Sound Devices MixPre-3 II mixer/recorder

This is my second MixPre and my third Sound Devices product. I moved from a WMD6C tape recorder to a 722 in about 2006 and used that happily until I needed an audio interface.  Stephen Buckland of Sound Techniques, Auckland, NZ persuaded me that the MixPre3 would do that and record. I was skeptical but now I am a convert.

So, what am I using it for? Principally face to face interviewing recording oral history for archiving and research. 

What do I like about it for that? Portability. 

The whole kit fits in a little Sony bag that I can swing over my shoulder and pedal my bike to where I’m going. The 722 needs a heavy suitcase, and a car. 

Set up – I power the Mix from an Anker power bank – ample juice for a day of interviewing. No power cord, extension leads, scrabbling around behind furniture for a socket. 

Speed. I can be up and ready to record quickly. I carry headphones for monitoring and a small tripod for the mix. I use Sanken cos11sbp microphones for oral history recording. 

I’ve also used the set up for recording artist talks in dealer galleries. For that I use Sennheiser XS vocal set wireless mics so I can position myself at the back, in line of sight of the speakers, but out of the way. 

And I’ve also experimented with recording in the field, at our local wildlife sanctuary Zealandia. I taped two mics onto the end of a broomstick and walked around with the stick as high as I could get it to capture the dawn chorus. A makeshift binaural mic. Worked nicely! 

Drawbacks? Yes, there are. A few. But I can live with them. 

The menus. Now that I’ve got the hang of them, I can manage, but they were challenging at the start. Not because of the functionality but because I’m not a trained audio person, so I wasn’t sure which menu settings I needed to do what I needed. I’m talking about using it as an interface here. I hear you say there are lots of how to videos online, and there are. But I never quite landed on a how to that did exactly what I needed, and had every single step, written down (or that I could write down). So, I lost many hours like that and I’m still not fully confident using the Mix for recording VOIP calls. 

The USB back up. It’s not failsafe. In theory when I press stop on a recording the Mix backs up the file to the attached USB thumb drive. But it doesn’t do this reliably. I posted about this on the user group and as a result I bought the Sound Devices approved thumb drive. Still have the problem. The 722 has the big advantage of recording to INHDD and CF card – the MixPre3ii with thumb drive back up seemed like a broadly equivalent system, but it’s not quite there. 

The battery sled. I bought Camelion rechargeable batteries. I would never rely on these as the power source. They don’t hold their charge long enough. I keep them in there incase the Anker fails and the Mix needs power to write the last little bit of recording but they are a nuisance. Hard to prise them out when they need recharging and the sled is the only tacky bit of the Mix. 

Can’t send two tracks to stereo out. I do some phone recording. Back in the day I used the 722 with a JK Audio digital hybrid. This makes an acceptable recording over landline. In 2020, looking to do phone recordings about the pandemic, I changed to using a D&R GSM Digital hybrid, recording over the cellular network. This works nicely with the 722 with one small adjustment: the input from my mic goes into the 722 and comes out of the stereo out and back to the caller through the GSM (through a 3.5 to XLR cable). The left and right outputs from the mic input are both set to the same track. Try as I might, I couldn’t replicate this on the Mix, and I read somewhere recently there’s no stereo out functionality. So, I still use the 722 with the GSM. It works a treat. Of course, I could use the Mix and VOIP and bypass the GSM set up, but the GSM works nicely for me, and the equipment can stay set up in my office. 

Sound quality? I like it, but if I’m being picky, I probably still prefer the 722. 

What’s in my kit bag:

  • AC line – just in case
  • USB cable for charging the ANKER
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • Headphones

Uploading. I know I can do whizzy things but I just use the thumb drive, and make sure that the file is complete before I format the SD card. 

Final comments. Don’t read this wrong. You’ll be hard pushed to move me away from Sound Devices products. Not only are they good but the tech support is endlessly patient, fast and helpful. I’m a big fan. And the local Sound Devices representative in New Zealand whose business motto is ‘we listen and give sound advice’ is a fantastic representative and a tireless support to local oral historians..

 Pip Oldham

4 March 2022 

www.oralhistorian.co.nz