ATI (Audio Toys, Inc.), manufacturer of the Paragon mixing console, has developed a rackmountable, portable mixer/preamplifier using the same preamp design found in their high-end analog consoles. At a price of $2,995 the ATI 8MX2 provides high performance in a compact package for use with hard disk or tape-based digital multitrack recorders for live music or location based sound recording. The ATI 8MX2 can be used as a stand alone eight-channel mixer. This device complements the sonic characteristics of a microphone and is a good choice for recording situations where natural sound is desired. The 8MX2, coupled with an analog or digital storage device, provides a fully featured integrated studio or location recording system.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound/location recording, studio
Key Features: Eight channels, 48V phantom power, phase reverse, eight-channel multichannel output and return for recorders and workstations via 25-pin D-subs
Contact: ATI at 301-776-7879, Web Site, www.8mx2.com
The ATI 8MX2 is a very compact 1RU (11 inches deep). It weighs a mere seven pounds. The front panel has eight separate input control areas and a master section. Each input area has a switch for cue, phase reverse, return and mix. There are two dual concentric knobs controlling input gain (inner) with limiter threshold (outer) and mix level (inner) with mix pan (outer). All switches used on the 8MX2 are gold plated, self-cleaning and self-wiping. The potentiometers are rated for more than 10,000 cycles, making all controls of very high quality.
The master section front panel has a switch to determine monitoring of the mix output or the two-track return, with two more switches to select the signal to be metered and monitored. One switch selects channel return in monitor when cued and one for pre or post limiter cue select. There is one dual concentric rotary that controls mix level (inner) and mix pan (outer). A 1/4-inch stereo headphone jack with a level control pot is also included.
All signal levels are displayed on a 10-segment LED bargraph meter. An AC power switch toggle with an ‘on’ LED completes the master section.
The input gain is adjustable from +0 dB to +65 dB on a 41-position detented pot. This provides smooth control to easily repeat settings for various microphones. Also, with individual limiters on each channel and line level multitrack returns, it is clear that the 8MX2 is a very flexible well thought out device.
On the rear panel, each channel section has individual ground lift switches and a switch for 48V phantom power above the eight XLR connectors. Two nine-pin D-sub connectors are provided for linking additional units together. The channel outputs and channel return signals are carried via two 25-pin D-sub connectors. There are six TRS jacks on the back for monitor L/R, mix out L/R, and “2 TRK Ret” L/R. AC input is selectable between 118VAC or 240VAC with an operating range from -15 percent to + 10 percent of nominal.
I used the ATI 8MX2 while doing a rehearsal session for an upcoming Tony Bennett and kd Lang recording in New York. I recorded the tracks for a reference rehearsal tape.
Microphones that I am very familiar with sonically were plugged into the ATI 8MX2 preamps – Neumann KMS 105 on vocals, Sennheiser MKH80 for piano, Sennheiser MKH800 on bass and snare Neumann KM184 for snare drum. The 8MX2 was then connected via a 25-pin D-sub to TRS cable to a Yamaha AW4416 digital audio workstation.
Upon initial listening to the microphones with headphones connected to the 8MX2, I was immediately impressed with the quietness of the unit. I then set nominal levels on the preamps and adjusted the microphone placements to achieve an attractive sound for each instrument. Even without using the EQ on the AW4416, the vocals and all the instruments had a very pleasant natural sound that complemented each instrument. The limiter was adjusted for the bass and snare microphones and provided a nice tight sound without diminishing the dynamics of the playing.
With 20 dB of headroom in the mic preamps, you really should not need the limiter in most cases. However, it is still nice to have the feature when recording to digital to prevent peaking – since distortion is very audible when digital signals are recorded too hot.
On another day of rehearsal, a film crew from ABC’s 20/20 came to shoot for an upcoming segment. I gave them the mix out L/R from the 8MX2 and panned the vocals to left and the instruments to right for the audio feed sent to the video tape recorders. The 20/20 audio crew was knocked out with the quality of the sound they were getting. They said that they could not believe the studio quality of the compact 8MX2, which would make the ATI unit an excellent choice for a remote mixer.
The ATI 8MX2 rackmount, eight-channel preamp/mixer is a nice addition to any recording application. With true audio quality and flexibility, the 8MX2 contains an exceptional number of routing and mixing features for a single rack-space device. When recording, it presents integrity in the sound as natural as the original audio source – ideal in any recording situation, home studio or touring application.
Yamaha AW4416 digital audio workstation; Neumann KMS 105, KM184, Sennheiser MKH80, MKH800 microphones; Sony MDR-7506 headphones.