SHOP WINDOW -- BUDGET SOUND MIXERS
With so many flashy video special effects
units around these days it's easy to loose sight of one of the most effective
and inexpensive ways of improving a video movie, namely adding music or a
commentary to the soundtrack. All you need is a sound mixer, a simple little
gadget that connects between the camcorder, VCR and sound source when copying,
editing or dubbing. With it you can combine or replace the original recorded
sound, with music from a CD, tape or record deck, and live sound, from a
Most mixers these days are stereo, there's
still a few mono mixers around, if you care to look, but the cost-saving isn't
as significant as it used to be, and even if you've only got mono equipment now
it's still a false economy to buy a mono mixer as when you upgrade your
camcorder, VCR or TV there's a good chance it will have stereo sound.
There's a few other things to bear in mind
when shopping around for a mixer: does it come with a microphone and connecting
leads, for example? You may pay a little more for these extras but it could
save you time and trouble later on.
Most of the mixers we've been looking at are powered by internal
batteries; that's not a problem, they last for ages in this kind of application
and they're not at all expensive to run. Many of them also have provision for
an external mains power supply, though beware, some of the cheaper ones
generate an annoying buzzing sound or 'mains hum' that ends up on the soundtrack.
In our tests we've concluded that audio quality isn't a major issue, the mixers
we've looked at match, and in one or two cases exceed the capabilities of the
equipment they'll be used with, and are effectively transparent to the audio
signals passing through them.
An increasing number of post production
devices now have audio mixers built-in, which can be quite convenient if you
want or need that particular combination of effects, but there's still a
healthy demand for stand-alone mixers. All of the mixers here cost less than
£60, and with only a couple of
exceptions have no specialist video facilities. Audio mixing is far
easier than you might expect, you won't need any special skills, just a little
time imagination, and one of these small boxes.
£54.90 (mono MX-250 £32.95)
Branded 'Dynasonic' this fairly basic mixer
from Aico has three stereo channels (2 line, 1 mic) and headphone monitor
output. It comes with a set of leads and jack plug adaptor, though only
rudimentary instructions, printed on the underside of the box. Somewhat
expensive but capable and easy to use.
BANDRIDGE VA-315 £59.99
A large, purposeful-looking 4-channel stereo
mixer (3 line, 1 mic) with headphone monitor output. Supplied with connecting
leads, microphone and mains adaptor. High-quality design and construction, for
demanding users. Well worth considering.
CAMLINK MX-800 £39.99
Neat three channel stereo mixer (2 line, 1
mic), with monitor output, sturdy and well-built. Comes supplied with lead set
and one microphone with stand. Battery powered with socket for external mains
adaptor. Adequate instructions. Very competent little unit and considering the
accessory package, good value for money. Worth thinking about.
HAMA VSM-516 £59.99
One of two mixers in this selection to have
any video facilities, namely an enhancer, which improves edge sharpness when
copying. The audio side comprises two stereo line inputs, and one mono
microphone input, but no headphone or monitor output. Powered by mains adaptor
(supplied), basic instructions; smooth and easy to use but a tad pricey.
IQ VSMS £29.99 (mono VSM £24.99)
One of the more unusual mixers in this
roundup, despite the plain looks and uncanny resemblance to the Vanguard VM301.
It's a 3-channel stereo mixer (2 line, 1 mic) with the welcome addition of a
stereo microphone output facility, so it can be plugged into the external mic
socket on a camcorder, for live mixing or dubbing, Supplied with leads and fair
to middling instructions. Good value, recommended.
SIMA SSM-3 £49.99
Stylish-looking stereo mixer (2 line, 1 mic)
but no headphone monitor socket. Accessory kit includes a lead set and one
microphone. Reasonably informative instructions, powered by 9 volt battery with
provision for external mains adaptor. Rather expensive.
VANGUARD VM-301S £39.95
Behind the conventional looks lurks an
unusually proficient 3-channel stereo mixer (2 line, 1 mic) with monitor
output, and, like the IQ VSMS, a stereo
microphone output, so it can be plugged into a camcorder's microphone input for
dubbing or live mixing. All that, plus a microphone, lead set, adequate
instructions and a selling price that puts it close to the top of our value for
money list. Well worth considering.
VIVANCO VCR 822 £60
The second mixer to have a video function, in
this case a simple fader, in addition to the 3-channel stereo mixer (2 line, 1
mic) with variable monitor output. Powered by external mains adaptor
(supplied), solidly built with smooth controls. Very helpful instructions with
plenty of post-production hints and tips. Good value, considering the video
AICO INTERNATIONAL Aico House, Faraday Rd,
London Road Ind Est,
Newbury, Berks RG13 2AD. Telephone
Premiere House, 18 Deer Park Road, Wimbledon,
London SW1 3TU. Telephone
CAMLINK -- see LAMBA
HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24
Telephone (0256) 708110
LAMBA plc Albion Mills, Albion
Road, St Albans, Herts AL1 5EB.
Telephone (0727) 840527
PRISMA Europe Ltd Priory House, Pitsford Street, Birmingham, B18 6LX
Telephone 021 554 5540
SIMA -- see PRISMA
VIVANCO Unit C, ATA House,
Boundary Way, Hemel Hempstead, HP2 7SS
Telephone (0442) 231616
© R.Maybury 1993 3108