The Four-Channel Unit Is Suitable for Recording Live Music, Handles Rough Treatment on Remotes
(click thumbnail)The Four-Channel Unit Is Suitable for Recording Live Music, Handles Rough Treatment on RemotesEver since Shure Bros. introduced the classic M-67 in the early 1970s, the challenge for designers of field production mixers has been to build smaller boxes with more functionality without sacrificing ruggedness and reliability. Kamesan continues this tradition with its KS-342 four-channel field mixer, a device with a lot of features packed in a small footprint.
Kamesan is a relative newcomer to the American broadcast market, but its products have been available in Japan for over 30 years. The fact that Kamesan commands over 90 percent of the Japanese ENG/EFP mixer market suggests it must be doing something right. Tascam is now the exclusive distributor for Kamesan in the United States.
On the left side of the KS-342 are the inputs: four XLR mic/line connectors, a five-pin XLR plug for X-Y or M-S (Middle-Side) mics for channels 1 and 2, as well as a five-pin mini DIN connector for an assignable auxiliary input. There also are jacks for DC power in and 12 Volt output.
The right side contains the outputs: XLR left and right line/mic out. There also is an unbalanced 3.5mm stereo output. An XLR-5 connector provides the main output busses and balanced sub-outputs. The AES/EBU output is switch selectable between 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz.
Product CapsuleTHUMBS UP:
Superb mechanical engineering
Excellent ergonomic design
Easily integrates sub-mix and limiter
Many advanced features in a small footprint
Flimsy carrying case
Not repairable in field
Too much mixer for simple applications
PRICE: MSRP is $3,850
Contact: Tascam in California at (323) 726-0303 or visit www.tascam.com.
There also are controls for the KS-342’s compressor. The triggering of the compressor can be selected between the left or right bus, either bus or both. The triggering level can be selected between +3, +6, +9 or +12 dB.
Each of the four channels can be individually set via a front-panel switch for: mic with 48-volt phantom power, dynamic mic, A-B power mic and line-level input. For M-S operation, channels 1-2 have a matrix option, where Fader 2 controls the level, and Fader 1 controls the width.
Each channel also features a variable low-cut filter, which is continuously variable from 20 Hz to 200 Hz, along with a variable gain control and an assign switch for left, right or center channels. Momentary PFL is available for each channel by pressing in the low-cut filter control.
The mixer’s front panel also contains three options for the meters, VU, BBC or Nordic scale. The headphone amp is switch-selectable between L, R, AUX, stereo and mono. Master gain controls, battery check, built-in oscillator and meter lights are included. A slate microphone allows comments to be added to the main mix, a feature more likely to be used in film or television applications.
Having all these controls on the front could result in clutter and confusion, but Kamesan has used clever ergonomic design to simplify operation. While the primary mixer and headphone control knobs are conventional, the rest of the “set-up” controls are flush-mounted, or nearly so, making them readily available, while rendering accidental adjustments unlikely.
Power for the KS-342 can come from an external 10-15 Volt supply, or from the internal battery pack. Eight AA batteries are required, and a NiCad pack is available as an option. Batteries fit into a special holder that can be quickly swapped in the field.
An annoyance is this holder can be put in the mixer upside-down. The contacts are positioned so this won’t cause any damage, but it could lead to some anxious moments if the pack is changed in the dark, or by inexperienced users. A better scheme might be to have a holder that only fits in the mixer when inserted properly.
For those occasions when four channels isn’t enough, Kamesan makes the companion KS-6001 sub-mixer, whose four channels are functionally identical to those on the KS-342, except for the M-S matrix.
The KS-6002 two-band EQ and compressor unit is available as an option. Both accessory units latch on to the top of the KS-342. Power and audio connections to/from the mixer are via a multipin connector that pops out of the top or bottom of the units, eliminating the hassle of additional batteries and adapter cables.
As we have come to expect from Japanese manufacturers, the mechanical engineering, paint finish and overall quality of construction for this mixer are superb. Switches and pots have a positive feel, and the rubberized knobs provide a solid grip. Removing the top and bottom covers of the KS-342 reveals two surface-mount, double-sided PC boards.
Quality of construction on the inside is as durable as on the outside. While the KS-342 doesn’t have much of a track record in the United States, it looks like it could stand up to the punishment and abuse to which most remote gear is subjected.
The bad news about circuit boards with surface-mount components is the unit cannot be repaired in the field easily. No schematic is included with the unit, so it must be returned to the factory if calamity ensues.
Included with the mixer is a protective vinyl cover. It comes in two pieces, with Velcro fasteners and drawstrings. It is made of lightweight material, which is unlikely to hold up for long. Users of the KS-342 will probably want to purchase the optional and more rugged KS-342CC case, which can bulk up to accommodate the KS-6001 and 6002 expansion units.
The 22-page operating manual includes specifications, a block diagram of the mixer and illustrations of controls and connectors. All applications and functions of the KS-342 are well-explained. The manual appears to have been written by a native speaker of English, as it is not in the difficult “Japanenglish” jargon that accompanies much imported gear.
A quick bench check confirmed that the KS-342 met or exceeded its frequency response, noise and distortion specs. Field tests confirmed the ease of use for a simple field mix, although most of the advanced features were not needed.
Kamesan’s KS-342 provides a lot of horsepower, more than might be needed for a typical remote broadcast. Stations that do live recording of music, however, may be able to make good use of this mixer’s advanced features, and benefit from its durable construction.
Pricewise, the Kamesan mixer is a high-end device, and I suspect the prime audience is film and television. It would be definite overkill to use this unit for local sports remotes or covering a grand opening at the mall.
But for radio stations that are serious about recording live music on location, features such as the slate microphone, ability to mix left and right separately, phantom power and multiple mixing configurations may be worth the extra cost.