Need a good, but small hardware mixer - recommendations?

tmm

Senior Member
Have a bit of a sound design project going on, and I would really like to track down a great sounding mixer with at least 4 channels, need to mix down to stereo. Ideally I’d like something fully analog, with good built-in preamps, maybe some EQ, etc... something that will have some additional tonal qualities to experiment with. I don’t know if this exists... I’m envisioning something maybe with Neve (or similar quality) pre’s built-in - does that exist (outside of a giant studio installation)?

I have little to no experience with hardware mixers, haven’t needed one previously.

Points go to the recommendation that is physically the smallest while still having all
of the above!
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
What kind of price range?

At the lower end Mackie has always been a solid choice. Yamaha's, Allen and Heath's, and Soundcraft's mixers should be fine too.

But you can keep going up in price and quality. I haven't looked at what Speck makes today, for example, but he (Vince - the owner of the company) always had really good-sounding mixers that were in the middle before you get to high-end studio mixers. But he may not have a product with few enough ins and outs for you.

That aside, I and many other people switched to using their audio interfaces instead of analog mixers years ago. If you're after something analog for analog's sake, maybe a summing mixer or monitor controller + a good outboard mic preamp would be better?
 
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tmm

tmm

Senior Member
What kind of price range?
Not sure yet. I’m not opposed to paying for the right piece. I’ll definitely look up Speck.

I’m not looking for something that’s going to give me the most pristine, clean mix. I want character.

Anyone watch SonicState? And see that Friday Fun where Nick is playing his dusty old CS15? Those crackly, dirty pots paired with an insanely juicy, monster synth sounds awesome! That’s the sort of thing I’m hoping for. If the channels bleed into each other a bit, or affect each other / compress together some, that would be great

In case you haven’t seen it, and love synths, you should treat yourself:

That aside, I and many other people switched to using their audio interfaces...
Probably 90% of what I do is ITB, too. Just recently been feeling more inspired by things I can put my hands on, and have a thing for dusty, imperfect tones.

maybe a summing mixer or monitor controller + a good outboard mic preamp would be better?
Maybe? I’ll be transparent and say, “what’s a summing mixer?”
 

Jake

Member
Some years ago I purchased a Behringer Xenyx1202 for our congregations sound system and it's been working just fine.

However I recently decided to add a compressor to the audio chain and found that this mixer was not the right choice for our application in the long run.

The Mackie that CGR showed above would have been a better choice and here's why.

The Behringer has an FX send whereas the Mackie shown above has an Aux send.

FX send is post level and the Aux send (to the best of my knowledge) is pre level.

This means that I cannot take a mic input into one channel and send it out the FX send while turning the level to zero so I can bring the signal (post compressor) back into another channel and send that out the mains without mixing the wet and dry signals. The only way to get a wet only signal to the main bus is with an Aux send.

Not sure if this makes sense, but the bottom line is that I wish now that I had realized the difference between the two types of sends. They both have their place, but for my use I got the wrong one.

I can get around this situation using other signal paths, but the easiest way would have been with the right mixer from the beggining.

So, I'm trying to say that you need to attempt to anticipate what you desire to do in the future and pick the right flavor mixer based on that.
 
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jcrosby

Senior Member
Not sure yet. I’m not opposed to paying for the right piece. I’ll definitely look up Speck.

I’m not looking for something that’s going to give me the most pristine, clean mix. I want character.

Anyone watch SonicState? And see that Friday Fun where Nick is playing his dusty old CS15? Those crackly, dirty pots paired with an insanely juicy, monster synth sounds awesome! That’s the sort of thing I’m hoping for. If the channels bleed into each other a bit, or affect each other / compress together some, that would be great

In case you haven’t seen it, and love synths, you should treat yourself:



Probably 90% of what I do is ITB, too. Just recently been feeling more inspired by things I can put my hands on, and have a thing for dusty, imperfect tones.



Maybe? I’ll be transparent and say, “what’s a summing mixer?”
Why not get a few inexpensive preamps with different flavors? When I had tons of outboard I used to love running them through cheap tube or solid state preamps. I'd use them specifically to dirty the sound up, not go for a clean sound... I always though they sounded kind of great when intentionally abused, and still recycle the samples I sent through them to this day...
 

Nicholas B

New Member
While the footprint is quite large, I can highly recommend the Mackie ONYX 1640i. It does use firewire for I/O, but has great onboard EQ and mix bus section. Very versatile for studio use and live use. Solid build quality and built to last.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
First, I am going to assume you mean an analog (or mostly analog) console. If I missed something please disregard the rest!

There is "character" and there is noise and distortion. To some they are one and the same, and that's not a judgement, if it works for you it works.

Personally, I would shy away from the lower end of the spectrum, including Mackie, A&H, Yamaha, and Soundcraft. All of these lines have been "value engineered" to get the prices down, and the first victim of value engineering is the power supply. Designing (and building) a good power supply is not cheap. You would think otherwise, I mean there isn't anything new in linear supplies, and very little new (applicable to us anyway) in switching supplies.

Where it will cause you grief is headroom and transient response. If you are really careful you can work around it, but the whole idea of a physical mixer is that you don't have to be constantly worrying about levels, analog is supposed to be more forgiving then digital. But in an inexpensive mixer you have to be every bit as careful, which would kill the vibe!

Speck builds brilliant stuff! His mixers are darned near transparent - which may not be what you are looking for, his equalizers are amazingly musical, and straddle the line between character and neutral. I think the only mixer he still sells is the LiLo, which is a line level only mixer that you probably can't clip. They were around $10k for a 16x2 when they were released. That was a little too rich for my bank account.

If you are looking for character over convenience look for an older (more experienced?) mixer from Ramsa, Yamaha, A&H, or Soundcraft. The problem you may run into is that most of them will be fairly large, with high channel counts - that's what folks wanted. Crest and Tangent made smaller mixers designed for live sound reinforcement, and may have fewer features you won't be using anyway.

There is always Altec and RCA - lots of character, but lots of maintenance as well, since they are very old at this point.

Someone above mentioned using a summing box. That won't address the hand's on aspect, but it can provide character. Look for a passive summer and an active makeup gain stage, then choose the gain stage to suit your tastes.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
One comment about what Bill says: those old Ramsa mixers are likely to need new caps, which is more trouble and expense than you probably want. That comes from the guy who designed them!

I used to own a 16 x 4 x 2 one, and it was very nice - in fact it was probably a mistake selling it for a pittance. But if I were buying a used Ramsa, I'd buy two: one with donor modules for the other one.
 

Rctec

Senior Member
Some years ago I purchased a Behringer Xenyx1202 for our congregations sound system and it's been working just fine.

However I recently decided to add a compressor to the audio chain and found that this mixer was not the right choice for our application in the long run.

The Mackie that CGR showed above would have been a better choice and here's why.

The Behringer has an FX send whereas the Mackie shown above has an Aux send.

FX send is post level and the Aux send (to the best of my knowledge) is pre level.

This means that I cannot take a mic input into one channel and send it out the FX send while turning the level to zero so I can bring the signal (post compressor) back into another channel and send that out the mains without mixing the wet and dry signals. The only way to get a wet only signal to the main bus is with an Aux send.

Not sure if this makes sense, but the bottom line is that I wish now that I had realized the difference between the two types of sends. They both have their place, but for my use I got the wrong one.

I can get around this situation using other signal paths, but the easiest way would have been with the right mixer from the beggining.

So, I'm trying to say that you need to attempt to anticipate what you desire to do in the future and pick the right flavor mixer based on that.
... you are confusing pre/post switches in an aux send with what you really want to do: use an ’insert’ across the channel for a compressor...
 

chimuelo

Star Of Stage & Screen
For keyboards, ITB sends and analog synths I absolutely love the ancient 6 & 8 channel Tapco mixers.
Very rare but they just buzz with Audio voltage.
I use a small ROMpler just for rehearsals and my Drummer has one these he hasn’t used in years.
The EPiano sounds were fantastic.
I took it home at ran my synths through it and have been shopping for 2 of these ever since.
Also Sears Silvertone amps and mixers from the 60s-70s.

First rule of government spending.
Why buy one when you can have two for twice the price.
Like Nick says it’s wise to get some parts.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
One comment about what Bill says: those old Ramsa mixers are likely to need new caps, which is more trouble and expense than you probably want. That comes from the guy who designed them!
I don't wish to debate the guy that designed the boards - and it depends on the mixer I imagine. The whole re-capping things is - from my experience - somewhat exaggerated. There are circuits that were designed with one type of capacitor that can benefit from newer types. There are circuits that use electrolytics that have reached the end of their useful life. But just plain shotgun replacement often benefits the guy doing the work more than the audio.

Nick Batzdorf said:
I used to own a 16 x 4 x 2 one, and it was very nice - in fact it was probably a mistake selling it for a pittance.
Always a mistake to sell for a pittance - well, nearly always!

[QUOTE="Nick BatzdorfBut if I were buying a used Ramsa, I'd buy two: one with donor modules for the other one.[/QUOTE]
Once again that hasn't been my experience. A Ramsa WRT820B that I installed in a church back in the late 1980s (possibly a little later than that, I really don't remember) was recently replaced. There was nothing wrong with the board, but the new audio guy wanted a digital mixer. If I didn't have the Tangent project glowering at me I'd have grabbed it. They were great boards, very versatile and sounded really good. Oodles (that's a technical term) of headroom!
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Bill, he was saying the caps go bad!

At least that's what I remember, and they're what goes bad on regular circuit boards (meaning ones with discrete components, i.e. ones from before circuit-mounted boards). In any case, the takeaway was that you're likely to be doing some soldering.

My impression is that it's power supply caps, the high-voltage ones, that are most susceptible to turning into a leaky mess, but I'm not sure that's true.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Replacing caps to improve the sound is a separate question, in other words.

And yeah, letting that board go for a pittance was a mistake. I was blown away by the then-new Yamaha digital mixers... which ironically I ended up replacing with a Panasonic DA7 digital mixer. :) (As you know, Ramsa was Panasonic's pro audio division.)
 
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tmm

tmm

Senior Member
thanks for all the info and recommendations guys! after some consideration, I think I'm going to take Nick's original advice, use more inputs on my interface, and handle the character adding ITB. Lots and lots of tools available for that, and plenty of them work well. Much faster, easier, and cheaper $ than what I'm finding as I start looking up some of these ^ :)
 
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tmm

tmm

Senior Member
BTW, the project at hand was stacking a handful of SE Boomstar modules using the MIDI overflow to create a massive analog poly. Really excited to see the results! Shouldn't be so different from the concept of a FVS, or the like. I was thinking to add some more tweakable, character-inducing elements to the signal chain pre-box, but I have more than enough I can do ITB, too.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
Bill, he was saying the caps go bad!

At least that's what I remember, and they're what goes bad on regular circuit boards (meaning ones with discrete components, i.e. ones from before circuit-mounted boards). In any case, the takeaway was that you're likely to be doing some soldering.

My impression is that it's power supply caps, the high-voltage ones, that are most susceptible to turning into a leaky mess, but I'm not sure that's true.
OK, that is a different issue - there are batches of larger electrolytic capacitors that have been known to fail, and when they fail they tend to make a gooey mess. It does not apply to all electrolytic capacitors, and it is less of a problem for capacitors in the audio path. It is a problem for power supplies, largely because a lot of folks save a penny by using the lowest quasi-reasonable value. If the capacitors are sized correctly (meaning for longevity) then they are less prone to failure.
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
Replacing caps to improve the sound is a separate question, in other words.
Very true!

For DC blocking capacitors in the audio path I think I can hear a difference between standard and bipolar capacitors, and I grudgingly admit I think I can hear a difference between some formulations.

Nick Batzdorf said:
And yeah, letting that board go for a pittance was a mistake. I was blown away by the then-new Yamaha digital mixers... which ironically I ended up replacing with a Panasonic DA7 digital mixer. :) (As you know, Ramsa was Panasonic's pro audio division.)
Digital mixers do offer some pretty cool features. I was briefly tempted, but the first Yamaha mixer I used didn't sound very good. And I couldn't modify it. So I stuck with analog<G>!
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
My current quarter-finished project: resurrecting the power supply for my Kurzweil K250. It needs its caps replacing (actually in both supplies - there are high- and lower-voltage ones in the same enclosure).

Anyway, the components that go bad in older Ramsa boards are in the modules. What I'm only 97% sure of is that it's caps.

And yeah, the Panasonic DA7 sounded a lot better than the Yamaha 03D. You could hear it immediately. But you'd expect the 02R96 to sound better than any of them, because it came out later and hand the other mixers as a target.