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Hey all, so after my interview with Paul Isaacs from Sound Devices about their new line of MixPre series many of you got in touch with me wanting to know my thoughts on the MixPre vs Zoom as a starting mixer recorder. Now some of you where sound designers and some sound mixers looking to jump up from the H4N or H6 Zoom recorders.

I don’t have either unit to do a side by side test at the moment but will list the main features and then you can make up your mind in terms of what you need.

I’ve gone for the Zoom F4 vs the MixPre-6 because they are a similar price point and both have 4 inputs etc.. I’ll just be up front and say that if you need more than 4 inputs and more flexibility then look to the 633 or F8. This is mainly aimed at folks looking to jump up from something less than those units.

 Inputs

Sound Devices MixPre-6

  • Mic: XLR active-balanced; 4k input Z
  • Line: XLR active-balanced; 4k input Z
  • Aux/Mic in: 3.5mm TRS, 2-channel unbalanced; 100k input Z
  • USB Audio: 4 channels
  • All inputs fully RF-filtered and overload protected.

Zoom F4

  • 4x 3in XLR / TRS connections
  • 3.5mm stereo jack input
  • With purchasing a Zoom Extension or capsule you can get 2 extra inputs on 5/6

Outputs

Sound Devices MixPre-6

  • 3.5mm headphone out
  • 3.5mm stereo jack out

Zoom F4

  • 1/4″ jack for headphone out
  • 2x XLR balanced outputs
  • 2x sub outs on a single 3.5mm unbalanced jack output

Sample Rates and Format

    • Both do up to 192kHz and 24 bit depth on

BWAV file formats. 

Timecode

SD MixPre-6

  • HDMI in only
  • 3.5mm LTC

Zoom F4

  • BNC IN /OUT

USB Interface Options

SD MixPre-6

  • 8 In / 4 out interface

Zoom F4

  • 6 In / 4 out Interface

Price Points

    SD MixPre-6 ~ $899
    Zoom F4 ~ $649

So far:

    So as you can see so far the Zoom F4 is giving the main concerns for anyone wanting to use it as a basic mixer and recorder options for anyone jumping up from a Zoom H4N. Great price point and already more flexibility.

Quality / Noise

SD MixPre-6

Freq Response – 10Hz to 80kHz +/- 0.5dB re 1kHz @ 192kHz sample rate

THD  – 0.005% max (@1kHz, 22-22kHz BW, gain=20dB, -10dBu in)

Equivelent Noise Input 

-130dBV (-128dBu) max (A-weighting, gain=76dB, 150 ohm source impedance)

Gain –  

  • Mic input: +6dB to +76dB
  • Line input: -20dB to +30dB
  • Line: ¼-inch TRS active-balanced; 4k input Z
  • Fader: -inf to +20dB
  • Headphone: -inf to +20dB
  • Total, Mic-to-recording (max): +96dB
  • Total, Mic-to-headphone (max): +116dB

ADC Dynamic Range

32 bit precision; 120dB dynamic range min (A-weighted, gain=10dB, fader=0dB)

Maximum Input Level

  • Mic XLR: +14dBu (limiters on or off)
  • Line XLR/¼-inch: +40dBu (limiters on or off)
  • Aux/Mic in: +10dBuLimiters
  • Limiter at all gain stages, range > 40dB.
  • First stage analog, subsequent stages digital
  • Low Cut Filters 40Hz to 240Hz (adjustable), 18 dB/oct. First stage analog, subsequent stages digital

Zoom F4

Input gain +10 to +75 dBInput impedance 3 kΩ or moreMaximum input level+14 dBu (at 0 dBFS, limiter ON)Phantom power+24/+48V 10mA maximum for each channel TRS inputs (LINE)Input gain−10 to +55 dBInput impedance 22 kΩ or moreMaximum input level+24 dBu (at 0 dBFS, limiter ON)Equivalent input noise −127 dBu or less (A-weighted, +75dB input gain, 150Ω input)Frequency characteristics 10 Hz – 80 kHz +0 5dB/−1 5dB (192kHz sampling rate)A/D dynamic range 120 dB typ (−60dBFS input, A-weighted)Crosstalk−90 dB or less (between adjacent channels, 1kHz)RTN (INPUT 5/6)Connector 3 5mm stereo miniNominal input gain−10 dBV/+4 dBuInput impedance 10 kΩ or moreMaximum input level+10 dBV (Level: −10 dBV), +24 dBu (Level: +4 dBu)MIC IN (INPUT 5/6)ZOOM mic capsule input (disables RTN (INPUT 5/6) when used)OutputsMAIN OUT 1/2 Connectors XLR balanced output (2: hot)Output impedance150 Ω or lessReference output level–10 dBV, 1 kHz, 600Ω loadMaximum output level+10 dBV, 1 kHz, 600Ω loadSUB OUT 1/2Connector3 5mm stereo mini unbalanced output jackOutput impedance 1 kΩ or less

Reference output level–10 dBV (Output Type: Normal), –40 dBV (Output Type: Mic), 1kHz, 10kΩ loadMaximum output level+10 dBV (Output Type: Normal), –20 dBV (Output Type: Mic), 1kHz, 10kΩ loadHEADPHONE Connector 1/4″ stereo unbalanced output jackOutput impedance 15 Ω or lessMaximum output level100mW + 100mW (32Ω load)D/A dynamic range106 dB typ (−60dBFS input, A-weighted)

Conclusion

This is depending on your needs so I’ll roughly break it down:

Bag work: Zoom F4 for being able to output more. This is not really what sound devices aimed the MixPre-6 at though.

Sound Designer: Very tricky, on the one hand the preamps are quieter on the SD and you don’t need the output functions as much and you can use the SD as a bigger USB Interface.

Beginner: The SD has a basic UI as well as advanced so you can get more used to the settings and with 4 inputs you are going to be covered for basic shoots.

Videographer / Blogger:  You would be fine with either device but I feel most would go for the cheapest as there isn’t that much priority

But let me know what you think below

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Matt Price

Matt Price

London Sound Recordist

I am a London Sound Recordist and Sound Editor for many types of projects around the film genres. This covers creative content right through to feature films. I am passionate about sharing my journey and knowledge to help the rest of the community. If you need anything from me, feel free to get in touch with me at London Sound Recordist.