Lexicon Alpha Mixer Review
- Filed Under:
- Audio Broadcasting
The Lexicon Alpha is a small dual-input, two-bus, two-output USB-powered I/O mixer that is marketed as a “desktop recording studio.” It includes Steinberg Cubase LE Software for editing and production. The mixer has two channels - one for an Instrument or Line level input and one for an XLR microphone or Line level input.
Channel 1 is permanently assigned to the left channel, and Channel 2 is permanently assigned to the right channel. The headphone jack is switchable from mono to stereo. In the mono mode, left and right channels are combined into a mono signal. In the stereo mode, Channel 1 is in the left ear, and Channel 2 is in the right ear.
The Instrument and Line inputs and Line outputs are ¼” phone plug connections. The Line outputs are also available on RCA jacks. The microphone input is XLR.
The original idea was to use the Alpha as a small, inexpensive mixer for Skype since the main output is sent to the computer over a USB connection. With Skype speaker audio fed to Channel 1 and the headphone switch set to mono, it might be possible to create a mix-minus. However, Skype only recognizes audio in the left channel. Therefore, with the Alpha, Microphone or Line audio in the right channel is ignored by Skype.
All may not be lost, if you’re desperate or already spent your money. It’s a stretch, but it’s possible to create a mix-minus using the Alpha. With the microphone connected to the Mic input and feeding Channel 2, connect the computer’s speaker output to the Alpha Line input 1. Connect the Alpha’s Line 2 output to the computer’s line input. Press the “mono” switch on the headphones. Adjust the Alpha’s “Monitor Mix” control to the 12 o’clock position. Now, when you speak into the microphone and get return audio from the Skype computer, you should hear both in your headphones.
The article “Interfacing Skype with a Mixer” will help you understanding proper wiring techniques used to test the configuration discussed in this article. It’s at http://www.ibroadcastnetwork.org/blog/interfacing-skype-with-a-mixer.
Unfortunately the headphone amplifier on the Alpha is not very powerful. It’s adequate to get a lot of Skype return audio (the caller) in your headphones, but it’s not to easy to crank your microphone audio.
The Alpha is a useful USB-powered XLR microphone preamp. It may have some value in podcasting or Internet broadcasting, but it’s primarily intended for multitrack sound recording. Most of what can be accomplished with an Alpha can also be accomplished with an Audio-Technica ATR2100 or AT2005 microphone with built-in USB. Therefore, if you decide to buy an Alpha, be aware of its limitations.