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What is a mixer?

From: Digital Audio Principles

Video: What is a mixer?

In this section we're going to talk about the analog mixer or a mixing board. And whether or not you're going to use this in your setup or not, it's worth learning about and seeing kind of what the different sections are and functions, because eventually you'll see that in software and in your DAW, you'll find a mixing component in there that's directly modeled after the way a mixing board works. So once you kind have an understanding of some of the things on an analog mixing board, you can apply those to your digital mixing board. We'll cover the digital mixing board in depth later. But right now we are going to look at our hardware mixing board and kind of demystify it a little bit.

What is a mixer?

In this section we're going to talk about the analog mixer or a mixing board. And whether or not you're going to use this in your setup or not, it's worth learning about and seeing kind of what the different sections are and functions, because eventually you'll see that in software and in your DAW, you'll find a mixing component in there that's directly modeled after the way a mixing board works. So once you kind have an understanding of some of the things on an analog mixing board, you can apply those to your digital mixing board. We'll cover the digital mixing board in depth later. But right now we are going to look at our hardware mixing board and kind of demystify it a little bit.

I know these can be intimidating with all these knobs and stuff. But really, once you kind of think about it in a certain way and kind of break it down into sections, it's digestible, and you'll definitely be able to manage it. So a mixer is used to route or mix signals, inputs and outputs. It's like traffic control. You can send microphones in, lines out to your recorder, lines out to your audio interface. You can send effects loops in, if you have hardware devices that like have reverb units and things like that in it, you can loop those through this.

You can use it to set levels, you can use the preamps to get gain in levels for microphones or line inputs. You can also use an equalization section or EQ section to adjust your sounds before you send those in. Mixers also provide auxiliary inputs in bussing. Which basically are just other ways of getting signals in and moving them around, just another set of options for how you move things around in the mixing board in traffic control, as I'd like to call it. The best thing to do is think about a mixing board in three sections, and once you have that and kind of digest what each section does, you'll be in a better spot.

Now the easiest way to think of a mixing board is to kind of break it down into three different sections and each of these sections has kind of a different function. So we'll do a quick overview of what these sections are. What to do there, what the knobs there are likely to do, and kind of the way it's arranged. Let's start with the input section. This is fairly similar to what we've been talking about in terms of kind of the preamps and even your digital audio interface in terms of having mic inputs, line inputs, and phantom power, padding, things like that. A lot of those things you'll find in preamps, you'll find here.

You'll also find some other line inputs for like tape machines, RCA inputs, things like that, different auxiliary sources, CD players, whatnot. This is where we're getting things into the board, into traffic control. There'll also be some outs that are called sends here that are a way of sending things out but not out for good. We kind of want to get them out and get them back in. They function as inputs, it's an input loop kind of. The next section to think about is the Channel Strips, and I put the S there on purpose, because really there's a channel strip, and if it's a 16 channel mixer there's 16 of the strips, if it's a 32 channel mixer, there's 32 of these strips.

But if you know how one of these strips is set up and what all the knobs do in that strip, then you know what all the rest of the strips do. So more or less once you learn the channel strip on a mixing console, or on a mixing board, you usually know over 75% of all the knobs on that board, you know how to use those, because they are just repeated, it's a different instance of the same set of controls, it's a different channel. In those channels you have things like a fader, a pan control, which will let you turn things left and right and balance in different speakers, an EQ section, where you can add highs, lows, or mid frequencies.

You'll also see a few functions probably related to preamps in the channel strip as well, and then finally there might be something called bussing, which allows you to assign a channel to a different channel, which we'll discuss, which happens over here in the Master section. In a nutshell what bussing is, is let's say I have four tracks, and there are the drum set, and I like them, but I wish they were all on one fader, and I didn't have to move all for those faders every time. What I can do is assign through bussing, which we'll show on a board, if you're pushing some buttons and turning some pan pots to make selections towards numbers, we can route all four of those signals into one fader over here, which would be called the bus.

It's a little bit more invisible on the digital world, but it works well. And finally, we have the Master section, which is probably the trickiest part actually of a mixing board. Just because there're a lot of knobs and a lot of kind of one time knobs there, so they all get pushed together, and it gets a little confusing, and this is where you determine what signals will be sent to what outputs. Now there are a lot of different volume controls and a lot of different things like a main mix output, which is what you would send a kind of if you're mixing down to tape or to DAT or something to that effect.

There's also usually a control room output or control room volume, which if you're working in your workstation, and you have a pair of monitors, that will probably be set up to control the control room volume. There will be a lot of other options like things like a tape out or different kinds of outputs that you can use in different scenarios. Mixing boards are good in a lot of applications, not just recording. Sometimes you can use them for live sound or just to route a lot of signals. I've some friends here who have really hyped up home stereos and they use a mixer to look cool, but it does look cool. There's a lot of options in the Master section, and you'll find that, that's kind of where grabbing the manual and seeing what your manufacturer, what words they are using for certain things, that makes a lot of sense.

But in the next few movies we're actually going to look at this in person, and we'll get a closer view of what's going on with the mixer, and I'll be able to show you some of the different routings and some of the different knobs and things like that that you will counter. Even if initially you're not going to need a mixer you're may be just working by yourself, it's good to be aware of what kind of things and capabilities a mixer can add to your setup. At some point if you want to record with more instruments and more musicians or just record other bands not your own, it's good to know that you can get more inputs and more outputs and set up things like better headphone mixes and things like that.

So it's good to know what a mixer is capable of and kind of what the features and functions are. In the next movies we'll take kind of a tour of each section and look at them a little bit more in depth, and I'll actually get to show you some of these inputs and outputs.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Digital Audio Principles
Digital Audio Principles

110 video lessons · 28249 viewers

Dave Schroeder
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 50s
    1. Welcome
      50s
  2. 39m 10s
    1. What is sound?
      4m 15s
    2. Hertz and frequency response
      5m 34s
    3. Phase
      2m 39s
    4. Capturing audio
      3m 39s
    5. Sample rate
      6m 16s
    6. Bit depth
      9m 47s
    7. The waveform
      5m 3s
    8. Audio file formats
      1m 57s
  3. 7m 25s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      2m 59s
    2. Typical DAW signal flow
      4m 26s
  4. 50m 33s
    1. What microphones do
      1m 57s
    2. Element types
      5m 0s
    3. Pickup patterns
      6m 51s
    4. Axis
      2m 52s
    5. Frequency response and the proximity effect
      5m 10s
    6. Phase issues
      1m 41s
    7. Microphone types
      8m 44s
    8. Miking vocals
      5m 39s
    9. Miking amplifiers
      2m 17s
    10. Miking drums
      10m 22s
  5. 16m 39s
    1. Cables and connectors overview
      2m 42s
    2. Balanced and unbalanced cables
      3m 19s
    3. Common cable types
      7m 13s
    4. Cable tips
      3m 25s
  6. 12m 16s
    1. What is an I/O device?
      1m 41s
    2. Analog to digital conversion
      3m 10s
    3. Tour of an audio interface
      4m 49s
    4. Interface considerations
      2m 36s
  7. 21m 5s
    1. What is a preamp?
      3m 21s
    2. Input levels
      5m 29s
    3. Padding
      2m 18s
    4. Phantom power
      2m 37s
    5. Phase reverse
      3m 4s
    6. Preamp demo
      4m 16s
  8. 12m 56s
    1. What is a mixer?
      5m 55s
    2. Input section
      1m 17s
    3. Channel strips
      3m 16s
    4. Master section
      2m 28s
  9. 18m 21s
    1. What is monitoring?
      2m 11s
    2. Speakers
      4m 47s
    3. Room considerations
      5m 43s
    4. Headphone types
      3m 50s
    5. Monitoring levels
      1m 50s
  10. 15m 23s
    1. What role do computers play?
      1m 36s
    2. Performance issues
      4m 11s
    3. Hard drives
      4m 38s
    4. Mechanical noise
      2m 10s
    5. Authorization
      2m 48s
  11. 6m 54s
    1. Planning for recording
      54s
    2. Doing a system check
      1m 26s
    3. Planning your inputs
      1m 42s
    4. The recording environment
      2m 52s
  12. 25m 52s
    1. Types of digital audio software
      38s
    2. Multi-track recorders/sequencers
      4m 56s
    3. Two-track recorders/waveform editors
      4m 55s
    4. Loop-based music production software
      5m 44s
    5. Plug-ins
      6m 56s
    6. Other varieties
      2m 43s
  13. 18m 59s
    1. Common components
      46s
    2. The transport
      2m 4s
    3. The toolbar
      3m 19s
    4. The Edit/Arrange window
      4m 42s
    5. The mixer
      5m 8s
    6. The file list
      3m 0s
  14. 19m 17s
    1. Setting up a session
      3m 30s
    2. Assigning inputs and getting signals
      3m 19s
    3. Input modes
      3m 28s
    4. Overdubbing and punching
      5m 14s
    5. Bouncing down
      3m 46s
  15. 19m 42s
    1. What is editing?
      1m 21s
    2. Waveforms
      2m 53s
    3. Making silent cuts and trims
      7m 1s
    4. Fades and automation
      8m 27s
  16. 1h 23m
    1. What are plug-ins?
      3m 0s
    2. Using plug-ins
      6m 11s
    3. EQs
      7m 4s
    4. Dynamics pt. 1: Compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates
      5m 40s
    5. Dynamics pt 2: Applying dynamic effects
      7m 2s
    6. Pitch shifting
      6m 14s
    7. Reverb
      9m 28s
    8. Echo and delay
      6m 23s
    9. Modulation effects: Phaser, flanger, and chorus
      9m 39s
    10. Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize
      7m 39s
    11. Sound tools pt. 2: Reverse and time compression/expansion
      6m 29s
    12. Sound tools pt. 3: Noise reducers, dither
      8m 11s
  17. 23m 43s
    1. What is MIDI?
      3m 6s
    2. Keyboard controllers
      1m 23s
    3. Computer-based virtual instruments
      1m 6s
    4. Control surfaces
      1m 6s
    5. Recording and editing MIDI
      12m 4s
    6. Virtual instruments
      4m 58s
  18. 27m 29s
    1. What is mixing?
      1m 54s
    2. Some common objectives
      3m 4s
    3. Some useful techniques
      5m 59s
    4. A quick mixing demo
      16m 32s
  19. 18m 48s
    1. What is mastering?
      2m 24s
    2. Sonic maximization
      9m 43s
    3. Final preparations and exporting
      6m 41s
  20. 13m 34s
    1. What is audio compression?
      2m 16s
    2. Popular formats
      2m 9s
    3. Bit rate, sample rate, and channels
      5m 42s
    4. Other adjustments and considerations
      3m 27s
  21. 15m 6s
    1. Essential gear
      7m 36s
    2. Voice recording setups
      1m 43s
    3. The voice production process
      5m 47s
  22. 10m 4s
    1. Analog vs. digital
      2m 48s
    2. Tube vs. solid state
      5m 6s
    3. The continual upgrade
      2m 10s
  23. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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