Roland’s Go:Mixer series has found a fan base with musicians looking for a user-friendly recording solution – and for good reason. The tiny mixers are lightweight, offer bags of connectivity, and don’t break the bank. The latest model, the “Pro-X”, brings some small but important improvements over the original Go:Mixer Pro.
The main new here is less about audio and more about compatibility: Roland claims the Pro-X adds better support for Android phones and iOS devices. Don’t worry there is some additional audio features. Namely, a new gain “pad” for guitars (to attenuate the volume of active pickups) and the headphone/monitor port is now bi-directional (i.e. it is also an input ). Roland touts the latter as a way to record the mic in-line into your headphones, but you can also plug in a lavalier/3.5mm source, if you can live unsupervised.
The rest of the Pro-X is the same as the previous Pro. There’s a single XLR combo port on the right side for microphones and 1/4-inch devices. On this side you will also find the phantom power switch (for using condenser microphones), a smartphone/3.5mm line-level input and a guitar/bass port. The front edge houses two more 3.5mm line-level inputs, that new pad switch, the updated two-way headphone port, and the phone loopback switch. The left side only has a pair of 1/4-inch instrument inputs and the battery cover for four AAA cells needed for phantom power.
In short, if it has, or can be converted to, a 3.5mm port, quarter-inch jack, or XLR connector, you can probably use it here.
On the top side of the Pro-X is where you will find all of the gain dials for each input. A few things to note though: the 3.5mm ‘smartphone’ input doesn’t have a gain control, you’ll have to set this on the phone itself. However, you can also plug a phone into one of the quarter-inch ports with an adapter, in which case you’ll have volume control with one of the ports if that matters. It’s also worth mentioning that master volume is also monitor gain, which is a little annoying if you want high monitoring levels but low gain on your recording or vice versa.
Since the Pro-X was designed to work with your phone, there’s a handy ridge along the battery compartment that doubles as a slot for your handset. Obviously this means you don’t need to have your phone hanging around like a clipboard attached, but it also provides a good position for the camera if you want to live stream a performance. My iPhone 12 with case does not work enough fits snugly in the groove, but enough for the phone to be stable when in use.
If there’s one immediate thing I would change, it’s the “spike” indicator. Unlike a DJ mixer where you would have a full strip of LEDs indicating each channel’s volume and another for master volume, the Pro-X has a single LED that will flash red when an input exceeds the maximum threshold ( i.e. cut). It’s entirely possible to set your levels so there’s no red light on your checks, and then a single plosive can send it. If there was a way to constantly see how close you are to 0 dB, that would be much more useful.
Worse than that, however, I found that some of my recordings that does not have trigger red light might be a little distorted when playing. While speaking into the microphone, everything sounded fine, but the recording was often “crunchy” in the louder sections. Luckily you can actually hear this in your headphones while this is happening so you can adjust the levels before recording but ultimately what good is the clipping light if it doesn’t reliably prevent you from overloading things ? It made me quite nervous every time I recorded until I experimented with different levels and put more confidence in monitoring.
After some testing with different mics it became clear that dynamic mics are good, but any condenser I’ve tried needed a lot more headroom to avoid sounding harsh. It’s not clear if this is a preamp or phantom power issue, or just the extremely sensitive nature of the capacitors. When I tested with a Shure SM59 (dynamic/no phantom power), for example, I was able – in fact almost had to – to set the gain to maximum, and even though the master volume was at 75%, it there was still plenty of headroom.
And that brings us back to the fact that the monitor level control is the same as the master gain. You probably want your levels to be quite modest to make sure you don’t clip, but doing so also lowers your monitor levels, making it harder to hear your mix the way you want, you know, pretty stuff important.
I largely avoided this problem by making sure I was recording in something that showed more detailed levels. Rode’s Reporter app, for example, has a nice, large meter that shows you how hot your signal is, and it was much easier to use as a gauge of the aggregate output.
Start-up issues aside, once you’re ready, everything is very simple. As I mentioned above, I preferred plugging in a phone (or any other 3.5mm source to be fair) through the Guitar port. Having the rotary dial for the volume allows you to adjust the volume on the fly much more smoothly, which is handy if you want to use music beds or other similar sources where you might want to dynamically change the volume.
Likewise, if you want to use two XLR microphones – say for a podcast or a vocal and mic instrument) – you could co-opt one of the 3.5mm ports with something like an iRig Pre 2. That means spending on a other gear, but if you record often, it’s very handy to have an XLR to 3.5mm adapter/interface.
As for this new ability to record with your headset’s in-line mic, all I can say is… does it work? These inline mics are never good, but it’s never a bad thing to have more inputs, and it could work well for more conversational podcasts or just recording phone interviews. As already mentioned, you can actually feed other inputs here if you don’t need to monitor, for example if you’re recording a voiceover or something for a multitrack song that you want to edit later.
Perhaps the most interesting thing, for me, is what other can i use it for? Its credentials as a portable mixing console for musicians are obvious. But I also feel like it’s just something handy to have if you work with audio in any way. I have become something of a collector of audio adapters. I have all kinds of cables, interfaces and various types of microphones. Something like the Pro-X appeals to me as a simple way to pack a lot of these into a portable setup.
The richness of inputs means that it is also quite flexible. It’s a pretty compelling combo right there. The levels issue I mentioned earlier is more about learning the configuration. Once I figured it out, it was rarely a problem after that.
I want the monitor volume to be separate from the main volume for those occasions when you really want to record low while hearing how the mix sounds together. Maybe that’s something we can hope for in a future model.
Whether you’re a garage band, an artist on the move, or a podcaster who likes to get out into the big world, there’s a lot to love here. At $150, it’s also a relatively modest investment for something you can easily fit in your back pocket.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.