TPS093: Get a Mix-minus into a Smartphone and overview of the Mackie 402VLZ4

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How do you get audio from your phone (iPhone, Android, etc.) into your mixer? The simple answer is you plug it in. You can use a basic stereo cable (I prefer this “Y” cable*), plug one end into your phone’s headphone output Mackie402VLZ4and place the other end into an available channel on your mixer and now you can take audio from the phone into your recordings.  But what if you want to also send all the audio from the mixer (your mic, your co-host, sound FX, etc.) back to the person on the phone without them hearing themselves? That’s called a mix-minus and you can use a couple different devices to achieve this setup. 

On this episode I talk with Nick Seuberling about how he pulled off this setup for an important interview after he called me asking about a particular cable that would help him perform the mix-minus into his iOS device. I remembering seeing a device that could supply both an audio input and output at the same time while interfacing via TRRS, the type of connection you get on modern smartphones that allows one cable to both send and receive audio.

The device we used is called a Rockit Headphone/Microphone Splitter*. There are other devices like this including the Recap. The setup worked well but wasn’t without it’s own caveats. The biggest of these is that the Rockit is designed to interface with a “mic level” signal and what you are sending out of your mixer is “line level.” Much too strong for the device since “mic level” is looking for a weak signal and boosting to “line level.” You’ll hear how we overcame this but the bottom line is you’ll be keeping your volume knob very low. A better way to get around this would be to use an attenuator cable.

I also talk about an editing tip I tweeted (quoted below) and give an overview of the Mackie 402VLZ4 mixer.

The Mackie 402VLZ4 mixer is my favorite mixer in the “sub $100 mixer shootout” series.

I chose the Mackie 402VLZ4 for review because of Mackie’s premium Onyx preamps. Although this is the most compact of the audio mixers I chose to review including not having an auxillary channel, this is my favorite mixer of the group.

The build quality of the 402VLZ4 is unmatched. It’s encased in steel and has sealed knobs that help resist dust. This feels like a mixer that will last as long as you need it to. It also has the best audio meter resolution, employing 8 LEDs to help you get a more accurate gauge of your peak levels.

The preamp is clean all the way through it’s gain range up to +60db. This will power most microphones you plug into it including “gain hungry” dynamic microphones like the ATR2100 (used in my audio samples linked below).

But, if you are a podcaster that needs an auxiliary channel then this mixer would not be for you. You would need to upgrade to the model above this one at a significant price jump of approximately $100.

The extra money would still be worth it in my opinion but if your budget is less than $100 then you’d want to look at another mixer in this group, perhaps the Mix8 also by Mackie which also has nice preamps despite not being Onyx.

 

Links mentioned in this episode:

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About Ray Ortega

Full-time podcast producer and host of The Podcasters' Studio and Podcasters' Roundtable, I enjoy sharing my ten years of experience making podcasts to help others improve or start their own show.

Comments

  1. I purchased the Rockit device that you mentioned in this podcast and it is SO COOL!!!! However, I had absolutely no issues with the mic input line level, and I used it for a very simple application as opposed to what Nick was using it for. I use this to simply record phone calls for my podcast, and when I use it with my galaxy S4, the headphone signal removes my voice from the phone signal. My signal chain is as follows: Galaxy S4 phone to Rockit dongle, headphone out goes to a 3.5mm TRS to 1/4″ mono which goes to the line in of my recording interface. For the mic side, I put a simple dynamic mic like a Shure 58 into an XLR to 3.5mm mono cable which goes into the mic input of the Rockit. When I record an interview, I use headphones from the interface to hear the conversation, and I talk into the Shure 58 so the person I call can hear me, and I simultaneously talk into a mic that goes into a separate input on the interface so I can have my voice and the guest’s voice separated. The sound quality is excellent, and it requires no special mixer or apps beside the recording software of your choice. Thanks for posting this lifesaving podcast!

  2. I was curious to see if the Rockit can be used with the Zoom H4N and an xlr mic without a mixer to produce a mix minus for guests.

    • Not really. The problem is that the H4n can’t send back only one of the inputs and not the other which is what you would do with an aux channel on a mixer. However, it depends on what you are trying to do exactly. You many not need a mix-minus if you are only connecting to Skype and sending only your voice. Also, take a look at this video for another possible solution for recording Skype with the H4n https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoswJ5Vawas

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