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Soundcraft MPM Series

Apr 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Solid sound from a solid design.


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The Soundcraft MPM series mixers are intended for a broad range of applications, including fixed installations, houses of worship, portable PA systems, recording, and postproduction. One of the attributes that Soundcraft lists for the MPM on its website is “quality build and audio performance.” Based on my personal experience with Soundcraft, the company consistently delivers on the promise of quality, but I wanted to verify that this is indeed the case with the MPM.

The MPM mixers, available in 12- and 20-input configurations ($689 and $969, respectively), are compact, making them useful in a variety of roles. They can be easily moved from one location to another, literally just tucked under an arm.

Each mono channel features balanced XLR and 1/4in. TRS inputs, along with a 1/4in. TRS insert jack. A gain knob, 100Hz high-pass filter switch, and a peak indicator LED round out the input section. Each mono channel also features three bands of EQ — a high shelf at 12kHz, a low shelf at 80Hz, and a mid section that is sweepable from 150Hz to 3.5kHz. Maximum boost and maximum cut is 15dB on all three bands.

There are three auxiliaries on each mono channel, as well. Two are switchable from pre-fader to post-fader, while the third one is permanently post-fader — ostensibly for effects use. These channels feature a pan pot, a mute button, a PFL switch, a 60mm fader, and a switch that determines signal routing, whether directly to the mix bus, or through the GRP-L/GRP-R bus.

This may not seem like much flexibility in routing, but I have discovered that having just a single alternative bus can be useful — particularly if I need to group drums or vocals, for instance. Also, when weighing out the price versus features versus quality, Soundcraft leans heavily into quality without sacrificing price.

Both versions of the MPM mixer have two stereo inputs with the same complement of muting, PFL, bussing, and auxiliaries as their monophonic counterparts, but lacking sweepable mids in the EQ. The mid EQs on these channels are centered very musically and sound great. These inputs also lack the inserts and 100Hz high-pass filter that the mono channels have, but because they're intended to introduce signals such as CD players or the audio associated with a video device, this is not a major issue. Most of the time, these inputs will be fed mastered audio that does not need compression or filtering. Frankly, this was a smart place for Soundcraft to cut costs.

The mixer's master section features 60mm faders for GRP-L, GRP-R, and the master mix. There are three knobs for the auxiliary masters (along with AFL buttons), a knob to control the level of the mixer's two-track RCA input, and a switch to determine whether the two-track input is fed directly to the mix. There are also stereo RCA outputs for recording, and three balanced 1/4in. TRS auxiliary outputs. A single switch turns phantom power on or off universally for all inputs, and three pushbutton switches determine whether the mix, GRP, or two-track bus is monitored at the monitor outputs, which are balanced 1/4in. TRS connectors. Similarly, a single mono monitoring jack is available, along with a headphone output. There are level knobs for all the monitor outputs.

A stereo 10-segment LED VU meter provides visual display of levels and shows both mix and AFL/PFL levels. The mixer's primary outputs comprise stereo 1/4in. TRS and XLR connectors, all balanced, of course.

I've come to expect Soundcraft products to exhibit extraordinary solidity, and the MPM mixer did not disappoint me. The faders felt smooth and easily moved, and not a single pushbutton on the entire control surface was crooked or protruding, which unfortunately has become all too common among mixers in this price range. The center-detents of all the EQ cut/boost knobs feel consistent across the mixer — another attribute that strongly indicates quality construction in my estimation. All 1/4in. jacks are large, heavy-duty units — again, a nice sign of quality construction.

The EQs sound great, and the sweepable mids are a nice touch on the mono inputs. The range of 150Hz to 3.5kHz is very useful, and 15dB is plenty of boost or cut for nearly every conceivable application. At first, the 12kHz high shelf seemed a bit high, but this EQ has a nice smooth slope, and is helpful in tamping down feedback in applications where a third-octave graphic is not available.

I initially thought the 80Hz low shelf to be a bit low, particularly considering the fact that there is a 100Hz high-pass filter with an ostensibly sharp slope, but it turns out to be quite musical nevertheless. Obviously, the low shelf and high-pass are not intended to be used simultaneously.

One minor complaint is the knob size and proximity, which is something that is unavoidable in compact mixers such as the MPM. The knobs are not tiny, but they do feel a bit squished together. Fortunately, they're only really close together on the vertical axis. On the horizontal axis (between channels), there is a bit of space, so it's not impossible to make minute corrections, just a bit more of a challenge than would otherwise exist in a mixer that takes up substantially more real estate. In all, I'd say that the tradeoff is worthwhile. The small footprint of the mixer itself is valuable enough to outweigh the minor complaint of close knobs.

Among things I really like about the mixer is that it is cleverly laid out, which is not always the case with small mixers like this. Some manufacturers squeeze things in wherever they'll fit, not necessarily where they make the most sense, operationally speaking. This mixer is laid out in a very simple design that makes complete sense. I also appreciate having more than one available output for applications such as houses of worship in order to feed a signal to a cry room or lobby. The recording output is also welcome, and the one thing I really love about this mixer is the ability to use the channel inserts as direct outputs for multitrack recording. This is one of the things that really makes this mixer valuable and worth more than its price.

At the end of the day, Soundcraft again impressed me with a solid-feeling mixer that sounds good, and it is highly functional and easy to operate due to a lot of forethought in the design. The company put the money in all the right places with this mixer — no ridiculous signal processing bells or whistles, just a straightforward, high-quality mixer. If you have need for such a mixer for any application, I'd recommend taking a good look at the MPM series.


Company: Soundcraft USA
www.soundcraft.com

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Product: MPM series

Pros: Feels solid — cleverly planned design, and sounds good.

Cons: Closely spaced knobs make adjustments challenging.

Applications: Mixing for fixed installations, houses of worship, portable PA systems.

Prices: 12-input: $689; 20-input: $969


Noise (22Hz-22kHz): Mic EIN @ max gain, 150Ù source: -128dBu
Mix @ max, faders down: <-84dBu

Crosstalk (typ. @ 1kHz): Channel mute: >93dB; Fader cutoff (rel +10 mark): >93dB

SPECIFICATIONS

Frequency response: Mic/line input to any output: ±0.5dB, 20Hz-20kHz

THD+Noise: Mic gain 30dB, -20dBu input, mix out, fader max @ 1kHz, i/p fader @ 0dB 0.004%

I/O impedance: Mic input: 2.4Ù; Line input: 11Ù; Stereo input: 100Ù; Outputs: 75Ù

I/O levels: Mic input max: +16dBu
Line/stereo input max: +30dBu
Mix output max: +20dBu
Headphones (@ 200): 300mW


John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations and provides high-quality podcast production services.



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