Alesis and Behringer USB Mixers

Recently I was looking at some USB mixers, with an emphasis on using them with microphones. For the uninitiated these are devices that you plug into your computer via USB, which you can then plug higher quality microphones into to do some recording for podcasts and other audio projects.

I was looking specifically for mixers that had two XLR (microphone) inputs so that if a friend wanted to do some recording with me, they could. I also wanted a reasonable price point, so that left me comparing the Alesis Multimix 4 USB and the Behringer Q802USB.

I went diving into the specs to find out which one was really better, and I was surprised at what I found. Many people talk down about Behringer products… more as an automatic reaction to the brand name than anything else… but I think that at least on this item, the specs speak for themselves.

For those not familiar with audio equipment these specs might not make much sense or mean much, but bear with me. I will use A to designate the Alesis, and B to designate the Behringer.

Microphone impedance

A 600 ohms
B 1.9k ohms

This comparison isn’t as meaningful, but it’s interesting.

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)

A 68dB
B 110dB

Both of these figures are A-weighted, which means they should compare pretty directly. With signal-to-noise ratios, higher is better, so the Behringer wins here with a signal-to-noise ratio that’s almost twice as good as the Alesis. Put another way, the Alesis is almost twice as noisy as the Behringer.

Distortion

A 0.02%
B 0.005%

This shows that the Alesis will distort much sooner than the Behringer, and once again lead to an overall noisier signal.

Frequency response

A 20 Hz – 15 kHz
B 10 Hz – 150 kHz

The Behringer can record frequencies that are lower, and much, much higher than the Alesis. The real-world meaning of this is the Behringer can produce much clearer recordings than the Alesis.

Channel EQ

A Bass, High +- 14 dB
B Bass, Mid, High +- 15 dB

The Behringer offers greater control over the sonic spectrum and has as slightly wider range of volume sweep than the Alesis.

Price

A $67
B $80

The Behringer is more expensive than the Alesis. Not by a lot, but by some. If you weren’t concerned about having two XLR inputs, if one was enough, you could get the Q502USB which has the same specs as listed above and is $60.

So despite some not liking Behringer simply because it’s Behringer, in this instance it’s the better mixer. I wasn’t surprised that the Behringer was better, just as I wouldn’t have been surprised had the Alesis been better. I have no brand allegiance on these things. But I was surprised by how much better the Behringer was than the Alesis, at a very competitive price point.

For any of my fellow techies that also enjoy audio equipment, I thought this would be interesting.

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New YouTube Layout

Just for the record, the new YouTube layout is absolute poop.  It doesn’t even have all the features and functionality of the old YouTube layout.

In old YouTube, if you set it to only show your subscriptions when you went to the front page, it would remember that when you went back to the front page again later.  In new YouTube, it doesn’t.

In old YouTube, if you removed a video from your subscription feed because you’d already watched it or weren’t interested in it, it would remember that.  In new YouTube, it doesn’t.

In old YouTube, you could sort search results by most recent.  In new YouTube, you can only sort by date blocks, not by most recent.

I find myself wishing there was a viable alternative to YouTube.

Dust Force Review

I recently picked up the indie game Dust Force as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, and have spent the last few days playing it.

The Humble Indie Bundle is a program where you can get a package of independently developed games and pay as little or as much for it as you want.  The money gets divided among the developers and charities, and if you pay more than the average amount, you unlock some additional games.  You can learn more about it here.

Dust Force is one of the games you get for paying more than the average, so I was expecting it to really be something special.  In Dust Force, you play a number of different characters of your  choosing.  You run around levels in 2D side-scrolling platform style, cleaning dust and leaves off of surfaces.  The game incorporates some puzzle-like elements, as you need to use the right combination of jumps, moves, and key-presses to get to some of the surfaces.  Cleaning surfaces also adds to your combo counter, which counts down over time.  You have to keep your combo counter active if you want to achieve a perfect score on the level.

The idea is certainly different and unique, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy the game very much.  I’m sure there are some people that do, but I’m not one of them.  The controls are far too twitchy and unforgiving.  A game like this requires that you move your character precisely, yet when you stop running you always slide.  Then when you’re jumping around, it can be difficult to position and move your character just how you want, resulting in you landing on some spikes or something similar and having to repeat that section of the level over and over again.

The game isn’t difficult because of its puzzles or creative mechanics.  The game is difficult just because of its controls, and that’s just bad design.  Dust Force ends up being far more frustrating than fun.

Piratey Reminiscence

As Talk Like a Pirate Day was earlier this week, it’s something that I’m still thinking about.

When I was growing up pirate things weren’t as pervasive in the culture and media as they are now.  Everyone knew about pirates of course, but it wasn’t something you encountered very often.

My first real experience with piratey goodness was the game Sid Meier’s Pirates! on the Commodore 64.  That’s what really got me hooked.

In Sid Meier’s Pirates!, you can play the captain of a ship, or a fleet of ships, either acting as a pirate, or under the banner of one or more countries, earning letters of marquee and increasing in rank and prestige from there, including earning land and even winning the hand of a governor’s daughter in marriage.

While all this is going on, you can also sack towns and drive the governor out and install a governor from the country of your choosing to help further a country’s goals, find pieces of a treasure map to find buried treasure, rescue members of your family, capture the silver train and treasure fleet, recruit more sailors to your cause and expand your personal fortune, all while sailing, getting into cannon fights, and sword duels.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! remains one of my all-time favorite games.  It was ported to a number of different platforms, including the Apple II and the Sega Genesis and was made into a number of versions, such as Pirates! Gold and the newer game, also called Sid Meier’s Pirates!, for all the modern video gaming systems, the PC, Mac, and the iPad.  Each version plays a little differently, especially in the areas of fighting with cannons, sword duels, and attacking towns over land.

I always found the most enjoyable remake to be Pirates! Gold, but the original Pirates! for the Commodore 64 is still my favorite.  I would recommend that anyone that hasn’t played one of the many versions before to find one and give it a try.