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Seek opinion on three small mixers for home recording, Fame, Behringer, Zephyr

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  • Seek opinion on three small mixers for home recording, Fame, Behringer, Zephyr

    I play in a small blues band, two or three amplified guitars, drums, and two vocals and sax using two more mics and small amps. We play at a friends house and can't afford a proper p a.

    I am trying to record the band but can't do a good job with my Tascam hand held stereo recorder, the vocals are drowned out by the guitarists. I thought of using a room mic and putting all three mics through a small mixer. I'm not bothered about multi tracking, just mixing live and outputting to the Tascam. I know it's not a great solution but anything must be better than what I get out of the Tascam on its own.

    I am trying to do a comparison of the following three small mixers

    Fame Mix 802 USB

    http://www.musicstore.de/en_EN/GBP/art-PAH0011967-000

    cost about £75

    Behringer 802

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Behringer-802-Input-Bus-Mixer/dp/B000J5XS3C

    cost about £50

    Zephyr Alto ZMX 862

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alto-ZMX862-Zephyr-Zmx862-Mixer/dp/B004TM323C#productDetails

    cost about £50

    I really want something very small and cheap, that's why I am looking at models with only two XLR inputs, although the Fame has four. I thought I could take the vocal mics through ordinary jack cables from the line outs at back of the amps. I'm only doing it for myself, the other guys aren't that bothered!

    The Fame is for sale in the UK but it is rare and I cannot find any English language reviews.

    I can't find any manuals for it either.

    But because of the number of channels it seemed at first to be a good buy compared to the other two.

    But it seems to me that on the Fame and also the Behringer, although there is a ″monitor″ output labelled ″control room″, there is no way of separately controlling the individual channels going into the monitor mix, the monitor mix has to be the same as the main mix. Only the Zephyr has Aux send for creating a custom monitor mix. Not necessarily a problem in our circumstances but it would be useful to know.

    Could anyone confirm this from experience or from the pdf links to user guides:

    https://www.altoproaudio.com/downloads/ZMX862 - Quickstart Guide – v1.4.pdf

     

    http://www.behringer.com/assets/502_802_1002_1202_QSG_WW.pdf

    ( I can't find a guide to the Fame)

    Also, on all these mixers, can the Fx outputs instead be used to drive a monitor, thereby enabling a custom monitor mix?

    If they can would that mean that the Zephyr can give two different custom mixes? All in all what would people here recommend?


  • #2

    First off - Do your homework before you start spending money and buying a bunch of gear that you don't need.  You Do Not Need To Buy a Mixer For A Home Studio DAW. Mixers are required for analog recording setups but not for digital recording setups.

    You DAW programs contains a virtual mixer you use to mix your tracks. You want to use it not an external analog mixer. The DAW mixer mixes the music while its still in a digital format. Once the music is converted back to an analog waveform it should be ready to play on a playback system.

    All you need is an interface with as many channels and mic preamps as you need to record simultaneously. You plug the mics directly into the interface and record directly from it, no mixers or anything else before the interface. The only reason to use a mixer is if you want to combine several mics together to record on a single track.

    Since a DAW program allows unlimited tracks by multitracking you really don't need to do that unless your interface hasn't got enough channels. If the interface is a budget type with only 2 channels, then you can record 2 channels, then two more then two more etc etc while hearing the previously recorded tracks play back.

    If you wanted to record a band and only had two channels, then, yes, you would have to combine mics and put multiple instruments on those tracks, But you can't separate those combined instruments once they are recorded.

    What you want is an interface with multiple channels, one channel for each mic. If you play in a three piece band, you can get by with an 8 channel interface. You'd use 4 channels for the drums. Two overhead mics, and kick and snare. One channel for bass, One for guitar and you have two channels left over for live vocals.

    If you're doing solo stuff you could get by with a 2 channel interface, but a 4 Channel is better. You could use an electronic drum box for drums and record guitar with stereo effects, then you simply play those tracks back and add other instruments.

    Another reason not to use a mixer is because they can't improve the sound coming from a mic, they can only color it and add noise. Mixers do provide phantom power for condenser mics but most interfaces have phantom power now so even that's not needed.

    If you like the hands on approach for missing, you can buy a controller. It is a Midi unit that connects through a USB connection and you can program it to move the sliders and knobs within the Virtual Mixer inside the DAW program. When you move the slider up on the Control surface the slider in the DAW program moves instead of using a mouse to make those movements. You can also use automation so when you make adjustments those adjustments are recorded and when you play back the music those changes are there every time. It takes the place of motorized sliders used in the old analog studio consoles needed to free up the hands for other chores.

    All this and much more is available in a DAW setup. All you need to do is Track with 100% of what's coming into a mic with no alteration of what the mic hears. All the interface has to have is mic preamps with gain knobs. You set the maximum gain level so the mic doesn't distort, hit record, and and that's it.

    Everything else is done when you mix the tracks inside the computer program which contains all the technology of a multimillion dollar analog studio of the past. All those big consoles, Effects Racks, Patch bays, and routing options are all contained within the software. The hard drive acts like the big reel to reels except that save digital ones and zeros to files instead of putting it magnetically on tape.

    All you need to so once you have a good interface is to learn how to use all those tools built into the program well. This again can take takes years of homework and hands on experience. Recording is an artform and just like a musical instrument, you can play two chords for your first song or work your way up to major musical compositions using multitracks not much unlike the great masters who did this using manuscript sheets for all the instruments to follow live.

     

    Here's some examples.

    Something like this will allow you to plug in 8 mics and have them recorded to 8 tracks at the same time.

    Each mic has a preamp gain knob and level meter. The plugs in the front will also allow you to plug in High impedance inputs like guitar, external effects, etc.

    If you plan on using drum loops and only need a few inputs at a time then something like this may be all you need.  http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Scarlett6i6

     

    If you are on a low budget, don't have condenser mics that need phantom power and also need a DAW program, this lexicon is hard to best for the money, plus it comes with Cubase LE. http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Alpha?device=c&network=g&matchtype=&gclid=CKqruc3J 8bwCFUcV7AodcWUAUA

     

    If you do have a band and want to record live gigs and want to do studio recordings, then having a digital mixer that's also an integrated multitrack recorder can be a good choice. You have everything you need to do recordings live and you can either mix within the unit or download the multitrack project to a USB stick and put it on a Computer DAW to mix. Some even allow the Mixer to integrate with the DAW program and work like a controller like I previously mentioned.

    This unit combines an analog mixer with digital sound effect for live sound, a digital recorder for recording live music, the mixer can be used with its effects to mix music instead of using a DAW virtual mixer of the mixer controls can be used as a DAW control surface.

    This is a goo choice for a working bad who doesn't want to haul two setups around, one mixer for live sound, and one setup like a laptop and interface for recording from the analog mixer. These aren't cheap and many have deceiving specs. Some only record a stereo output and are not true multichannel recorders so beware.

    This one does record multicannel.

     

     

     

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    • #3

      AWW! I checked the wrong box in my settings and didn't get any notification of these very helpful replies. Yes WRGKMC you did get the wrong idea of my post but nonetheless I thank you for your time, just about all the info you have given is useful, and that presonus looks like a lovely bit of kit. Just over £200 on eBay. I may be getting more gear sometime if what I am trying to do doesn't work out.

      Witesol: It's the DR07 Mk II. I have another post on the go in reply to an old thread about this unit. (before I was aware of this)

      Now don't laugh but I am 63 years young. Notr too old to learn, and having fun.

      Learning opportunities? Absolutely!

      If you could hear the efforts of 6 long term wannabee blues players then you WOULD be entitled to have a laugh!

      I am one of the vocalists and hate the sound of my voice as currently recorded, but as it is drowned out I want to see what a more balanced recording will do. We do 12 bar blues standards but some of us don't even seem to be able to count 5 bars, let alone 12, and consistently miss the bar 5 change. Sometimes we have to stop half way through a number because someone wants to tell a joke! I'm the M.D. and have to be creative in finding simple doable stuff so we also do things like Honky Tonk Women, Jesse Stone's "Crawfish" from "King Creole", Bebop A Lula, Shakin' All Ove, and Joe Liggins's "Tania".

      Presently having a go at Robben Ford's "Up The Line" (Get my bari sax out for that) but our "new" drummer (we have a recruitment problem out in the styx of Hampshire) keeps telling me he doesn't have to look for my signal for the stops, as "All stops in 12 bar blues are at the same place".

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