Small audio mixer with mic in, line in, level meters?
November 10, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

DJ switching to controllers-only: What is a (very) compact audio device (most likely a mixer) that will give me a mic input, an audio input, and reliable, accurate level meters?

I'm a DJ who has always used traditional hardware DJ mixers, even when using MIDI controllers and laptops. I'm starting to consider moving to an Ableton/APC40-only set up. But I still can't let go of certain things...for one, I'm just too dependent on my hardware level meters (and my interface, Traktor Audio 6, has a ridiculously high output level). Also, I definitely want to be able to to use a mic. So ideally, I'd have just a tiny bare-bones mixer to take the mic input, mix it with my signal coming from the interface, and give me visual readings on all the levels. And this would have be a small-enough device that it would fit in a bag with the APC and laptop. So size is important.

So far, I've been able to find the Behringer XENYX Q502USB as one option. The only downsides are that the level meter is pretty vague, and I've heard lots of bad things about the quality of Behringer...would I be able to play on a full size professional sound system with it? I've also found this page, but I don't see any with all the features that I want. They also have rack mount mixers, but 19 inches is too big. If they had a half-size rack mount mixer that wasn't too heavy, with all the features I want, I could put it under the APC40, that would be perfect.

The whole reason I'm ditching mixers is because I want a more compact set up (Currently I'm using a Novation Launchpad and a 12" 4-channel mixer. I'm also using the mixer as a hybrid controller. If I ditch the mixer I have to make up for it with the added controls from the APC). Alternatively, if I could find a very small professional DJ mixer, I could go with that. If they can fit those mixer sections into the platter-based DJ controllers, why can't they make the standalone mixer, that size!? So let me know if you know of any professional, very small DJ mixers.

I guess my question is: does anyone know of any very small mixers that have level meters, at least 1 mic and 1 line input and gain controls that would work with my set up? Should I just go with the Behringer? Thanks.
posted by DJ Broken Record to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
I don't know what your budget is, but Sound Devices makes fantastic (really!) stuff. Have a look at the 302. It has three XLR inputs, extremely versatile, and the best meters I've ever used, on any mixer, at any price. If you can live with only two inputs, the MixPre-D would be excellent as well. Built like a tank.

As far as the behringer goes: it's so cheap you could buy two and keep a backup. I've used behringer gear and been pretty happy with it, both in terms of durability and sound. You should have no problem interfacing that mixer with a professional sound system provided you have the right cables. Those meters, however, are unusable if you are planning on making any informed decisions with them.
posted by stephennelson at 7:55 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, what you need is one analog input to the interface, and two analog outputs (which will be the combined mic+stereo feed). With meters for both the mic input and the analog outputs. My first suggestion would be an apogee duet- the new one has meters on the front for both the inputs and outputs - although the outputs will be the sum of the stereo mix and the mic. For size and quality, it is hard to beat.

I know it isn't a mixer per se, but it is a really nice bit of gear and let's you control both the input level and output level directly from the knob, which is nice. It even has separate DAC's for the headphones so you can run a cue mix.
posted by ianhattwick at 8:28 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yikes. Thanks a lot for the suggestions. Those are out of my price range by a few hundred dollars (I could just get a high end controller that would fit in my bag for that price). But I appreciate the suggestions. Those are definitely some delicious pieces of gear.

stephennelson, regarding the meters on the Behringer, do you think they'd be usable for just making sure the signal stays at zero? That would be my main use.
posted by DJ Broken Record at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2012

Why do you need to keep the signal at zero?

A bit on the expensive side, but the ZED-10 from Allen & Heath has a nice meter. I think finding something cheaper is going to be hard, since metering is one of the first features to be cut when making a small budget mixer for general use. Yamaha also has some mixers with more than 4 LEDs of metering. Another option, the Peavey PV-8.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:08 AM on November 11, 2012

Best answer: Seconding Monday,stormy Monday's suggestions above.

I'd add Mackie to the list of brands you should look at.

All of these (and the Behringer) can interface with a pro sound system as long as you've got the cabling right.

I would disagree with stepehnnelson regarding the durability of Behringer - it's really a crapshoot. I've seen some stuff from them work for a decade, but a lot more of it just roll over and die within 2 or 3 years.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:32 AM on November 11, 2012

Response by poster: decibels, or a little bit above that, is generally a good signal to send to a main board at a club/venue. Sorry if I was confusing in my wording. Thanks for the suggestions, I'm definitely prioritizing size so some of those might be too big.

soundguy99, thank you for reminding me about Mackie! I'm more familiar with the DJ mixer market than the general mixer market. And it just occurred to me that the Behringer mixers are just rip offs of the Mackie ones. The corresponding Mackie, the 402-VLZ3 seems to be really good for what I need. Thank you!!
posted by DJ Broken Record at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2012

If you are just trying to stay under 0db, both the Mackie and Behringer will be able to tell you that. With the Mackie, you will be able to see with more clarity how close you are getting to 0, as opposed to green light/red light. That Mackie looks good!
posted by stephennelson at 1:58 PM on November 11, 2012

With modern equipment, as long as you're getting a good signal, it shouldn't matter much if you're at 0 dB or a bit below, as long as the PA you're sending your signal to isn't screwed up. We've come a long way from the days where you had to set your gain just so or you'd get a noisy disaster.

And indeed, the Mackie looks good for your needs.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2012

Response by poster: In case anyone is looking at this thread. Look what I found!
posted by DJ Broken Record at 6:28 PM on November 19, 2012

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