Seck 1282 Mixer
Having hit upon the right formula with their successful 1882 mixer, Seck have now introduced a cut-price 1282 version aimed more at the needs of the 8-track user. Paul Gilby monitored its performance.
Following the success of their Seck 1882 mixer released eighteen months ago, Seck have just introduced a smaller version, aimed more at the 8-track user, which retains almost all of the original features but with fewer channels and the benefit of considerable cost saving. Paul Gilby monitors its performance.
The Seck 1282 is a 12 input channel mixer with each input assignable to eight subgroups which you would normally wire directly to an 8-track recorder like the Fostex Model 80 or Tascam 38. You could also use it as part of a larger 16-track system mated with the likes of a Fostex B16 (or the new E16) if you need the extra tape tracks but your budget can't quite stretch to a larger mixer. A stereo master output is also provided (obviously for stereo mixdown) which may be configured to act as two additional subgroup outputs (making ten in all) during multitrack use, or they could be used in a PA context as master output feeds to the PA amps.
The slimline mixer design means all input/output connections are mounted along the top edge with each channel's sockets clearly distinguished from the next. A rundown of the input channel features starts with the microphone input, which is via a latching three pin XLR socket riveted into place and wired pin 3 'hot' (+). The line input is a standard jack socket wired for balanced operation though it may be used unbalanced. Tape return is via a -10dBV input and there's one on each of the 12 channels which is unusually generous for a budget-priced mixer.
Last of the connectors is the insert point socket which appears pre-EQ and is wired to accept a stereo jack plug. It uses the 'tip' connection to send a signal out and the 'ring' for receiving the returned (processed) signal. It operates at +4dB level.
Next in line is the input gain control and its friend, the mic/line selector switch. Immediately below the input section comes the monitoring which, due to its comprehensive nature, we'll come back to later. Instead we'll head for the auxiliaries.
Although the Seck 1282 has a total of six auxiliary sends (four are mono and the fifth stereo ie. another two), the main recording signal path only uses three of them: one for foldback (pre-fade), FB2, and two for echo send (post-fade), Aux 1 and Aux 2. The three further auxiliaries (FB1 and Stereo Echo Send) are all part of the monitoring system and when in the remix mode are cleverly utilised to provide the luxury of six auxiliaries for the final stereo mixdown. More of this later.
Positioned just above the Aux 1 control is the channel status switch which selects either the line input or tape return as the sound source travelling through the channel.
The EQ section comprises a cluster of four buff-coloured controls: one for treble (HF) which operates at 11kHz; a midrange section with one control for boost/cut and another to sweep through the midrange frequencies from 300Hz to 6.5kHz; and the bass (LF) control which operates at 45Hz. All signals may be boosted or cut by +/-15dB which is sufficient for most equalisation jobs. Those with more ambitious tonal requirements can always patch a graphic equaliser into the channel insert point for further control.
Seck's choice of EQ frequencies has remained the same as on the larger 1882 model and are quite interesting. The treble control has been fixed at 11kHz, higher than the standard 10kHz found on most mixers but, in practice, it works well and is useful for reducing the quantisation noise found on budget samplers, or sorting out vocals by adding a little presence. At the bass end, the chosen frequency again is somewhat strange at 45Hz. Great for cutting out bass rumble but you wouldn't think it could be useful on the upper bass frequencies. Well, in use it proved to be quite adaptable. A look at the EQ curves shown in the handbook confirms this as the bass and treble bands have fairly shallow cut-off slopes which extend over a broad frequency range.
Now onto the signal routing. The pan control is blue and although situated close to the EQ knobs, the contrast in colour alone makes it easy to locate. The control itself is of the centre detent type which is always a nice feature, and has enough space around it to allow your fingers room to move quite freely. A further five routing options are available by using the selection buttons located beneath the pan pot. The first of these routes the channel input signal to the left-right master output while the four subsequent buttons below it select pairs of groups labelled 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. Any combination of buttons may be selected together allowing you to route the same channel signal to more than one subgroup.
The solo button alongside is not strictly part of the recording signal path and is related to the monitoring section. As the name implies, selecting this function will cause only the sound on that particular 'soloed' channel to be heard whilst simultaneously muting all other channels without affecting what's going on tape. A nice touch here is the main red 'solo active' indicator below the meters which illuminates and shows at a glance when any of the 29 individual solo buttons have been pressed - an adequate compromise if you can't have individual ones.
Finally, at the bottom of the channel is a 100mm smooth travel, long throw fader which has a dB scale marked down the side, and immediately under this, running the entire width of the mixer, is a light grey wipe strip on which you can scribble the channel identity names.
Each of the eight subgroups available is fed the signal from any of the channels which have been routed to it eg. channels 1 to 4 may have a selection of microphones connected to them which you want to mix into stereo. By pressing the 1-2 routing button on each of channels 1 to 4, the individual sounds will all arrive at group outputs 1-2 where you can proceed to set the overall recording level. Alternatively, if you have already recorded the sounds and it's time to produce the final mix, then you could route say the four drum tracks you've recorded onto groups 1 -2, the three keyboards to 3-4 and a host of sound effects onto groups 5-6. With the rest of the instruments routed directly to the master left-right group, you can then simply introduce the instruments on subgroups 1 to 6 into the master stereo mix by pressing the subgroup buttons labelled 'groups to master' positioned above the actual subgroup faders.
Each group also has its own dedicated insert point to allow external effects units to be patched into the final mix. This is particularly useful for adding stereo reverb to a chosen set of instruments eg. drums, or perhaps even an aural exciter to give some clarity to a dull vocal sound, and you can monitor what's happening on any of the subgroups by pressing the relevant solo button above each of the faders.
The final part of the group output section is the tape track routing. Eight track output sockets are located at the top of the mixer directly above the group output section. If you require more than eight outputs at any one time then a single instrument may be taken straight from a direct output keeping the groups free for their true purpose. But where are these direct outputs? Well, you can use any channel insert point as a direct output by wiring together a jack plug's 'tip' and 'ring' connection. This then looks like a continuous signal path to the mixer channel allowing you to tap off some of the signal to feed another tape track. The only drawback being that the insert point is located before the EQ stage, which means no tonal adjustment of the direct output sound is possible, and so this has to be attended to during the mixdown stage - though you could feed the signal through an external equaliser on route to the tape recorder.
At the bottom of the auxiliary master section is a dedicated monitor echo send control. This stereo send, derived from the monitoring mix, allows you the option of creating echo/reverb effects on the monitor mix only. This is always a valuable feature enabling you to preview what the final mix could sound like without necessarily committing it to tape. Another practical feature on the Seck 1282 is the provision of separate left/right sockets on both echo send and echo return, making it possible to plug in either a stereo signal processor like a stereo digital reverb or two independent mono effects like an echo and a chorus unit. As per the foldback, all auxiliaries have a solo feature too, so you can hear the mix being fed to any external signal processor and check for overload etc.
Located at the extreme right of the mixer are the auxiliary master send controls. Foldback 1 provides overall level control of the monitoring foldback mix, whereas Foldback 2 provides a similar facility but on the input channels. Each foldback master may be soloed onto the monitors to check the mix prior to sending it out to the musician's headphones. Directly below these is a button which combines the separate mixes on Foldback 1 and 2 to produce a composite mix at both foldback outputs. Auxiliary 1 and 2 sends are fed from any of the 12 input channel Aux controls and give overall level control of the send busses for feeding to echo and reverb units or indeed any signal processors.
Four dedicated auxiliary returns are provided and maybe used in two ways: either as effects returns or as an additional four line inputs if the 12 input channels you've used so far aren't enough. There's also a simple two band EQ stage for this section, giving control of the treble at 11kHz and bass at 45Hz, followed by the level control for adjusting the amount of effect returned to the mix, and finally the pan control for the stereo positioning of that returned sound. Parallel to the auxiliary controls are a total of six buttons: five of them select which pair of groups the aux signal goes to and the last one is for soloing the return onto the monitors for checking audio quality.
On a mixer with such comprehensive routing you would expect the monitoring system to be just as good; well it is. Across all of the 12 input channels are individual monitoring sections which comprise a switch for selecting the sound source that's to be monitored, ie. the channel mic/line input or the sound coming off tape; there's also a monitor level control, stereo echo send, foldback and a pan pot. Each of the separate monitoring sections feed into the master monitor level that provides overall control of the sound being sent to the studio speakers. Associated with this control is a useful Dim button which, when pressed, attenuates the monitor level.
Other interesting features of the monitoring system are also located next to the master control, namely three buttons that allow you to monitor either the channel monitor mix as set up by the level controls on each channel (giving you a monitoring mix when recording), or alternatively the left-right master output mix during a stereo mixdown, or finally the 2-track tape return for quality checking.
'Monitor echo to foldback' allows you to vary the amount of echo on the foldback mix whilst 'monitor echo to monitors' performs a similiar function but on the monitoring only. Having this kind of independent control is very useful particularly when overdubbing a vocal track where the vocalist wants plenty of echo on the headphone (foldback) mix but you want a lot less on the studio monitor mix. Any sound routed to the monitors also appears at both of the two stereo headphone sockets and unlike many other budget mixing desks, inserting a pair of headphones doesn't cut out the main monitoring.
Only two bar graph meters are provided on the Seck 1282 so those of you who are used to seeing dozens of flashing lights may well feel a little deprived. Fear not, however, for the meters can be used to display any signal in the mixer whether it be a channel, group, foldback, aux send/return or solo. The metering function is both comprehensive and excellent, and what's more, a 'peak hold' facility may be selected to help you keep an eye on fast moving levels such as those produced by drum machines. The meters will in fact register up to a maximum level of +10dB.
Unlike the Seck 1882, UK distributors Bandive say there are no plans to introduce a meter bridge. This decision is based on the notion that most users of this mixer will be working very close to their multitrack machine and so there's little point in duplicating the meters that are present on the tape recorder. An arguable point that one!
No mixer of this quality would be complete without a talkback microphone and the 1282 is no exception. The small built-in omnidirectional mic allows you to talk to tape via the group outputs for track identification purposes and this is achieved by pressing a non-latching button which simultaneously activates the monitor Dim function to stop howl-round (feedback) from occurring. Another button marked 'Foldback' allows the engineer to talk direct into the foldback mix and hence to the musician's headphones. Again this is a non-latching button so no embarrassing moments when the vocalist comes back into the control room having heard you slagging him off over the headphones (oops)!
The final button on this section is marked 'Slate' and pressing it sends a 30Hz oscillator tone to the group outputs to audibly mark the beginning of a song on tape. This facility helps to quickly relocate the start of a track when your tape recorder is in a fast wind mode, since the recorded tone is raised in pitch along with everything else and is heard as an unmistakable 'bleep' when the tape whizzes past.
Unmentioned so far is the power supply unit which is housed in a separate case external to the mixer thus reducing the possibility of mains hum pickup. Power is drawn into the mixer via a lengthy cable and six-way connector which plugs into the top right-hand corner of the mixer's front panel and delivers not only the essential voltage but also the 48 volt phantom power supply needed to drive condenser microphones, and which is separately switchable.
A sturdy tilt support bar runs the entire length of the mixer's rear which may be adjusted to raise the mixer to any desired working angle, or used conventionally as a carrying handle-and, yes, the 1282 is light enough to carry with one hand.
You can't have everything on a mixer costing under £900 and credit must be given for the amount of facilities the 1282 does include, for when you consider that this is a budget 8-track mixer, it's superb value really. However, a couple of useful features are still missing, as they were on the original Seck 1882, namely a peak 'overload' LED on each of the input channels which, as the mixer only has two meters, would have been especially useful. Unfortunately, as the 1282 is basically a cut-down version of the 1882, there's been no change in this area. Another absent feature is a built-in test tone oscillator for helping with the line-up procedure, which is a real shame since the mixer already incorporates a 30Hz slate tone and I'm sure, given the opportunity of the redesign, it wouldn't have been that difficult for Seck to expand this circuit to do both jobs.
The Seck Model 1282 is an excellent mixer that makes recording with an 8/16-track machine simplicity itself. The clearly written handbook contains some very helpful diagrams and setting up procedures for both studio and live work plus a few tips on wiring cables.
In operation the mixer is quiet (input noise better than -124dBu) and has very low distortion figures and a wide frequency response. Like its bigger brother, the 1882, the operating output level is set at +4dB. This choice still puzzles me when you consider that this is primarily a semi-pro mixer that will generally be used with budget tape machines like the Fostex Model 80 that operate at the -10dB level. It would have been good to see a switchable output level incorporated. However, simple level-matching devices are available and apart from the inconvenience there's nothing to worry about. But why, oh why, didn't they include it in the first place?
Despite criticisms, the Seck 1282 mixer is certainly one of the most versatile and compact units on the market today. It has been well designed facilities-wise, so that it offers almost everything you could desire. And with such a flexible routing system that puts many mixers twice its price to shame, it makes the ideal companion to any 8/16-track tape machine.
Asa recording mixer, it's not far short of perfect and even in a PA situation it performs equally well and is certainly a pleasure to use.
£899.95 inc VAT.