Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

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dondidnod

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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSat Oct 12, 2019 6:43 pm

When this topic got started, Rick and I were on the waiting list for the backordered hit of the NAB show, the Zoom F6. We changed our minds and bought the Sound Devices MixPre6 II instead. Was it worth the extra money?

To answer this I borrowed a Zoom F8, which has the same preamps as the F6, and put them both through their paces. With my untrained singing voice, I recorded two songs at 24 bit, 48 kHz using a Sennheiser MKE 600 Supercardiod (no pop filter) in a recording booth. No limiter was configured on either recorder, as I was trying to test the ability of each pre-amp to respond to the rapid amplitude rise of my voice, to see how musical it is when overdriven.

I normalized the sound clips in Avid Pro Tools and edited them with phrases back to back. I sang Hallelujah and Thunderball. Most of the differences can be found if you fast forward to 3:40.

At the end of Thunderball, the F8 clipped, so I did a second take of both devices. Here is the waveform showing the flat ceiling of the last word "Thunderball" in the ending two takes using the Zoom F8. The first take of that word on the MixPre6 II I must have started off axis on "ball" to prevent clipping. On the second take it was direct into the Mic and it should have clipped more than it did.
MixPre6&F8Waveforms.jpg
Audio waveform - MixPre6 II top left Zoom F8 bottom right
MixPre6&F8Waveforms.jpg (197.22 KiB) Viewed 1506 times

The back to back comparison is here:


The Sound Devices MixPre6 II has greater headroom and better damping than the F8. It was more revealing of imperfections that may have to be dealt with in post. I got a good result from the Zoom F8 most of the time, but under extreme circumstances, the Sound Design's class A Kashmir pre-amps are worth the extra juice they consume. The unprocessed signal of the Zoom F8 was less complex, with very light, almost unnoticeable smearing of the details, sort of an equalization of the signal. I disliked hearing my voice during tracking on the MixPre6 II because it revealed everything in my windpipe but later it sounded okay on playback. Maybe the Zoom F6 was the first to announce 32 bit float recording because it needed it more to deal with the tendency to clip on loud passages.

Yes, it was worth the extra $200.00 USD. Just check out the resale value of older models to see that I'm not alone in this observation.

Thanks to the Broadcast Engineering and Media Arts dept. at City College of San Francisco for the use of their studio and equipment.
Last edited by dondidnod on Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:37 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSat Oct 12, 2019 7:53 pm

Thanks for that comparison, Don! Very entertaining as well as informative. I think your singing supports what others have claimed regarding the performance of the Sound Devices MixPre II. I’m in the very early stage of beginning to work with audio recorded for the music videos and I didn’t know if my new Line Audio Design CM-4 mics or the MixPre were giving me the rich sound. It’s probably both working well together.

I’ve also heard how low the noise floor remains when increasing the audio level in post. That is so important given volumes occasionally drop lower than I anticipate. And the clapping of hands is another bothersome characteristic of recording performances and that seems to be handled better now.


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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSat Oct 19, 2019 11:26 am

Hey folks, I just posted what is apparently the first request for 32-bit audio support in
DaVinci Resolve » DaVinci Resolve Feature Requests

As we are jonesing for Resolve to support what the MixPres and Zoom can produce, it might help drive priority if people jump over there and +1 my request.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSat Oct 19, 2019 3:14 pm

My understanding is that normalizing 32bit audio has been working in Fairlight but any adjustment has not been passed on to Deliver. I see in Resolve 16.1 final that Deliver can now “decode 32bit” but I don’t understand if that means it’s now handling 32bit audio that has been adjusted in Fairlight.


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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSun Oct 20, 2019 5:53 am

OwenCrowley wrote:Hey folks, I just posted what is apparently the first request for 32-bit audio support in
DaVinci Resolve » DaVinci Resolve Feature Requests

As we are jonesing for Resolve to support what the MixPres and Zoom can produce, it might help drive priority if people jump over there and +1 my request.


I looked through recent posts on a couple of feature request threads, but I didn't see your post. Can you put a link here for me to follow to reinforce your request?
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSun Oct 20, 2019 3:53 pm

Tom Donalek wrote:
OwenCrowley wrote:Hey folks, I just posted what is apparently the first request for 32-bit audio support in
DaVinci Resolve » DaVinci Resolve Feature Requests

As we are jonesing for Resolve to support what the MixPres and Zoom can produce, it might help drive priority if people jump over there and +1 my request.


I looked through recent posts on a couple of feature request threads, but I didn't see your post. Can you put a link here for me to follow to reinforce your request?


Hopefully this link will work:
https://forum.blackmagicdesign.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=100973
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSun Oct 20, 2019 7:14 pm

Owen - thanks!
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostMon Oct 21, 2019 7:07 am

Well, instead of posting that feature request on the forum you should submit this as a feature request via support contact form:
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/contact/email

That way it will get a support ticket and the more people do that, the more they will see that there is demand for this.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostTue Oct 22, 2019 12:57 am

Robert Niessner wrote:Well, instead of posting that feature request on the forum you should submit this as a feature request via support contact form:
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/contact/email

That way it will get a support ticket and the more people do that, the more they will see that there is demand for this.


Done! Thank you, Robert.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 24, 2019 6:29 pm

Support request submitted. Thanks!
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 31, 2019 8:12 am

Played with MixPre-3 II few hours yesterday evening and here are some quick personal critical impressions:

The biggest problem for me was get AA batteries out of sled. Not too user friendly design. The solution - place thin ribbon under the batteries. This usually helps in similar situations to get out batteries from holders.
AA batteries is a total shame. Instead of 4xAA they could design sled with SINGLE 18650 li-ion battery and it will produced same Wh capacity.
Battery sled may looks thin, but subjectively seems it is not cheap ABS plastic. It feels like made of Polyamide or similar heavy duty heat resistant Nylon-like industrial material.

XLR lock handles are very tiny and with sharp edges. Not too comfortable to press. Sort of idiotic design way to fit everything inside slim size to provide 5mm less body thickness.

As expected, preamps sounds slightly different between MixPre and MixPre-3 II because transformers technology is very different between them.
As expected, when you plug MixPre out to MixPre-3 II Aux line in, and record with 32 bit mode, you can not recover similar ultra wide dynamic range clipped data as from native MixPre-3 II peamps recording. But it is still better than 24 bit recording because MixPre still allow to recover very tiny amount of clipped data. MixPre was calibrated with 20db tone signal and tested with limiters turned OFF.

Until you create Presets for different connections it is impossible to switch things and setups as fast and intuitive as with MixPre physical buttons.

For some reason "switch to USB files transfer mode" hidden too deep. You need too many clicks inside menu every time when you connect it to computer and want to transfer files.

Faders knobs rotate very smooth and well damped. Input gain faders are fully digital, so they can not change input gain in real time with same smoothness as analogue MixPre faders. When switched to final mix volume control mode, they probably provide more smoothness but i don't tested it yet.

Вespite all this MixPre-3/6 II is a great tool and no any real alternative to it.

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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 31, 2019 6:42 pm

When I was editing the audio from the musical theatre recording I believe I found a temporary glitch with the MixPre-6 II. The recording was of two acts each about 75 minutes long. Each recording was less than 4 GB.

For no apparent reason well
Into the recording for approximately 10-12 seconds there was a strong hum (sort of). Applying a de-hum did little. When I looked at the audio in detail, it wasn’t a hum. Instead of the sound waves being continuous and looking normal, the sound looked more like an even series of small very brief bullet holes, All four tracks had the same behaviour including my Sennheiser MKH416, so it wasn’t due to the mics or the feed from the soundboard. My MKH416 wasn’t plugged in directly but all audio appeared to have an identical corruption.

Anyone heard or seen that strangely temporary behaviour? I did my best to correct it in post, and lower the volume, but far from perfect.




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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 31, 2019 7:16 pm

Rick, I haven't encountered any glitches like that in the original MixPre-6, nor have I seen any similar reports online. That's very strange; you should report it to Sound Devices and send them a copy of that section of the recording.

On an unrelated note (but related to ergonomics, which Dmitry touched on above): When I'm recording music and can put the MixPre on a table, I find everything is a lot easier if I plug in one of the compatible control surfaces (I use the Korg NanoKontrol Studio, which doesn't have the greatest build quality but does have dedicated buttons for things like adding markers and navigating from one marker to another, which is useful). The control surface is a much more ergonomic and intuitive way of working in Advanced mode: it's just like a regular mixer where you have dedicated trim knobs for each channel, faders, record-arm buttons, etc. I put the MixPre on a tiny desktop tripod and put the control surface in front of it. Wingman can be used to enter notes in the metadata.

You can program the * button to be used to add markers, but I prefer using the control surface; everything's more ergonomic and intuitive.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 31, 2019 7:37 pm

Thanks, Brad.


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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostThu Oct 31, 2019 8:12 pm

rick, it may be due microphone itself. In some situations they catch low frequency and start to resonate and produce endless loop ph-ph-ph-ph-ph like sound. Usually low cut filter 40 or 80 helps. On old MixPre they also resonate with headphones output if headphone volume was set too high (even if headphones where not plugged).
Also it is recommended plug-in and warm-up microphones few minutes (or hours?) before recording start. Especially if they where not used long time before.

Here are some modifications:
1. Permanent battery handle made of sticky tape.
2. Sharp corners on sled where removed.

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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 5:22 am

Interesting Dmitry. I warm up my camera and mics etc for a half hour or more once I plug in the mains power. At least I know it’s temporary and may not reoccur. May have been related to the cool ambient air outdoors as I transport equipment and get to the site of the shoot. I’ll keep them turned on longer if possible during cold weather.


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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 5:36 am

Thanks for the comparisons Dmitry.

The wow'ing, does that occur when you run the MixPre stand alone as well?
What you describe sound like two close but different LF frequencies mixed causing pulsing.

If you change power source, from or to battery or USB-C powered, does it change in any form?
Or if you change location from indoors to out in the field away from any power source other then the AA-cells in the MIxPre?
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 6:15 am

rick, one more thing. It also could be due dirty electric connectors, especially 3.5m minijacks known for lost connection and produce buzz noise when became dirty.
So wipe XLR pins (as well as any other electronic connectors) with isopropyl alcohol wipe with paper somehow. Wipe with isopropyl alcohol again and quick insert them in and out to socket to clean inner parts. wipe with paper again. You may repeat this few times until paper became white and clean after wiping.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 9:52 am

And here is the bad thing:

When i plugged devise as USB sound card to macOS 10.14.6. During playback of ambient-like music with reach bass i noticed small amount of strange distortion-like random background noise in loud parts. It became more noticeable when i increase headphones volume to 70-75.
I try different cables and different headphones, change sample rate and bit depth, turn off all inputs, turn off limiters, change display and LCD brightness, reset to factory defaults. No changes.
My old FireWire sound card playbacks same music file smoothly without any background noise distortion even if i crank headphones volume to max.

Next i done another test - upload file to SD card and play it back.
Both headphones-out and line-out produce similar random background distortion-like noise in random parts of the music track. Line-out produce less noticeable distortion noise. "St. Out Gain" in "Outputs" settings was set to 0. "L&R Gain" in "Record" settings also was set to 0.
Device was powered with fully charged AA battery sled.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 10:34 am

Ouch.
That sounds nothing like the experience I have from my first gen MixPre-6.
Did you experience that distortion-like while monitoring during playback as well or only on playback?

If you upload the same USB-IO recording for me to playback in my MixPre I can have a go at with different headphones and IEM I have.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 10:48 am

...
Last edited by Dmitry Shijan on Fri Nov 01, 2019 7:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 2:13 pm

Seems i find a firmware bug, or my device is broken. Can someone check if same problem exists on other MixPres?
It seems something wrong with headphones output or some kind of internal routing headphone levels problem. Here is example:

If i connect MixPre-3II as USB audio device to listen music from computer and monitor with MixPre-3II Headphones-out, (headphones volume set to 75) it produce a lot of background distortions. No red clipping indicator in the corner.

If i connect MixPre-3II as USB audio device to listen music from computer and output MixPre-3II Headphones-out (headphones volume set to 75) to classic MixPre Tape-RTN (input volume set to Min) and then monitor with classic MixPre Headphones-out, it sounds clean until you boost MixPre-3II Headphones volume over 80 when clipping indicator appears in the corner.

If i connect MixPre-3II as USB audio device to listen music from computer and output MixPre-3II LINE-out (St.Out L/R mapped to USB 1/2, St. Out Gain set to 0) to "classic" MixPre Tape-RTN (input volume set to Min) and then monitor with "classic" MixPre Headphones-out, it produce background noise distortion. No red clipping indicator in the corner.

Here is a sample test file with deep bass to playback: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1e0mk5fkqumhh ... f.wav?dl=0

I record a video to better illustrate this problem. Headphones placed very close to smartphone microphone, so in the end you can hear those actual noisy distortion clicks. Take a look https://www.dropbox.com/s/ywb2xfquhs6wv ... 5.mp4?dl=0

P.S.
I got same results if i upload file to SD card and playback directly fromMixPre-3II file system.
I can hear distortion with large headphones if i increase headphones volume to 56 and higher.
I can hear distortion with small plugs headphones if i increase headphones volume to 36 and higher.
Last edited by Dmitry Shijan on Fri Nov 01, 2019 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 2:39 pm

Thanks Dmitry for the files and detailed procedures.
I'll test them tonight and get back to you.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 5:36 pm

For last Sunday’s recording in the MixPre-6 II, I powered directly from a wall socket although I had a pair of XL-B3 batteries connected via the sled just in case I needed to move.

I have only used 4 XLR mics or 1 XLR mic and 1 XLR line feed. Have only used the 3.5mm audio input to feed Tentacle Timecode.

I wasn’t monitoring the audio as my camera was in a different location to the MixPre. Maybe 10m away; I don’t think I have long enough cables to patch into the headphones and wire would need to be put on the floor if I did which wouldn’t be good as people are seated there. This was shooting in very cramped quarters with a full house to enjoy the final performance.


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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 5:46 pm

...
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 01, 2019 6:04 pm

I've listened to your 01-Blue-Calx track Dmitry.
Played with Quicktime player on my Mac with the MixPre-6 first gen as USB I/O.
I used my Beyerdynamic 770 250Ω on the HP output.
Listened several times while increasing the volume from half all the way to max and I did not hear any kind of amplification or digital distorsion.
When the deepest bass hits there is a tiny distorsion but that is audible at all levels and when played back on the Mac as well as on the iPhone. So that is not related.

Unfortunately, your MixPre II might be a bit under the weather.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostMon Nov 04, 2019 5:12 pm

After some attempts with firmware reinstall, factory reset and other settings tweaks final respond from tech support - it is most likely hardware problem with my unit. So i need to send it back for exchange. Not lucky me.

During this days i also done some other tests and it appears that my old MixPre+R09HR kit is actually holds very well. In high frequencies range R09HR line-in appears slightly less noisier than MixPre-3II line-in. But that difference is only visible if in post boost ultra quiet levels to extreme +24db.
Probably more noise in high frequency is the payment for wide dynamic range multiple combined A/D converters design.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostMon Nov 04, 2019 5:34 pm

Now that's a bummer.
Sorry to hear that. At least they care and will make it right.
Did they say anything regarding what might have happened to it?

Do you have to send it to them or can you return it for a replacement form the distributer/reseller?

Dmitry Shijan wrote:After some attempts with firmware reinstall, factory reset and other settings tweaks final respond from tech support - it is most likely hardware problem with my unit. So i need to send it back for exchange. Not lucky me.

During this days i also done some other tests and it appears that my old MixPre+R09HR kit is actually holds very well. In high frequencies range R09HR line-in appears slightly less noisier than MixPre-3II line-in. But that difference is only visible if in post boost ultra quiet levels to extreme +24db.
Probably more noise in high frequency is the payment for wide dynamic range multiple combined A/D converters design.
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostMon Nov 04, 2019 5:46 pm

SD tech support is very fast and responsive. They only tell me that they never seen similar problem before with any of both generations MixPre-3/6/10. They even offer to extend 30 day return period to reseller. I'm located in different country very far from reseller, so it may take a while to replace item.

P.S. MixPre-3 ON/OFF switch is another thing that feels like total disaster after you spend some time to operate the unit. Too tiny, too close to USB-C port, extends not enough to grab it well. And it was not enough pain for users, so designers choose button with pure black color to make it hard to see on black panel.
Why don't use simple "press and hold 2 seconds" on/off button similar to all other modern devices?
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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostFri Nov 08, 2019 11:54 pm

By the way, some audio apps can render output to similar "clipless" 32 bit or even double precision 64 bit float. In my example Cockos Reaper https://www.reaper.fm/ render settings:

Another app Rogue Amoeba Fission https://www.rogueamoeba.com/fission/ also can read, trim and write 32 bit float WAV files natively. But it is limited only by lossless trimming option. It can't normalize 32 bit files or do any other proper effects itself.

So formally it is possible to keep full workflow in 32 bit.

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Re: Sound Devices MixPre-6 II (second generation)

PostSat Nov 09, 2019 12:20 am

Dmitry Shijan wrote:By the way, some audio apps can render output to similar "clipless" 32 bit or even double precision 64 bit float. In my example Cockos Reaper https://www.reaper.fm/ render settings:


Ardour (the open-source DAW for Linux, Mac, and Windows) and Harrison Mixbus, which is built on Ardour, also can render 32 bit floating point files, either the stems or the stereo mix. It seems to be a pretty common option.
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