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Sound Devices MixPre-3 II Multichannel Recorder Review

Rate this portable recorder

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 84 78.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 14 13.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 5 4.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 4 3.7%

  • Total voters
    107

Rja4000

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.If you ever borrow one MixPre (or one of the more advanced 8 series units) I would strongly advise to do a factory reset. There are quite a lot of not so obvious routing settings.
Thanks
I'll have to create an account first, so will download later.
I see some photo/video shop close-by have one to rent.
I might give it a try.
 

Bergante

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Yea, generally speaking the headphones even professionals use are pretty cheap. I know people who are just listening to see if levels are in the ballpark and no weird issues are going on.
Oh well you won't see a guy with Stax headphones in a movie set ;)

The usual workhorses are Sony MDR-7506, Sennheiser HD25 and some Beyerdynamic models.
 

Blumlein 88

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You know over time I've come to consider devices this hard to manipulate as failures. No less so than if the hardware is terrible. Such things are booby trapped. Does not mean you cannot master the issues and make them work, but still a horrible way to design something. In the past I'd put in the time and make things like that work. Don't have the patience for it much more.

I was about to purchase one when Amir's testing was posted. Glad I didn't.
 

Bergante

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You know over time I've come to consider devices this hard to manipulate as failures. No less so than if the hardware is terrible. Such things are booby trapped. Does not mean you cannot master the issues and make them work, but still a horrible way to design something. In the past I'd put in the time and make things like that work. Don't have the patience for it much more.

Again, I don´t work for Sound Devices but if, for instance, you break something connected to an input of a mixing desk or microphone preamp because you enabled phantom power by mistake you can hardly blame the desk manufacturer.

The use case for these mixer+recorders (and note that I use mine for field recording, I am not a movie "sound mixer") is recording isolated channels, plus creating a stereo mix and likely feeding that same stereo mix to a camera. Sound mixers usually employ limiters and, as Sound Devices says, they are present in all the gain stages: Preamps, mixer faders, line outputs and headphone outputs.

It's not a booby trap. But certainly these devices are very, very far from plug and play.

When the first generation was launched they released two versions actually. The "standard" version and a special "musician" version which is much simpler to use, more lke a "portastudio".

To make things even more fun they have optional "plugin" licenses to enable the musician mode or activate an "auto-mix" mode great for interview recording.

By the way, those "treacherous" limiters can literally save your hearing when recording. The headphone amplifier is quite powerful and the dynamic range can be dangerous.

 

bennetng

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Thanks for the review!

According to the specs, the A-weighted dynamic range for the inputs is 142dB. Is that something you can confirm?
It needs to have a very bizzare noise floor spectrum to make 30dB difference between A-weighted and unweighted measurements. Remember it has a multistage ADC design and the specs say 142dB DNR is achieved by gain = 10 dB, fader = 0 dB. Likely because these values put the standard -60dBFS DNR test signal near the boundary between different ADCs in order to get the best possible results. If the reviewer does not strictly follow the settings it will end up with poorer results. 30dB difference is also a very uniform value suggesting the gain difference between different ADCs could be 30dB.

Which may also explain why EIN is somewhat worse than others due to overlapping in a multistage ADC design.

So, it is just like what MC mentioned on another thread:
The 'quality' of a multistage ADC converter is not better than a single ADC. Only the SNR is better. Think about a 0 dBFS 1 kHz FFT with a SINAD of 100 dB for one converter. Using three of them would not change that SINAD, it might even get a bit worse due to overlap issues (check the THD+N values of SoundDevices: 0.005% = -86 dB). But the multi-staged ADC technology gives this SINAD not only at one fixed level, but over a big range. Without any sound you operate at a very low input level, which compared to the maximum possible input level results in a very impressive Signal to Noise Ratio (and Dynamic Range, measured at -60 dBFS). But as soon as the top level of the first ADC is reached the noise floor and harmonics will move up, together with the fundamental....the FFT picture literally moves as whole, up and down.

I am more interested to see an official ASR review with another high-profile interface with multistage ADC design, Merging Anubis:
 

Bergante

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A nice feature, especially if you rent units.

You can save a configuration preset to a SD card, which is stored as a XML file. Although the compatibility between firmware versions can be a bit complicated, the XML file is kind of readable with a bit of imagination.
 

Blumlein 88

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I'm curious, so I booked one for renting this weekend ;-)

UPDATE:
The renting company called me, they don't have it available immediately. That will be for next weekend then.
So are you going to submit to the Multitone tests? Maybe that and a do a thread where you describe what it is like to use for recording. That would be useful. Amir of course doesn't have time to do recordings of interfaces and give us his opinions on the UI for using them. So that would be a benefit to us who might consider one in the future. Currently use my Babyface as it is small, and USB powered. For some purposes would be nice to not need a laptop.
 

SMJ

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And when you have the MixPre3 sorted, why not try the mystery of French design, the Aaton Cantar X3. The fader sliders are magnetically attached and can be removed if not mixing, the gains are normally assigned to the small rotary knobs. The larger metal rotary controls are for function selection and headphone source.

Cantar-X3-SCREEN.png
Designed to sit nicely around a Sound Recordists stomach. Used the first X1 version when working in Ireland in the 2000s. No user manual at the time but things made easy by having one of the designers show me the ropes.

A boom pole in one hand, this recorder mixer around your neck and thick gloves makes you realise that the convenient ear cup folding mechanism on the Sony MDR7506 is a real PITA with one free hand - back to the Sennheiser HD25 Pro.
 

Blumlein 88

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Have we seen their field recorders tested anywhere?
 

Blumlein 88

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And when you have the MixPre3 sorted, why not try the mystery of French design, the Aaton Cantar X3. The fader sliders are magnetically attached and can be removed if not mixing, the gains are normally assigned to the small rotary knobs. The larger metal rotary controls are for function selection and headphone source.

View attachment 330658Designed to sit nicely around a Sound Recordists stomach. Used the first X1 version when working in Ireland in the 2000s. No user manual at the time but things made easy by having one of the designers show me the ropes.

A boom pole in one hand, this recorder mixer around your neck and thick gloves makes you realise that the convenient ear cup folding mechanism on the Sony MDR7506 is a real PITA with one free hand - back to the Sennheiser HD25 Pro.
You wonder on designs like that if anyone took the final prototype and recorded with it a few times in its intended area of use.

Did you find it a good design or was it just as crazy in use as it looks and sounds like it would be?
 

Axo1989

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As the MixPre3 is also a run-and-gun field recorder, it made sense to include the Zoom and TASCAM ASR review data in the graphs for this review. It doesn't perform as well as the desktop devices, but among portables comes in second to the TASCAM DR-100 on the ADC graph (unless I missed one).

It looks like limiters were engaged, and it may not have been powered correctly, so we probably don't have a good picture of performance. For a portable device, I voted fine. On reputation, I expected it to be great, so it's somewhat disappointing.
 

Axo1989

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I'm curious, so I booked one for renting this weekend ;-)

UPDATE:
The renting company called me, they don't have it available immediately. That will be for next weekend then.

I've also thought of buying one of these, so I'm also interested in your experience.

So far I've only used Zoom models for battery-powered field recording, and I have found them too noisy for some applications.
 

DLS79

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I've also thought of buying one of these, so I'm also interested in your experience.

So far I've only used Zoom models for battery-powered field recording, and I have found them too noisy for some applications.
What zoom models?
 
OP
amirm

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It needs to have a very bizzare noise floor spectrum to make 30dB difference between A-weighted and unweighted measurements.
That it has:

index.php


Notice how the noise floor rises nearly 20 dB at 20 Hz.
 

DLS79

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If memory serves sound devices has a different (patented) adc setup for 32bit float, maybe it has issues in certain scenarios?
 

Axo1989

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What zoom models?

H6 mostly, also H4.

With external mic also. Ok results for stage performance (can't recall which microphones) not good for ambient/natural sounds (with RØDE NTG-3).
 

Axo1989

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You wonder on designs like that if anyone took the final prototype and recorded with it a few times in its intended area of use.

Did you find it a good design or was it just as crazy in use as it looks and sounds like it would be?

I expect that design may be optimised for certain/intended uses, including the unusual ergonomics.

That said, this class of pro gear can be beasts to use, and way more than an evening is required to become proficient. Not ideal.
 

DLS79

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H6 mostly, also H4.

With external mic also. Ok results for stage performance (can't recall which microphones) not good for ambient/natural sounds (with RØDE NTG-3).

I could see that for sure, The handhelds (specially older models) can't compete with with sound bag models.
 
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