Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X review: A smart solution for smartphone audio streaming
With the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X and a connected device, you can livestream audio from almost anywhere.
I used to cover conventions as a producer and cameraman and that meant conducting lots of interviews from crowded show floors. Because we wanted to stay light and mobile, we ran two mics directly into the XLR audio inputs on our video camera: one for the on-air host and the other for whoever she interviewed. The set-up worked, but it had two big problems. First, we could only use two microphones, and interviewing more than one person meant having them share a mic on-camera. Frankly, that looks a little lame. Much more significantly, we had no way to broadcast live and by the time our stories were uploaded that evening from a computer, we were often scooped by teams with expensive livestreaming technology. If I could take one piece of recording equipment back in time with me and do it all over again, I’d pack the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X.
Combined with an LTE or Wi-Fi-connected smartphone camera, this compact audio mixer for streaming is a pocket-sized problem solver. Whether you’re a podcaster, vlogger, videographer, or musician in the studio or on stage, the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X helps get your audio to the masses.
A New Twist on Portable Mixing
Versatility and portability combine in the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X. Brian S. Hawkins
What is the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X
The battery- and/or USB-powered GO:MIXER PRO-X features nine channels of audio for microphones, instruments, and line-level sources like music players. It also has a USB output so you can send your jam session directly to a phone or computer for livestreaming or recording. And at only 4.12 inches wide, 6.12 inches deep, and 1.62 inches high, this 8-ounce unit is ridiculously easy to transport. The $149 device isn’t any tougher on the pocketbook than it is on an actual cargo pants pocket but, at this price point, Roland had to make some choices about which features to include and which ones to leave out of the mix. With that in mind, let’s look at whether this mini-mixer for your smartphone is right for you.
The Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X makes some modest improvements over the company’s previous model, the GO:MIXER PRO. Like its predecessor, the PRO-X features an XLR microphone input with optional 48v phantom power for use with condenser mics; a ¼-inch jack for guitar or bass; dual mono ¼-inch inputs for stereo, line-level instruments; two stereo TRS inputs for external audio from sources like music players; and, finally, a dedicated TRRS jack for connecting a smartphone’s output without losing access to its microphone.
The Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X’s design
The PRO-X owes much of its portability to its small size, of course. But you can’t wander through the backcountry broadcasting your livestream if you need to plug into a wall outlet to make it all work. Thankfully, this little mixer draws power from four AAA batteries (not included). Roland claims you’ll get four-and-a-half hours of use from them; in my tests, I came in at just shy of that before I noticed little dips in the audio quality—and then the unit conked out completely. However, the mixer also draws power through its USB port, whether plugged into your phone, computer, or an external power pack. And if you’re using the mixer in a single spot, you can, of course, plug it into the wall via an adapter (also not included). Roland points out—and my tests confirm—that you’ll need to use batteries if you want phantom power for your mics. This will shorten the batteries’ run times, but I had more than enough juice to get through my recording sessions. The versatility of the dual power sources—battery and USB—is a nice touch.
Hitting the right cords
The mixer connects to your smartphone or computer via a micro-USB jack located on the back of the unit. Much to my delight, Roland included a micro-USB-to-USB-C cable, as well as a micro-USB-to-Lightning cable, making it easy to connect to both older and new Apple and Android smartphones. The company also tossed in a TRRS cable for use with a phone’s dedicated audio output (found on Android phones and older iPhones). This makes the mixer usable straight out of the box.
The Roland GO:Mixer PRO-X improves on its older sibling by adding an attenuator switch that, when engaged, pads the guitar/bass input to help control hotter signals from instruments with active pickups. Roland also added a loopback function so you can play music from your smartphone while still recording video. Finally, they upgraded the headphone output to support headset and earbud mics.
A strange spin on things
Roland arranged the mixer’s five knobs with enough space between them for even the thickest of fingers—or someone wearing gloves while using it outside on a chilly day. The knobs aren’t as rock-solid as those found on higher-end mixers, but they’re not flimsy either and I never felt like they were at risk of breaking when I carried it in a backpack or the pockets of my cargo shorts.
Somewhat oddly, Roland marked each knob with an icon indicating the type of instrument they expect you to plug into the corresponding jack. I’d rather they just number them. Sure, the little keyboard icon tells me immediately which controller boosts my synth’s signal, but what if I’ve plugged a drum machine into it? If I’m setting up with a partner and they ask which channel has the DJ mixer, it’s a little confusing to tell them “the one marked with a keyboard.” How do I notate that if I’m writing everything down? Remember, when all’s said and done, an input is an input is an input, and the unit doesn’t really care what sound source runs into it. There are two notable exceptions: If you’ve got an unpowered microphone, you must plug it into the XLR input to use phantom power. And if you’ve got something that combines an output and input on one line, you’ll need to use the TRRS jacks.
I like that Roland designed the mixer with an integrated groove to hold my phone at a great angle for monitoring recordings or streams and, depending on where the mixer’s sitting, using the camera for things like Zoom calls. However, I think Roland missed a beat by not including screw-mounts on the underside for a tripod plate and on the top for a small, flexible arm to hold something like a light, phone clamp, or even a better camera. It would have been an easy way to provide a significant boost in functionality. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but I’d love to see the company address it one day.
Is the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X a sound choice?
Features and inputs are all well and good, but how does the mixer sound? I don’t want an interface that colors the sound or introduces noise to the signal. It’s also important that it provides a decent amount of gain. Can a tiny, inexpensive mixer hit those benchmarks?
For my first test, I decided to make a live music video about the existential drama unfolding between two squirrels outside my office window. I plugged a drum machine, a sampler loaded up with chugging electric guitar loops, and a high-end condenser vocal microphone into the PRO-X (making sure phantom power was engaged), and then sent the signal to my favorite phone video app, Filmic Pro. Then I hit record and started playing while trying to shoot the two rodents as they ran around a tree. I won’t lie, the video stunk, but I was absolutely impressed by the quality of the audio.
The mixer didn’t color the sound at all and provided more than enough headroom for a strong signal without any added noise. I had no trouble dialing in and recording a mix that sounded excellent when played back. The peak indicator light was handy for setting levels, though I’d prefer a meter over a single LED for accuracy.
In my next test, I plugged two dynamic microphones into the mixer for a simple interview setup. One went into the XLR input (without any need for phantom power) and the other plugged into one of the ¼-inch jacks using an XLR-to-¼-inch adapter. Once again, I sent the signal into my phone, but this time used Zoom to livestream a conversation between myself and an artist friend to an audience of six other people who tuned in for the test. Once again, the audio sounded great in my mixing headphones and the people on the other end of the signal gave it a thumbs-up as well.
However, during setup, I discovered a rather head-scratching design decision: The mixer’s central volume knob controls output for both the main mix and the headphones. So if I want a bit of a boost in my cans, the recorded signal’s getting a boost, too. As frustrating as that is in the studio, it’s downright problematic if you’re somewhere you need to hear yourself over lots of background noise, like at a convention or a club. In order to make your headphones louder without increasing the entire output volume, you’ll need a separate headphone amplifier. Out of all the features I’d like to see added to the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X, a separate control knob for headphone gain tops the list.
That said, I love that the Roland GO:Mixer PRO-X makes it so easy to livestream from my phone. It’s a great tool for anyone with a podcast or vlog, whether they’re conducting interviews, playing live music, doing a DJ set in a virtual club, or holding a conference call. It’s perfect for virtual conventions and panels, too. The mixer’s small size and light weight make it easy to take anywhere, and it drops easily into a broadcast signal chain. In fact, the size and versatility of the GO:MIXER PRO-X invites experimentation. Want to livestream your wandering minstrel troupe at the next Renaissance Faire? It’s easy—just plug in your instruments, set your levels, attach it to your phone, and then drop the mixer into someone’s backpack. If you use wireless connectors, you can walk around and entertain the masses on-site, and your followers online, at the same time. (Who cares about historic accuracy—we’re living in the future, baby!)
So, who should buy the Roland GO:MIXER PRO-X?
Roland’s GO:MIXER PRO-X is ideal for anyone who likes to work with audio on the go, especially if livestreaming is a big part of their creative endeavors. This sound mixer features enough inputs for small bands to play and record together, and bloggers will find setting up audio for interviews or discussion panels a fast and simple affair. The unit’s small enough to toss into your kit bag or backpack, making it perfect for broadcasting from vacation destinations or while on tour. That said, anyone looking for more advanced mixer functionality, like separate gain stages, EQs, or even multiple XLR inputs won’t be happy with the PRO-X. Roland never intended it to replace the mixer in your home recording studio or broadcast booth, but, rather, it makes a perfect supplemental system that goes and performs wherever you do.