Its true that this Activ 40 is not exactly a battle mixer! But if you are a beginner or if you have a tight budget and you want an easy-to-use and sturdy mixer try this small BST!
I've been using mine for over 14 years and it still works perfectly. It keeps on surprising me year after year because it's always ready when I need it. I've bought other mixers with a better performance, but I never sold this one and I'm always happy to use it again from time to time.
In spite of its compact dimensions, this rack-mounting mixer has everything a big mixer has. You can connect four mics, three turntables, four CD players and one video player, or five line signal sources, one effects processor for the four mic channels and the video/CD channel. The manufacturer actually advertised 13 channels! It's quite exceptional for a "small" mixer.
I would like to have more outputs (XLR and jack) in addition to the RCA outputs to have more versatility but the rear panel is too small.
I give it 7/10 because it offers a lot of value in a compact housing.
My Activ 40 followed me everywhere during almost 15 years: DJ events, small folk and rock bands (up to four musicians), karaoke nights, video projections, etc. and it was always successful.
You obviously can't connect a drum kit to it but with an additional group mixer it was perfect for small locations (pubs) and small "events" where organizers had a very small budget.
The small EQ has only 5 bands for each side of the stereo out and the mic channels only have a 2-band EQ. It's better to add an EQ to improve the integrated one... For a band you'll have to use adapter connectors for the RCA line inputs since only the mic inputs have four XLR or 1/4" jacks! An advantage: the B output allows you to feed a monitoring system... Although you don't have any control possibility except a volume setting, it's very convenient in small locations to make a simple monitor mix for the musicians on stage! (I know it's not the best solution but it can be helpful!)
The mixer is also ok for DJ applications: the sound is ok and the mixer doesn't alter the music that much even with high operating levels. It only adds a slight noise. The VU-meters are reliable and the controls are smooth and effective. Don't forget it's a budget product for beginners so don't try to show off... But it does have a talkover function in the DJ mic channel (some mixers don't have it!), an auto-start in the two first line channels, an average croosfader (even if the respective channel buttons are not ergonomic) and a "scratch" effect... which is more annoying than useful!
The 12-volt BNC connector for a gooseneck comes in very handy. Once again it's a feature which some mixers don't have!
I personally never read the user's manual (I'm not sure there was ever one) but the handling is simple and intuitive. It's great for people who want to learn by doing. One hour (max.) will be enough to know how to use the mixer!
I give it 6/10 because it was always useful!
I already said everything about the sound... But don't be too demanding with this small mixer, and don't expect more than what it has to offer. Even if it's not a top-level tool, it doesn't sound so bad and I've heard more expensive mixers sound worse!!! And the sound also depends on the P.A. system.
I give it 5/10 because I miss many control options, but it has enough functions to get an average mark.
As a summary, if you see a secondhand Activ 40 in a good condition and you're a beginner, buy it. You won't pay a lot of money and it will allow you to learn pretty easily.
Some people might say it's not trendy or that it's obsolete but that's a mistake! It's true it has not as many auxiliaries as modern mixers, but I've seen lots of people having problems with these new mixers so I think it's better to learn with this one... once you master it you can buy something more complex.
Excellent value for money if you can be happy with simple things. Don't forget that the mixer is not the only tool you need. You have to keep some money for speakers, power amps, mics, etc.
Note: It seems BST's online customer support doesn't answer anymore when you inquire about their gear... or perhaps you have to remind them several times... or find a dealer that loves this brand (which isn't easy).
I give it 7/10 as final mark. Perhaps it's a bit too high, but trust me, it's really surprising and extremely convenient.