VIDEO CAMERA 1999

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MIXER MATCH

 

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Forget all those fancy video processors and effects systems, one of the simplest ways to cheer up your home videos is to add some music or a commentary to the soundtrack. Here's nine ways of doing just that…

 

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What turns an ordinary home video into a great one? Obviously video quality and crisp editing are important but one of the most effective ways to improve your movies is to beef up the soundtrack with music, a commentary or some sound effects. The best thing about audio editing is that it is so easy to do, and you don't need lots of expensive or complicated equipment. In fact all you need is a simple device called an audio mixer. The cheapest audio mixers start at less than twenty quid but it's a good idea to spend a little more for a few extra facilities and we have found that the level control sliders on some budget models can be a bit noisy.

 

The minimum specification you should be aiming for is 3 input channels so you can you mix the original soundtrack with a stereo music channel -- sourced from the 'line-level' or headphone output of a hi-fi, personal stereo etc. -- and a live commentary from a microphone. It's important that the soundtrack/VCR and music channel inputs are in stereo, it doesn't matter too much about the microphone input, though a stereo microphone channel will give you a little more flexibility. Winking lights and dancing meters can look very pretty but in the end the best way to judge levels is to use your ears and for that reason it's worth shortlisting models that come with a headphone monitor. In any event you should always make a few test recordings and experiment with levels, before you make a finished recording.

 

We've put together a selection of nine audio mixers, ranging in price from just under £40 to almost £300. Between them they just about cover the whole audio-mixing spectrum, from simple entry-level models suitable for basic home video applications, right up to a serious pro-grade device that wouldn't be out of place in a small studio. In addition to audio performance we've graded each one on how easy it is to set up and use, any additional audio features it may have, and the supplied accessories. A couple of models have extra video facilities, they've been duly noted but in the end we're mostly concerned with the audio side of things.    

 

REVIEWS

 

Model:  Camlink Vision 100

Price:                £39.99 

Features:            3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, stereo microphone), tone, bypass, headphone monitor, video switching, microphone supplied

 

Comment:            The Vision 100 has almost everything you need to get started, the only thing missing is a pair of headphones but you can probably supply those yourself (the outfit includes a 3.5mm jack adaptor). It’s powered by a 9 volt battery (a mains adaptor is optional) and it comes with a chirpy 7-minute instructional video (nice touch that…). The sliders are smooth and noise-free, though how long they'll stay that way is open to question as dirt and dust can get in easily through the slots. The tone control is a bonus and might come in handy if your sound source lacks a tone control of its own. It's fairly basic but that means it is very easy to use. Fair value, worth considering.

 

Video Camera Ratings

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Model:            Datavideo VP-263

Price:                £49.95

Features:            3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, mono microphone), video fade (black or white), enhance & split screen, microphone & stand supplied, mains PSU

 

Comment:            Datavideo have managed to cram a lot into a very small box, in addition to the 3-channel audio mixer it has a couple of video processing facilities, namely fade (to black or white), and enhance (with split screen preview). The mixing functions are limited to input level control and master fade and it comes with a microphone and mains PSU but we're a little disappointed by the lack of a headphone monitor, which lost it a couple of points. It's reasonably transparent but the microphone is a bit tinny. The sliders are clean but they have a short travel, so the adjustment is quite coarse.

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 ********

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Value for money: *******

 

Model:            Datavideo VP-265

Price:                £99.95

Features:            3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, mono microphone), audio noise reduction, level indicator, headphone, video (S-Video & composite) fader, gain, enhance, saturation, split screen, headphone monitor, headset mic supplied, mains PSU

 

Comment:            The VP-265 shares a lot of features with its cheaper stablemate (VP-263) but has several extra features, including an LED audio level display, audio noise reduction, video gain, colour saturation and an S-Video input and output. The accessory pack includes a headphone with boom microphone and a mains adaptor. The sliders have longer travel and that makes it a lot easier to use. The microphone sounds a lot better too and the dynamic noise reduction system does a fair job at reducing background hiss and this will be of particular interest to owners of mono VHS-C camcorders. A useful combination of audio and video features and it works well. Worth considering.

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 ********

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Value for money: *******

 

Model:            Datavideo VP-272

Price:                £99.95

Features:             3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, mono microphone), video (S-Video & composite) fader, auto single scene editing with learning IR control, microphone & stand supplied

 

Comment:            It may be a little unfair to include the VP-272 in a mixer review. Datavideo call it a 'video editor' however, that's also stretching it a bit since all it does is control the record/pause function on the destination VCR using a 'learned' IR command. The audio functions are similar to those on the VP-263 -- i.e. 3-channel mixing -- and it comes with a microphone. The video functions comprise a fader (to black or white) and an enhancer. Slider action is good, our sample was noise-free, and the microphone isn't too bad at all. In the end the editing function isn't that interesting and the mixer is fairly ordinary, quite pricey for what it is.  

 

Video Camera Ratings

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Value for money: *******

 

Model:  Hama 42534 Audio Editor

Price:                £49.99

Features:            3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, stereo microphone), tone, headphone monitor, headphones & microphone supplied, mains PSU

 

Comment:            The five sliders on the 42535 look a bit lost on the large and mostly empty top panel but it is very easy to use. Mounting the input and output sockets vertically on the back edge is a good idea and the accessory pack is quite generous (headphones, microphone, mains adaptor and leads), but when all said and done it is quite basic. In fact the only extra is a tone control but that has a limited range and knocks off a fair amount of treble. The microphone isn't terribly sensitive either but it handles speech well. It's a good workmanlike design but considering how basic it is, it takes up a disproportionate amount of desk space.

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 ********

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Value for money: ********

 

Model:  IQ Studio AV Processor

Price:                £79.99

Features:             3-channel audio mixing (2 x stereo line, mono microphone), audio noise reduction, level indicator, headphone, video (S-Video & composite) fader, gain, enhance, saturation, split screen, headphone monitor, headset mic supplied, mains PSU, loadsa leads

 

Comment:            Look closely and you may notice that that has a remarkably similar specification to the Datavideo VP-265, in fact we would go so far to say that they're identical (Datavideo make them both). The only obvious differences concern the accessory pack -- the IQ Studio has a very good assortment of leads, including a phono to SCART adaptor and two S-Video cables -- the list price is a little lower than the Datavideo model and it has better instructions. The VP-265 was good, but given the lower price, bigger and better accessory pack and manual, we have to say this version is better!  

 

Video Camera Ratings

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Model:  Maplin BX-810

Price:                £299.99

Features:            8-channel mixer (6 x mono, 2 x stereo line/microphone), independent bass/mid-range/treble/gain/input level/pan on each channel, twin VU meters, effect bypass, sub and monitor outputs,

 

Comment:            Yikes! The BX-810 really deserves to be reviewed on its own this is one helluva mixer. You only have to take one look at that forest of knobs to know that this is not the sort of thing you'd use to whip up a soundtrack for a backyard flick. It has 8 channels, but only two of them are stereo, each channel has independent bass treble and mid-range adjustments, individual gain controls and the facility to hook it up to effects units. Audio is squeaky clean with not a hint of noise and those sliders are super smooth. However, the big surprise is the price, it's a bargain. This level of sophistication is aimed at pro users, with the equipment to match, so if you're into high-end digital, and you take sound seriously, this one is for you.   

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 **********

Facilities:                      *********

Ease of use:                  ********

Value for money:            **********

 

Model:  Vivanco MX-310

Price:                £39.99

Features:            4-channel audio mixing (4 x mono/2 x stereo, line & microphone)

 

Comment:            Whereas most mixers are geared towards combining a soundtrack with music sources and a microphone the MX-310 can handle up to four microphone inputs. That means it's well suited to studio applications or indeed any kind of mix job involving more than one microphone. The design and layout are very straightforward; unusually it doesn't have a master fader but it's easy enough to operate the sliders together. A wee bit specialist for everyday use but for mike-intensive set-ups it's worth shortlisting.

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 *********

Facilities:                      *******

Ease of use:                  *********

Value for money: ********

 

Model:  Vivanco MX-735

Price:                £99.99

Features:            4-channel audio mixing (1 x mono microphone, 2 x high imp stereo, 2 x stereo line) bass, treble, cross fade & trigger channel switching, headphone monitor, level meter

 

Comment:            The MX-735 is another borderline candidate for video movie making, but for some users it could solve a lot of problems. The most unusual feature is the high impedance phono inputs for record turntables (remember them), handy if your background music is on mostly on vinyl. The MX-735 is really designed for DJ mixing applications but facilities like cross fade and the channel triggers could be just the job if you're mixing a music video. Performance is good and the controls are easy to use.  

 

Video Camera Ratings

Performance:                 *********

Facilities:                      ********

Ease of use:                  *********

Value for money: *********

 

CONTACTS

Camlink/Apex, (01707) 266222

Datavideo/Holdan Ltd, (0161) 367 9000

Hama UK, (01256) 374700

IQ/Jessops (0116) 232 0432

Maplin Electronics (01702) 554000

Vivanco (01442) 403020

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ă R. Maybury 1999 2604

 

 

 

 

 


 

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