Powering the MixPre – reconsidering the options

The SoundDevices MixPre recorder comes with a battery ‘sled’ that holds 4 AA batteries along with an AC adapter. A set of 4 Alkaline batteries might power the MixPre for maybe 20 minutes, which isn’t really useful for anything. Four rechargeable batteries fair a lot better – over an hour in my experience – and are useful for short recordings. Anything longer though, and you’re looking at needing to either swap batteries or use some other power source.

The crafty folks at SoundDevices added a USB C port to the MixPre, and it can be used to power the unit as well. The USB A port can also be used, but with limited capabilities.

While planning a recent vacation trip I recalled the last time I’d taken a recorder on vacation and decided to re-examine powering options. Going through my notes from last time I learned some things about what I used and didn’t use:

  • I brought some USB power banks (Anker 10,000mah, and 26,800mah), along with a cable to connect to the MixPre6ii. Both power banks can do Power Delivery, so they were the obvious source of power, except the only bag I had at the time was the Orca and I decided not to bring it. As a result, the recorder had to live in the backpack when using the power banks.
  • I really like using the recorder with the AA sled & strap. I’m usually carrying just one mic and ‘phones, and it’s a very simple setup. No trouble getting to any controls on the recorder, and it’s nice & small so it fits in whatever bag I’m using to haul all the other stuff when I travel.
  • The AA’s are a very bulky and heavy power source. Spare batteries require big pockets or a bag, and the charger is pretty big and requires access to AC.

In reconsidering power options for the next trip I decided on a goal of a total 6 hours of record time per day, although not necessarily in one recording. That’s to cover recording, listening back in the car, entering metadata, etc. So that’s enough battery to cover six hours, and the ability to charge it overnight.

Here’s a table that shows how the options I considered compare.

More on The Strut Case

I decided to take the strut case on our trip, and it’s working out fairly well.

The AT4022 tucks under the flap for storage, but recording from there works also
The AT4022 tucks under the flap for storage, but recording from there works also
Unused cables can be left connected but tucked through the belt loops - very handy!
Unused cables can be left connected but tucked through the belt loops – very handy!

I’ve got the Talent cell in the bottom battery wrap, and it’s had more than enough power for my needs. The AT4022 is plugged into mic 4, and I can keep the mic wrapped under the cover for storage, but still record with it there if I want to.

I plugged my stereo cable into the 1 & 2, and tucked it into the belt loops so it’s ready when I want to record an ambiance.

Lighthouses are noisy places - lots of people
Lighthouses are noisy places – lots of people

I brought my clippy mics with the plan that I’d clip them to the ends of the bag and they would go into the aux input 5/6, when I want a stereo image on the go. I haven’t tried it yet because I haven’t felt the need, the wind has been too strong for the little furries they have, and I’m rather liking working with mono.

I’ve brought an AT8010 to use, but haven’t brought it out yet but will soon because the AT4022 does have a fair bit of handling noise and cable noise.

Anyway, back to the Strut case. It is working quite well. The velcro is annoying, but it holds well and I don’t know what would be a better choice. I’ve been using Etymotic earphones for monitoring because regular ‘phones aren’t hat-compatible, and they fit in the pocket just fine. So I can carry everything with not to many cables hanging out. I’ve been carrying the charger for the TalentCell with me just in case, but today that will be left at home so I can move the battery to the pocket and try things that way.

I’ve also learned that the Rode WS8 works well but is no match for the BBG with furry, and the Etymotics don’t reveal wind rumble as well as I’d like.

Testing the TalentCell battery

The SoundDevices MixPre6 is a great audio recorder, but it’s fairly power hungry and on the journey to find the best power solution for me I bought a TalentCell battery from Amazon here: TalentCell battery (yep, that’s an affiliate link).

The battery was less than $40, and with the addition of a Cable Techniques Hirose connector from B & H, it was ready to use after some charging.

First unpleasant discovery was yesterday, when the recorder just shut off. This was disturbing because when using the regular AA battery sled I get plenty of beepy warnings that I’m about to run out of power.

The abrupt end makes sense though, considering that the recorder was still getting more voltage than it would from AA’s when the battery itself decided to shut off.

So hence the test today to see how much recording time I can get before it dies.

Over 2 hours so far, but I expect at least double or triple that.

UPDATE: I got a total of 495min and 7sec before the battery shut things down. The ending was abrupt as it was last time, and a bit disturbing because there were clearly two lights out of five on when the battery died, same as last time. So, when I use this battery I’ll need to keep an eye on the record time, or just treat two lights as a signal to charge.