Behringer 1002B 6-Channel In+/2-Channel+ Out Mixer
This compact battery/AC small mixer is just one part of a multitude of pro audio gear from this company, which engineers and designs its products in Germany, and manufactures them in its own facility (even Apple can’t claim THAT!) in mainland China. Their catalog, available online, a pretty good read for any budding or practicing audio engineer (www.behringer.com › Home › Support), offers a vast array of products, many for very targeted uses, and this little beauty turned out to be almost exactly what I was looking for at a price that astounded me! Could it be any good? Well, at an offered online price in Canada of $119.95 from bestcanadiangoodies.com, it was worth exploring, and even taking a chance on. And, of course, I did, and am simply ecstatic that I did. With the added HST and shipping, it was under $150.00, but in a recent look at this site, I saw no pro audio at all, so it may well have been a consignment situation at the time. There are lots of vendors for Behringer products both in real and cyber space, so don’t despair if this box is the one you’re looking for - it’s very available. And here’s a quick profile of what the 1002B does from that catalog:
“Premium ultra-low noise analog mixer with optional battery operation; 2 state-of-the-art XENYX Mic Preamps comparable to stand-alone boutique preamps; Neo-classic ‘’British’’ 3-band EQs for warm and musical sound; Optional battery operation (with 9 V alkaline batteries) allows for mobile operation; 4 balanced, high-headroom stereo inputs with 3 additional mic inputs; One FX send and one Monitor send per channel for external FX devices and monitor applications; Clip LEDs on all channels and dedicated inserts on all mono channels; Main output plus separate Phones and CD/Tape outputs; Switchable phantom power for condenser microphones; Long-wearing 60-mm logarithmic-taper master fader and sealed rotary controls; External power supply for noise-free audio and superior transient response; High-quality components and exceptionally rugged construction ensure long life.”
If you find that prose a wee bit purple, here’s some more specific corporate adulation of the special aspects of the 1002B:
”The British consoles of the 1960s and ‘70s changed the sound of rock and roll—without them the British Invasion might not have happened. Those legendary mixing desks soon became the envy of engineers and producers all over the world. The 3-band EQ on the XENYX 1002B mixer is based on that very same circuitry, allowing you to imbue signals with incredible warmth and detailed musical character. Even when applied generously, these equalizers exhibit sweet forgiveness and superb audio quality.”
“Its compact size and flexible input scheme also make it the natural choice of sports announcers for calling play-by-play game action. Likewise, radio and TV reporters especially like the XENYX 1002B for its ease-of-use, remarkable fidelity and rugged reliability. And the 9 V battery option allows newscasters and correspondents to use the 1002B in remote locations where power is hard to come by. (Two 9 V alkaline batteries are required for normal operation, three for phantom power).”
Well, I’ll deal with all of these claims as we proceed, but initial impressions have to be that this is a very versatile mixer, with 5 microphone preamps (only 2 actually XENYX-circuited, the other 3 more ordinary in nature), and simultaneously usable line inputs with their own trimmers, along with the microphone ones. Conversely, the XENYX pair can be used with their line inputs, too, but there is no separate level control, so I opted to ignore these. Besides, at left there is another pair of pure line inputs with either RCA or TPS inputs in parallel.
That adds up to a total of 5 mike ins, and 4 line pairs simultaneously (yes, the line-ins on all the microphones sliders except the XENYX are stereo) have their own trimmers, meaning that you can have 5 live microphones, 4 separately-controlled stereo inputs (excepting those on the XENYX pres), and can use the separate pre-fader FX send/returns for Cue in a broadcast application with, say, a separate small powered speaker or dedicated headphone. Also a nice touch for this application is the separate battery (9V) available for phantom power, allowing the use of high quality voice or music microphones on location. The pair of 9Vs (alkaline) for overall operation will run for about 4 continuous hours, while the phantom one’s life depends on microphone usage, of course, and could be as much as 10 hours.
Thus, we have a board that works for both live DJ speech, interview, and music reproduction, all in this small, sturdy, all-steel chassis. That’s pretty impressive in itself, though there are a few minor problems I’ll address presently. There’s also the “highly musical 3-band British EQ” to tune the sound to the particular premises one finds oneself situated in on a remote. I’ve known broadcast engineers who would blow a big chunk of budget for something like this that was relatively announce/operator foolproof. But we are talking old-school technology here, since most current broadcast gear, including remote stuff, is largely digital and computer operated. However, for campus and community radio stations, the XENYX 1002B has to be a godsend, affordable and usable in the extreme.
It’s also (see the simplified diagrams) an excellent mixer for small group recordings that mix vocal and instrumental, and can get even more serious for larger ensembles with a few channels of outboard microphone preamp channels (8 are possible, each independently controlled in the 10002B), so, as a recording mixer this little baby is quite astonishingly accommodating for use in small studios or for remote music recording of all sorts, the line inputs also fine for electric instruments like guitars and keyboards, able to be employed in either balanced TRS mono or unbalanced RCA stereo in any of the non-XENYX ins. All I can say about the engineering intelligence in this configuration is, WOW!
But let’s talk a bit about outdoor recording, which is why I bought this mixer. First of all, you can squeeze 4 channels of output from the 1002B, by using the FX as 3, and the Monitor as right as 4. However, the caveat here is that while FX is pre-fader, and thus independent of the slider, with its own rotary control, Monitor is post-fader, and thus will inevitably have to blend with, say, channel 2. In my usage at the cottage this past Summer, I was going directly from the Shure VP-88 M-S microphone into the front stereo inputs (1/2) of the 6-channel TASCAM DR-680, so there was no alteration to the the stereo soundstage I was creating, and from the 1002B, the sides (3/4), and rear (5/6) tended to work a little better with some blend, anyway, to mitigate the effect of the quite widely spaced surround outdoor microphone pairs (+ rooftop shotguns; see that review nearby for more on this surround recording configuration).
I guess the sum total (to be completely redundant) of all this usage verbiage, is that the Behringer XENYX 1002B mixer is amazingly well designed for a variety of applications, and like the TASCAM recorder just mentioned, can suit a myriad of audio applications. It’s neither wonder nor surprise that they work so well together, even insofar as keeping all connections desired as balanced just so, all the way from source to recorded track. How can you beat that for connectivity?
Well, after all that, it would be a terrible shame if such a versatile recording tool didn’t live up to its potential (and hype!), and I’m glad to say that it does - in spades! If you look at the quoted specs, you might laugh at such claims for an inexpensive mixer, to quote from the manual:
The microphone preamps themselves are specified at a S/N ratio of 120 dB A-weighted (0 dBu In @ +22 dB GAIN), which is pretty impressive, and should be well below the input- or self-noise of most quality condenser microphones.
How was the 1002B in practice? Well, I must say that noise was never a concern with balanced microphones, and the phantom worked well, even in battery use, where the specified voltage of +18 volts seemed no problem with any of my condenser types, though the lower the phantom, the less theoretical S/N ratio available. In a quiet studio under AC power the full rated +/-24 V capacity is available (seemingly equivalent to what is commonly called 48 V).
In practice, the cables and connections were much more a factor than any inherent preamp noise, with unbalanced mikes like my TASCAM and Sony mid-side electrets, or the excellent Microsonics coincident electrets from Britain. The latter will work fine with any phantom from 5 to 18 volts, it seems, delivering their lowest noise, of course, with the 1002B’s much higher phantom power, which is especially valuable with quite long microphone cables. In general, there were no problems that couldn’t be remedied by careful system and cable grounding with any of the microphones I used with his mixer. I also used a Church Audio outboard microphone preamp into the RCA line inputs with good success, too, it having its own internal 5-volt electret phantom current.
In the home studio as well, I can’t complain about the Behringer’s performance, everything quiet with full phantom in a very similar way to that of my usual house mixer, a Soundcraft Spirit Folio Lite, which has 4 excellent and quiet microphone preamps with full 48-volt phantom. I could hear no difference with good studio condensers in noise performance, though the sound on voice was actually a little different, the latter sounding a little more round, mellow (and perhaps truly “British”) than the 1002B, (without EQ, of course, on either).
Do I have any criticisms or caveats about this inexpensive mixer? Well, there is one serious problem, seen in the photo that captures the blue glow from the LED pilot light, or vertical flashlight that is stock with this mixer. It threw a powerful blue circular glow about a foot in diameter on my studio ceiling, and was a distinct annoyance when using the mixer, and I certainly wouldn’t want it illuminating any live venue in which I had to record. A little thought, and a subsequent visit to my odds-and-ends toolbox resulted in a black cable insulation sleeve around the base of an opaque plastic nub over the LED, this combination muting the minor day-glo lighting effect.
Other complaints? Well, yes…it’s about the really Mickey-Mouse battery compartment in the bottom of the unit, with a loosely-slot-hinged lid held on by a single tiny very losable screw (as you can see, I have added black electrical tape to hold the lid in place and keep the screw from immediately disappearing when I’m changing batteries), and the finger-busting way in which the 9-volts have to be installed, and worse, removed (in my case, with a pocket knife as lever). There seems to be a bit of senseless sadism in this design, that could break many a fingernail when one is trying to get the little buggers in and out. This necessary process also tends to bend the mounting clips for the 9-volts.
And why is it all 9-volt-based, since the batteries are expensive, relatively limited in lifespan, and awkward to handle? Even Stellavox, in making an expensive portable mixer in 1975, saw the efficacy of AAs, even if it required a dozen for 18 volts. And, frankly, a 12- or 24-volt design would have made integration into the now-very-common 12-volt portable and off-the-grid systems much simpler. TASCAM got that message in the DR-680 recorder, which mates so well with the 1002B, not to mention my cottage 12-volt grid.
That off my chest (whew!), the overall sound seems very neutral, accompanied by low overall noise in the field, certainly well below the environmental ambience, and the microphones’ own noise (all of which have ended up being used after elimination of those that weren’t acceptably quiet). It’s a clean machine!
How does it compare with my beloved similarly sized Stellavox AMI 48 mixer? Well, the Behringer is certainly more versatile, and while its microphone preamplifiers seem a little drier in sound, they are very clean and open sounding, with lots of detail. Is it a question of warmth over detail, or a more analytical quality that detracts from musicality? The mike preamps in my Soundcraft Spirit Folio Lite are a little closer to those of the Stella, and tend to favour my own voice in a way that I like. But, at the same time, I’ve very much liked the 1002B’s objectivity in my recent nature recordings. There’s a lot of subjectivity in recording, and I don’t think we’re really any closer to getting away from this 60-or-so years after the advent of stereo recording.
It’s rather like photography (I say, as I break in yet another new Canon camera, bought for its HD video capabilities), in that while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are many ways to find this beauty, visually and sonically, and in both cases, objective technical performance does not tell the whole tale. Am I fudging? Yes, I guess I am, but still seeking the truth, as I peer into a glass darkly, and listen into the light and darkness of musical and natural sounds. Can beauty be combined with neutrality in this case? Well, to quote American Pie (written about the same time that Georges Qeullet was developing his first AMI mixer), “The courtroom was adjourned, no verdict was returned…” I’ll work with both in parallel for awhile to determine which gives me my own recording truth.
All in all, I’d have to call the Behringer ZENYX 1002B a veritable Swiss Army Knife among mixers (if not really Swiss like the Stella) at a truly incredible price for a very surprising level of real-world engineering ingenuity and excellence. And I really find it hard to criticize its sound in any truly meaningful way beyond what I’ve already tried to say already. In fact, I’ve just bought another 1002B to increase the flexibility in my home studio, while maintaining the additional flavours of the other two mixers’ classic microphone preamps, just so I can have it more than both ways.
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