Can this next generation of location recorders improve on the highly capable range that went before?
Sound Devices' superb line-up of MixPre portable recorders has only been in production for a couple of years, but the company have already given the entire product range a substantial make-over, with all-new and significantly more powerful and capable internal hardware. From a user's point of view, these three new 'second generation' machines (the MixPre‑3 II, MixPre‑6 II and MixPre‑10 II) all appear more or less identical to their forebears in terms of their physicality and core capabilities: the MixPre‑3 II is still an astonishingly compact unit with three Kashmir preamps and five recording tracks; the slightly larger MixPre‑6 II still has four preamps and eight tracks; and the flagship MixPre‑10 II model still has eight preamps and 12 tracks. The machines' user interfaces and control functions are also more or less the same across the range — but there are a few welcome enhancements and new features.
For example, a new automatic copying facility duplicates the data recorded on the internal SD card directly to an external USB thumb-drive inserted into the machine's USB-A port. And in addition to the standard factory mode, the limiters can now be switched into a customised operation, allowing the Ratio, Threshold and Release parameters to be adjusted (custom settings are remembered once set).
The upgraded hardware has also allowed the pre-roll record buffer to be increased to 10s on all models, and they all now support 192kHz recording. Frustratingly, though, there's still no option to record individual WAVs — as before, everything is stored as a polyWAV (unless using the Musician plug-in); when recording long concerts at high sample rates this results in lots of separate files which have to be joined together in a DAW. However, it's clear from looking at the sample-rate options (44.1, 47.952, 48, 48.048, 96 and 192 kHz) that these machines were designed primarily for video applications, in which the polyWAV format makes the workflow easier. The same underpinning role guided the decision to include synchronisable internal timecode generators in all three models, which will please videographers even more.
Impressively, the internal timecode generator is claimed to remain accurate to within half a frame over 24 hours (0.2ppm) and can maintain that accuracy over four hours, even when turned off and without batteries! Moreover, this timecode signal can be routed to an analogue output if required, making it available for synchronising other devices.
Another useful upgrade only found on the MixPre‑10 II is that its line outputs (on TA3 connectors) can now deliver a full +18dBu (the previous-generation model could only manage +10.8dBu), and this makes for much easier interfacing with other professional equipment. The MixPre‑3 II and -6 II models provide a smidgen under +8dBu at their unbalanced 3.5mm stereo line output sockets.
However, important though all of these enhancements and new functions obviously are, the headline feature is that all three models can be configured to capture audio in a 32-bit floating-point format (fixed-point 16- and 24-bit modes are still available too, of course). The floating-point mode, which involves a complete reboot of the machine as the internal hardware is reconfigured, provides a real-world dynamic range capability of an...