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Daniel James
New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 17, 2011 at 10:31:56 am

Hi guys, hope you can help me out.

I need to record panel discussions involving 3-4 people at a time in various environments so need equipment that is portable.

I have a Zoom H4n which only has two XLR mic inputs so was thinking I now need a portable mixer which will then connect to the Zoom to give me more scope.

I'll be using Shure SM58 mics so can anyone suggest a mixer to use and which manufacturers to go for? Would an auto mixer suffice or should I go for something that gives me more control over EQ and levels?

Many thanks.


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Eric Toline
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 17, 2011 at 3:09:52 pm

For about $200 you can buy a used Shure FP 410 4 input auto mic mixer that will do the job you want perfectly. I use them all the time for spontaneous panel discussions. Takes away the problems of open mics and trying to keep up with who's talking when. Check out ebay for the Shure FP410.

Eric


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 17, 2011 at 3:55:48 pm

Sounds ideal, thanks Eric.


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 17, 2011 at 10:05:46 pm

Hello Daniel and welcome to the cow audio forum.

An automixer can be a real benefit, especially if you're in a situation with a PA system. Four open mics can easily put you over the top and into feedback.

Here's what I do. I have a Shure FP410 four channel auto mixer. The four SM58 (or whatever) come into it. It has two mono outputs. I'll either send both to one camera or one to each of two cameras. Or send one to a camera and the other to the house for PA. The only EQ the FP410 has is low cut, so I can't shape the voice very much.

Sometimes I'll add another mixer after the automixer. I'll bring the output of the automixer into one channel. From this second mixer, I'll feed a camera, recorder or whatever from one output and the house PA on a separate output. This gives me control of the level to the house. If it starts to go into feedback, I can pull it back.

Here's another method. Use a small mixer like a mackie 12 or 16. Use the EQ to improve the response for each panelist. Mix the mics in real time. As each person speaks, bump their mic up a bit and pull the others back a bit, maybe at 3/4 or 1/2 level in case they start talking.

From the Mackie, feed a mono mix to the recorder. Again, use a separate feed to the house so you can control the level.

Make sense? Any questions?

Regards,

Ty Ford

PS YOU may find yourself in a venue with overhead speakers over the table at which the panelists sit. This is a recipe for feedback. Some halls have controls and can turn off these speakers in different parts of the room. If this is a problem, you may be able to get them to turn the problem speakers down or off.

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 18, 2011 at 9:30:26 am

That's great information, Ty. Thank you.

I'm actually struggling to find a Shure FP410 here in the UK but will keep my eye out on eBay (unless I can get one shipped from the US).

I was considering your other option of using a Mackie or similar. Because I'm on the move I definitely want something compact and was considering this:

1202-VLZ3

Looking at some videos and the dimensions in the spec the Mackie still seems fairly large but I've heard decent reviews of the Soundcraft 124 which is quite a bit smaller:

Soundcraft 124

Although discontinued the 124 still seems widely available.

Would you say it's suitable or better to get the larger Mackie and just accept the size/weight.

Many thanks again.


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 18, 2011 at 7:19:55 pm

Daniel,

Per the FP410 scarcity, try an Audio Technica MX-351
http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/mixers/6d6ef12d4b4bbf7c/index.html

The problem with those two mixers you looked at is that they have relatively small rotary pots that will be difficult to change quickly. I use a Sound devices 442 location mixer and have learned to wrap my fingers around its larger knurled rotary pots, but you can run four channels of linear faders with one hand.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 18, 2011 at 7:45:36 pm

Thanks again, Ty. Looks like I can get an Audio Technica used for around £250 here in the UK which is in my price range.

With regard to the mixers, I'll have to work towards owning a 442 so in the interim, other than the rotary pot issue which I can see would be a problem, would you say those were reasonable compact mixers?


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 18, 2011 at 9:32:16 pm

better this

http://www.mackie.com/products/profx8/

Regards,

Ty

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Peter Groom
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 9:09:19 am

Why SM58s?

Im not a fan personally. Ok theyre rugged and have been around a long time, but thats about it for me. I see them as a stage / performance mic, where the performer will press it on their tonsils.
I think it may be too far away from your peoples mouths, its big and unsightly (bad if theres a camera shoot too, need to be on table stands which will rattle table noise up into the mic, and the output levels arent too "hot" either.
Bad choice in my opinion (although Im sure others will disagree)

Id put Sony ecm77s on each person( if you want wired) or sennheiser g3 radios. Discreet, always in the ideal place, close pickup pattern, bright, camera freindly, good level output.

Just my opinion.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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David Eaks
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 10:08:24 am

Also to mention that I agree with Peter about the mics. I have Sony ECM 55 and have not used ECM 77's, but his over-all concept in choice of mic is "sound".


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 7:10:15 pm

"Id put Sony ecm77s on each person( if you want wired) or sennheiser g3 radios. Discreet, always in the ideal place, close pickup pattern, bright, camera freindly, good level output."

Peter, any omni gets really scary if you have PA in the house. Most events I've worked do because there's an audience.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 20, 2011 at 1:35:42 pm

Peter,

WADR = with all due respect.

OK, you're not a fan of the SM58, I think that's apparent. ECM 77b or any lav require attachment and in many situations where studio best practices acoustics don't exist, an omni lav is a recipe for feedback and/or hollow sound.

It's a panel recording at an number of venues over time under certain budgetary restraints. I and many others have used SM58 effectively in this situations many times. In the event videography business where x number of people sit at a table and speak. They work. And, actually with the right preamp, the SM58 sounds a lot better.

Sorry, Peter, I'm sticking with the SM58 in this particular case. If I could, I'd use Audio Technica AE5400 condenser mics. I like 'em better than Neumann KMS 104/105, especially when someone eats the mic.

Season's best,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 20, 2011 at 1:50:36 pm

Season's best to all you guys for getting involved with this. Really appreciate your comments and experience.

The Audio Technica AE5400 condenser mics look like a great logical step up for my needs, Ty. I'll add them to my wish list. Cheers.

All the best.


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David Eaks
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 9:52:52 am

FWIW a while ago I bought a Mackie VFX 8 after years of using 1402 VLZ Pros, and was quite disappointed. Inputs were not clean and silent but "hissy" by comparison with VLZ Pro. I am VERY happy with my new 1402 VLZ3 though. Very clean, wide gain range and tons of headroom.


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 10:47:41 am

Ty/David - Thanks for the information about the mixers.

Peter/David - I've not had anyone suggest to me before that the SM58 wouldn't do the job. I've been told that they would give me a good sound from 12" away from the mouth and assumed that as a vocal/speech mic they would be fine. Certainly the dealer that sold them to me suggested that anyway. I guess I'll find out soon enough. I was using omni-directional condensers but they just picked up too much room noise so I was recommended getting dynamic mics.

Those mic suggestions you gave me look great, but I would need at least four and at that price it's too hot for my budget at the moment. With lav mics, I'd also have a problem if I had only four but then 5-6 people to record. I was thinking that at least with the SM58 it can be passed around?

I guess there's no one-mic-fits-all solution but I thought the SM58 would cover most of the situations I find myself in (generally interior rooms with tons of room noise).

Anyway, great information guys, lots for me to think about for the future when I can add to my kit.


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Peter Groom
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 1:22:41 pm

HI Daniel

Ask yourself this. Why dont they use sm58's on the news if theyre designed for speech use and can pick up adequately from that distance.
Also, why dont you give a rock star a personal clip mic. Its all about proximity to the sound source, exclusion of other airborn audio causing feedback, and the levels that the source will generate. Rock star is pretty high.
Spoken word, much much less. Id suggest that a dynamic mic like a 58 at that distance will be quiet and not too pleasing (and lacking in crispness, top end) Youll have to gain it high on the desk and then youll hear how good the mic pre's are on the mixer.

The only real problem with a personal on a panel of people is that as peoples heads turn to discuss to the left and then the right, you will get some off mic audio. Its a fairly small issue and you can lessen the effect by careful positioning on speakers, especially those on the edges of the group and they will only ever look / talk 1 way (inwards)
Solution is
. Put one on each lapel (but thats doubled your mic, mixer, cost issues.

Another type of mic to consider would be an AKG 747. Its like a slim pen. Directional pick up and crisp. It is camera shot freindly and has a much better reach than sm58 etc. BUT will be a handful if youre mixing to a PA as well from a feedback pov. I think it needs phantom power, but not 100% sure.

I dont understand why you want to buy everything. Hire the right mics for the job. There are plenty of broadcast hire companies around who can hire radio mics, ecm 55s 77s akg 747s etc etc.
Hiring 5 x 77 might only cost £50 a day and a few XLRs.


If youve already got the 58's, what do your ears say. Do a test. put it on a table stand, in the position where it will need to be, then sit right back in the chair, as thats what your panel will do, turn away from the mic and chat normally to someone 6-8 feet away and record it. Dont project too much as they wont! Your recording will tell you the truth, and that will be the best you can hope for in a test situation. The real recording will be poorer as they wont be thinking about mics.

Lastly. if this were me, id position a 416 rifle mic about8 feet away and have a little of this mixed in under the personal mics. I mean just enough to add a little space or air. Personal mics can sound quite tight, and the rifle will open it up a tad. But be gentle with how much you mix in. if you can hear the rifle, its too much. it should be subliminal, and only apparent if you turn it off and on. Even then slight. Almost too much trouble to be bothered......but its not!!



Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 1:56:49 pm

Thanks for this info, Peter. Appreciate you taking the time.

I was sold the SM58 by an audio retailer as being the mic that would do what we wanted having told them the problems we experienced with the condensers in 'live' situations.

This is their description:

"The SM58 is the most popular vocal microphone in the world for live performance, studio recording and speech."

Like I say, they said they'd be good for speech but I'm starting to question whether I've been mis-sold?

The reason I (we) want to own the equipment is because we do about two or three of these events per month and the hiring costs would soon rack up I think. We also need to send the equipment out to regional reps to record certain events on occasions so gear that can stand up to being knocked about is quite important.

I've not yet tested the SM58 personally but I've heard it in action on videos and understand what you're saying. In some events the person speaking will have to hold the mic, in others they are sat at a table with the mic on a stand/boom so I guess it's up to us to ensure they use them correctly and for the moderator to control the line of questioning so it's directed at one person.

Thanks again.


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Peter Groom
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 3:56:37 pm

re "The SM58 is the most popular vocal microphone in the world for live performance, studio recording and speech."

Id walk out of the door of any studio that recorded on an sm58. Id suggest that Neumann u87i occupy that prestigious spot closely followed by a number of other mics whose price and quality makes the sm58 look like a disposable razor.

id agree that its is probably the most popular "vocal microphone in the world for live performance" ie live bands etc (though not the best)

I think the issue here is that you mentioned a "retailer" If you mean shop and not Pro audio supplier, then theres the differences.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 4:03:17 pm

Quite possibly. It was Digital Village so don't know how they stack up in the scheme of things:

Digital Village website


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Peter Groom
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 4:52:30 pm

Hi
Dv are pretty well respected. No worries there.
Im not suggesting youve been mis sold. i dont know what the conversations were regarding product and price and use etc etc, but its not what id be using in this situation. At £99 (including a boom stand and cable, it is a budget mic, and itll last you forever (even if you play the drums with it!!

Maybe if youd asked them " what would a broadcast sound recordist / engineer use to record 4 or 5 people having a discussion" you might have had other suggestions.

Im possibly a bit over picky. Cost isnt ever an issue to me when specifying a technical job. Only what is right for the job. And I dont have any corners cut, but Im lucky perhaps that , working in features and tv post and music post I can get quite demanding, and have my way!

My suggestion of Sony ecm77 is by no means a high cost solution. i was mindful of the cost when suggesting but theyre @£250 each. Similar in price to Sanken Cos-11 (my favourite personal mic.)
This is why I recommend hiring. its unlikely youre going to buy high quality kit.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Daniel James
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 5:07:13 pm

Thanks Peter, I appreciate your honesty and respect the professional position you're coming from. I absolutely understand you get what you pay for!

Ideally I'd love to arrive at the venue with a few mic options in my kit but I think I asked DV for a good all-rounder for the recordings I do that wouldn't break the bank and could take a bit of abuse. I guess they thought the SM58 fitted the bill.

If nothing else I'll have some more mics in my collection and I can start saving toward some of your suggestions.

Cheers


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 7:29:37 pm

Peter,

WADR, please read the op. It's a panel discussion, not a music session.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Peter Groom
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 20, 2011 at 11:56:27 am

TY

re
WADR, please read the op. It's a panel discussion, not a music session.

Ive no idea what WADR means.
Also Ive no idea why you think i think its a music session. The only point where ill suggest about music is that this is def where i feel the sm58 sits in the market. Stage use with high spls, not quality recording.

Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 7:21:01 pm

Peter/David - I've not had anyone suggest to me before that the SM58 wouldn't do the job. I've been told that they would give me a good sound from 12" away from the mouth and assumed that as a vocal/speech mic they would be fine. Certainly the dealer that sold them to me suggested that anyway. I guess I'll find out soon enough. I was using omni-directional condensers but they just picked up too much room noise so I was recommended getting dynamic mics.

>>>>Dan, that's two issues A. Dynamic vs condenser and B. Omni versus cardioid. You can also get condenser omnis (but not for this job) and cardioid dynamics. The SM58 is cardioid.


Those mic suggestions you gave me look great, but I would need at least four and at that price it's too hot for my budget at the moment. With lav mics, I'd also have a problem if I had only four but then 5-6 people to record. I was thinking that at least with the SM58 it can be passed around?

>>>>Yes, also get foam pop filters for those who must eat the mic.

I guess there's no one-mic-fits-all solution but I thought the SM58 would cover most of the situations I find myself in (generally interior rooms with tons of room noise).

>>>>Yes, the SM58 will work and out to about a foot. I mention to the people sitting at the panel table to get about 6 inches away so they sound better and avoid feedback. About 3/4 of them "get it."

>>>>Regards,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 7:15:35 pm

David,

Without knowing how you were using it, I can't respond to the noise issue. Usually hiss in a Mackie is a op error impedance mis-match or gain staging problem.

Regardless, here's a used 1402-VLZ3:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Used-USED-MACKIE-1402-VLZ3-MIXER-10640...

Regards,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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David Eaks
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 19, 2011 at 9:27:46 pm

[Ty Ford] "Without knowing how you were using it, I can't respond to the noise issue. Usually hiss in a Mackie is a op error impedance mis-match or gain staging problem."

Testing each board with two Neumann KM 84's, listening with Sony MDR 7506 headphones. Switching out the mixer from FX8 to 1402 VLZ Pro and back again to compare the sound of each board in the same setup.


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Christi O'Donnell
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 24, 2011 at 2:49:46 pm

I have a question to your question. Just because I am curious. Why would you use a dynamic microphone? I know that is what you are supposed to use, but I don't understand why? I have always thought that you should use condenser mics for voice.

Christi O'Donnell
Producer and Composer
http://www.rarepoprecords.com


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Ty Ford
Re: New user needs advice on mixer/recorder
on Dec 24, 2011 at 5:03:28 pm

Hi Christi,

Dynamic mics don't have the high frequency response that condensers do. Having said that, most of the frequencies in the male and female voice are within the bandwidth of a good dynamic mic.

AM radio extends to 10 kHz. FM radio and TV extend to 15 kHz. That's why when you listen to AM versus FM/TV, you can hear that AM sound a little muddy compared to FM/TV.

Back to mics. A good dynamic mic is better, in all occasions, than a bad condenser mic. There are a lot of bad condenser mics in the market now that were commissioned to be made in China. They are bright and harsh, but to the novice ear, this particular brightness (at first) seems more attractive. Over time it becomes very fatiguing to listen to.

Dynamics are not as sensitive as most condensers. The implication is that you may need more preamp gain. If your preamps are noisy, and some cheap ones are, you'll bring up the hiss along with the voice level.

For years studios and broadcast in the US used ribbon mics. The old ribbon mics are even less sensitive than dynamic mics are require even ore preamp gain. New ribbons by Shure, Audio Tehnica and Cloud, are much less fragile and have better frequency response, but they typically don't have the high frequency response of a dynamic or condenser; rolling off between 10kHz and 12 kHz.

Another factor is the size of the diaphragm. Typically, the larger the diaphragm, the less noise. So an ElectoVoice RE20 dynamic might have a better noise figure than a Sony ECM 77B condenser lav, simply because the RE20 diaphragm is many times bigger. So when the RE20 diaphragm moves when spoken into, that movement generates significantly more voltage than the tiny diaphragm inside a Sony ECM 77B. You might like the frequency response of the ECM 77B better because of the extended high frequency response, but you still have to deal with the hiss from the extra gain needed to increase the smaller ECM 77B voltage to a usable level.

Off the top of my head, good dynamic mics are...
Shure SM7, SM7b
Sennheiser 421 (not the 421 II)
Sennheiser 431
Sennheiser 441
Electro-Voice RE20
Electro-Voice RE27

Merry Xmas Eve,

Ty Ford

Cow Audio Forum Leader
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide


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