Love Letter to MixerFace
"This is a love letter to a piece of gear. I know. Weird" - Boris Bengin
“Sometimes a device or object changes how you do things and becomes indispensable to your flow of things. Maybe it’s an amplifier, a guitar, or a microphone. In my case it’s the MixerFace made by CEntrance.
I bought this several months ago because I wanted an all in one solution to video and audio recording both myself and artists. At it’s most basic level, it’s an interface that can connect to iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. It has two XLR inputs and an extra 3/4 channel that mixes with the first two channels. So, while it it’s technically a four channel interface, the reality is that it’s two. That’s ok. And I knew that going in at purchase.
A little history.
Before getting the MixerFace, I had the Zoom F1 lavaliere model. On paper, both the F1 and the MixerFace did similar things. They were both made for video in mind. But the F1 had some glaring drawbacks, namely it could not provide phantom power to the XLR attachment module. This would save on battery power, but could not power a condenser mic. It also required one to unplug the cable and replug it in to go into the iOS mode. Hassle. And lastly, it required a proprietary cable to attach the proprietary mic capsules to the unit if you wanted to position the mics away from the F1. Another $100 investment. Not to mention, the Zoom gear was just sort of ‘meh’ in quality with either so so preamps or noisy mic capsules.
That said, it had one excellent feature though; a very good onboard limiter. This was great at open mics especially where volume changes could be extreme from the whisperer to the shouter, or a cable being unplugged and the speaker “pops.”
In the end, I wanted something a bit more professional and utilizing standards. Enter the MixerFace.
Centrance has made audio gear for some time. Mostly digital audio converters and headphone type amps, with the occasional foray into interfaces for mics. I didn’t know too much about them but I liked it was a smaller operation with a concentration on quality. The MixerFace for example is in an all metal housing. The knobs have excellent resistance and the unit feels substantial in the hand. It’s compact, but has most the important features one expects from a piece of professional gear.
"What I like about it is the versatility."
EACH input has a dedicated blend knob when using as an interface so for example, you can sing into channel 1 as a direct input and channel 2 with a guitar that has effects from the computer or mobile device. On top of that, each channel has a dedicated output so one could plug a guitar into it and run a line out to the board, essentially making it a DI box (with the Hi-Z switch on) AND utilizing the iOS or computer as your effects processor. Handy!
Each channel also has a high pass filter at 130 Hz to help with wind rumble if needed. It’s pleasant to hear. Not a jarring drop off. On the bottom of the unit is a threaded screw hole for attaching to standard camera mounts. My unit has an SD card for recording, but there is a less expensive unit without one that serves to be an interface only. The SD card version is worth the extra money, as it gives you options away from an attached mobile device.
The one thing that may throw people off about it is there’s no screen. So, it’s more art than science. But there’s a few rudimentary indicators to tell you if you’re getting a signal or peaking. When it turns red, you’ve hit -6dB so there’s still a bit of room to play with before it peaks.
It also has a variable line out for attaching to DSLR cameras with a mic input. So if the signal is too hot, switch to the lower output setting and adjust the camera input accordingly. It also has stereo or mono output monitoring. Again, very handy when recording oneself.
When I ordered the unit earlier this year, the condenser mics that were part of the package weren’t ready. Apparently they went back several times for a redesign to get it right. It was a long wait, but worth it. The mics are amazing. Clear. Transparent. Accurate. No coloration to speak of. What you hear is what you get… for better or for worse.
Now, it wasn’t cheap at $500. But I feel you get what you pay for. Other recorders by Tascam and Zoom are fine in their respective category, but the mics are usually subpar and/or the build quality is plastic and easily damaged if dropped. And if you go higher, say with Sound Devices, you better have a good reason you’re buying it.
I’ve been recording more audio lately out and about and part of the reason is the joy of using a piece of tech. Yeah, I know, it’s not like an instrument or anything. How much “joy” can one have simply pressing record on a portable recorder. The answer is surprisingly a lot. Because I look forward to unloading that audio file and listening back at the results. I, of course, tweak the audio a bit in post, but nothing ever feels like there’s too much to fix. Just subtleties.
There’s an onboard non removable lithium battery. At first I was wary of this thinking what would happen if it finally died on me. But in my very unscientific observations, I can tell it’s a quality battery that will probably last for years on end. I’ve spoken to the guys at Centrance and they seem to have excellent customer care. So, if something comes up, I feel like they’ll fix it if needed. Worst case scenario, I can always power it externally too with any usb type battery.” – Boris Bengin