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Sound Devices MixPre-3 vs Zoom F4

MixPre-3 vs. Zoom F4  

43 members have voted

  1. 1. MixPre-3 or Zoom F4

    • MixPre-3
      20
    • Zoom F4
      9
    • Something else!
      14


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I currently have a Fostex FR2LE and was planning on upgrading/changing my recorder out for either a MixPre3 or a Zoom F4. I wanted to have the convenience of using my recorder as an audio interface to my computer as well as a field recorder.

What's the consensus on the MixPre3 vs Zoom F4? I've always been fine with the 2 inputs so far on my FR2LE, but having more is always nice. Are the Zoom F4/Mixpre3 both cleaner/better than the FR2LE as well, as I know the FR2LE was always known to have really great preamps.

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I would buy sooner or later the MixPre-3.

One boom - Two wireless - EXT Timecode.

90% of my jobs is one - two wireless and one boom.

For the needs of atmos bla bla I have three mic preamps / ORTF TRI (three CCM's or MKH 8040).

Plus Wingman App if I need to go fancy and sexy (hehe).

For 4 wireless and more needs; then I would consider the F8 or something else.

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I'd just buy the MixPre 6 with its 4 channels and you're good to go and more futureproof.

It's merely bigger and just a few bucks more.

 

If you need TC out, you need something different either.

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I voted for M.P.3 but if you want a control surface on a budget then the Zoom is a lot cheaper than anything else.

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I bought an f4 as a backup recorder. It failed within days and the replacement did as well. At least one of the units was fried when accidentally feeding 48v to its outputs. (a mistake that is easily made!). After the second failure I stopped wasting my time and bought the mixpre10t

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6 hours ago, withintheflux said:

I bought an f4 as a backup recorder. It failed within days and the replacement did as well. At least one of the units was fried when accidentally feeding 48v to its outputs. (a mistake that is easily made!). After the second failure I stopped wasting my time and bought the mixpre10t

 

Hmm, my 302 was also fried when accidentally feeding 48v to it's outputs. And that's a pro machine. J

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Maximum of three channels I feel automatically rules out the MixPre3 as your primary/only recorder (however as a supplementary secondary recorder the MixPre3 could perhaps be an excellent choice for some people). While I'll routinely enough use all six inputs of the Zoom F4.  However you're currently happily using a FR2LE then perhaps 3 is plenty for your all needs, but I know it wouldn't be for me personally.  


Plus the MixPre3 needs an external timecode box, which pushes the price of the MixPre3 up even higher (when the MixPre3 is already more expensive than the F4, a worthwhile point to ponder if you're very budget conscious).

 

Additionally the F4 just has more features/functionality than the MixPre3, such as: TC out, hirose powering, full size XLR outputs, Zoom's FRC accessory, etc

 

On 3/10/2018 at 10:42 AM, SoundAdvice said:

Are the Zoom F4/Mixpre3 both cleaner/better than the FR2LE as well, as I know the FR2LE was always known to have really great preamps.

 

While I have never done myself or even heard of an A/B comparison with the FR2LE and the F4/MixPre3, I'd be quite surprised indeed if the FR2LE is cleaner than both of them. 

 

Out of curiosity I went and looked up the claimed specs of each of them:

 

FR2LE:

Quote
  • S/N (ADC-DAC, 24bit, 48kHz): 
        Line (Input Gain: +4dBu) 95dB (typical) 
        Mic (Input Gain: -60dBu) 85dB (typical)
  • Dynamic Range (ADC-DAC, 24bit, 48kHz): 100dB (typical)

 

Measured:

Ein = -122dBu (unweighted, 22kHz BW)

Ein (A) = -126dBu (A weighted, 20kHz BW)
https://www.wildlife-sound.org/resources/equipment/2-uncategorised/48-fostex-fr2le

And a similar result from here:
https://www.avisoft.com/recordertests.htm

 

MixPre3

Quote
ADC 32-bit precision; 120 dB dynamic range min (A-weighted, gain=10 dB, fader=0 dB)
Equivalent Input Noise -130 dBV (-128 dBu) max, (A-weighting, gain=76 dB, 150-Ohm source impedance)

 

F4: 

Quote
Dynamic Range ADC 120 dB typical (−60 dBFS input, A-weighted)
 
EIN −127 dBu or less (A-weighted, +75 dB input gain, 150 Ohms input)

 


 

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I compared the noise floor of ZOOM F4 and Sound Devices MixPre-10T.
According to the spec sheet, the performance of the MixPre-10T's preamp seems to be the same as MixPre-3 probably.

 

I soldered 150 ohm resistor between 2-3 pin in XLR Male Plug.
It emulates a 150 ohm dynamic microphone that switched off.
DSCF2669.jpg

and aligned to trim +75 and fader +0 both recorder.
Then hit record button.
DSCF2675.jpg

 

The following test results were obtained....
fig1.png


The MixPre's noise is slightly thinner than F4.

F4 has a signal like a dense ham noise under than 1Hz.
fig2.png

Looking at the analyzer, MixPre seems a bit quieter than F4.

I love either recorder.
But I am a Japanese. So I'd like to vote to ZOOM with motherland favoritism.

However,If I choose recorder by sound quality.
I choose SoundDevices.

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17 minutes ago, INARI said:

I compared the noise floor of ZOOM F4 and Sound Devices MixPre-10T.
According to the spec sheet, the performance of the MixPre-10T's preamp seems to be the same as MixPre-3 probably.

 

I soldered 150 ohm resistor between 2-3 pin in XLR Male Plug.
It emulates a 150 ohm dynamic microphone that switched off.
DSCF2669.jpg

and aligned to trim +75 and fader +0 both recorder.
Then hit record button.
DSCF2675.jpg

 

The following test results were obtained....
fig1.png


The MixPre's noise is slightly thinner than F4.

F4 has a signal like a dense ham noise under than 1Hz.
fig2.png

Looking at the analyzer, MixPre seems a bit quieter than F4.

I love either recorder.
But I am a Japanese. So I'd like to vote to ZOOM with motherland favoritism.

However,If I choose recorder by sound quality.
I choose SoundDevices.

 

Nicely done!

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13 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Maximum of three channels I feel automatically rules out the MixPre3 as your primary/only recorder (however as a supplementary secondary recorder the MixPre3 could perhaps be an excellent choice for some people). While I'll routinely enough use all six inputs of the Zoom F4.  However you're currently happily using a FR2LE then perhaps 3 is plenty for your all needs, but I know it wouldn't be for me personally.  


Plus the MixPre3 needs an external timecode box, which pushes the price of the MixPre3 up even higher (when the MixPre3 is already more expensive than the F4, a worthwhile point to ponder if you're very budget conscious).

 

Additionally the F4 just has more features/functionality than the MixPre3, such as: TC out, hirose powering, full size XLR outputs, Zoom's FRC accessory, etc

 

 

While I have never done myself or even heard of an A/B comparison with the FR2LE and the F4/MixPre3, I'd be quite surprised indeed if the FR2LE is cleaner than both of them. 

 

Out of curiosity I went and looked up the claimed specs of each of them:

 

FR2LE:

 

Measured:

Ein = -122dBu (unweighted, 22kHz BW)

Ein (A) = -126dBu (A weighted, 20kHz BW)
https://www.wildlife-sound.org/resources/equipment/2-uncategorised/48-fostex-fr2le

And a similar result from here:
https://www.avisoft.com/recordertests.htm

 

MixPre3

 

F4: 

 


 

 

Would you actually be able to explain to me what all the numbers mean (sorry I'm still kind of new to audio equipment)? One of the reasons I got the Fostex FR2LE was actually because of that Avisoft site showing the numbers being a close second to the Sound Devices 722.

EIN is how noisy the recorder is right? And what is A-weighted vs unweighted?

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This will explain it for you:

http://www.rane.com/note145.html

But basically the core point you can take away from this is you're unlikely to ever tell the difference between a well recorded F4/F8 recording and a well recorded MixPre3/6/10 recording in anything but a carefully done A/B test under controlled environments (like the excellent one INARI did). So personally, I wouldn't let the noise floor of the pre amps between the F4 and the MixPre3 be any factor at all in your decision. Instead concentrating on other factors such as their functionality and how they help make your day smoother or not when actually shooting on location. (this is where things like layout, user interface, internal TC generator, full size XLR outputs, etc... end up matter. And mattering far more than the noise floor of one pre amp vs another)

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Today I recorded 2 binaural files for comparison.
y.jpgbinaural.jpg
Aligned to same gain and same fader in both recorders.
Nonetheless, ZOOM F4 file is about 4 dB louder, so I will also attach 2 normalized files with -4dB.


Equipments are
DavinchHead Mk.2 Binaural Mic (Primo EM173 Microphone x2 with zener diode and fet)
Mogami 2534 cable (Mic-to-YCable)
Mogami 2901 cable(YCable-to-Recorders)
Neutrik and cheap made in China connector

Now hear it!!
(Downloadable)



(96kHz 24bit files)
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tLPTwAA7jWsw4f4vT1XJ3q9Tm4ZwDm04/view?usp=sharing

I feel MixPre is somewhat better sound,but the difference is negligible.
It may be prominent when recording music,but I am not organizing a band for now unfortunately.

However,both are practical recorder surely.
I think the important thing was an appropriate setting as IronFilm says.

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3 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

In my experience specifying cable and connector characteristics is little use without knowing what grade solder was used. J


Made with this()

It's popular with audio lovers in my country.

https://translate.google.co.jp/translate?sl=ja&tl=en&js=y&prev=_t&hl=ja&ie=UTF-8&u=https%3A%2F%2Foyaide.com%2Fcatalog%2Fproducts%2Fp-3904.html&edit-text=&act=url

 

I like the solder containing lead because it is easy to process.
but I must use this solder because of environmental protection problems.
On my experience solder seems not to affect the sound much.
 

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8 hours ago, The Immoral Mr Teas said:

In my experience specifying cable and connector characteristics is little use without knowing what grade solder was used. J

So what solders are you recommending?

I got the impression Inari was referencing the (mogami) balanced / quad cables and the connectors to indicate how potential RFI issues were mitigated. I was not aware particular solders had a bearing on this.

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Hey yes it was a joke - but I'm not noted for my humour (save on MS discussions) so fair enough. Actually Inari has the last laugh because I can only see the link in GIGANTIC FONT! So therefore cannot see it. But I'm still trying (because I'm damn sure it's a fine retort)!

 

Haven't voted, but I veer towards the 'neither' - MP6 and F8 being the most obvious contenders for usefulness to me ... but that's why companies now are very happy to develope and present alternate version families of machines.

 

Welcome to JWS and truly thanks for the write ups, Inari - I'm a big Ozu fan ... and Tanazaki ... arigato!  Jez

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I've been looking at both (MixPre and Zoom F4). Right now I have a Fostex FR-2LE as well and despite having good pres the headphone output is atrocious and I don't trust the metering at all.

 

If I considered an upgrade, and considering that I am not doing audio on camera for now (so synchronization and those camera oriented functions are not an issue for me), I guess the resale value of a Sound Devices recorder will always be higher, and I've read somewhere that the headphones amplifier in the MixPre is really in a different league from the F4. Right?

 

Not that my headphones are difficult to drive (Ultrasone HFI-650) but at least the Fostex struggles really badly. 

 

 

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The MixPre headphone output is one of it's many strong suits - full bandwidth, excellent bass response and HF clarity and capability to drive wide range of headphone impedances. 

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On 3/10/2018 at 2:00 AM, kavenzmann said:

I'd just buy the MixPre 6 with its 4 channels and you're good to go and more futureproof.

It's merely bigger and just a few bucks more.

 

If you need TC out, you need something different either.

+1

 

Highly recommend the mp6. Been using it as my daily driver for low track count work and its been great. Worth the small jump in size over the mp3.

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16 hours ago, borjam said:

I've been looking at both (MixPre and Zoom F4). Right now I have a Fostex FR-2LE as well and despite having good pres the headphone output is atrocious and I don't trust the metering at all.

 

No matter what you choose, it will be a big leap forward over the old Fostex. 

Which MixPre are you considering? There are 6 MixPre recorders now! And which one you're considering makes a big difference when comparing against the Zoom option. As even with the MixPre price range the MixPre3M vs the MixPre10T are at completely different price points! Way far apart. 

If you can at all stretch the budget to buy the Zoom F8n then I'd highly recommend it, it will easily be the "best" sub $1K recorder on the market when it ships for most people. 

However if the budget is tight then it is very hard to go past the Zoom F4. I've been using the F4 myself as my main recorder since it was released, been almost nothing but fantastic for me :-) 

The Zoom F4 is the same price as the MixPre3M (SD's cheapest option), and fairly obviously the F4 is vastly more suited for our needs as a location sound recordist if you're on a tight budget than a MixPre3M is (or even the more expensive MixPre3). 


 

16 hours ago, borjam said:

I guess the resale value of a Sound Devices recorder will always be higher

Historically SD has had quite good resale values (although given enough time, even those will fall down low. Look at what a 7 series goes for on eBay vs new price back in the day) due to the relative low volume of them but high ish demand for them.

But it is tricky to predict if this will keep on applying to the MixPre series into the future? Personally I'm skeptical that you'd be able to sell a MixPre series say three ish years into the future and only lose a little on the sale, I expect depreciation will hit harder than that, as Sound Devices are surely selling a lot of the popular MixPre series so in the future there will also be many many more MixPres on the secondhand market than usual and additionally they're feeling tough competition from Zoom. 

So I'd base your decision less on what you feel you'd get from re-selling it in the future, and more on what best fits your needs now

 

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16 hours ago, borjam said:

and I've read somewhere that the headphones amplifier in the MixPre is really in a different league from the F4. Right?


Yes the MixPre series has a better headphone amp than the F4/F8. 

However.... the F8n is going to have an improved headphone amp, as Zoom really takes feedback to heart. 
Additionally I haven't found the F4's headphone amp a deal breaker for me, it is rarely ever ever my biggest concern on set, and the general ambiance will contribute to a far worse S/N than the headphone amp itself. 

Important to remember that neither the MixPre series or the F series will be better than the other in every way! If a headphone amp is my biggest compromise I need to worry about then I feel I'm doing well in my choice of recorder!


And like I said, if you can go for the newer F8n then even this shouldn't be a worry. 

 

16 hours ago, borjam said:

Not that my headphones are difficult to drive (Ultrasone HFI-650) but at least the Fostex struggles really badly. 


At least in an upgrade from the Fostex to the Zoom F4 you won't be moving back in headphone amp quality! In the context of what you've been using already all the time in the past you can really be sure that the F4 won't be a big concern for you. Plus you could always consider something else like the popular 7056 is very common and affordable. (which is what I use. I don't have any experience with the Ultrasone HFI-650 myself)

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5 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

No matter what you choose, it will be a big leap forward over the old Fostex. 

Which MixPre are you considering? There are 6 MixPre recorders now! And which one you're considering makes a big difference when comparing against the Zoom option. As even with the MixPre price range the MixPre3M vs the MixPre10T are at completely different price points! Way far apart. 

If you can at all stretch the budget to buy the Zoom F8n then I'd highly recommend it, it will easily be the "best" sub $1K recorder on the market when it ships for most people. 

However if the budget is tight then it is very hard to go past the Zoom F4. I've been using the F4 myself as my main recorder since it was released, been almost nothing but fantastic for me 🙂

The Zoom F4 is the same price as the MixPre3M (SD's cheapest option), and fairly obviously the F4 is vastly more suited for our needs as a location sound recordist if you're on a tight budget than a MixPre3M is (or even the more expensive MixPre3). 


 

 

Hmm must be that the world is upside down where you live (compared to my place ;) )

 

The Zoom F8 has the same price as the MixPre Three here. In a well known German store both are 766€ (final price, tax included). I say Foxtrot-eight and MixPre Three ;)

 

In my case, if I decided to go that route (I'm going to hook an oscilloscope and see how Fostex configures the codec chip to see if I can "fix" the headphone output) it would be the MixPre 3 or maybe the 6. Regarding the M series, surprisingly they are cheaper although I don't see pricing at the usual suspects in Europe yet. But seems that the M series have lost M/S and some other interesting features. Guess the M series is an attempt to enter the music recording business, where Sound Devices is not one of the well known firms as far as I know. 

 

So, if going the MixPre route it wouldn't be an M. For music oriented features I have a Metric Halo interface. I could even bag it (it can be powered with a Martin Bauer battery) and it can be configured so that it doesn't need a computer, I can just hook it to a bit bucket) but it would be heavy and cumbersome. 

 

I have some doubts about the Zoom F series, especially how they have implemented the limiters. In the FR-2LE for example, the limiters could be described as "hybrid", a technique used on some software defined radio receivers. The limiter in the codec (CS42L51) checks the signal level in the digital domain but in order to attenuate the signal it uses a programmable amplifier in the analog domain just before conversion. I wonder wether Zoom have followed a similar route. 

 

Look ahead limiters (one of the new features of the F8n) can be awesome when your original program material is digital (which means it hasn't clipped before the limiter checks the levels). For example, in music mastering when your digital stream is floating point and you haven't gone back to 24 or 16 bit yet. However, if the delay buffer is in the digital domain and you are dealing with an analog signal the limiter won't help. You will decrease the level of an already clipped signal, so at least the beginning of a transient will be already recorded in all of its distortion glory :) Unless they have used an analog delay buffer.

 

So, I guess it would be the MixPre 3 or the MixPre 6. I don't think I'll use more than three microphones, mostly one or, if playing with M/S, two.

21 minutes ago, IronFilm said:


At least in an upgrade from the Fostex to the Zoom F4 you won't be moving back in headphone amp quality! In the context of what you've been using already all the time in the past you can really be sure that the F4 won't be a big concern for you. Plus you could always consider something else like the popular 7056 is very common and affordable. (which is what I use. I don't have any experience with the Ultrasone HFI-650 myself)

 

The HFI-650 are quite nice. I've used them for several years now in live music settings. The response is quite good, with the bass somewhat lowered (sound like a shelving filter) which can help reduce fatigue but, once you get used to it, can still help you judge what's going on. The very slightly emphasized mid-highs somewhat help me to make a better judgment with adjusting dynamics processing. That's especially critical for me in a small jazz club venue because my goal is the "invisible FOH", combining it with actual, live sound so that the audience thinks they are listening pure, acoustic sound. But remember I'm talking about live concerts, a very different world. 

 

By the way, the Ultrasones had some serious design flaws at first (poor quality plastics, sometimes even noisy in the headband) but when I ordered a new headband for my battered Ultrasones I was surprised by a headband for a much more recent model which was still 100% compatible and with very much improved materials.

 

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35 minutes ago, borjam said:

Hmm must be that the world is upside down where you live (compared to my place ;) )

 

The Zoom F8 has the same price as the MixPre Three here. In a well known German store both are 766€ (final price, tax included). I say Foxtrot-eight and MixPre Three ;)


Indeed, the original F8 has seen some extremely attractive prices as they're clearing out stock before the new F8n arrives, which only makes the case for the F8 even stronger!

 

36 minutes ago, borjam said:

Look ahead limiters (one of the new features of the F8n) can be awesome when your original program material is digital (which means it hasn't clipped before the limiter checks the levels). For example, in music mastering when your digital stream is floating point and you haven't gone back to 24 or 16 bit yet. However, if the delay buffer is in the digital domain and you are dealing with an analog signal the limiter won't help. You will decrease the level of an already clipped signal, so at least the beginning of a transient will be already recorded in all of its distortion glory :) Unless they have used an analog delay buffer.


Yes, you won't be ending up with just a delayed but clipped recording of course. But it will actually work as a beneficial limiter on top of the existing limiter the F8/F4 already benefits from. 

 

 

39 minutes ago, borjam said:

But seems that the M series have lost M/S and some other interesting features. Guess the M series is an attempt to enter the music recording business, where Sound Devices is not one of the well known firms as far as I know. 

Yes, the M series does not interest myself at all on a personal level. 

But anything which helps Sound Devices enter new markets to gain new revenue and a wider user base to support more R&D is only a good thing for all of us. 

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