There are scores of available audio interfaces—those essential gadgets for recording digitally on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. What makes the CEntrance MixerFace R4 different? Lots. For starters, it’s got two Neutrik combo jack channels for XLR or 1/4-inch inputs, yet it still fits comfortably in your pocket alongside your phone and keys. But what really sets the MixerFace apart is its rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, which can provide seven to eight hours of plug-free use. That means you can truly use it on the go without worrying about charging or finding an outlet.
Designed for musicians, journalists, voiceover artists, or anyone needing high-quality mobile audio production, the R4 works with computers as well as iOS and Android devices, provided you have the right cables, such as Apple’s Lightning-to-USB camera adapter (widely available for $40 or less), which is required for use with an iOS device. CEntrance rightly touts the R4’s Jasmine Mic Preamps for clean gain, and phantom power for enabling condenser microphones. You can switch each channel between Hi- and Lo-Z inputs depending on whether you’re using a microphone or instrument-level signals.
I recorded an acoustic guitar into Logic X Pro with both a direct signal from the onboard pickup and a Rode condenser mic, but I could have also used two mics. The result was a pair of clean, strong tracks that captured my guitar’s warm, zingy character. I also used the R4 to make crystal-clear recordings in my iPhone’s GarageBand app, tracking a couple of guitar parts and a handful of vocal harmonies with satisfying results.
The R4 is super rugged, with a rounded aluminum chassis and solid-feeling potentiometers and jacks. It has a handful of recessed dipswitches for phantom power—engaging the high-pass filters on the input channels, and toggling between Hi-Z and Lo-Z—so plan on keeping a pen or other pointy tool handy for changing those settings. In addition to the headphone out, a pair of 1/8-inch balanced outputs can drive monitors, and a stereo aux channel can act as an effects bus or additional input. In other words, the R4 is a true mixer. The two main channels each have gain controls with helpful signal and peak LEDs, and a second monitor blend knob for mixing between the input signal and the USB signal for zero-latency monitoring.
I switched one channel to Hi-Z for recording acoustic guitar, electric bass, and electric guitar tracks direct. The results were solid and musical, both with high-output instruments and a passive vintage Fender Precision. Vocal tracks were similarly successful, and not having to worry about staying tethered to a power source meant it was easy to try different recording environments for the best results. A three-dot battery meter right next to the charging jack let me know how much power was left, and the R4 impressively lasted for most of a daylong home-recording session without needing additional charge. I learned the hard way to make sure to hit that power button, since the battery’s charge depletes when the unit is on, whether or not it’s in use.
I love audio gadgets, and the CEntrance MixerFace R4 is now among my new favorites. It’s a truly mobile recording interface and mixer, steps beyond what’s typically available for mobile phone and tablet recording, while providing pro-level sound and functionality both for computers and mobile devices. CEntrance has a decades-long track record of making digital recording components for other brands. It’s exciting to see what the company is able to do under its own label.
Inputs Two combo jack inputs for XLR or 1/4″ instrument or line-level sources, each with switchable impedance, high-pass filters, and blendable zero-latency monitoring; stereo 1/8″ aux input
Outputs Headphone jack, balanced 1/8″ monitor outputs, stereo aux output
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Other 48V phantom power, USB A/D output jack, USB power jack
Assembled in USA
Price $349 street