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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 microphone.


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.



AICO MX-350  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.




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 fader.




AICO INTERNATIONAL Aico House, Faraday Rd, London Road Ind Est,             

Newbury, Berks  RG13 2AD. Telephone  (0635) 49797


BANDRIDGE LTD, Premiere House,  18 Deer Park Road,  Wimbledon,  London SW1 3TU.  Telephone 081-543 3633




HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF

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




VIVANCO  Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead, HP2 7SS

Telephone (0442) 231616



R.Maybury 1993 3108



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