Professional Sound - October 2017 - Page 22

PRODUCT TESTS ART TubeMix 5-Channel Mixer with USB Interface By Adam Gallant A pplied Research and Technol- ogy (ART) has greatly expanded its USB line this year. Here, we’re reviewing one of those additions: ART’s TubeMix five-channel mixer with as- signable tubes and USB functionality. The unit boasts a wide variety of features and takes full advantage of what ART is per- haps best known for: tube preamps. Features & Use The ART TubeMix is a USB audio interface that also serves as a five-input mixer. It contains two low-noise microphone preamp channels with selectable phan- tom power. Channels three and four are stereo line level inputs and the fifth channel features a high-impedance 1/4-in. instrument input. All five channels have independent three-band EQs, aux sends, and pan controls. The TubeMix contains a dual-triode 12AX7 tube that can be applied to the input of channels one and two (separately or simultaneously) or the instrument channel (five) via a top panel switch. In ad- dition to the tube option, the instrument channel has an amp simulation switch – a nice touch for guitar players looking for some quick harmonic colour, as the amp simulation is a very usable model of a guitar amp and speaker cabinet. The three-band EQ sounds great with wide Q and fixed frequency points. We have 12 kHz on the top, 2.5 kHz on the mids, and 80 Hz on the low end. These frequency points are well thought out and ideal for addressing problem areas with voice, such as plosives in the low end or a lack of clarity in the highs. The two aux sends and returns are available on all five channels and are con- nected via 1/4-in. TRS. Each channel also offers a pan pot and output level control for fine-tuning a stereo mix. All of the expected knobs, such as EQ and pan, are stepped at the 12 o’clock position. The mixer’s analog routing is com- 22 PROFESSIONAL SOUND prehensive, with controls for Aux Returns, USB Return, Main Mix Level, and Control Room/Headphones levels. All analog hardware outs are via independent 1/4-in. TRS that connect well and feel sturdy and rugged. The built-in headphone amp is powerful and void of excess noise. Additional head- phones can easily be routed via the aux outputs, main outs, or control room out depending on the desired configuration. The TubeMix would marry well with ART’s headphone amps for a live-off-the-floor session or performance recording. The TubeMix also outputs stereo digital audio via USB 2.0 at 16 bits and either 44.1 K or 48 K sample rates to your pre- ferred audio software. The drivers are PC and Mac compatible and were automati- cally installed on our studio’s Windows 10 system with ease. There is no additional software panel to worry about as the front panel of the hardware provides all neces- sary routing options. With wood paneling and classic-looking analog VU meters, the TubeMix has a refreshingly uncluttered and professional look. The black chassis has a glossy finish, is heavy, and the onboard text is white, easy to read, and intelligently laid out. For additional metering, ART has included a wide-range stereo LED meter with select- able source. Summary As mentioned, this interface uses a very simple, plug-and-play USB driver with no proprietary control panel software. This ease of use makes the TubeMix ideal for a podcaster, gamer, or any video content creator needing an easy to use, desktop solution for their audio needs. From a musician or engineer’s perspective, this unit has a lot of plus- ses, one of which is the ability to dial in latency-free input monitoring by blending the input with the USB return. Additionally, it makes a great option for anyone who might need to route audio to a PA while simultaneously streaming USB audio to and/or from a computer. You would be hard pressed to find an audio interface at this price (approxi- mately $230 CAD) that is as well equipped as the TubeMix. With tube colour, EQ, and an amp simulator, it’s clear ART has geared this unit towards hobbyists and musicians; however, the format of this mixer makes it extremely versatile and a great fit for podcasters, gamecasters, and anyone creating content that warrants great-sounding audio. Adam Gallant has worked in all facets of digital audio production, from music compo- sition to location and post audio for television and film. He currently owns and operates The Hill Sound Studio in Charlottetown, PE.