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itsdimitri

Good field mixer for a student on a budget

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I'm going to be filming a documentary in Mongolia about the cultural music and the legitimacy of nomadism, which is still widespread in Mongolia. I don't have a lot of experience combining film and audio (I am currently in school and plan on becoming a recording engineer at a recording studio) and could use some help.

I'm looking for a field mixer that makes sense for my project. I found the Azden FMX-42 4 channel mixer:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/493791-REG/Azden_FMX_42_FMX_42_4_Channel_Microphone_Field.html

And the 552 by Sound Devices was recommended to me:

http://www.sounddevices.com/products/552/

The Azden mixer costs about $500 and the Sound Devices mixer costs almost $3000. I'm definitely on a budget, but I will be recording musical performances, so the audio is honestly just as important as the video to me. I could spend more than $500 on a field mixer, but $3000 is definitely out of my price range. I'm open to any suggestions, but again I am on a budget.

I will be filming with a Canon DSLR (not sure which model yet), which I understand have horrible audio inputs. If I used something like the Azden I would have to record to an external recorder. I was thinking the H4n Zoom. The 552 has a built in SD card so I wouldn't have to do that, but it's too expensive for me. Does that seem like the best way for me to go about what I'm trying to do? I'm new at this so any suggestions would be appreciated.

If anyone has used the Azden, I'd love to hear how they liked it. Did the pre amps have any noise issues? How did you record the audio?

Thanks,

Dimitri

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I saw someone on a Facebook mixer page wanting to sell a Fostex PD-6. This could be a good option for you as it is an old school solid built like a tank hi fidelity mixer with built in recording. The only issue is that the two media types are DVD-RAM and an optional built in HDD that may take a bit of messing with to get from the HDD to a computer.

I would forget the Azden.

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How about a Sound Devices 302 INTO a Zoom H4n? That would give you three pre-amped inputs, a mixer, and two extra non-pre-amped inputs if you needed them.

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You could get away with a zoom indeed as long as u have a proper mixer before. If u have just a boom a mixpre by sound devices will do it for you. If u need more inputs u could get a used psc m4 or alphamix. There s also i m sure some used 442s by sound devices around the ebay s of this world.

Just make sure u gain stage your mixer to recorder proper. There s plenty of info on this site about that. Good luck!

Ps: Your main mic will always be the most important part of your kit if you want it to sound good. If your gonna ba doing exterior i suggest geting a senheiser 816 or rode ntg3 and goooood wind protection (rycote modular kit)

Pps: batteries are prone to fail in cold temperatures. So u wanna make sure u got that part right too.

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" I was thinking the H4n Zoom. "

The zoom is a toy, it was designed for musicians, and though wildly popular is not even the best choice in its category...

Actually, the Azden is an excellent value in its category,, but you will also need other gear, like mic's, booms, shock mounts, stands, and etc.

" Did the pre amps have any noise issues? "

not compared to the Zoom.

" so the audio is honestly just as important as the video to me. "

so you'll need to spend some money, but even then, " I'm new at this... " remains a significant hurdle, as it takes years of experience to get years of experience, and it isn't about the clubs, it is about the golfer (aka <tiger>)

" I'm open to any suggestions, "

buy used, (lots of excellent options!) and / or seek professional advice from a professional specialty dealer where they know what they are talking about, and where the staff is not on commission.

Edited by studiomprd

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There are a lot of great options available on a budget, especially in the used/pre owned category. You get what you pay for with audio equipment, so if something retails at a bargain price, the usual rule of thumb is that it's a bargain for a reason. Why people take something called "zoom" seriously is beyond me, as even the name its self suggests that it is a toy like Mr. The Senator Mike pointed out.

With some of the latest releases and announcements by major equipment manufacturers, there is an influx of quality used equipment available at never before seen prices. I suggest saving your money, or getting your parents credit cards, and go out and get the good stuff. It will give you better quality, and have a more useful and longer life, unlike any camera you may wish to spend money on, which will go obsolete within a couple of years when everyone decides that the new HD is something else.

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" go out and get the good stuff. It will give you better quality, "

if you go out and get the good stuff. It will give you the potential for better quality,

but what you really need to do is get some experience first...

we don't know your cinematographic capabilities or experience, or anything about your storytelling credentials, but as you sound inexperienced, perhaps some book learnin', and OJT would be a good investment...??

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Check out the Fostex DC-R302.

It may suit how your trying to do things...

+1 on a budget, plus it's small and sturdy.

When I put a 302 in front, I couldn't really tell the difference between the DC-R302, and the FR2LE, except maybe the DC-R302 headphone pre's were a bit noisier to my green ears.

http://www.locationsound.com/r302-dslr-mixerrecorder-p-1754.html

Best,

Steven

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Nothing good is cheap. Nothing cheap is good.

Buy once, cry once. Buy twice, not so nice.

If your head is made of butter, stay out of the sun.

The sound should be on the same level as picture. If its a canon 5d shoot, there's nothing wrong with a used sound devices mix pre, and a zaxcom zfr recorder. This will be a light weight but solidly professional combination.

If I were shooting a documentary, doing interviews in cramped quarters and shootIng on the fly I wouldn't want to be lugging around a big old Fostex PD6.

Get two or three good mics and learn to mix. Keep it simple.

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Nothing good is cheap. Nothing cheap is good.

Buy once, cry once. Buy twice, not so nice.

If your head is made of butter, stay out of the sun.

The sound should be on the same level as picture. If its a canon 5d shoot, there's nothing wrong with a used sound devices mix pre, and a zaxcom zfr recorder. This will be a light weight but solidly professional combination.

If I were shooting a documentary, doing interviews in cramped quarters and shootIng on the fly I wouldn't want to be lugging around a big old Fostex PD6.

Get two or three good mics and learn to mix. Keep it simple.

I'd rather be lugging a Fostex PD-6 than a smaller mixer with a Zoom recorder attached. When you take into context that the PD-6 is a great mixer, great recorder, DC distro, power source, timecode source, all rolled into one, it doesn't seem so large and bulky to me. I think that something that SD has improved upon with the 664 from the 7 series stuff, is that it is actually larger. I like large tactile controls, manual switches... the more I stay away from menus, touch screens, and LCD displays, the better for me, so I find the PD-6 quite suitably sized for its function. There is a lot to be said for the "buy once" approach, and if your willing to double down and commit to the purchase of a 664, that would be one heck of a way to go. In fact, if your market is mostly TV, the 552 or even 442 are still extremely relevant and absolutely not superseded by the 664. In TV land, mix is still king, and a recorder that sort of mixes will always be a step down from a thoroughbred mixer.

That being said, I think the value of the PD-6 has been a bit elevated given the vintage, technology changes, and should have depressed even more given newer product releases. Shop it and see if sellers are going to be more reasonable in their asking prices.

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It is great in those respects, but, is of limited usefulness in the next project, or when he starts getting general eng work.

He may even want to look up a shure fp 42. I've used those for down n dirty eng work that went to broadcast and they can be found cheap.

There's one on eBay for less than 200 usd. I'd take that over an Azden any day. Maybe even the mix pre bc it has 4 inputs.

Next step would be a decent recorder, and he can start asking us about mics.

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Lots of ways to skin that cat, and I think we are mostly in agreement. I wish Zoom would make a recorder that had the Fostex style record switch, though, instead of the silly membrane toggle record button... then I would full heartily endorse them.

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Check out the Fostex DC-R302.

It may suit how your trying to do things.

Good mic is always a good idea.

I was not familiar with the Fostex DC-R302 however, after some brief research, if I were in your situation I'd give it serious consideration. At a street price $1000 and being both a mixer and recorder, it is quite appealling. Keep in mind though I HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY USED THE DC-R302, so make sure you look into it very carefully before taking the plunge, and make sure you can return the unit if you don't like it.

Of course if you could spring for a SD 552, that would be great. You will likely find a used one with a case for $2400, however by the time buy an external battery system and the batteries, if will add up.

Tom

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There are plenty of used mixers and recorders out there that will hold their value pretty well. With the new 664 coming out, you'll probably see a surge of 702(t)s, 744ts, 552s... You'll spend a bit more than you would on a zoom, but those things don't feel like Fisher Price toys, and will hold their value over time.

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The op is at that critical first step: the first buying experience.

He got some great suggestions, but he should poke around Trew, Pro Sound, eBay, Location Sound

and the other dealer sites and look around in used and consignment equipment to see what looks good.

He can also get a mixer and skip the recorder by looking around this sites recording to the computer forum.

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I agree with Dominique above: the Sound Devices 442 is an older workhorse that would work very well on a modest budget. I have listened to (but never owned) any Azden products, and they look really cheap and crappy to me. The 552 is even better, but a lot more costly. A 744 4-channel recorder might actually be a better idea -- at least you could record up to 4 mic inputs and then mix them later on in post -- but that would be more money.

Most DSLRs are really, really terrible in terms of sound quality. I would do several tests prior to your shoot to make sure you know where and how to adjust the audio levels. At least with the Canon 5D and 7D, they now have manual audio gain available on both, but their preamp headroom is not good. You may want to consider renting or borrowing a better camcorder with actual XLR inputs.

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A Tascam HD-P2 recorder isn't bad (but it isn't good either) cheap on ebay, and add a used Shure FP-33... Both use off the shelf batteries (AA & 9v)...

 

Steve Wytas

www.audio911.com

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Based on past experiences reviewing Azden equipment, I wouldn't recommend their products for...well, I wouldn't recommend their products. 

 

Since you'll be a one-man-band, a compact mixer/recorder sounds like a good option. I mean, since it sounds like you intend to shoot and record everything yourself, how much stuff do you want to mess around with?

 

Maybe that small Fostex R302 recorder/mixer. Or maybe even a Tascam DR-100mkII.

Maybe a Sound Devices MixPre-D as a front end.

 

Whatever you bring, make sure you have a backup system (like at a Zoom or another Tascam recorder) in case your primary system goes down.

 

Maybe you'll find someone with equipment you can borrow or rent.

 

And considering how far you're traveling and how much work you're putting into the project, try to raise a little more money. Morrie Warshawski has some good ideas about that:

 

http://www.warshawski.com/books.html

 

Get all your friends to agree to visit one less bar or coffee shop per week for the duration of your trip. And have them advance you the money the would have spent on drinks.

 

Your trip is going to be a great experience. And you're preparing for a career in sound. Make sure you don't come back from Mongolia thinking "if only I had better equipment during the trip."

 

Have a wonderful trip.

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