Azden FMX 42-A Field Mixer (Review)

I recently purchased a new field mixer. In the past I would normally use the Shure FP33 mixer, it has great features and is well worth the investment. However, I have recently been hearing a lot of chatter about the “Azden FMX 42-a” (seen Here). With a retail price of $539 and wanting something more budget friendly for regular traveling, I decided to give it a shot. The amount of features packed into this little mixer was enough to get anyones attention. It was almost too good to be true.

 

 

 

 

Don’t believe me? Just look at these specs:

– 4 XLR input channels with volume and pan ring.

– Each channel has an individual limiter, High Pass Filter, selectable 48v phantom power, selectable Line/Mic Hi/Mic Lo switch.

– Master Volume Knob – notched at 0db

– Slate Mic

– 1khz tone generator

– L/R VU Meters

– L/R XLR Outputs

-3.5mm mini jack Stereo Output

-1/4 inch Headphone Output with selectable Line Out/Return

-3.5mm mini jack Stereo Return

-Hirose 10pin connection for breakaway cable

-Hirose 4pin connector for DC Power

-Selectable switch for VU back lighting

And it comes with a shoulder bag!

… SEE???? Impressive list for $539 huh? So how well does it work?

Short answer? Really well!

I am going to list my “Cons” first… because it is a pretty short list.

So, here is what I don’t like; It doesn’t come with a power adapter and the Hirose connector required for the connection makes it something you can’t just purchase at your local store. I know it may seem silly to start with this… but I sincerely HATE that Azden did this. The power adapter costs $50.00 USD retail and there is no justification for not supplying the adapter with the purchase (in my opinion) other than to make money. Second, The VU Meters are not exactly helpful, they will show 1khz tone at 0bd with the Master volume knob notched to 0, so that is good. However once you have live feed, they bounce around so freely that they don’t really give you much ability to visually meter. Lastly, the mixer requires 6 AA batteries. That is a lot of batteries to carry around for just the mixer, a pair of 9v batteries (like the FP33) would have been much handier.

That’s it! I told you it was a short list! Now on to the awesome…

Having 4 XLR inputs is a great feature, but only if the mixer itself is quiet. So I slapped my fist full of AA batteries into the box, plugged in my headphone and cranked the volume of each channel, master, and headphone to the max. I got to admit, I was surprised that it was pleasingly quiet. I plugged in a cable (no mic attached) and it was still quiet. (Signal-To-Noise
Balanced Output: -120 dBu)

Then I reset the volume and zeroed out the system using the 1khz tone generator. It zeroed out perfectly and the master volume notched synched to the 0 of the VU meters. I plugged in a Sennheiser MKH416 and gave it a good run through. Honestly, it sounds pretty good. The mic pre’s were clean and it gave a fine signal.

The XLR inputs were easily accessible on the left side panel, where the individual switches for 48v phantom power, Line/Mic Hi/Mic Lo are located. There is an individual switch for both on each separate channel (so that is nice). The gain difference between the Mic Hi and Mic Lo are pretty substantial (The maximum difference of +4 dBu and -15 dBu).

 

 

The front of the mixer houses 4 volume knobs for each individual channel with pan rings. Plus a notched Master Volume knob. The individual channel limiters have selectable switches and work really well. Each channel also has its own selectable HPF switch that functions at (100 Hz – 6 dB/oct). There is a button below the Master knob for 1khz tone, and left of that is a button for the slate mic. The slate mic works surprisingly well and is loud and clear (this was a nice surprise). Then comes the VU meters… like I mentioned before, outside of zeroing out the system, they are pretty worthless… BUT there are well hidden peak LED lights next to the VU meters and for each individual channel. These peak LEDs work GREAT! They are also well place and hidden, you don’t even notice they are their until you need them. They are flushed with the case and perfectly invisible until they need to tell you that you are peaking.

On the right side, you have your standard XLR outputs, selectable mic/line switch and even a mini stereo out put. Let me just stop here and make a statement about the Azden FMX 42a, this little box has more mixed outputs than anything I have EVER seen for under $1,500! Good grief they gave you outputs on this thing! The great thing is none of the outputs mute or disable other outputs when being used! So if you are running to a camera via the XLR outputs, or the Hirose 10pin connector, you can still use the mini stereo jack output into a small digital field recorder for back up! Take a second and think about all the possibilities that opens up for getting different mixes!

It also features a mini jack return and a return/line out switch for headphone monitoring via breakaway cable. The monitoring capabilities in this mixer is the main difference between the FMX 42 and the FMX 42a… trust me, get the 42a! To top it all off, they have built in a Hirose 10pin connector for a very convent and clean breakaway cable system. If you are unfamiliar with breakaway cables, you can read about them HERE!

The Hirose connector is excellent because it supplies both the outputs to the camera as well as the return from the camera for monitoring in one clean breakaway cable. Not to mention, when using it, it doesn’t disable the XLR outputs OR the stereo mini jack output… you can still use those lines to send your mix someplace else!

Volume controls for both the return and the headphone levels are also on the side. This is not ideal for the headphone levels, but it is not a deal breaker in my opinion and having another knob on the face would have been cluttered.

So, that’s it! Is it as awesome as a Sound Devices mixer? Nope…(even though it gives the FP33 a run for its money) that’s not what it is meant to compete with. Is it an incredible field mixer with more bells and whistle than you can imagine for  under $600? ABSOLUTELY!

Also, as i mentioned, it does come with its own shoulder bag as well. This bag is not excellent and seems a little flimsy and cheap… but I’m not going to complain about that (I wasn’t expecting one anyways). It’s a nice starter bag and get the job done while giving you perfect access to all the functions of the Azden FMX 42a.

I’ll be using it tonight at a shoot in Nashville and will let you know any limitations I come across in the future, but overall it seems to be an excellent purchase for the field and travel!

If you have ANY questions, feel free to ask via the Contact page.

-Lee Kebler

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