, and very accurate in the critical region around zero. Beware relying on it in those lower reaches though; the -20dB bar actually lit up at -26dBU, a 4dB error. The absence of a centre detent or an EQ in/out switch makes an EQ difficult to measure, but the mixer came close to the +20dB stated. Sadly, the maximum high and low EQ arose at the frequency extremes; in particular, full treble boost continues up to 35kHz. This will cause listening fatigue if there's ultrasonic energy in the signal (cue dog and bat jokes). Also, the output impedance, measured at 450 ohms, would render the stereo outputs incapable of driving a long cable or multicore without top-end losses (this would only apply to PA, which is ironic considering the mixer's intentions). Access for servicing is up to the sort of standards one expects today.

LOOKS Dave: "Solid and pro-looking." Mike: "Clear markings, nicely constructed." Philip: "Pro appearance, and looks rugged." Should tour well, too."

SOUND Dave: "Peak LED useful for optimum sound. With judicious patching could use it for 4-track." Mike: "Quiet and generally good." Philip: "Nice sound on instruments."

FEEL Dave: "Controls very smooth. Had it up and running in 10 minutes." Mike: "No adverse comments." Philip: "Sturdy and solid — personally I reckon it'd make a good foldback mixer, too."

CONCLUSION An excellent small mixer for 2-track recording and PA work, or indeed a combination of both. With intelligent use of a patchbay, by crosspatching the stereo outputs into a 4-track recorder, you could use it for 4-track recording. Good, clear metering and accurate overload LED, plus an excellent manual, contribute to a compact and recommended mixer.

SECK 62 6/2 £399.

Made in UK.
Contact: Atlantex, (Contact Details).
17¾in x 18¼in x 2in. Weighs 11 lbs.
Power supply, linked to six-pin mains connector on mixer, no on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Mike/line switch; gain; EQ: High and low, fixed, plus sweepable mid between 300Hz and 6.5kHz; four Aux returns, two pre-face, two postfade; pan pot; solo facility pre-fade (only on headphone output, not on main L/R buss, which is sensible for PA use), with relay click for audible cue; fader (no peak overload indicator on input channels, but mixer arranged so that pre-fade signal, with solo switch depressed, is routed to output meters which have suitable peak-hold facility).

OTHER CONTROLS Two Aux returns panning between L/R outputs, both of which have fixed EQ; four Aux send busses, two pre-fade and two post-fade, have master controls for outputs, and all have appropriate solo switch (as do FX returns).

INTERFACE Six line inputs (stereo jacks, switchable between balanced and unbalanced using mono plug); six insert points (stereo jacks); six mike inputs (XLRs, low impedance); L/R outputs (balanced XLRs); four outputs for Aux sends 1-4/ — /1 and 2 pre-fade, 3 and 4 post-fade (jacks); two inputs for Aux returns (jacks).

IN USE Noisy gain controls. We found the EQ very good, with a well-chosen and "'musical" Q on the sweepable mid. The high frequency tone control was well chosen, too, without the harshness some mixers show when the treble is boosted. We liked the clear fader markings, the well-spaced controls, the Aux Send set-up, the easily accessible interface section, and the well-explained manual (though there's no schematic diagrams for the more technically minded). We didn't like the rather loose power connector, the mono headphone outs, and the damaged holding screws on our sample.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS The input gain range, the low noise, and the overload margin were exemplary on this mixer — for example the mike input could handle +14dBU, the highest peak level from a professional capacitor mike close up to a drum kit. Only the absence of a dedicated channel peak LED spoils the front-end, but the absence of the output metering should make up for this. The EQ was less OTT and better controlled in contrast to fellow mixers — for example, a maximum of +16dB at 20Hz, +15dB at 300Hz, and +15dB at 15kHz. The result is no listening fatigue, but the EQ may also not be much good for reggae because it's unable to produce the famous "full bass at all frequency". Altogether a brave and mostly competent hunk of electronics — also roadworthy and easy to repair (with the notable exception of the XLRs which weren't easy to detach from the PCB).

LOOKS Dave: "Attractive, slimline and portable. Good carrying handle which doubles to tilt mixer at desired angle on work surface. It has a confident air. It was unfortunate that the Aux sends were not colour-coded for pre and post." Mike: "Colours OK and not too gaudy." Philip: "Functional, sturdy and portable. I would prefer the sides to be higher to afford more protection to control knobs in transit."

SOUND Dave: "Very pleasing — good to see so many facilities and aesthetic and portability considerations." Mike: "True to the input signal, which it won't change unless you ask it to." Philip: "Particularly good for instrument mixing."

FEEL Dave: "Mini-pots positive and finger room OK. Pushbuttons are easily read." Mike: "Very portable, light with good carrying handle. Pushbuttons very positive." Philip: "Bonuses like four Aux sends make it sufficiently versatile for recording as well as live work."

CONCLUSION Designed for 2-track stereo recording, PA work and subsidiary instrument mixing, and recommended for those purposes. With careful wiring and patching it could be used for home 4-track recording. A good, all purpose 6/2 mixer with some facilities we'd normally only expect to see on larger desks.

TASCAM 106 6/4/2 £419

Made in Japan
Contact: Harman UK, (Contact Details).
15in x 15½in x 5in. Weighs 15lbs 7oz.
Attached power lead, ground contact on metal case, on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Mike/line/attenuation switch (last to allow for DI); gain; EQ: bass and treble, fixed, detented; Aux send, switchable pre-fade send and monitoring send connected to line inputs of channel; FX send post-fade (this and previous has master gain on right of mixer, at end of buss); channel routing between four output groups; last linked to pan pot; fader (output level LED close by).

OTHER CONTROLS Mono FX return, level control, pannable between group outputs 1-2 or 3-4; monitoring cleverly arranged so that programme from group outputs and programme of either Aux busses can be monitored — where you've no separate L/R stereo buss, mixdown is achieved through the group outputs which are linked to the mastering tape machine; the monitoring has a mono switch to sum stereo output into mono — convenient for checking mono capability, though it might prove fiddly to press the two necessary buttons down together if you have big fingers; metering selectable between 1-2, 3-4 output groups, or outputs of either of the Aux busses.

INTERFACE Six mike inputs (jacks); six line inputs (phonos); six direct outs (phonos); six insert points (stereo jacks); four group outputs (jacks for 0dBU, phonos for -10dBV); two pairs "Phono In" for turntables' magnetic cartridges; four direct line-ins for group output busses (good for linking mixers); stereo monitor output; mono Aux output pre-fade; mono Aux output post-fade; direct inputs into Aux and FX busses for expansion (outputs of Aux busses also divided between 0dBU — jacks — and -10dBV — phonos).

IN USE A very quiet mixer, with rudimentary fixed EQ — though at useful points. If you needed more powerful EQ there is useful access across the insert points on each channel for external graphics or parametrics. The faders were smooth, and marked 0 to 10 rather than in conventional dB steps, with a shaded area between 7 and 8, presumably at 0dBU. A good manual as usual from Tascam which takes time to read and covers not just the mixer but multitracking in general. We liked the general attention to detail and comprehensive feel of the mixer, and the good price. We disliked very little.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS The available gain on mike input was unusually high at 70dB, and noise on mike was the lowest in this category, not far off the performance of mixers costing ten times the price. The two-band EQ is basic, has sufficient range (at ±18dB), but again there's excessive gain in the ultrasonic realms, for example full treble boost peaks above 30kHz. However, the performance and construction of the remainder of the mixer is excellent and was hard to fault, so it'd be worthwhile considering ancillary EQ if Tascam's own knobs prove limiting.

LOOKS Dave: "Very professional, though less slimline than most in this group — it sits quite high on your worktop." Mike: "Nice finish, and it looks professional." Philip: "Chunky and professional."

SOUND Dave: "Good." Mike: "No adverse comments." Philip: "Commendable."

FEEL Dave: "I like the fact it's been set up with expansion in mind." Mike and Philip both said, "Good," which presumably means good.

CONCLUSION Ideally suited for 4-track work, well set-up for linking with other suitable mixers (therefore good for budget PA applications too). Visually and ergonomically well designed. For a budget Japanese product, the quality of electronics is outstanding. Recommended.

PROMARK MX3 8/4/2 £466

Made in UK
Contact: Promark, (Contact Details).
20½in x 20in x 1¼in. Weighs 13lbs.
Poor power connector to mixer, no on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Line/mike switch; gain; EQ: high and low, fixed, plus sweepable mid; two Aux sends (cleverly arranged so that they can be prefade and post-fade without switching but by turning a rotary one way or the other); pan pot; three routing switches; fader.

INTERFACE Eight line inputs; eight mike/line inputs; insert point per channel on phonos with break switch connecting in/out phonos — a nicer idea than bridging pins (eg Fostex); direct out post-fader (phonos); four group outputs (phonos); four group inputs (phonos); four tape returns (phonos), which we wondered about, as tape returns usually go to line-ins.

IN USE Rather confusing at first. The EQ sounded top heavy, with low and mid bass not evident, and generally ill-set. The faders were unmarked, a little stiff, and the knobs on them kept falling off. The manual was illogical, confusing, and lacked detailed illustration and ordered instructions. We liked very little, in fact. We disliked the flimsy headphone output socket and its position, the unclear and confusing meters, and the low clearance on the phono sockets (we had to remove the sleeves on some of our plugs).

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS The Promark's manual did exactly what it promised to avoid: "Rather than present you with the standard jumble of mixer jargon which usually confuses the professional... we have written a separate book... After we'd deciphered the specifications, the front-end was found to be above average, and, like the Tascam, hiss on mike was close to the theoretical minimum. That's an input noise -130dB below zero level. With the exception that the mid only swept down to 350Hz and not the more useful 270Hz as advertised on the panel, the EQ was good insofar as it didn't go OTT at the extremes of frequency, but was instead broad and gentle — perhaps too much so. For example, maximum top boost was +9dB between 12kHz and 30kHz. However, the output LED bar metering was vague and inaccurate by ±3dB, especially since the printed callibrations didn't align with the actual LEDs. A special feature, the all-in-one "pre/post send pot" worked well, but the slight crosstalk (around 68dB below the main signal) would need watching in high gain conditions.

LOOKS Dave: "Liked the colour coding on the phono inputs. But generally I don't think pastels are in this year." Mike: "OK-compact, lightweight. The EQ should have different colours for the sweep/gain controls." Philip: "Plasticky."

SOUND Dave: "Generally OK." Philip: "Thin, with a lack of bottom end."

FEEL Dave: "Faders don't feel nice; rotaries not bad. Pushbuttons, as usual, are difficult to tell which position they're in." Mike: "A bit tacky." Philip: "Amateurish, stiff and fragile."

CONCLUSION Aimed at the budget 8-track market, this mixer's general scheme is initially confusing, but would prove less so with a 4-track. Ergonomically and visually unattractive — nobody felt like buying one. Compared with many mixers reviewed we found this hard to understand — and the manual confused the whole team.

MTR 12-8-2 12/8/2 £452.

Made in UK
Contact: MTR, (Contact Details).
22¾in x 24¾in x 4¾in. Weighs 28lbs 9oz.
Attached power lead, no on/off switch.


OTHERWISE: Routing to L/R busses is on separate switches; Channels 1 to 4 switch between mike/line; 5-12 between mike/tape. Addition of (slightly wonky) XLR connector for talkback along Aux 1 buss. All the engineers at the test freaked (this is the sort of term they use, you see) at the lockdown switch for talkback operation — apparently it's terrible for letting people in the studio hear what these engineers actually think of them. Got that? But then they all have control rooms, and studios, and stuff like that... Interface differs from Six-Four-Two in that this has XLRs for mike inputs. Essentially, an 8-track version.

IN USE Again, much the same as the Six-Four-Two. But we liked the lack of noise, the XLRs and the looks. We disliked the single Aux return (figuring that the money might have been better spent on monitoring level controls), the virtually non-existent manual, and the slightly "gritty" faders (though they might well wear in).

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS This mixer reiterated the foibles of the Six-Four-Two, namely excessive bass EQ at too low a frequency, poor noise performance (= hiss), and diabolical assembly. Also, the stereo outputs were via a single stereo jack socket — an unnecessary and confusing inconvenience.

CONCLUSION A few improvements on the Six-Four-Two, but still, we feel, not a successful mixer.

FOSTEX 350 8/4 £535 (meter bridge, add £100)

Made in Japan
Contact: Atlantex, (Contact Details).
18in x 16in x 6in (with meters) or 3V-in (without). Weighs 17lbs 9oz.
Attached power lead, on/off switch.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Line/mike/off switch; gain; routing switch to buss A-B or C-D; with last, pan pot; Aux select pre-post-tape; Aux gain and pan (stereo); EQ: two sweepable controls 80Hz-1.2kHz, ±10dB, and 800Hz-12kHz, ±10dB; fader (with peak LED close by).

OTHER CONTROLS Four group master input level controls; Aux buss L/R switch; monitor switches A-D; headphone level control; the Aux buss controls on each channel have a three-position switch — in TAPE, output of 8-track would be routed on to stereo Aux buss which in turn can be routed into monitor section by pressing Aux Buss L/R switch. In PRE or POST the Aux buss is connected to input channel before or after the action of the fader — this signal is routed to the L/R Aux outputs and can be monitored if necessary on the Aux buss.

INTERFACE Eight mike inputs (hi-imp, jacks); input returns from tape (phonos); direct out each channel post-fade (phonos); insert send and return each channel (phonos — linked by plastic-covered metal bridging pin — these can be fiddly to release and replace, and ideally you'd link these sockets to a patchbay for easier use); Aux outputs L/R; four group outputs; four aux inputs to each group; L/R monitor outputs (all phonos); inputs and outputs for two turntables' magnetic cartridges, needing cross-patching to channel input; multi-pin connector for fitting optional meter bridge.

IN USE Quiet, and with very effective overlapping sweepable EQ which we found neat and intelligently set. The faders felt plasticky, not too positive and with too much sideways movement. We can't comment on the manual as Atlantex annoyingly failed to include one in our package. We liked the fact that this mixer was obviously designed to do a very specific job with Fostex's A8 8-track tape recorder. We disliked the fact that it might prove unhelpful with other recorders.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS Attention to detail in this model is evident by the fact that the channel peak LED came on a good 4dB below overload, the faders have dust-traps, the EQ is moderate, controlled and does exactly what the spec claims. The input noise was well below average (ie better than), but the group output impedances were too high to drive more than a few metres of cable. Also, the metering is a little idiosyncratic in that the 0VU reading relates to -8dBU at the group outputs, rather than to -10dBU.

LOOKS Dave: "Very clear. Lots of yellow!" Mike: "Nicely laid out, with bright colours." Philip: 'A bit plasticky — I'd want something more substantial. Good colour scheme."

SOUND Dave: "Because the mixer itz configured for mixdown purposes through either busses A-B or C-D, it's confusing that the two meters on the bridge are labelled "Left" and "Right" when there is no L/R stereo mix buss — they relate to L/R monitoring or the Aux send buss." Mike: "No adverse comments." Philip: "The bussing is confusing because of the switching combinations: why A, B, C, D anyway? It's an 8 into 4, not an 8 into A to D."

FEEL Generally good — though see comment on faders in USE.

CONCLUSION Designed very specifically, and recommended, to work with the Fostex A8 8-track. It could give initial difficulties with other 8-track systems (because, for example, the group output faders are ganged in stereo pairs). Otherwise the mixer is cleverly worked out to give several useful facilities such as pre- and post-fade Aux sends and a separate monitor buss. We assume the meter bridge is optional in case you just want to use the A8's meters, but it's handy to have the meters right there in front of you.

RAM MICRO M10 10/4/2 £632.

Made in UK
Contact: Audio Music Marketing, (Contact Details).
25in x 22½in x 4½in. Weighs 22lbs.
Power supply with on/off, XLR mains connector to mixer.

CONTROLS PER CHANNEL Mike/line switch (channels 3-8's line-in is dedicated to tape returns); -30dB pad for instant attenuation; hidden behind gain control where it's difficult to see is the channel peak LED (post-EQ, pre-fade) which lights up only within 2dB of overload; EQ: treble and bass, fixed, sweepable-mid 600Hz-10kHz; two Aux sends — Aux 1 pre-fade, Aux 2 post-fade; routing switches linked to pan pot switching between output groups 1-2 and 3-4 (paralleled to inputs 5-8 of typical 8-track) — with both switches "out" channel is routed to L/R stereo buss (disadvantage here is that you cannot route a channel to group outputs and to the L/R buss at the same time); pan pot; pre-fade listen (PFL) switch (routes signal on to solo buss — and there's no warning light to tell us, which can be frustrating); fader.

OTHER CONTROLS Each monitor return has level, pan, level on to Aux 1 buss; first four monitor channels can also be used as FX returns and are switchable between the L/R buss and the output of the corresponding group; a meter source switch which selects the output group that is being sent to the four group output meters provided; a PFL switch on each of the monitor sections can be switched between group output and monitor return; an XLR input for talkback mike — again, a momenetary would be better than a lockable switch here for some purposes; the Aux masters have inputs to solo buss — in this case wired after the action of the fader (AFL); a separate output monitor control is switchable between L/R output of mixer (with its own L/R meters) and the input from a stereo tape recorder; a "dimming" switch to cut monitor volume when the engineer suspects that an offer of a line of coke has been made but thinks s/he may have missed out.

INTERFACE 10 mike inputs (balanced, XLRs); channels 1 and 2 have dedicated line-ins (jacks); channels 3-10 have tape returns 1-8 (phonos); insert point per channel (stereo jacks); four group outputs (each paralleled for easy interface with 8-track, phonos); insert point on each group output (stereo jacks); Aux upper monitor (four input break jacks — break points into first four channels of monitor section, giving a useful extra four FX returns); stereo output (jacks to L/R of tape recorder); insert points across stereo output; two Aux returns routable and pannable between output groups and L/R buss; returns for stereo tape recorder: outputs for two Aux busses.

IN USE Very quiet, with adequate EQ which we found to be a little fiddly to adjust, especially the sweep control. The faders were marked simply 0 to 10 and had a lot of sideways "give" — otherwise they were relatively positive. The manual was some help, but seemed unbalanced with too little on the mixer itself and too much on "engineering" in general. We liked the easily accessible patchbay. We disliked the out-of-phase headphones (we'd prefer an out-of-phase option, if at all), the wobbly phono input sockets, the "18V phantom power", and the badly situated peak LED.

TECHNICAL MEASUREMENTS This mixer was capable of handling a wider-than-average range of line and mike signal levels (for example, the line input gain was higher than usual). Again, the noise spec was exemplary. But the channel overload indication was a disaster area. A 20dB overload causes the LED to extinguish because the excess signal is itself flattened into the ground by an over-enthusiastic protection circuit. Meanwhile, at lower levels, the LED comes on 2dB after overloading has already occurred. Again, the output metering had idiosyncratic calibration in that 0VU related to +21/2dBU at the stereo outputs. This level is, of course, 0dBV, a fact that's confusing to the penitent. The EQ was good in that it was broad and none too excessive. However, the mid-sweep range was set an octave too high from 650Hz to 10kHz — the upper octave 5-10k is relatively useless, whereas control over the octave below 650Hz would be invaluable, yet is omitted. Mechanical design was, in general excellent — for example the buss bars were pluggable ribbon cables, but there were some elementary design faults. To wit, the input phono sockets were obviously going to fall apart in a short time because of the almost total absence of support, and the fancy out of phase let's-cancel-the-bass-on-headphones theory is highly dubious. In short, you may need to rewire your headphones in order to avoid feeling seasick.

LOOKS Dave: "Didn't like colours — I find them distracting. The graphics around the EQ knobs are confusing, or at least unnecessary. Meter bridge good." Mike: "A bit flash — colours too vivid. Nice meter section." Philip: "First impression good — rapidly became tiring."

SOUND Dave: "Overall, fine. Less harsh than some, and very true." Mike: "Nice accurate sound, but too easy to overload channels." Philip: "Quite pleasant and clean."

FEEL Dave: "Good interface section. Controls all positive, but higher-travel pushbuttons would have been better." Mike: "Non-positive pushbuttons." Philip: "OK."

CONCLUSION Designed for 4- and 8-track working and PA use. The makers have tried very hard to give a lot of convenient facilities but have fallen down with some simple mistakes. With some straightforward modifications this would be worth buying; until then we can't recommend this mixer without reservations.

The Japanese manufacturers made this budget area possible — other makers have tried to copy them and as we've seen, have had varying degrees of success.

State-of-the-art technology isn't available at this price, and after having worked our way through this batch we think that it's largely impossible to buy (or indeed make) a mixer that's technically and ergonomically ideal for 8-track recording in this price bracket. At the moment.

However, if you want a reasonable 2 track mixer now we'd recommend the Seck 62 or the Studiomaster 6-2-1. For 4 track recording we'd opt for the Tascam 106, and if you're after something to work with a Fostex A8 it would have to be the Fostex 350. If you're looking for a mixer from among those recommendations which would also be useful for live work, it would be the Seck or the Studiomaster.



GATEWAY EDUCATION SERVICES run three five-day courses at present: the Multitrack Primary Course, covering the subject in-depth and with no previous knowledge pre-supposed (£172.50); the Multitrack Advanced Course, going into greater detail and concentrating on practical work (£230); and the Synthesiser Primary Course, which again assumes no previous knowledge of the subject and explains synths in everyday language (£172.50). More details from Sarah Bloomer, Gateway Education Services, (Contact Details). Tell 'em One Two said to call...

Series - "Mixer Special"

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Mixers (Part 2)
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Beyond E Major

Publisher: One Two Testing - IPC Magazines Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

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One Two Testing - May 1985

Donated by: Colin Potter


Buyer's Guide


Mixer Special

Part 1 (Viewing) | Part 2 | Part 3

Gear in this article:

Mixer > MTR > 6-4-2

Mixer > Studiomaster > 6.2.1

Mixer > Seck > 62

Mixer > Tascam > M106

Mixer > MTR > 12:8:2

Mixer > Promark > MX-3 8/4/2

Mixer > RAM > Micro RM10

Feature by Tony Bacon

Previous article in this issue:

> How Green Is My Album?

Next article in this issue:

> Beyond E Major

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