Sound Devices MixPre-6 vs Zoom F4 on Paper

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 Response10Hz 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 dB
                Input impedance 3 kΩ or more
                Maximum 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 dB
                Input impedance 22 kΩ or more
                Maximum 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 mini
                Nominal input gain−10 dBV/+4 dBu
                Input impedance 10 kΩ or more
                Maximum 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)Outputs
                MAIN OUT 1/2 Connectors XLR balanced output (2: hot)
                Output impedance150 Ω or less
                Reference output level–10 dBV, 1 kHz, 600Ω load
                Maximum output level+10 dBV, 1 kHz, 600Ω load
                SUB OUT 1/2Connector3 5mm stereo mini unbalanced output jack
                Output impedance 1 kΩ or less
                 Reference output level–10 dBV (Output Type: Normal), –40 dBV (Output Type: Mic), 1kHz, 10kΩ load
                Maximum output level+10 dBV (Output Type: Normal), –20 dBV (Output Type: Mic), 1kHz, 10kΩ load
                HEADPHONE Connector 1/4" stereo unbalanced output jack
                Output impedance 15 Ω or less
                Maximum 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