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Audio typically makes or breaks most video projects. Live mixing at an event can be tricky anytime you have more than just a single microphone as a source. The M-10E from Edirol (a division of the audio giant Roland) is a straightforward audio mixer meant to meet the needs of the entry-level consumer hobbyist who wants to gain more flexibility in sound mixing for their videos.
The unit comes with the advertised 10 channels of audio inputs, however, as is clearly stated on the front of the unit, they are ganged together into four stereo pairs plus a stereo AUX input. You control the gain (volume, levels) of your sources using four sliders and one AUX knob (potentiometer or pot). The front panel also includes a Master slider and a headphone volume control knob. Each of the four main channels has a balance control. Since each stereo channel has two inputs, this allows you to control the mix between two sources, whether they are a stereo L/R pair or not.
Each of the four stereo channels has a sensitivity (Sens) control, that functions like the trim control found on more expensive mixers. This control determines the input sensitivity on the channel and allows you to apply gain or cut to each stereo channel. In practical terms, this means you can patch in gear with high or low output levels and attenuate the channel to work properly with the signal.
On the back, each input and output is a standard RCA jack. In addition, the first four channels have microphone inputs terminated on 1/4-inch phone plugs. The master outputs also have either a line level signal via stereo RCAs or 1/4-inch mono phone plugs for left and right output.
You can power the mixer using standard household current and the included DC adapter (wall-wart) or via a single 9-volt battery that installs in a recessed compartment on the bottom of the unit. The battery power option is likely to attract the attention of budding videographers who are interested in a low-cost location mixer. This is not a true purpose-built location mixer.
In our field tests, the mixer worked as advertised. The first test consisted of setting up a simple two-microphone feed with the RCA outputs fed to a camcorder, via an RCA to stereo mini-plug Y-connector. After powering up the mixer and adjusting the input sensitivity of the two stereo channels, we got a good signal coming into our camcorder. The unit can handle four independent microphone feeds on stereo channels one and two, although if the microphones you use are mis-matched in their sensitivity, you’ll need to rely on the balance control to roughly match their levels. The drawback in this configuration is that you no longer have independent level control of each of the microphones.
With both microphones hot, we also attached an MP3 player to the AUX in channel and the mixer did a fine job of allowing us to mix all three signals. Other than typical hiss one would expect on a microphone fed channel with it’s gain maxed out, there was no other audible distortion of the signals that our ears could perceive. The signal coming out was definitely hot enough, even with battery-powered operation. Of course, you’ll want to bring backup batteries with you, but we didn’t seem to drain our single 9v in more than four hours of testing. The pots were not noisy, although they have a cheap feel to them. Likewise, the sliders have an inexpensive feel to them, but they basically work.
What It’s Not
Clearly, the M-10E is for beginning videographers. Besides the lack of balanced audio capabilities and phantom power to allow the use of condenser microphones, the price point is substantially less than a professional field mixer. Even the choice of 1/4-inch phone plugs for microphone inputs and main outputs indicate the target as the beginner market.
Professional mixers use XLR connectors not just for balanced audio, but also because the very connectors are a barrier to dust and debris entering the mixer chassis. Prolonged use of the mixer outdoors would likely lead to dust and debris entering through the large phone plug input openings and eventually lead to noisy contacts and degraded operation. Besides, 99% of all microphones worth using have XLR connections.
Mix It Up
It is hard to figure out where this mixer will be useful. If you just need to mix a pair of microphones, you’d do better to get one of the small XLR-mini-plug adapters. These adapters cost about the same as the M-10E, are a fraction of the size and will handle microphones better. If you are typically shooting in church or for events, tapping into the house mixer is probably your best bet. For the beginning videographer, the M-10E does what it’s designed to do, however, and if you typically need to mix a line source (e.g. a CD player) with some microphones, the price is right.
Contributing Editor Bill Davis owns and operates a video production company in Arizona.
Inputs: 10 channels: 5 L/R stereo RCA pairs
Channel Volume: 4 sliders, 1 rotary pot
Other Controls: 1 master slider, 1 headphone volume pot, 4 balance pots, 4 SENS pots
Outputs: 4 stereo pairs: L/R RCA (master), L/R RCA (Aux), L/R 1/4-inch (master), stereo 1/4-inch headphone
Other Feature: clipping (overload) indicator (L/R)
Dimensions (h x w x d): 2-3/8 x 8-5/8 x 6-3/4 inches
Weight (w/ battery): 1 lb. 11 oz. (2.3 kg)
Power Requirements: 9V DC (AC adapter included)
The M-10E is a small, battery-powered mixer for multiple sources, but one that will likely not meet the needs of professionals.