|Cute, effective, and inexpensive
||Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
|I recently purchased a Behringer MiniMic 800 (miniature) “modeling” audio pre-amp, and it has proven to be a great “kick in the pants!” (i.e., an unexpected surprise). I am very impressed with what this little package can do.|
I didn’t really need the new preamp, since I already own a good assortment of audio processing gear, and the MiniMic doesn’t add anything new. I’m reasonable about my expectations for it, though. This device won’t yield unmeasurably low audio noise and distortion levels, and you probably won’t want to use it to produce recorded studio master tracks at Capitol Records. But it works well for the jobs that I do. Also, it needs to be mentioned this is not rugged MIL-STD level gear, suitable for going into battle with the marines. You have to treat it with reasonable respect.
On the physical level, the MiniMic is small and lightweight, and quite portable. However, the knobs, buttons, and labels on the front panel are unavoidably just a bit tiny. If you use it in a permanent fixed location on a bench or table, you just might want to use some Velcro tape to hold it in place. And that’s the end of the “Cons” for it. Now for the “Pros.”
It has much “built-in” capability, and its size and convenience allow it to do several simple tasks that the typical large “audio rack” cannot easily and quickly do. For dedicated ham station use, the MiniMic is a very inexpensive “pre-amp/voice processor” that can go directly to work while tucked away on the operating bench. With a good, inexpensive “live performance/recording” mike (not an “Amateur-market only” mike) on the input, and a voltage-dropping network on the output (this could be an audio transformer or a resistive pi network) to match the ~20 millivolt input specification for most transceiver microphone jacks, the job is finished!
With the MiniMic, one could own and use a microphone pre-amplifier/simple voice processor for the ham station costing about one-third of the equivalent “Amateur-market only” products! It’s a very simple and inexpensive gateway into improved transmitted ham audio.
This device also could well form the heart of a “portable” (field?) recording system, for those who do not have dedicated professional handheld digital recorders. Grab the MiniMic, a quality microphone, and a laptop computer with Audacity loaded on it, and you are set to record speeches, interviews, events, etc., anywhere. The MiniMic operates on 9 volts d.c. (a 1 Amp “wall wart” power supply is included), but for field use the wart can be replaced with a little series regulator to operate it from an available 12 v.d.c. source.
Currently I am using the MiniMic, along with a favorite mike, sitting on my home office desk to drive the audio “line input” jack of my main desktop PC. From the PC I can record sound using Audacity and produce .mp3 files, or send the audio over to Skype for quality voice transmission, or even ship my voice over a local USB line to my remotely-controlled HF transceiver! Separate input and output pots on the MiniMic allow me to produce just the right audio output level, sixteen “modeling” pre-set tone curves allow any kind of voice or music augmentation that is needed, and a real *analog* mechanical VU meter allows the proper audio level to be set.
A few points of caution (which points hold for all makes and models of this kind of equipment): If you operate this kind of device near big RF amplifiers, RF noise suppression may be necessary on the in/out lines to the pre-amp. Caution also in using the “phantom power” button. This button will put 48 volts onto the mike input conductors, which “bias voltage” is necessary only if you are using a “condenser mike.” Other kinds of mikes may be damaged if phantom power is fed into them. Also, the reference “line input/output audio voltage level” value is different for this (and all) “professional standards” device from that for consumer (entertainment) electronics. None of these cautions are “deal killers.”
I think that I will very much enjoy the versatility and convenience of this MiniMic 800. My audio rack will have to stand-by and wait for more complex projects.