It didn’t start out well between me and the Samson MixPad MXP144FX Analog Mixer. Samson commits one of the most irritating and trivial audio mixer contrivances, in my woefully un-humble opinion. They take a 6-channel mixer and market it as a 14-channel mixer.
To be fair, I count XLR inputs while Samson counts every XLR, stereo and RCA plugged signal route coming into the mixer so you can, with the right devices or adapters, have 14 actual audio inputs into the mixer. However, if you tell me I have a mixer with 14 channels and I show up to mix a 6 piece band, I’m not going to be happy with just 6 XLR inputs.
But that’s me. I’m old school as well as old, and that’s fortunately about where my issues with this mixer end.
As an under-$300 analog mixer with loads of options and solid audio, the MixPad MXP144FX is a tremendous feature/performance value.
I didn’t notice that this board has USB capability at first. When I did, I wondered if we’ve come over the hill on USB connectivity, where a mixer will no longer be taken seriously without USB capability as standard. That point can’t be far away.
The MXP144FX is otherwise a standard analog mixer package with a typical U-shaped signal routing layout typical of most analogs. A compact size of about 15 inches wide by 14 inches deep, there’s a lot packed into a small footprint.
Anyone familiar with an analog mixer will have little difficulty navigating the MXP144FX. Everything is on the top of the board, save for the power and USB connections and on/off switch. I like the drop in the panel so that cables and connectors sit below the control surface. I’m not sure why. Functionality isn’t really affected, it just seems like a good design idea.
The first four XLR channels feature single-knob compression, an increasingly common feature on mid-level mixers, of which the MXP144FX is on the low end, price-wise. The remaining two XLR channels are identical, save for the compression. One minor oversight here: with the extras packed into this mixer, the lack of a channel or two of Hi-Z inputs seems obvious. The two channels without compressors would be the logical place for these. Guitarists and bassists take note. You will need a direct inject box or other line level conversion device — such as the output of many multi-effects pedals — or your instrument will sound flat and lifeless connected directly to the mixer.
There are 100 FX presets available with an FX level knob on each strip. There’s no editing ability for parameters, so you’re stuck with the presets as-is, but unlike many similar FX sections, there are no presets wasted on things such as distortion or oddballs that have few uses for more than one source at a time. The emphasis is on reverb and echoes. As well as FX sends, the FX out has its own fader, a nice touch for fine tuning levels.
Sound quality is probably the most impressive aspect of the MXP144FX. The sound is neutral and quiet, just as an affordable mixer should be. The mic preamps won’t make your condensers sound even bigger than life like top-end preamps. But nor will the MXP144FX make decent mics sound like toys.
One thing to note for first-time compressor users. You connect a mic for a vocalist, set the level then dial in a bit of the one-knob compressor. While you like the presence and sparkle it adds to the voice, you begin to notice more noise in the signal. Many suspect that the noise is created by the compressor, since when they turn down the knob, the noise abates.
What you’re actually hearing is most likely the ambient sound present in your recording room. The function of a compressor is to compress. Imagine that! Louder sounds get capped and in effect, quieter sounds increased. The range between the two gets squashed, so, while the vocal picks up this nice quality, it’s at the expense of a noise floor that’s now more audible. Don’t blame the compressor. It’s just doing its job.
The sound of the FX aren’t spectacular, but they’re completely adequate for live use. While you can use these for tracking in the studio, you’ll be committing to the sound of the effect on the recorded track. It’s a better idea to record the best dry signal you can and play with plugins after the fact. That offers much more versatility.
The body of the mixer is molded plastic and the unit itself is 8 lbs. This is not a mixer that will likely take a pounding night after night on the road without reasonable care. At the same time, the MXP144FX doesn’t seem particular delicate either. Faders and knobs have a good feel to them. I’m always partial to 100mm faders, so the 60mm faders of the MXP144FX could feel short. However, given the modest size of the entire mixer, the 60mm faders don’t seem to be limiting. No user reviews suggest construction or quality issues.
Since the MXP144FX is relatively new to the market, there’s not a lot of review activity yet. Overall scores are therefore negatively affected by the lone two-star review. This is unfortunate, since the two-star reviewer hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.
“Not real analog,” the review starts. Um… excuse me? Wrong. This is the very definition of an analog mixer. Then there’s this confusing comment about plugging in devices with a headphone jack output. The user then suggests that it’s the mixer that’s responsible for low output. Line inputs are for line signals. There are no issues with the MXP144FX’s preamps, which this user claims the mixer doesn’t have. Sigh. I have a low tolerance for fools.
Dismiss the two-star review and this is a very well-reviewed product at this stage in its life.
The USB capability means the MXP144FX provides both mixing and interfacing for a computer DAW setup. One less device to purchase. Those new to home recording could do worse.
For small combo live work or as a submix board, invest in a case or gig bag and the MXP144FX fits the bill there too. The Samson MixPad MXP144FX is an unequivocal winner.