5 Dependable Audio Mixers for Field Recording

Almost everyone knows that a microphone picks up sound and converts it into audio. This audio is recorded by a dedicated audio recorder or a camera. What’s a mixer, then?

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What does an audio mixer do?

A portable mixer comes between the microphone and the recorder, to do the following:

  • Amplify, lower or equalize the levels from the microphone(s).
  • Control gain from the microphone(s).
  • Add filters or effects to the audio from the microphone(s).
  • Input multiple microphone sources and provide separate (or one) control for all of them.
  • Mix the multiple audio feeds to stereo or mono.
  • Reroute multiple output signals to recorders, cameras, etc.
  • Provide a reliable monitoring platform.
  • Control headphone volume.
  • Controls easily accessible to the Production Audio Mixer, as opposed to having to stand next to the camera.
  • Feed multiple audio recorders.

In simple terms, a mixer is to a production audio mixer what a camera is to a director of photography.

Sound Devices Mixer

A good mixer could have the following properties:

  • Be small and light-weight.
  • Have more than one XLR port and multiple input connector-types.
  • Offer separate gain controls to each microphone.
  • Must run on batteries and offer phantom power.
  • Offer full control over the mix and panning controls for stereo.
  • Offer the basic filters, preamp, effects, etc.
  • Offer a reference tone generator to help the editor distinguish audio between takes.
  • Offer reliable and accurate metering.
  • Offer headphone levels control.
  • Offer quick access to all controls, especially levels.
  • Offer full control over the levels of each output individually.
  • Have the ability to ‘fold back’ so you can hear what the camera is recording.
  • Have multiple output options.
  • Support wireless systems.

Here are five dependable audio mixers for field recording. I have only listed mixers that offer at least three XLR connectors. If you’re investing in a mixer, and can only afford one, go for the one with the most number of input connectors and the best preamps.

1

Beachtek DXA-SLR PRO HDSLR Audio AdapterPrice: $439

 

2

juicedLink RA333 Riggy Assist Low-Noise PreampPrice: $469

 

3

Azden FMX-42 4-Channel Microphone Field MixerPrice: $519

 

4

Shure FP33 3-Channel Stereo MixerPrice: $1,328

 

5

Sound Devices 302 Portable 3 Channel Field MixerPrice: $1,595

Sound Devices 302 Mixer

To learn more about field mixing and audio equipment, read the Chapter on Audio in the Comprehensive Rigging Guide.

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2 replies on “5 Dependable Audio Mixers for Field Recording”

  1. The mixers and interfaces listed above are probably best used by folks just stepping into the arena of location sound work, or by cameramen/camerawomen who want a small, portable audio package as part of their equipment set-up. Though all the rigs listed are good –– especially the Sound Devices 302 –– there are some fairly severe limitations with their routing capabilities and outputs, along with the fact that none of these mixers have a recorder built in.

    Standard procedure on most shoots these days is to use a mixer/recorder combo, even when audio is hardwired into a camera. Myself, I use the Sound Devices 552 field mixer –– which has an excellent two-track recorder built in –– and always roll sound on my rig, even when I know audio is going straight into camera.

    Paranoia is a good thing… At least when you’re a working location sound recordist.

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