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Current model recommendations - simplest 4 ch field recorder/mixer


Grant
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Hello all,

 

I would like to move from a fairly old Sound Devices 3 channel mixer to a 4 channel-capable recorder/mixer.

 

I'm not so concerned about price as I am simplicity/shallow learning curve. I would like to have a field unit that can be handed off to a fellow professional without too much time spent delving into feature sets, etc. 4 clean channels, mic/line capability, L/R channel outputs, XLR connectors on both sides, and with the option to hand off files shortly after we wrap. That's about it.

 

I see a few models that are contenders, but they're all made by companies whose gear I have never seen up close.

 

Recommendations?

 

Thanks in advance.

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The 633 is still great for simple bag rig stuff. You’d need to be ok with just 3 XLR inputs with phantom power and use one of the line inputs for inputs 4-6. Which is just fine for wireless receivers. More simple than an 8 series and more battery efficient. 

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2 hours ago, Derek H said:

The 633 is still great for simple bag rig stuff.

Yep, still use mine daily with boom + 5 lectro lavs.  They can be had for about $2-2.5k on the used market these days and would slot well between the MixPre and 833 option.  Less bells and whistles than the 833 but still a great sounding workhorse.

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Between the MixPre-6 II (which is the one with 4 Mic-Ins) and the 633/833 there are some things to consider that might help making a decision. At least in my opinion they have several advantages depending on the job.

I don't have any expierence with the 833 so I will stick to the MixPre and 633 mostly. Since you asked about simplicity I will try and focus on usability.

 

- The MixPre is extremely light and I can easily carry it (+powerbank) around on a waist belt all day without having any weight on my shoulders. The powerbank (26000 mAh) lasts longer than 12 h of operating. The 633 with two NP-F batteries on the other hand is heavier and I would mostly use a combination of waist belt and shoulder strap (x-shape) but that's just my taste. The light weight of the MixPre comes with many compromises in hardware design (I/O) ofc (see following) and the 633 is obviously built rock-solid.

- The MixPre basically has most of the features needed like TC-generator, file meta-data and sound report info. However, it doesn't have a dedicated TC In/Out so you have to use the mini-jack Aux In (TC In) or Stereo Out (TC Out) which you then cannot use for another purpose. The 633 and probably all other "pro" recorders have their dedicated TC In/Out and "proper" in/out sockets (XLR, TA-3...).

- The MixPre has really good mic preamps so sound-wise I think there's no compromise being made. The 633 only has 3 mic pres but since you already have a mixer (302?) you could also use that for 2 additional mic channels whenever you need more than 3 mics.

- You have to use the touch display of the MixPre a lot together with the wheel/knob on the side which is kind of annoying. For meta-data and scene naming it's probably the best to use the Wingman App (no bluetooth dongle needed on the MixPre). You also don't have the function of scene increment or pre-naming scenes in a list like you have on the 633. The Wingman App works fine but I prefer lists and shortcuts for scene increment on the 633. It's just faster and you don't need a phone or tablet. Adjusting gains and faders is also faster on the 633 because of dedicated hardware controls. On the MixPre you only have 4 faders and have to enter the channel screen of each channel to adjust the gains with the touch screen or wheel (on the side...).

- The MixPre is also a USB-C interface. Didn't use it yet but might be a nice feature for some.

 

There's probably more to say but these were my initial thoughts. The MixPre is a great mashine if you don't mind the little flaws (which aren't really flaws since it's simply a different type of recorder that's way more compact, light and cheaper). It does feel like a toy compared to others but I had it on some jobs now and it works really well for what it is and I think it really depends on the gigs.

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21 hours ago, Grant said:

Hello all,

 

I would like to move from a fairly old Sound Devices 3 channel mixer to a 4 channel-capable recorder/mixer.

 

I'm not so concerned about price as I am simplicity/shallow learning curve. I would like to have a field unit that can be handed off to a fellow professional without too much time spent delving into feature sets, etc. 4 clean channels, mic/line capability, L/R channel outputs, XLR connectors on both sides, and with the option to hand off files shortly after we wrap. That's about it.

 

I see a few models that are contenders, but they're all made by companies whose gear I have never seen up close.

 

Recommendations?

 

Thanks in advance.

Grant, you don't say if you need balanced O/Ps but if you're coming from a 302 (with balanced O/Ps) my guess is it will be important for you and some of your existing clients to retain this capability. Bang for buck a used 633 is your best bet. 

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If the 3 input mixer the OP mentions is a 302 I have 2 thoughts.  1: whatever you do hang onto it, I've found that it is one of the handiest, most useful gadgets I own no matter what other gear is in play, 2: remember that a 302 is actually a 5 input mixer, if you configure it to use the 2 tape returns as inputs #4-5.  I ran a rig set up this way, with an external return monitor box etc and 2 audio pots to control the levels coming from 2 RX hooked up to those inputs, and it worked really well for several years.

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Thanks all! 

 

The 302 is already gone (at a shockingly low price I might add).

 

I would prefer to keep just one audio mixer, and since I've decided that a file recording function is important, the 302 is where it needs to be now, with a new owner.

 

The MixPre seems really good, but I see that there are quite a few models to dig thru 6, 6M, 6 II. I'll look for some comparison information (YT?) and follow up. 

 

Much appreciated all,

 

Grant.

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18 minutes ago, Grant said:

I would prefer to keep just one audio mixer, and since I've decided that a file recording function is important, the 302 is where it needs he MixPre seems really good, but I see that there are quite a few models to dig thru 6, 6M, 6 II. I'll look for some comparison information (YT?) and follow up.

https://www.sounddevices.com/mixpre-ii-comparison-chart/

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On 9/14/2021 at 1:08 PM, Grant said:

I'm not so concerned about price as I am simplicity/shallow learning curve. I would like to have a field unit that can be handed off to a fellow professional without too much time spent delving into feature sets, etc. 

If this is a consideration I would definitely recommend the MixPre 6-II. It even has a basic mode that makes operation incredibly simple, and with 32-bit float recording there is very little that can go wrong. It’s about as dummy proof as I think a professional sounding recorder can get.

 

 

-Mike

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13 hours ago, Mobilemike said:

and with 32-bit float recording there is very little that can go wrong. It’s about as dummy proof as I think a professional sounding recorder can get.

But keep in mind that the 32-bit float recording is only "dummy proof" recording-wise. In post it's some extra work and if the files are being delivered to editorial and they import it into Avid the audio will be converted to 24 bit which means everything above 0 dBFS just clips. If you have a sound post they can of course replace the files and adjust the clip gain but depending on the job there won't be any and the audio is expected to be delivered more or less "finished".

So considering every step of smaller productions I wouldn't recommend this workflow since 24 bit offers enough dynamic range and the limiters on the MixPre work fine.

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2 hours ago, Sebi said:

But keep in mind that the 32-bit float recording is only "dummy proof" recording-wise. In post it's some extra work and if the files are being delivered to editorial and they import it into Avid the audio will be converted to 24 bit which means everything above 0 dBFS just clips. If you have a sound post they can of course replace the files and adjust the clip gain but depending on the job there won't be any and the audio is expected to be delivered more or less "finished".

So considering every step of smaller productions I wouldn't recommend this workflow since 24 bit offers enough dynamic range and the limiters on the MixPre work fine.

IM(not so)HO, if there’s a production which hires a sound mixer who is so inexperienced that they need to use the MixPre’s basic mode, and they also expect the audio to be delivered “finished”, then they deserve whatever they get. 
 

-Mike

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3 hours ago, Mobilemike said:

IM(not so)HO, if there’s a production which hires a sound mixer who is so inexperienced that they need to use the MixPre’s basic mode, and they also expect the audio to be delivered “finished”, then they deserve whatever they get. 
 

-Mike

Valid point.

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