Having attended 5 winter NAMM shows and 5 summer NAMM shows now, it’s been a dream of mine to do something real wacky and fun at the show, but it always feels like I don’t have nearly enough time. Well, this time, I made the time! Summer NAMM 2018 was the spot to do it if ever I was going to.
When Sound Devices asked if I’d be interested in reviewing this lil guy, I jumped at the chance because I’ve been looking for an excuse for YEARS to track a song on the floor of the NAMM show, and the MixPre was the perfect tool for the job. I’ve never used a field recorder before, so I was ready to bite off more than I could chew and jump in the deep end.
The MixPre6M is probably very intuitive as far as field recorders go, and it seems to have features that others don’t, but it’s still a steep learning curve for a first-timer. It’s a is a 12-channel field recorder and USB interface with 4 mic preamps, overdub and monitoring capabilities, and a touchscreen interface that records to an SD card. It’s a variation (and upgrade, depending on how you look at it) on the previous MixPre 6, with some key differences in the features. The M at the end of the name is for Musician, as this model is aimed at the musician rather than a movie sound guy or found sound collector, so it has the ability to overdub and punch in and out, as well as Reverb and a metronome, all accessible through the interface. The previous model had these features accessible only through a $99 app.
There were a couple features I had trouble with, specifically monitoring my performance on the spot which caused some problems during tracking, and differentiating input gain from playback volume. These are all things that will come together once I have more experience and time with the unit, but those were the parts that for me weren’t intuitive to access and control. I really like the MixPre’s rugged build and clever use of space on such a small piece of equipment, and the ability to attach it to a camera tripod is pretty handy. You can sandwich it between your camera and your tripod easily for major convenience.
You can power the MixPre multiple ways, including from a USB power bank or double A batteries or the included wall plug, but if you’re gonna use batteries, keep in mind that it’s lithium or it’s nothing. Regular AA batteries will give you 20 minutes of operation, tops. I learned that the hard way. I really like that the knobs light up different colors so you can see from a mile away if you’re getting signal or if it’s peaking, that’s an ingenious little feature. I’m not really an expert on preamps, but I didn’t experience any headroom problems with them, and the media materials for the unit claim they are near-unclippable, which is very very important for capturing audio on the spot. While recording on the NAMM show floor, we tracked acoustic guitar, bass, vocals, and drums, and it didn’t flinch at all.
All the sounds you’re hearing in the song in the above video were recorded on the floor of the NAMM show, using a variety of instruments and signal chains.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the unit, which retails for $799 and is relatively future-proof with the ability to update the internal firmware as technology progresses. I think once I start using it more regularly, I’ll master the different features and start flying around the interface so I can make full use of the MixPre 6M, and with that, have added a serious mobile tool to my arsenal.