An Introduction to Mixers
Audio mixers can definitely look intimidating, but with a little practice, you’ll find that they are fairly straightforward. Imagine cooking up your favorite recipe and perfectly mixing the ingredients, and you’ll discover audio mixers work in a similar fashion. Blending together individual tracks into one fantastic finished product!
The Ever Important Gain
The input gain control is probably the most important part of any mixer. Simply out, the higher the gain, the louder the signal. The gain control input is usually located at the top of a channel, while the output, called a fader, is at the bottom. While these are not the only controls involved in mixing, they are certainly crucial to any successful mix.
But What About All Those Knobs?
Let’s step away from the gain and look at some of the other controls on a mixer, starting with the equalizer, or EQ. The EQ controls your balance between the bass, the midrange, and the treble. The EQ acts as a filter, allowing you to select which sounds really stand out in the mix.
Auxiliary sends allow you to send mixes that are separate from the main mix to any number of places. These sends are particularly valuable, for example, if you want to send just the vocals to the singer’s headphones, allowing them to clearly hear their performance and adjust accordingly.
It is also possible to have auxiliary sends blend back into the main mix with help from an effects send. This can allow you to add a special characteristic to your mix. For example, say you’re using a send to route a dry vocal to a reverb unit. With the return control, you can then blend the reverb with the dry vocal in the main mix.
Mastering the Mix
The main job of any mixing board is to make sure the master mix sounds its best; combining outputs from each channel into one incredible sonic experience. As a general rule, each channel will have three controls that determine how it fits in the mix. These controls are the fader, which sets each channel’s level in relation to the others; the pan, which positions the sound of the channel in the stereo field; and the mute, which switches the channel from audible to silent, allowing you to quickly remove it or place it in the mix without adjusting the fader.
In addition, there is also a solo control which mutes all other channels, allowing you to hear just the channel selected. This is very useful for making adjustments to the EQ.
Every channel in the mixer feeds to the master bus, which is controlled by the master fader. This fader determines how loud the signal being sent to the speakers will be. By blending each individual channel, then sending it to the master bus, your sound is going to be ready for action and is sure to be enjoyed by your audience!