Lately I’ve been starting to get into music making once again. For this I needed a good but affordable mixer. I planned a budget of around 100$.
What I needed in a mixer:
- be able to use both Dynamic microphone (Shure SM58 for ex.) and/or condenser microphone
- play (and record) electric & bass guitars
- preamp (for the guitars)
- minimum hiss as possible (noise)
I was thinking of two mixers: the Mackie 402 VLZ3 4 Ch. and the Soundcraft Compact 4 , both cost about the same and considered to be the best choice for small mixers. Which one to choose? I had no idea, so to start, I asked around. One guitarist friend of mine told me that Mackie’s are considered a good choice, while a drummer friend said he has a Soundcraft and he is pleased. Both of them are professional musicians btw.
The ear test: I bought the Soundcraft, but to be sure, I asked my guitarist friend to use his “connections” and get me a Mackie, just to test it. I had 24 hours to decide on which, So I started by connecting both mixers, one at a time ofcourse, recording vocals and guitar samples via a JULI@ soundcard.
In all the tests I made, the Soundcraft was better, mainly because it produced much less hiss (noise) than the Mackie. When it comes to recording (especially vocals), you should look for the quietest mixer you can buy.
What else? the Soundcraft has an earth (ground) metal bar on it’s side. I’ve found it very useful when connecting a PHONO (the good old vinyl record player) ground wire to it. That completely canceled all the hiss (it didn’t eliminate the scratches though…).
Another important thing is the equalizer. The Soundcraft has a 3 band equalizer (hi, low, mid), while the Mackie has a 2 band (hi, lo, with no mid), and while that doesn’t seem that important, it is, because vocals and guitars are mostly middle frequencies, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t have full control over that.
Size: the Soundcraft is a bit bigger than the Mackie, but you can take of the two plastic protective side bars in a second if you prefer the naked look.
- connecting a record player (for just listening to your old vinyls or converting them to MP3′s)
- preamp for an electric guitar or bass
- 3 band equalizer for each channel
- record vocals with a dynamic microphone
- phantom power for a condenser microphone too
- earth (ground) connection
- protective plastic side panels (detachable)
- no power button (the Mackie doesn’t have one as well) so either you pull out the power supply cable OR do as I did, and use a socket with an on/off switch
- a bit wider than the Mackie, with the two plastic side panels attached (can be removed)
******** LONG TERM UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE *******
I’ve just noticed that Chanel 1 MIC inner contacts are loose, therefore when plugging a PL in, it doesn’t seat tight and snugly. Touching the plug or moving the cable produces noise.
See it in the mixer diagram – it’s the first top left input, where it says “mic in”. It’s a NEUTRIK made MIC input, BUT, a regular PL can be inserted in it’s middle as well.
Two weeks from the warranty expiration , I am sending the MIXER into the lab (up to 7 days I was told it will be ready, from today).
Got the mixer back (yes, that was quick). I plugged a PL connector in, it felt to fit snugly,so the problem seemed to be solved. The lab info page said it was a “Soldering problem of the channel 1 MIC input- Soldering was strengthened.”
In any case, I can’t tell if this will happen in every mixer, but if you ask my opinion, I would still choose this mixer.
I will keep updating for any important info.
14/Aug/2009 – This mixer is getting harder to find. Last time I checked, it was out of stock in AMAZON. I’ll try to add more shop links soon.