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Audio Review: Behringer Ultrazone ZMX8210

Zone mixer provides surprising functionality for low price. 8/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Audio Review: Behringer Ultrazone ZMX8210

Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Zone mixer provides surprising functionality for low price.




AudRev Behringer

There are audio manufacturers that are exceedingly focused on a small group of very specific and esoteric products, and there are those that develop and manufacture a large diversity of distinct products in numerous domains pertaining to sound. To say that Behringer is one of the latter type of organizations would be a vast understatement. Over the years, Behringer has offered a massive array of products ranging from pro audio to musical instruments and back again. One domain into which the company has never really ventured is contractor-oriented public address — the stuff we talk about in these pages such as in-ceiling loudspeakers, podium mics, and zone mixers. Behringer's absence from this domain has recently ended with the introduction of the Ultrazone ZMX8210 zone mixer.

The Behringer Ultrazone ZMX8210 zone mixer is very simple by comparison, without the highly sophisticated features of more costly zone mixers from other manufacturers. It has always been Behringer's modus operandi to fill a niche — specifically, low-priced technology exhibiting quality that surpasses what you'd expect for the price. And it's appropriate that Behringer's entry into this market is represented by an entry-level product. Indeed, the owner of a family restaurant/lounge probably doesn't need an advanced zone mixer with ducking prioritization and sophisticated matrix functions. Rather, a simple zone mixer that facilitates the use of a handful of mics and a couple of recorded music inputs would do the trick, and Behringer's got it covered. In essence, the ZMX8210 is simply an 8×3 mixer with a gate that is activated by the first input. It also sports some equalization, and it provides Euro-type connectors, the ability to gang multiple units, and remote potentiometers and switching. Come to think of it, it's not that unsophisticated after all.

Starting from the left, the mixer's front panel sports controls and indicators for inputs 1 through 6. Each channel has a level knob and a three-segment LED level indicator (green for -24dB, yellow for 0dB, and red for clip). Each channel also has a pushbutton switch to engage a 20dB pad, to engage 48V phantom power, and to determine signal routing. Specifically, there are three bus buttons: left, right, and aux. The controls for channel 1 also include a recessed trim pot that determines the threshold for the system's bus muting scheme. The effect of this system is to mute inputs 2 through 8 in the left and right busses when input 1's signal surpasses the level set by this trim pot — essentially an auto-mute activated by input 1. To the right of the first six inputs are inputs 7 and 8, which are slightly different from the other six. They lack phantom power and a pad, and the routing possibilities are a bit different. Additionally, they are stereo inputs, facilitating the introduction of background music or other stereo signals. Each of these two inputs has a mono pushbutton switch, which sums the left and right signals together so a mono signal appears at all three of the system's busses. Otherwise, left goes to left, right goes to right, and left and right are summed in the aux bus. A channel-select button resides between the two channels' LED meters, and it's used to determine which input is being fed to the busses. (The inputs from both cannot be routed to the busses simultaneously.) Each of these eight inputs across the front panel has a white scribble strip so the contractor can name them.


Audio Review: Behringer Ultrazone ZMX8210

Aug 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin

Zone mixer provides surprising functionality for low price.




Moving to the right of the inputs, we find the master section — starting with the system's EQ section. Four bands of boost or cut are controlled by recessed trimpots. As one would expect, the low and high bands are shelving types, with corner frequencies of 70Hz and 10kHz, respectively. The low mids and high mids are centered at 300Hz and 3kHz, respectively. Above the EQ trimpots are pushbutton switches that serve several functions. The first engages a highpass filter of 100Hz on the mic inputs to eliminate rumble. The second, referred to as “mic mix,” determines whether inputs 1 through 6 are affected by remote level controls. When it is engaged, only inputs 7 and 8 are acted upon by remote level control — disengaging it includes inputs 1 through 6 in that control. The third button, referred to as “right mute,” has the effect of excluding the right bus from control by the channel one's auto-muting — which is handy if you want to have a zone that is not muted by your principal microphone. The fourth and final pushbutton switch in this section simply activates the EQ for left and right busses. Finally, on the far right of the front panel are the master outputs for the three busses. Each has an output-level knob, a five-segment LED meter, and a scribble strip for naming each output.

The ZMX8210's rear panel consists almost exclusively of Euro-type inputs and outputs — with the notable exception of the inputs for channels 7 and 8, which are stereo RCA connectors. Inputs 1 through 6 are electronically balanced — with positive, negative, and ground connectors. The three outputs are also balanced. This system can be ganged in order to provide more inputs, and yet another PCB connector facilitates the connection with another unit. A master/slave pushbutton next to this connector facilitates the correct assignment of the unit. Finally, remote control of the unit is made possible with yet another Euro-type connector. The outputs of the left and right busses can be independently attenuated, and a switch can be used to toggle between inputs 7 and 8. A 10Ω potentiometer will achieve maximum attenuation of 30dB, and a 100kΩ pot will yield 60dB of attenuation.

At first glance, I mistakenly presumed that Behringer had simply attached Euro-type inputs and outputs to a rack mixer (as it is referred to in the manual on occasion) and named it a zone mixer. Upon digging in a bit, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the company actually put quite a bit of thought into the needs of the contractor and developed a mixer that creates quite a bevy of possibilities in the way of signal routing. To be sure, this is not a super-sophisticated mixer that facilitates the independent routing of any input to any output with digital EQ and dynamics, but for simple applications, it's a clever box — directly as a result of the forethought by Behringer's engineers. Even mid-sized restaurants or health clubs probably don't need more than three zones, and the ZMX8210 enables remote level controls and the restriction of mic ducking to just one zone. The unit's mic preamplifiers don't sound like they cost $1,000, but they're reasonably linear, and this mixer is quiet and doesn't distort your signal. I also appreciate Behringer's attention to the conventions that apply exclusively in the contractor domain. For instance, all the pushbuttons on the front panel are recessed, and they require the use of some kind of tool (ostensibly a pen or small screwdriver) to engage them, rather than protruding buttons that a non-professional could easily press by accident. The recessed buttons require deliberation and are not easily changed by mistake. Similarly, the muting threshold and EQ knobs are also recessed trimpots. To have connectivity with a computer would be simply too much to ask in a product at this price, but perhaps that is a direction Behringer will go with subsequent models and upgrades. Indeed, considering that this is Behringer's entry into the contractor market, it's a fine first effort. And as is usually the case with Behringer, the product is definitely worth more than its price.


PRODUCT SUMMARY

  • Company: Behringer
    www.behringer.com
  • Product: Ultrazone ZMX8210
  • Pros: Clever planning for signal routing.
  • Cons: No computer connection.
  • Applications: Commercial sound systems, fixed installations.
  • Price: $379.99 (list)

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Frequency response: 20Hz-22kHz ±0.5dB
  • Distortion: <0.05%

Inputs 1-6

  • Impedance: 3kΩ balanced, 1.5kΩ unbalanced
  • Max. input level: +12dB (with pad)
  • Max. gain: 40dB
  • Crosstalk: >63dB at 1kHz
  • CMRR: >75dB at 1kHz
  • EIN: -116dBu (A-weighted)

Inputs 7-8

  • Impedance: 10kΩ unbalanced
  • Max. input level: +15dBu
  • Max. gain: 15dB

Outputs

  • Max. gain: 22dB
  • Impedance: 60Ω balanced, 120Ω unbalanced
  • Max. output level: +21dBu unbalanced/balanced
  • Noise: -105dBu (A-weighted, all levels down)
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 87dB at 0dB(A-weighted)


John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations, and he provides high-quality podcast-production services.


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