It's a fact of life -- no matter how many mixer or multitracker inputs you have, there'll always be times when you could use more, and if you've spent time and money choosing and buying your main mixer, it's a lot of hassle to get rid of it just for the sake of a few more inputs.
A cheaper and more convenient option is to add a sub-mixer -- it'll cost money, but it needn't be much, especially if it's one of these tiny new mixers from US manufacturer Midiman. The MultiMixer 6 and MicroMixer 18 both offer sturdy build quality, low-noise performance and a lifetime guarantee, and have plenty of inputs for their modest price tags. Potential uses for them are practically unlimited.
This is the simplest of the two mixers, a 6-input unit aimed at the multimedia market. Smaller than a video cassette, the MultiMixer 6 is powered by a 9V PSU and offers six input channels, each with a jack socket, level control and pan pot. A pair of master level controls, left and right output jacks, stereo headphone socket and power LED -- and that's it.
The MultiMixer 6's natural home is in a desktop music/multimedia environment: the stereo outputs from a soundcard, CD-ROM, and perhaps a synth module could all be brought to one central point, before being amplified or monitored on headphones. Of course, any musician in need of extra, cheap inputs should also consider the MultiMixer 6: three stereo synths can be easily added to your main mixer or cassette multitracker via this tiny device. The absolutely cash-strapped or undemanding may find that the MM6 works as a sole mixer, straight to a stereo recorder, or on stage, especially given the built-in effects and panning facilities of most modern synths.
A larger mixer, but still only about the size of two video tapes, the MicroMixer 18 takes up little desk space, or half a 1U rack space, and an optional rack kit lets the MM16 slide out when you need to alter the knobs. It's also rather more versatile, offering a total of 18 inputs. The only compromise is that six inputs are configured as three stereo pairs without level controls, but the remaining 12 mono inputs each feature a level control, pan pot, two (yes, two!) auxiliary sends and a clip LED. The main stereo mix has a pair of left/right level controls (as does the headphone output) and a dual bargraph LED level indicator, and there are two returns (one stereo, one mono). This adds up to an impressive 21 inputs of one sort or another. All connections are on jack sockets, and power comes from a 9V PSU.
The inclusion of two aux sends takes the MicroMixer into a different league of usefulness. Although the lack of EQ lets it down for serious multitracking, recordists after extra channels to go along with their cassette multitrack -- to mix sequenced sound sources sync'd to tape, for example -- could do much worse, and certainly spend much more. Add a couple of modern synths, a couple of old monosynths, a couple of effects processors and a DAT machine, and you'd be in the budget home recording business -- with plenty of inputs to spare.
It's now time to address two important considerations: sound quality and price. Both mixers have been designed to offer ample headroom and minimal noise -- and the circuitry is so simple that this has been comfortably achieved. For most users, whatever is plugged in (ie. the average modern digital synth or effects processor) will generate far more noise and hiss than the mixers themselves.
As for actual quality, the simple circuitry also means little coloration of sound; in fact, Midiman note that no signal passes through more than two amplifier stages from input to output. On the price front, at £69, the MM6 is cheap, and you'll be hard-pressed to find anything cheaper. The £199 MM18 has more competition, but none of the contenders in the sub-£250 mixer price bracket offer this combination of compactness and inputs.
Size and price aside, it is possible to make a criticism or two. I recognise faders are impossible on devices of this size, yet the knobs used are spindly and tightly-packed. These may be fiddly for some people, particularly when trying to fade a mix using the two master level knobs. They might also be prone to breakage, though the larger MM18 does have a raised protective lip around the edge. It can be tricky to actually see a pot's value in less than ideal lighting -- a little white marker would have helped. And if you want to plug mics or guitars into either mixer, you'll need some sort of mic preamp or guitar DI box.
It's still easy to recommend both mixers to the live or studio musician. Either would be worth having around on a 'just in case' basis. You need never run out of inputs again.
Perfect for multimedia.
Knob position visibility can be a problem.
A very useful and inexpensive addition to your audio armoury.
Lots of inputs for price and size.
Two aux sends.
Knob position visibility can be a problem.
No level controls for stereo inputs.
Extremely handy to have around, whether you want to use it as the sole mixer in a simple recording setup, for live submixing, or as extra inputs for your main desk.
£ MultiMixer 6 £69; MicroMixer 18 £199. Prices inc VAT.
T 01205 290680.
F 01205 290671.