Yamaha MG Mixer with Mic Compression

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Yamaha MG102C

The Yamaha MG102C-CA mixer with built-in compressor.

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My trusty Yamaha MG series mixers served in Studio1A for a number of years; the 16/6 as a primary mix-down device. Yamaha has a well earned reputation for quality and performance.

Today, Laura and I check out the small, but very capable little desktop mixer with a surprising twist. The MG102C-CA is a compact 10-channel mixer, dressed in “Yamaha Blue”.

With this model, you get a total of 4 mic preamps. The first 2 inputs are mono-only, the next 2 channels allow you to select mic-level XLR or mono/stereo line input via TRS connection. The last 2 channels are line-only, with an option for stereo consumer phono connections found on most cassette decks, CD players, or even unbalanced line from a computers built-in sound card. An on/off selectable Phantom button will feed condenser mics 48VDC via the first 4 XLR connectors.

A 3 passband EQ accompanies the mic channels, while low and high EQ passbands are available on the last 2 line inputs. The mic channels have a switchable low frequency rolloff to reduce mic rumble.

You are able to insert external devices into the first 2 channels. AUX send is an option on all channels. Monitoring is combined for phones/control room with a separate stereo mains output.

Most of the above is pretty standard. What intrigued me are the 2 small pots on the mic inputs (1 and 2 only) simply labeled “COMP”. The COMP knobs invoke the drive level to the mixers built in compressor. This is where the fun starts!

There is no better way to demo a compressor than to use it!

Listen in as we demonstrate, in real time, the compressor on a Yamaha MG102C-CA. Coming in at under $100, I’ll let you listen and decide. Keep in mind that most descrete compressors start at the $100 range and go up from there.

Yamaha MG102C-CA (street price at publish time $99.00)

MarkJensen and Laura

The MicPort Pro

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MicPort Pro

The compact MicPort Pro allows you to plug a pro microphone into your USB port.

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The MicPort Pro is one of those pro-audio tools that gets the job done. It isn’t flashy, but makes up for the utilitarian look in performance.

You’ve likely seen them before. Small “converters” that allow you to plug a professional XLR microphone (dynamic or Phantom powered condenser) into your computers USB port. What sets the MicPort Pro apart from the crowd?

As I opened the large box, first impressions were quality with a no-nonsense appearance. The black anodized, extruded aluminum casing not only looks pro, but helps keep the internals shielded. Included in the box is a small guide, a fabric carry pouch and a 6′ long USB cable.

Visible from the top of the “tube” are 2 smooth feeling pots that allow you to separately adjust the pre-amp mic gain and the headphone monitor gain. At one end, you will find a female XLR connector. On the other end of the MicPort Pro is a mini-USB connector, a small 48 volt Phantom button complete with lighted indicator and an 1/8″ headphone connection. You will know when the MicPort Pro is plugged into a USB 1.1 or 2.0 connector because the XLR side of the capsule has a small, lighted ring that comes to life. No batteries or external power are required.

How does it perform? As I write this, the street price for a MicPort Pro runs around $149. That’s a fair amount of money and the compelling reason for trying one in Studio1A. There are basically four functions going on inside the MicPort Pro. First, there is the microphone pre-amp stage, then the analog (mic) to digital (USB) conversion, microphone headphone amplifier and finally the voltage up-conversion for Phantom power. Weighing in at 2.2 ounces and about 4.5″ long, there is a lot going on inside this small device.

The real test is plugging in my trusty phones and a well known mic to hear the MicPort Pro in action. The headphone pre-amp is extremely quiet while delivering plenty of gain. The signal you hear emanates from an analog amplifier. Keep in mind that the actual mic signal is converted to digital at 24-bit/96kHz. Windows XP Pro automatically set the MicPort Pro as my default sound device.

Although tested on Windows XP, the MicPort Pro claims Vista compatibility as well as Mac OS X Core Audio compliance. In testing the MicPort Pro on XP, I downloaded and installed the free ASIO driver from CEntrance, which was needed for recording on Sony Sound Forge 9.

One simple feature sets the MicPort Pro apart from others and justifies its price: quality.

The shear amplitude (always turn down the mic and headphone pots BEFORE plugging in) of clean monitoring audio coupled with a low-noise, linear mic pre-amp make the MicPort Pro worth every penny.

Have a listen as we try out the MicPort Pro…

MicPort Pro (street price at publish time $149.95)


Behringer Xenyx 1002 – Podcast Mixer

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Xenyx 1002

The affordable Xenyx 1002FX mixer with built-in effects.

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Seventy US Dollars doesn’t buy a lot these days. Dinner and a movie – or maybe fill up your vehicle with fuel. When it comes to pro audio gear, it’s even tougher to squeeze much value in the sub-$100 bracket. This fact was compounded, not all that long ago, when foreign trade was limited, discrete components ruled the land and the lack of internet access at every street corner made the World a much bigger place.

The mixer. That metal box with pots and/or sliders often forms the hub of our studio. For simple work, many of us don’t even require a “physical” mixer since we can virtualize these functions on screen.

For others however, the tactile feel of riding levels, the response of LED’s, and the visual feel of switching/routing signals using TRS and XLR connectors just feels right. I’m still one of those that needs to feel the comfort of a knob or slider, however large or small, to manipulate audio.

When it comes to value, Behringer is in it to win, offering sub-$100 components when few others did. When it comes to quality, some will balk at the name. But… for most of us, Behringer products simply offer unparalleled value for our money. A good example would be many years ago when I needed a simple Phantom power supply for my condenser microphone. I had the choice of spending $50 for the power supply, or the little Behringer mixer for an incredible $39, not only able to supply Phantom power, but offer discrete EQ, panning, hi-z muxing and more. Amazing!

As consumers, we have become very knowledgeable about the gear we buy. Quality has to be good and price has to be low.

Enter the latest generation of analog Behringer mixers. I selected their small 1002 model, not much bigger in size than my hand, as a simple way to plug in and add devices to my existing chain. My large console uses solder connections to a DB-25 connector, so the little 1002 sits, dwarfed in size, next to it, ready to simply pass audio, add effects, or allow me to plug in a device for testing without re-arranging the studio.

Small mixers like the 1002 are also great for video work. You may need to inject a music bed or do a quick voiceover right to your camera. The small size of the 1002 lends itself nicely to this task, being small enough to fit in a carry-on for travel.

But what sets the Behringer 1002 apart from the crowd of sub-$100 mixers? In the software world, we would add features, tighten code up, fix bugs and raise it a version. Behringer has done much of the same in hardware with their small mixer. That little $39 mixer I bought about 8 years ago is still around, but even physically, I notice the enhancements. The 1002 pots and trimmers feel much tighter and stronger. There is no doubt that the Xenyx microphone pre-amp is quieter. The “British” EQ is improved. Frankly, at this price, I don’t expect much from EQ and would much rather stay flat unless absolutely needed …but it is there, and it’s miles better than my older model.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the capabilities of the upgraded 1002FX model. I perused the 99 presets (from the nice blue glow of the LED’s) and found a very nice array of reverb, echo and slapback effects. Very nicely done. The small, but helpful array of level LED’s worked fine, along with lighted “clip” and Phantom indication.

Improved mic pre-amps, nice fit and finish, smoother EQ, built-in echo/reverb effects and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Overall, a great little compact mixer at a price that’s hard to beat.

Behringer Xenyx 1002 w/FX (street price at publish time $89.99)

Behringer Xenyx 1002 (street price at publish time $69.99)