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

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.