Mix It Right
Get In the Mix
TAPCO by Mackie is a less expensive, entry-level brand. A poor man’s Mackie, sort of, that still maintains a consistent and honorable quality at a reasonable price point. The Mix.120 is the top model in the Ultra-Compact Mixer Series and upon opening the box, its ultra-compact size is quite astonishing. The length and width of this 12-Channel mixer is not more than a standard sheet of paper (see Tech Specs below for the official dimensions). If you have limited desk space with your edit suite, this might be a perfect fit for you.
Even though the construction of this unit features a cost-saving design, it remains solid enough to take on harsher environments than what you'd expect to find on your edit suite desk. Heavy gauge steel side panels stand out with their Spanish Orange color and the time of this review, TAPCO does not offer different model colors. However, the side panels are a snap to remove, so if you want to re-paint them to your liking, it’s entirely possible. On the other hand, you may void your manufacturer’s limited warranty in the process, so maybe you should wait on that move. It’s also important to note that this unit does not have a power switch. While this is a minor nuisance, it’s critical to remember to set all your levels to zero before plugging in the power adapter to avoid damaging your ears, speakers or other devices.
Break It Down
Channels 1-4 are independent channels with both balanced XLR Mic and ¼ TRS/TS line inputs. Each of these channels has its own gain knob, appropriately positioned on the face of the mixer just below the inputs. With the mixer’s 48-Volt phantom power button, these channels are perfect for condenser microphones that need the additional power. Channels 1-4 also have a 75Hz low cut button and a 3 band EQ, so you can really take control of your sound. If you need to capture voice over for your productions, this is just what you’ll need to get a good recording. Furthermore, all the channels on the board have separate Auxiliary Send, Pan and Level knobs.
The next 8 inputs are mixed into stereo (Left/Right) ¼” TRS/TS pairs each with a +4/-10 dB selector button. This will allow you to hook up a variety of consumer and professional devices that need mic or line level inputs. These inputs are perfect for running audio from your VCR, DVD player or any line level mono or stereo device. Unfortunately, these channels don’t have their own EQ section. However, in the rare chance you needed it, you could use your Auxiliary send to route the signal to an external processor for equalization. For people who are making dubs from old VHS tapes, this could be especially useful with the appropriate external audio processor.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s also a stereo tape in and out RCA connection available. You can add this to the main mix by activating the Tape to Mix button or it can run to the control room out or phones out by activating its own button. Either way, the tape option can be useful even if just for playing music while you work for enjoyment or for looking for the perfect score for your production.
Level It Out
The TAPCO Mix 120 has in total 8 levels to mix to your main level, using a rotary knob. Fine tuning your mix is easy enough using these knobs which are slightly larger than all the rest on the board. The Main Mix level features a smooth 60mm fader that ranges from -60dB to +10dB.
You can send these levels out using the stereo ¼” TRS/TS Main Out or monitor them separately with the stereo ¼” TRS Control Room Out or ¼” TRS Phones. You also control the monitor level separately with the CTRL ROOM/PHONES rotary. This means you can record your audio at one level using the Main Outs and meanwhile listen closely at another volume level using the Control Room or Phones Out.
One of the limitations of this mixer is the four-segment level meter. There are only four LEDs for each left and right channel of the Main Mix. These are set active at the -20dB, 0dB, +6dB and OL dB (or Overload) levels. The meter will help you get in the ball park of what a good mix should sound like, but you’ll need to monitor closely with your ears to get it fine tuned (which is usually how the best audio engineers do it anyhow). A good pair of studio monitors or professional headphones should be used to get the most out of your recordings using this mixer.
Another limitation revolves around the Aux Send output. Unfortunately, there’s no Aux Return input on the Mix 120. You’ll have to connect an Aux Return using a stereo channel. So, if you are certain that you’ll use an external audio processor, consider one of your stereo channels dedicated to the Aux Return. Or, in other words, you are going to lose two channels and have a 10-channel mixer instead of a 12-channel mixer.
All Things Equalized
Overall, we find the TAPCO Mix 120 to be a great tool for semi-professional videographers who need a powerful yet simple solution. It’s everything you’ll need to cut voice-overs, run multiple devices into your edit bay, and have more control over our audio. Considering its compact size and compact price, this is a wise investment the will give professional results.
Dimensions 1.6″ H x 10.7″ W x 10.2″ D
XLR Mic Inputs 4
Stereo Inputs 4
Tape In/Out Yes
Aux Send Yes
Aux Return No
Phones Out ¼” TRS stereo
Main Out ¼” TRS stereo
Control Room Out ¼” TRS stereo
Phantom Power +48v
3-Band EQ First 4 Channels, High +/- 15dB @ 12kHz, Mid +/- 15dB @ 2.5kHz, Low +/- 15dB @ 80Hz
LowCut 75Hz, First 4 channels
Gain First 4 channels 0-50dB
- Main Mix 60mm fader
- Input Gain (first 4 channels)
- 75Hz Low Cut (first 4 channels)
- No power switch
- No Aux Return
- 4 segment Meter LEDs
The TAPCO Mix.120 is a perfect mixer for any semi-professional videographer’s edit suite. If you’re looking for a mixer that has the essentials but won't cost you and arm and a leg, take a closer look.
Mark Montgomery is a commercial television producer.
6220 Wood-Red Rd. N.E.
Woodinville, WA 98072