The audio console is an essential part in everyday life of a sound engineer. The console combines audio signals, processes it and sends it to the devices they are supposed to reach. Mixing capabilities are performed by an array of tools these days. Devices as handy as phones and tablets have mixing capabilities. The engineer can direct the sound that shows up on the interface of their mobile device and through the apps provided by the sound company.
However, to get to the basics of sound engineering, the actual physical console is capable of doing much more and providing you with skills on how to manipulate sound the old-school way. There are three main types of mixers for audio needs. They are:
- Recording mixers or studio mixers
- Live sound mixers or PA mixers
- DJ mixers
Understanding The Basics of Every Mixer
When looking for a mixer, or when learning to work on one, there are some basic terminologies that you would need to be familiar with. These terms are usually self-explanatory but have a compelling use to them. Understanding the working behind the different knobs and buttons will help when working on any type of mixer; physical or app-driven.
The audio signal is affected by a group of circuits and controls called the audio strip. The strip outs everything together so they can work constructively to control the sound. The parts of the channel strip are followed:
- Input jack
- Microphone jack
- Dynamics process
- Meter for output
In the simplest terms, channels are the signal path. The more channels available on the mixer, the more output and input devices can be connected to it. Depending on the usage, the channels can be connected to amplifiers, preamps, microphones, guitars, basses, etc.
The inputs/outputs on the mixer are usually called ‘I/O’ in tech speak. Depending on the usage of your mixer, you can decide how you want to plan the inputs and outputs. For example, if you are working on a live event, the mixer will need inputs that can take microphones and a host of other sound input devices. The outputs that will connect to the speakers and any mains will also need to be connected.
The circuit intersections of where many channels meet are called a Bus. Every mixer sends signals to a particular bus or even a set of buses. The master mixing bus is fed by the faders and carries the primary output to the different output devices such as speakers and recorders.
When a mixer has several channels, they have a group function that will allow the engineer to control and process many channels at the same time. Think of a group as a sub-mixer, which shares the same signal process and the route.
External sound processors are connected using a channel insert. Compressors and equalizers are connected to the channel insert at the preamp stage. When you work with larger mixers, you will find that the inserts are usually a patch bay that will help with connecting to several external devices.
The cue system is essential in helping you listened to the sounds on the different channels when working. Some mixers will also allow you to listen to the Solo In Place which will close all the channels excluding the one you want to hear to.