Sound Devices MixPre-D by kennybro
The Mix Pre D is a small footprint, high-performance preamp/audio mixer with USB capabilities. SD rates freq response as 20Hz to 30kHz +0.2, -0.5bdB.
CONSTRUCTION AND DURABILITY...
I'm generally easy on my gear, but a true test of any unit is student use; I send these out with student video production crews as mic pres for Black Magic cinema cams, and in two years have had zero failures, in spite of some rough handling that would have buried lesser field pres.
The unit is solid as a brick, with heavy-gauge, ding-resistant aluminum box exterior and solid, clean electronic work interior. All switches, pots and jacks are top grade, as expected in a unit of this price point. In short, built like a tank.
FUNCTIONALITY... Field work
As a field pre, the unit excels. There's adequate gain (66dB mic to line) for any situation. Mix Pre D will operate on 2 AA batteries for 3 to 4 hours; 2 to 3 with the 48v engaged. Audio is clean and flat. Tone and slate is available for marking clips. HP at 80 and 160 (6dB per octave) also on board for some help with environmental rumbles, wind noise, whatever. Stereo mic level TA3 connector is available for unbalanced DSLR camera inputs. There's also an unbalanced TRS 1/8th" tape out available.
The limiting feature is set at 20:1, works excellently and is very useful for AGC in the field (but often brutal in a studio situation). Each channel is rout-able L, R or C, so two mics can be routed to individual channels of a camera.
HP monitoring is loud and clean, offering excellent monitoring in all field situations.
General operation can be somewhat complex for students at first, but learning the unit comprehensively is a great lesson in most aspects of preamp functionality for students. In short, the Mix Pre D is the most durable and useful field preamp availble; the best, IMO.
FUNCTIONALITY... Studio work
I'd really like to see an adjustable limit ratio for more comprehensive studio use, but this is designed as a field pre, not a studio preamp. Too bad, as that's about the only thing it needs to be a fully functional, stand alone studio pre for basic VO and "one-track-at-a-time" studio work.
Beside that, I use it for VO and track at a time music/SFX recording in my small upstairs studio. I pair it with Adobe Audition, and the USB connectivity and functionality is simple plug and play. Define the Mix Pre D as your interface and computer HW as playback and giddyup. You can monitor through USB in the headphones, but I usually just define computer HW for playback, and use Pre D as an input device.
Overall sound is that of a high-performance pre; clean and accurate. I haven't put it on a scope, but have no reason to doubt SD's rating of 20Hz to 30kHz +0.2, -0.5bdB. Mic inputs are transformer balanced. The on-board limiter threshold is adjustable from +8 to +18, extending it's functionality somewhat. It works excellently for VO.
Sample rate is selectable, 44.1, 48 and 96.
Best get the prescribed AC wall wart for studio use. Alternative is a Costco membership for deals on bulk AA batteries It eats batteries with the phantom engaged. Don't even bother in the studio.
Metering visibility is excellent in field or studio. The stereo segment meter is bright and accurate, and it also indicates limiter threshold with a button push (well... two buttons).
The Sound Devices Mix Pre D has many more hidden features than I've mentioned; check their spec sheet for further details ( http://cdn.sounddevices.com/download...re-d-facts.pdf ) IMO, it is the best overall, feature-packed in a small footprint, reliable and excellent-sounding field pre/mixer and basic use studio unit available. It's not inexpensive at over $900; the price puts it out of the range of many users, and renders it moot for a lot of higher-end users who don't need it's specific functionality. But if you have need for what it does, there is no better unit.