The MixPre series sound recorders/field mixers are made by Sound Devices, and are compact, lightweight, and without compromise in terms of sound quality. They have become a new standard recorder for small-scale film productions. The recorders are available for checkout with a 32 GB SD card already installed, giving you about 60 hours of track record time.
The MixPre-6 and MixPre-3 are very versatile and potentially complex machines. This handout will detail the basics of getting started and recording, utilizing customized Film/Video Sound presets.
The MixPre-6 and MixPre-3 are almost identical in usage. The main difference is that the MixPre-6 has four mic inputs, and the MixPre-3 has three mic inputs. To save space, this guide uses graphics of the MixPre-6.
- Make sure the batteries are installed on the rear mount. You can use one or two batteries, and they can be hot-swapped.
- To remove a battery, slide the release level away from the battery you want to remove, and slide the battery toward the release lever and up out of the sled. Do not remove the power sled!
- AC power supplies can be checked out separately from The Cage. They can be useful for long interview or music sessions.
- In an emergency, you can power the MixPre from a laptop using the provided special USB cable. You must plug it into two USB ports to get enough power. This method is not recommended.
- Turn the MixPre on, using the power switch on the left panel. This will bring up the Home Screen on the front panel. The front panel is a touch screen LCD display, thus menu navigation and operation is done through a combination of tapping the display and pressing and turning the headphone volume/encoder knob.
- Tap the Menu icon. You’ll see three dots under Menu, indicating 3 pages of menu items. Tap Menu to go to the second page.
- Tap SD Card > Edit > Format.
- When asked to confirm the command to format the card, tap OK.
- Since the MixPre is so versatile, we have created 4 internal Presets for the most common field & studio recording situations:
These presets will record 48 kHz, 24-bit WAV files, which is standard for all video production.
Don’t use the Factory Default preset, as it clears all settings and puts the MixPre in a state not well-suited for CalArts production recording.
- To load Presets, first tap the Menu icon.
- Tap Presets > Load Preset. Use the headphone encoder knob to highlight the desired preset. Press the knob twice to select.
Preparing to Record
When you check out the MixPre from the cage, be sure all four CalArts custom presets are already installed! Otherwise, you must go through a lengthy download and installation process to use them. (Go to Loading MixPre Presets for instructions on this.)
- Plug in the microphone(s), starting with Input 1.
- Plug in the headphones to the mini jack on the right side (NOT the jack on the left side). The headphone encoder knob below it controls the volume.
- Go back to the Home menu and tap the audio meters until you see record tracks 1-6 (MixPre-6) or 1-3 (MixPre-3), as well as headphone monitor outputs L&R. The tracks with numbers highlighted red indicate what will be recorded.
- Use the front Channel Knobs to set levels. Peak levels should be between -12 & 0 dB. A ring around each knob will glow green, amber, and red to show recording levels.
- If the 1 Microphone preset is selected, the MixPre will record your single microphone onto mono WAV files, while the signal will go to L & R so it can be heard in both ears.
- If the 2 Microphones preset is selected, it will record 2-channel WAV files. L & R will give the headphones Mic 1 on the left and Mic 2 on the right.
- If the 3 Microphones preset (MixPre-3 only) is selected, it will record 3-channel WAV files. L & R will give the headphones Mics 1 on the left, Mic 2 on both sides, and Mic 3 on the right.
- If the 4 Microphones preset is selected, it will record 4-channel WAV files. L & R will give the headphones Mics 1 & 3 on the left and Mic 2 & 4 on the right.
Since each input is being stored on a separate channel, individual levels and panning can be changed in post-production.
- To specify what a file will be named, tap the file name on the upper-left corner of the Home screen, the Edit > Name. Characters are selected via the headphone encoder knob.
- Unfortunately, the MixPre doesn’t display long file names well. Try using your initials and/or a truncated date. In any case, avoid using duplicate file names from day to day because it will confuse some NLEs & DAWs.
The MixPre also has a USB-A port for input from a wired PC (not Mac) keyboard to make file naming much easier. Naming can also be done through the Wingman App. To learn about these features, refer to the MixPre User Guides by Sound Devices in the link at the end of this handout.
Time to Record!
Two Advanced Features
- Push one of the channel level knobs to display the Channel Menu.
- The first page of the Channel Menu has a Solo button which will let you hear one channel at a time. All channels will keep recording regardless of the Solo status. When a channel is soloed, its light ring will flash orange.
- Tap the Menu dots to access the second page of the Channel Menu, which (among other things) shows the Low Cut filter settings. It can be set up to roll off bass frequencies or reduce mic handling noise, wind noise, and other undesirable low frequency sounds.
- Tap the the Low Cut button and turn the headphone encoder to select a frequency. Typically, 80Hz is a good starting point. Listen carefully and make sure you aren’t losing too much desired low frequency information.
Transferring Your Files to a Computer
- The MixPre can support USB file transfer between its SD and a USB-connected host computer Connect the MixPre6 to a computer using the special USB cable that came with the recorder.
- On the MixPre, start from the Home Screen.
- Tap Menu > System [page 3] > File Transfer [page 2].
- The MixPre will display that it has entered USB-C File Transfer Mode and a volume called MixPre SD will show up as an external drive on your desktop. Drag files to an appropriate volume.
- When file transfer is complete, eject the volume from the computer. Tap Exit on the Transfer Mode screen to return to the previous operating state.
The MixPre is a kind of Swiss Army Knife for sound: it can be used as a mixer, recorder, camera interface, and computer digital audio interface. It can do sub-mixes, and even record timecode for automated dailies syncing.
This handout cannot cover everything. Sound Devices has excellent, clearly-written user guides for the MixPre recorders. They can be downloaded as PDFs from https://cdn.sounddevices.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MixPre-6_UG-Current.pdf and https://cdn.sounddevices.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MixPre-3_UG-Current.pdf
The full user guide also explains the Wingman App, which can be used as a smart remote control for the MixPre recorders.