Every now and again up pops a device, a piece of kit that can be used by different individuals for so many different applications. Sound Devices’ MixPre is one of those. A compact ultra-portable unit that fits into any backpack, the MixPre 6 is a six- channel high-resolution audio recorder that just so happens to be a mixer and USB audio interface at the same time. DJs, producers, podcasters, videographers and more can all make use of this hand-sized audio recorder.
The MixPre 6 can be used by producers recording live instruments, a band or group of musicians out on location, or back in the studio, DJs can use it for recording their DJ sets or radio shows. We tested it out in a number of scenarios from recording vintage synths directly into it at our studio space, to vocals in a cave, to recording a radio show and doing a ‘live’ DJ mix. Recordings are captured on a SD card at the back of the unit, and the audio information can be transferred to a computer by plugging the SD card directly into it or via USB transfer.
Found sounds are sought by DJs and producers who wish to give their productions a unique sonic edge. While not a new phenomenon, field recordings have become even more fashionable in recent times. The MixPre 6 is a more than capable option for anyone looking to get into this side of the production game. The MixPre 6 excels, partly due to the clarity of the recordings that can be made on this compact audio unit. Not only this, the simplicity of use makes for a pleasing and natural user experience. Basically plug in a microphone, set the levels and away you go.
The four main inputs are of the XLR/TRS Neutrik variety: users can plug in jacks or XLR connectors. The four main channels can be switched between line and mic, aux and USB inputs depending on what recording activity is required. The channel levels of the first four inputs are laid out in front; the other two inputs are accessed via the aux/mic in or USB 1 and 2 channels, and can be adjusted via the small touch-screen display. This can be used to change a lot of the parameters on the MixPre. The touch-screen is great — it shows various different display and mixer options for the incoming audio as well as level, parameter, and menu adjustment options. In terms of easy operation, simply pushing one of the four main channel dials brings up the corresponding channel information on the screen. Another good touch is the fact that, as a visual aid, the LED rings around the four channel dials will flash, indicating the ‘hotness’ of the input levels: green for general healthy input, orange for limiting and red for overloading.
Using the MixPre Six as a field recorder was a revelation. The depth of sound recorded is great — really crisp and punchy. We were using a cheap mic for this test, as we wanted to find out how good the recording quality was on the MixPre and not the microphone. The range of sounds we captured were immediately put to good use once we were back in the studio, being incorporated into a track we were working on.
Every recording option that a producer or DJ could encounter is accounted for, however, the MixPre is also great for video work as well as podcast or radio show recording. We got to use it for an emergency radio recording session while globetrotting. We needed to get a show pre- recorded for broadcast, and the MixPre was ideal. We simply took the output from the borrowed mixer and decks, plugged into it, and voila, show recorded. We also used it to record the audio for one of our DJ Mag Panels, again on location. The MixPre once again came up trumps.
Did we mention that the MixPre-6 is also an integrated 8-in, 4-out core audio-compatible USB interface for use with a Mac or PC computer? Well it is and that’s another ace up its sleeve.
The MixPre 6 is so versatile that it can be used for many different production or DJing purposes. In fact it goes beyond that, and in this day and age when DJs need to do more than just play and make records, the MixPre 6 is an essential production box that can become a DJ/producer’s new best friend. While it isn’t cheap, it does offer so much, and there is a cheaper option, the MixPre 3 that offers similar performance but with fewer inputs.
“Try to remix your own tracks and also don’t get too involved and fall in love with the recoded sounds that don’t make sense in your project. Don’t be afraid to drop them. Also give your tracks or projects a fresh listen in the morning, fresh ears are always tighter in the game.”