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Small mixer for home setup

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Small mixer for home setup

Postby manwilde » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:34 am

Hello, hope eveyone is doing fine.
I need a small mixer for my home setup. One mic input for vocals and acc guitar, another for bass DI and a stereo line for digital amp headphones out. I only record one track at a time, and have access to good mic pres on a project studio I share with some friends to re-record whatever I might need to.
My home sound card is a RME Babyface mk I, as you may know it has only two analog inputs that I want to feed from the mixer master outputs. Currently using an old Behringer desk which is noisy as hell, even going out from the fx send instead of the master (a bit less noisier, but still -65dB noise floor!)
I´ve been searching on the forums for more info on the subject, and also taking a look at the candidate´s specs, but before buying I thought maybe some of you know first hand how any of these mixers fare and could share their opinions:
Yamaha MG06: https://www.thomann.de/gb/yamaha_mg06.htmref=intl&shp=eyJjb3VudHJ5IjoiZ2IiLCJjdXJyZW5jeSI6IjQiLCJsYW5ndWFnZSI6ImVuIn0%3D
Mackie 402 VLZ4: https://www.thomann.de/gb/mackie_402_vlz4.htm?ref=intl&shp=eyJjb3VudHJ5IjoiZ2IiLCJjdXJyZW5jeSI6IjQiLCJsYW5ndWFnZSI6ImVuIn0%3D
Allen&Heath ZED6: https://www.thomann.de/gb/allen_heath_zed_6.htm?ref=intl&shp=eyJjb3VudHJ5IjoiZ2IiLCJjdXJyZW5jeSI6IjQiLCJsYW5ndWFnZSI6ImVuIn0%3D
I´m leaning towards the A&H, but my main concern is if the signal would degrade noticeably when compared to the Babyface pres by themselves...

Thanks so much in advance for your time and help!
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:20 pm

Do you definitely need the mixer? Or could you get an 8-channel mic-pre with an ADAT out and use that with the Babyface?
I'm a bit confused though, if you only record one channel at a time, what do you need the mixer for?
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby ef37a » Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:46 pm

Got me wondering as well Drew!

Now, when peeps mention "mixer" on recording forums, many of the Great and Good leap in with "No, no no! You don't want a mixer, you need an 8/12/16 way interface. Only the odd half a bag or so" Usually they are half right and the OP has misunderstood his requirement and does not really understand the processes involved..But, once in a while a mixer is exactly what the chap/ess needs!

Even quite a modest mixer will have better* mic pre amps than many AIs, it will have 3 band EQ, maybe HPFilters, compression and pan. None of these things are found on AIs in general. Yes, the received wisdom is to record 'dry and flat' and without dynamic control but in some situations that is what the punter needs. A mixer also allows several pieces of gear to be left connected and often to be used without firing up the PC (or if 'er indoors has snaffled the lappy) .

*Maybe not better in terms of absolute noise floor because the latest AIs have really very good preamps in that respect (and the Babyface is said to be one of the best?) But mixers generally run on higher internal voltages and can have higher headroom. They also have a gain trim control AND the channel fader.

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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby The Elf » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:08 pm

From what I see on these fora the number of times when a 'mixer' *is* a genuine requirement is minimal. An AI is more often the better answer, even if it's not the question being asked. Quite often the 'best mixer' is none!

Most people march zombie-like towards a mixer when it is not only *not* a necessity, but will positively trip them up and hinder them. I've seen this many, many times in my tuition work.
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby ef37a » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:12 pm

The Elf wrote:From what I see on these fora the number of times when a 'mixer' *is* a genuine requirement is minimal. An AI is more often the better answer, even if the question wasn't asked.

Most people march zombie-like towards a mixer when it is not only *not* a necessity, but will positively trip them up and hinder them.

Quite so Elf but I think it is important not to leap to conclusions when people mention the 'M' word? Just now and again it is the very chap they need, usually in combination with an existing AI.

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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby The Elf » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:19 pm

I understand your point, and I can agree up to a point,,, but a mixer *combined* with an AI is most often the worst possible solution! :lol:
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby manwilde » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:40 pm

Hello, and thanks for your replies. Yes, I realise and ADAT expander would be ideal, but I´d like to keep costs as low as possible while not sacrificing audio quality... A Foscusrite Octopre sells for over 300 euros, Behringer ADA8200 is a bit less than 200, and the kind of mixer I´m considering buying is less than 100.
All I need is a cost efective way of getting clean audio into Reaper not having to plug/unplug things constantly: since I always record one thing at a time, it would be a matter of just raising the corresponding gain and fader on the mixer. Actually, that´s what I´m doing now with the Behringer, if only I could get rid of the noise...
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby adrian_k » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:46 pm

Hi,
I may be wrong but I thought the Babyface inputs could be used as either line or mic input? So if you are recording one track at a time do you really need a mixer? But of course you would need to plug/unplug..
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby The Elf » Mon Jul 13, 2020 4:50 pm

manwilde wrote:All I need is a cost efective way of getting clean audio into Reaper not having to plug/unplug things constantly
Then I'd suggest a mixer that doubles as an AI. The thing you need to be wary of is ending up where the audio coming back to the mixer for monitoring begins looping back into the mixer when you record. A well-designed mixer/AI will have the ability to avoid this.

This isn't my area of expertise, so I'll bow out at this point and let others advise. I use a Zoom LiveTrak L-12 as my mixer/AI, but it sounds like anything of that ilk will be out of budget anyway.
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby manwilde » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:00 pm

Sorry for not clarifying my situation, sometimes I leave things unexplained as they seem obvious to me, but they may not be for someone else...
Of course I can record both line and mic signals straight into the Babyface, and that´s what I used to do until a got tired of having to plug and unplug things constantly... Say I want to record vocals. Mic goes into channel one, adjust gain, done. I want now to record bass DI, and that goes into channel two. But now I want to record the stereo headphone output of my guitar amp, so I have to unplug both the microphone and the bass DI. Then I need to recut some vocals, or maybe do some backings. Unplug/plug everything over...
This setup is meant to work only at the demo stage of the proccess, and that´s when I need to feel free to go back and forth seamlessly the most, so I need a way to have everything permanently plugged in and ready, just raise a fader, arm a track and go... So I have snapshots set up in Totalmix depending on the task: gains, effects, relative levels. All I need to do is to set the appropiate mixer fader at unity and lower all other channels and I´m ready to go.
Hope this makes sense, and thanks again!
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:24 pm

manwilde wrote:Id like to keep costs as low as possible while not sacrificing audio quality... and the kind of mixer I´m considering buying is less than 100.

And how does such a low budget mixer not compromise audio quality?

If you don't need to mix signals together, you don't need a mixer.

If your interface has sufficient inputs for the number of things you're likely to record simultaneously, then maybe all you really need is a patchbay to make re-plugging sources quicker and easier?

There are perfectly valid reasons for needing a mixer, but they all revolve around the need to mix various signals together... If you don't need that, then a bigger interface, or an expanded interface, is a far better solution, both practically and in terms of signal quality.
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby ef37a » Mon Jul 13, 2020 5:30 pm

The Elf wrote:
manwilde wrote:All I need is a cost efective way of getting clean audio into Reaper not having to plug/unplug things constantly
Then I'd suggest a mixer that doubles as an AI. The thing you need to be wary of is ending up where the audio coming back to the mixer for monitoring begins looping back into the mixer when you record. A well-designed mixer/AI will have the ability to avoid this.

This isn't my area of expertise, so I'll bow out at this point and let others advise. I use a Zoom LiveTrak L-12 as my mixer/AI, but it sounds like anything of that ilk will be out of budget anyway.

You have to be careful with the budget mixer/AIs. Happily the noisy 16 bit jobs seem to have faded away but the current crop can be a problem regarding signal routing*.
Put simply, if you think a USB mixer records two tracks as you have mixed them? No Sir, very often any EQ or filter setting are not sent and pan never is AFAICT. I ran into this problem with the otherwise excellent Souncraft 8FX Notebook. To do what he needs to do son has to run the main outs to a UMC204HD. Works well though...

My point about "collecting sources" seems moot. I would also tell OP to look for a mixer that has high impedance options for the line inputs. Electric guitar or bass straight in. A&H mixers have a 10meg line in and so suit a passive acoustic very nicely. High Z inputs are not a deal breaker though, always use a DI box or a handy pedal.

*This is compounded by the fact that signal flow block diagrams are now almost never given, not even as a download so you cannot check how the thing works before you buy it!

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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby manwilde » Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:09 pm

And how does such a low budget mixer not compromise audio quality?

Thanks, Hugh, that´s what I was afraid of and that´s all I need to know, specially coming from you.

On a more academic level of the discussion:
If you don't need to mix signals together, you don't need a mixer.

Really if the mixer at use was silent and clean enough, wouldn´t the way I´m using it be an appropiate way, even if not mixing signals but turning it into a sort of "quick patchbay"?

maybe all you really need is a patchbay to make re-plugging sources quicker and easier?

I understand that is the technically proper way of doing it, but it is more expensive and doesn´t free me from the plugging/unplugging hassle (but indeed makes it easier).

Anyway, as I said above, if the sound quality is going to suffer with a small mixer, ADAT preamps will be...

On that subject, and having read SOS reviews on both units, will there be audio quality differences between the ADA8200 and the Octopre?. I know we´re talking low budget here, just wondering if there really is a good reason to pay more for one over the other...

Again, thanks so much everyone!
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby The Elf » Mon Jul 13, 2020 6:20 pm

manwilde wrote:
maybe all you really need is a patchbay to make re-plugging sources quicker and easier?
I understand that is the technically proper way of doing it, but it is more expensive...
You'll get a Samson S-Patch for just over 100 pounds.

Plus it has zero self-noise and requires no power!
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Re: Small mixer for home setup

Postby ef37a » Mon Jul 13, 2020 7:35 pm

I really don't get the logic here.
In the last 15 years or so I must have read nigh on a score of reviews of small mixers from Behringer, Mackie, A&H, Soundcraft, Yamaha and a few others. Never have I read "Caution this device will seriously degrade your audio path". Heck! There was a Mackie mixer in the famous Pre amp Shootout and nobody nailed it!

These small mixer have about the same amount of electronics as a decent active monitor controller and probably the same op amps.

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