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Reviews

Rolls MX410 Brings Low-Cost Field Mixer for Videomakers

ImageThe new MX410 from Rolls, priced on the street at about $270, is a four-channel microphone mixer with some professional features for videographers on a budget. It's not perfect, but comes a long way toward offering many of the essential features needed to make usable video with audio in the field.

It weighs only 2.45 pounds, though it's in a solid, all-metal case. The size is convenient, at nine by 6.75 by 1.5 inches. Included is a case, though it may cover up labels on the mixer's case and limit easy access to some controls.

The MX410 has four balanced independently controlled XLR inputs, which cannot be switched to line level. Each mic input offers 18-volts for phantom power, which is good for a new generation of low-power phantom microphones, but not for the standard 48-volt condenser variety. The user needs to make sure in advance that the mics used with this mixer will work.

In lieu of phantom power, the mixer has low-cut filters which are set at 100Hz on each mic input. These are designed to help reduce wind noise. But remember, there's either/or phantom power or a low-cut filter. Both cannot be operated at the same time.

Next to each mic level control is a LCR (left, center, right) switch. This allows the user to send the mic to the left channel, the right channel or to the center for both channels.

A pair of transformer-balanced mic/line switchable XLR outputs and a stereo 3.5mm jack are provided for connection to a video recorder or camcorder or to other devices. 

Power can be supplied to the mixer with a pair of 9-volt batteries, which can run the mixer up to 18 hours, or the included external AC power supply. Rolls uses simple access, quick change 9-volt battery trays on the side. 

These are very convenient for repeated battery changes and are much better than the cheap battery holders and screw-on covers found on other low-cost, battery-operated mixers. Kudos to Rolls for understanding battery changes in the field and designing the holders correctly.

The mixer is reasonably quiet, but not as quiet as higher priced field audio components on the market. With audio gear, you get what you pay for. If you want the best, plan to spend well over $1,200 for a very quiet state-of-the art mixer without compromises.

The main flaw in this mixer, in our opinion, is its lack of a master control pot for the output. Yes, the mixer offers a 3.5mm headphone jack with an independent level control for monitoring (I guess you could use the headphone jack as an output if you match it correctly). But there's no master pot dedicated to the level of the overall mix out the main outputs. 

One just sets each mic control knob not to overload on the calibrated pair of LED meters and that's it. The line level input has no level control pot at all, leaving the audio operator to either "pot luck" or to having an outboard device to control the level. We assume Rolls expects users to read the master mixer levels on the video recorder. Though that might work, it certainly limits the mixer for other uses.

As the cost of video gear has fallen, companies like Rolls should be congratulated for trying to build lower cost accessories for this new class of user. Now, at least, there is a choice not to have to spend big bucks for an audio mixer. 

The MX410 is usable, though not perfect. There are other Rolls models that may serve you better at lower and higher price points. But at least there are now options.