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Soundcraft Notepad-12FX Review: Small-format Mixer With USB Audio

Soundcraft Notepad-12FX Review: Small-format Mixer With USB Audio

The Soundcraft Notepad-12fx is a full-featured, compact analog mixer that offers great sonic performance for the price.

This small but powerful board is perfect for anyone who needs a flexible mixer in a small package for live or recording situations.

It works well as a front end for a compact PA or as a submixer for live electronic setups or multi-keyboard rigs.

It also functions as a 4-in/4-out USB audio interface for simple recording duties liking capturing live sessions or playing back software instruments.

Street Price: $179 USD

The Notepad 12-FX is available from retailers for $179 USD, making it one of the more affordable options in the small-format space.

The Notepad 12-FX is available from retailers for $179 USD, making it one of the more affordable options in the small-format space.

Fit and finish

The mixer is housed in a sturdy metal enclosure with non-slip rubber feet.

https://blog.landr.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Soundcraft_Mixer_Review_Photos-5.jpg

The knobs and pots offer just the right amount of resistance and the jacks are snug and tight.

The small size of mini master bus fader takes a bit of getting used to and has no 0 dB detente.

The small size of mini master bus fader takes a bit of getting used to and has no 0 dB detente.

The external power brick connects via a stompbox-style barrel connector.

The unit features a cable restraint at the rear to prevent the power lead from being accidentally disconnected, but attaching it is slightly awkward.

There’s also no dedicated on/off switch. To turn the unit off you’ll have to unplug the power jack from the chassis or run it from a switched supply like a power bar.

There’s also no power LED, so determining if the unit is on can be difficult if no signal is present.

In use

The Soundcraft Notepad-12fx crams a huge amount of connectivity into a small package.

soundcraft notepad-12fx full view

All four preamp channels feature XLR/¼” combo jacks and selectable bass roll off at 100 Hz.

The first two inputs also have a Hi-Z toggle for plugging guitars directly into the mixer. This eliminates the need for external direct boxes.

There are two pairs of ¼” line inputs and a third set for an external effects unit. Plugging something in here bypasses the internal effects unit.

A pair of unbalanced RCA inputs for connecting consumer audio gear rounds out the inputs.

Master XLR, headphone and aux outputs complete the generous suite of I/O.

Setting up a rehearsal with multiple input sources was painless and fast. Adjusting levels, adding effects and tweaking EQ was all easily done from the front panel.

Setting up a rehearsal with multiple input sources was painless and fast.

Phantom power is global for the four microphone preamps and always on. This means that any microphones not compatible with 48v power will not work with the Notepad-12fx.

soundcraft notepad-12fx inputs

As a live mixer that might not matter too much but the Notepad-12fx also touts itself as an audio interface solution.

Bear this in mind if your setup includes ribbons or other sensitive mics.

Sound

The Soundcraft Notepad-12fx performs extremely well as a traditional analog mixer.

To my ears, the preamps outperformed those in my aging Mackie CR1604. The EQ has a pleasing sound when used in small doses.

The frequency points are musical and well chosen despite the lack of a sweepable mid-band.

The Notepad-12fx sounds just as good when used as an audio interface, although there are more focused options in the same price range if you can live without the analog mixing features.

If your music setup consists of a few synths and drum machines that you need to mix down anyway, integrated recording over USB is an attractive feature.

The onboard effects engine offers usable delay, chorus and reverb tones. But the single knob for parameter adjustment makes dialling in precise patches difficult.

The onboard effects engine offers usable delay, chorus and reverb tones.

Two of any three of the effect styles can be engaged at once using the latching switches.

Depressing all three at once produces an effect called ‘karaoke’ that I found strange and not very pleasing.

But the usefulness of onboard effects in such a small format unit outweighs any concerns about their quality.

Audio interface

The Notepad series is equipped with a USB connection that allows them to act as a compact audio interfaces.

The 12fx sports a 4-in/4-out configuration.

soundcraft notepad-12fx up close

The first two digital inputs are fixed from mic inputs 1 and 2. The remaining two can be assigned from the other mic/line inputs, either pair of stereo inputs or the main mix bus.

These configuration options are selectable via Soundcraft’s USB Audio Control Software.

The stereo USB return that carries audio from the DAW back to the mixer is routed to channels 9/10.

The return signal sums with the RCA inputs if connected. The second pair of outputs can be routed to the main headphone jack, giving you the ability to run separate mixes for the headphone and main outputs.

In general the Notepad-12fx’s USB functions are well-implemented and easy to use. I found the latency within acceptable values for a modern device.

While the extra functionality of an analog mixer can be an appealing when shopping for an interface on a feature-to-feature basis.

But dedicated audio interfaces offer superior conversion and more optimized analog signal paths. Not to mention important conveniences like switchable phantom power.

Preview of youtube video

There are a huge range of audio interfaces in all price ranges that are designed to form the hub of a home studio setup.

Analog mixers will always be useful tools for everyday music tasks.

For the Notepad-12fx the benefit of USB connectivity is the ability to making sketch recordings from the main L-R bus. Or the possibility to use software instruments in a live setup alongside other sources plugged into the analog inputs.

Conclusion

Analog mixers will always be useful tools for everyday music tasks.

The Soundcraft Notepad-12fx excels in this area and takes it a step further with added USB functionality.

If you need a small format mixer that punches above its weight, the Notepad-12fx could be your best choice.

Michael Hahn

Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer at Autoland and member of the swirling indie rock trio Slight.

@Michael Hahn

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