Field recorder manufacturer Sound Devices has refreshed their line of community-favourite MixPre digital audio recorders. Originally released in 2017, this week’s update brings new features and responds to competitors’ offerings in an impressive release.
MixPre-3 and MixPre-6
The original MixPre-3 and MixPre-6 were released to great acclaim from the field recording community. Long known for their attention to sound quality as well as durability, Sound Devices recorders were typically north of $1,000 for a simple 2-track memory card version. It was a great surprise when the American manufacturer revealed smaller, fuller-featured models with additional tracks for under $1,000.
The release wasn’t without its problems, though. As field recording fans began experimenting with the units, issues were discovered: inexplicable ultra-sonic artifacts, disappointing limiters, buggy software updates, wrist-twisting ergonomics, and more. Sound Devices eventually remedied most of these. Firmware updates fixed bugs, added Ambisonic features, pre-roll, and other features. (Learn about some of those updates in an earlier article.)
Just the same, the buzz diminished somewhat. While the MixPre series provided exceptional value, many pros held onto their 6-series recorders for more demanding uses.
At the same time, competition from Japan’s Zoom found some recordists defecting to their F-series line. The Zoom F4 and F8 included more tracks and valuable features (e.g., timecode) for a lower price point. What’s more, Zoom announced the F6 with look-ahead limiters, 32-bit floating point recording, and other tantalizing features.
What’s New in the Series II?
The MixPre II series seems to be a direct response to those issues. Let’s see what’s new:
- Internal timecode generator. Previously the territory of higher end Sound Devices recorders, this addition brings it in line with Zoom’s offerings. While field recordists won’t find themselves using this feature, it will bring the II series to the attention of indie filmmakers. Bonus: the unit keeps accurate timecode for up to four hours, even without power.
- 32-bit floating point. I’ll share a detailed explanation of this in another post, but the upshot is that recording with a 32-bit floating point can capture sounds as loud as 770 dB. Recall that 24-bit recordings top out at 144.5 dB, and that sound waves become shock waves at 191 dB. In theory there is no sound the MixPre cannot capture. What’s also important is that 32-bit float point captures a wider range of sound, from the quietest to the loudest. The result is that 32-bit files can record at any gain level and – provided software supports the bit depth – adjust the recording to ideal levels after the fact without fear of quiet sounds introducing noise or loud ones remaining distorted.
- 142 dB of dynamic range. Prefer to record in 24-bit instead? The series II adds 20 dB of dynamic range more than the previous generation.
- 192 kHz sampling rate. All models support 192 kHz recording, including the MixPre-3, which was previously limited to 96 kHz.
- Extended pre-roll. It appears pre-roll is doubled. The MixPre-6 boosts the time to 10 seconds from 5 (at 48 kHz).
- Adjustable limiters.
- Headphone knob cover. Many users complained about the ergonomics of the MixPre headphone knob. The folks at LOM made a headphone knob cover to make life easier, and it seems Sound Devices saw the sense in this and added their own.
- USB drive backup. It is now possible to automatically back up recordings to an attached USB thumb drive.
Despite these significant changes, the new units retain the same price points: $649 for the MixPre-3, and $849 for the MixPre-6.
Will series I owners get these features in a firmware update? While the form factor of the new machines is the same, the new series come with all-new internals. So, series I owners are out of luck.
Learn more about the MixPre series II recorders.