Functional and affordable pro mixers for bands on a budget
By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Senior Staff Writer
Performing bands are a labor of love, but they are also businesses with a bottom line to consider. Putting together a sound system requires an investment and most of us have to get the most distance we can out of our dollars. Although you wish you could afford big-name equipment, the reality is you haven’t got the dough. Fortunately, there are companies that know this and accommodate the more financially challenged crowd by producing gear that meets pro standards and is less expensive. Gear One is just such a company, and its two new powered mixers are exactly the kind of gear that a lot of newly formed bands need. Both the PA1300 and PA2400 powered mixers offer all the features, functions, and sound quality you really need for professional performance, and do it for a very reasonable price.
A single box contains it all
What is especially nice about a powered mixer is that with just a single piece of gear you have close to a complete system: power amps, mixing board, EQ, and effects. Just add speakers and mics and you’re up and running. Combining functions in a single box is what makes the powered mixer such an economical way to go. It also gives you a much more portable alternative to a rack of separate components.
The PA1300 Powered Mixer
Gear One gives you a choice of mixer sizes so you don’t have to buy more system than you need. The PA1300 is a six-channel, 300W mono mixer perfect for smaller groups (duos or trios) that perform in smaller venues. It is also ideal for serving as a practice or jam room mixer where you usually don’t need monitors. The PA1300 has a single amplifier for powering the main speakers, but it does have a monitor line out with level control for feeding an external power amp.
Although the PA1300 is a small system, it is a nicely equipped small system. All six channels have XLR and line inputs. Each channel has a level control, an FX level, a three-band EQ, and a channel signal/peak LED for monitoring. Other features include stereo in/out connectors for recording or playback, aux send and return, and a seven-band graphic equalizer for overall sound tailoring and feedback killing.
The PA1300’s 300W amplifier supplies plenty of power. I connected the unit up to my pair of Bag End 12" two-ways and was quite impressed by the sound and volume the PA1300 mixer delivered. It has minimal noise through the speakers, although you can hear the fan if you’re sitting next to it.
The PA2400 Powered Mixer
This model is a full-tilt system, bigger in a number of ways than its little brother. First it has 800W of stereo power—two 400W amps that can be directed to left/right mains, mains/monitors, or bridged for a massive 800W mono. Each 400W amp is plenty for powering a pair of 15" two-way speakers. If you need a system with rock band club capability, the PA2400 mixer has the juice.
The mixing section also gives you more features than the PA1300. Gear One calls it an eight-channel mixer because of the number of inputs. By my book it has seven real channels, but channel seven can be used as another mono mic channel or as a stereo channel. Its line-in connector is a 1/4" TRS. The first six channels have both XLR and mono line connectors. Overall it’s quite a flexible unit.
Each channel is equipped with the same three-band EQ and FX/aux level as the PA1300, but the PA2400 adds a pan knob and a monitor level. Probably to keep costs down, both models leave off a channel gain, which is a good choice. You don’t really need one, especially if you use fairly well-matched microphones.
Another feature of the PA2400 mixer is a pair of seven-band graphics, one for each amp. These make a huge difference because when you use monitors, they often need a completely different EQ profile than the mains. Having a dedicated monitor EQ lets you get more volume out of your monitors while avoiding feedback.
Other key features found on both models are switchable phantom power and stereo ins and outs for recording your performances or playing break music.
A sweet DSP package
Both units use the same FX setup and it is a nice one. It boasts 24-bit processing, is quite extensive (100 preset selections), and is easy to use. Various combinations of reverb, delay, echo, chorus, flanger, and rotary are arranged in groups of 10, each with variations of key parameters. Overall, the presets are PA system standards—very practical and usable.
Dialing up a preset couldn’t be easier. You simply turn a knob until the preset’s number shows in the display, then press the knob to select it. The PA2400 has separate FX level controls for mains and monitors that are important to have. It also provides a jack for connecting a footswitch that turns the FX on or off remotely.
The PA1300 and PA2400 powered mixer are simple systems. They don’t have fancy cosmetics, but they do have power, sound quality, essential mixing controls, connectivity, and a cool package of effects. It’s just about everything you need for a professional system. The mixers are also very portable with well-placed handles on each end and a tilt-back panel so when placed on a table, the control panel is at a perfect angle. If you are assembling a system that will let your band rehearse or perform, the PA1300 and PA2400 are worth a good look.
Features & Specs:
- 300W output power
- 6 mic/line inputs with XLR and ¼" line inputs
- Phantom power
- 3-band channel EQs
- DSP processor with 100 24-bit effects
- 7-band graphic equalizer
- Record output and CD/MP3 inputs
- Same FX, channel EQs, and recording and playback I/O as the PA1300, plus:
- 2x400W output power
- Stereo, main/monitor, or bridged-mono operation
- 7 mic/line channels with XLR and ¼" line inputs
- Channel 7 can also be used as a stereo channel
- Dual 7-band graphic equalizers
- Channel monitor send and pan controls