Seck 122 Mixer
A good mixer should be big, black and bulky yes? No — the Seck 122 is a compact, well laid out piece of gear that really looks stylish - and it isn't black! Paul White finds out if its performance comes up to its appearance.
The Seck 122 is a twelve into two mixer designed for PA or home recording use having a few unusual features including four auxiliary sends per channel with master outputs monitored by bargraph meters which incorporate a peak hold facility. This peak hold feature allows the meters to display maximum peak levels for a short period of time enabling transients to be spotted that would otherwise be missed and a button is provided to engage or disengage this facility.
Before launching into details about the facilities and performance, it is worth dwelling for a while on the constructional and cosmetic attributes of this mixer.
This really is a slimline mixer measuring 463 x 590 by only 48mm and weighing 8kgs. A fitted support bar at the rear of the mixer lets you tilt the unit at any convenient angle and all the case sides are made from an olive coloured anodised aluminium extrusion - none of that boring chipboard end cheek stuff.
The steel front panel is a delicate shade of mushroom with white legends whilst the control knobs and buttons are picked out in blue, buff, and white, each channel being clearly numbered.
Another unusual feature on a small mixer is the incorporation of 100mm sealed track faders which should allow precise control over level setting and fades.
In order to make everything fit, the channel control knobs are very small and staggered so that there is still a sensible distance between individual knobs.
All the inputs and outputs are located at the top of the front panel for easy access and that includes the connector for the external power supply.
The external supply is connected to the mixer via a six pin locking connector and the logic behind using a separate PSU is that there is less chance of the circuitry picking up hum from the transformer. It also enables the mixer's profile to be kept flat.
The circuitry allows for the use of balanced or unbalanced inputs and fibreglass PCBs are used throughout for reliability.
The microphone input is accepted via an XLR socket wired pin 1 screen, pin 2 cold and pin 3 hot. The line input is a quarter inch jack which may be balanced or unbalanced and a pushbutton selects which input is to be routed through the channel.
Phantom powering is fitted as standard to all mic inputs and, though this is normally 24V, it can be modified to 48V if required by a Seck dealer.
Each channel has an insert point which allows an effect or processor to be patched in line with the channel using a stereo jack lead, the send connection being the tip of the jack and the return being the ring.
The EQ section follows the current trend of shelving bass and treble controls combined with a swept mid section but the choice of bass and treble turnover points strikes me as being a little curious.
The bass EQ, for example, shelves at 45Hz which makes it ideal for removing unwanted rumble and booming but it does mean that there is no control in the vital 80Hz to 200Hz band, an area that often requires attention when amplifying or recording drums or bass guitar.
On the other hand, the treble control cuts in at 11 kHz where most musical signals contain very little energy. Again, this is a good frequency for removing noise but it offers little capacity for creative EQ work. That's all on paper of course; to see how it works out in practice, see the in use section.
Next come the auxiliaries and here the designers have been generous by fitting two pre-fade and two post-fade sends. This means that you can have two independent effects connected to the mixer and also run one stereo or two mono foldback mixes.
There is nothing unusual about the pan circuit and next to this is the solo button which routes the selected channel only to the headphones and meters providing a PFL (Pre fade listen) function, status being displayed by an LED above the masterfaders. The channel and master group faders are all 100mm long travel types and their operation is smooth and positive as are all the pots.
The output faders are closely spaced making balanced fades easy and the levels are monitored by the stereo bargraph meter as mentioned previously.
There are two auxiliary returns and their controls are also on this panel, each one having two band EQ, level and pan controls in addition to solo buttons.
At the right end of the mixer we find the four auxiliary send master level controls and these too have solo buttons to assist in setting up suitable undistorted levels.
The 0dB indicated output level is equivalent to 0VU (+4dBu) for compatibility with professional audio systems (0.775V).
Located just below the meters is the peak hold button and to the bottom right of the front panel is the headphone section which will drive up to two pairs of headphones but only in mono!
The auxiliary send and return sockets accept unbalanced quarter inch jacks whilst the master outputs are three pin male XLR sockets, unbalanced.
Everything generally worked smoothly and quietly as the specifications would suggest but there was one surprise.
Though the spec indicated what appeared to be impractical shelving frequencies for the treble and bass EQ, the controls were subjectively most effective. All I can put this down to is that the filter cut-off curve is quite gradual and so the response stretches well into the mid-frequency band for both bass and treble controls.
Using the EQ on a bass guitar, the bass EQ was able to remove all the bass sound from the instrument even though there is little signal below 50Hz, even on the open bottom E string, and so one can only assume that the equaliser affects frequencies up to 200 or even 300Hz.
Likewise, the treble control operates from only a few kilohertz upwards and so the doubts generated by the spec sheet can be set aside completely.
On using the microphone inputs, these are quiet except at high gain settings when some background noise is evident but this is true of all but the most exotic studio mixers; the Seck's performance is well up to its price.
I found the small knobs a bit fiddly at first and it does make it more difficult to set the EQ controls dead flat but I soon got used to them. The only feature that I didn't like was the mono headphone output; many home users like to check the stereo imaging by this means and a mono output precludes that.
The overall layout makes the mixer very logical to use and it's good that even the auxiliary returns had PFL or solo buttons whilst the illuminated bargraph meters are easy to read in artificial light or the gloom of a gig. They could be a problem at outdoor gigs if it's sunny, however, but this won't deter many people.
I really liked this feature; when peak hold is selected, the top section of the meter display remains in place for two or three seconds so that you can see how loud the peaks really are.
Like all metering, it should be backed up by your ears and, if your ears tell you that you can get away with a bit more level onto tape, then believe them (unless you've just come back from a Motorhead concert); but by and large, this is a very good metering system.
With the exception of the naughty mono headphone output, this is an appealing mixer that both looks and sounds classy. Ergonomically it's good, everything is positioned where it should be and the four auxiliary sends are a real boon. I'm tempted to say that it would be nice if the pre-fade auxiliaries could be switched to post-fade for mixdown - but I won't.
The high 0dB output level means that the meters on the mixer are unlikely to agree with the ones on your tape recorder if it's a semi-pro model but an HSR Attenuator Box will enable you to match up the levels quickly and cheaply (see June 84 issue).
This British built unit should be equally at home as a PA mixer, a keyboard mixer, or as the basis of a home recording set-up and, although there may be cheaper mixers available, few offer the facilities and quality of this model.
Maybe the manufacturers will heed our comments about the headphone outputs and turn an excellent mixer into a near perfect one.
The Seck 122 retails for £574 including VAT.
Please contact UK distributors for further details: Atlantex, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
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