All about mixing consoles.
This is a device, the main task of which is the summation of several sound signals into one. But modern mixing consoles, in addition to this function, perform a number of others:
• signal correction (equalization, compression, special effects); • routing (the console is the heart of any concert venue or studio, from which wires diverge to other equipment); • amplification (such a mixer can be connected directly to acoustic systems); • recording to a computer or external media.
How to make sense of all this diversity?
Types of mixing consoles.
All mixing consoles are conventionally divided into DJ, concert, studio, radio and others. Everyone has their own specifics, and this most important factor cannot be ignored..
DJ consoles usually have fewer channels than live ones, but they have special features:
• fader between a pair of stereo sources, allowing one movement to mix them; • special equalizer, literally killing frequencies; • an effects processor with a looper or a special input with a tone-corrector for connecting turntables (or, as they are also called, turntables).
Pictured is a DJ mixing console.
These functions will most likely be useless for concert or studio activities, but you will not be able to hold a disco with another mixing console..
DJ controllers have become very popular now. These are DJ mixing consoles combined with a multichannel (usually two stereo pairs) sound card and controlled by a special program from a computer. If the sound source is only a computer, then there is no point in buying a regular DJ mixer.
A more reasonable purchase would be a DJ controller.
Photo – DJ controller.
Concert consoles pay special attention to reliability and convenience of operational work with frequent trips. Such a console should have a developed architecture – the ability to connect a variety of additional equipment and route the signal to various sound reinforcement zones. Concert consoles include zone and monitor consoles, as well as various splitters that solve narrow problems during large concerts.
In the photo – a concert mixing console.
Modern studio consoles value, above all, the level of sound quality and the ability to save settings. Nowadays, digital consoles are widely used, allowing one touch to return to an unfinished track and continue mixing it at any time. In studio consoles, attention is often paid to such subjective parameters as convergence and listenability, which characterize the balance of instruments in the production of a finished recording..
Pictured is a modern studio mixing console.
Broadcasting consoles are in a sense similar to DJ consoles (it’s not for nothing that people in the on-air studio call themselves DJs more often than presenters). However, these consoles have some additional functions, for example, the ability to communicate off-air with the studio or listeners who are calling on the phone, start the soundtrack from the fader channel, and special dynamics processing with controlled compressors. All this is absolutely unnecessary in the studio or on the concert stage..
Pictured is a broadcasting mixing console.
Depending on the number of channels, mixing consoles are divided into portable, portable and stationary..
Portable consoles are compact devices, as a rule, of a budget class, performing the minimum tasks assigned to them. They are usually used where many channels are not needed and there is no need to connect musical instruments. A feature of portable consoles is the use of circular potentiometers, thanks to which the devices are light and small, they are easy to carry, and they do not take up much space in a home studio..
Pictured is a portable mixing console.
By the way, you can watch our video about the 5 most interesting representatives of these mixing consoles on the channel:
Portable mixing consoles are semi-professional and professional models that are used for various events: concerts, studio recordings, etc. Such devices have more channels than portable models. In live performance, active mixers with a built-in power amplifier are often used.
They have everything you need for quality mixing and recording..
Photo – portable mixing console.
Stationary mixing consoles are professional devices with a large number of channels. They are used for large concerts and in professional recording studios. Increasingly, there are digital mixing consoles that allow multichannel sound recording to a computer, have the broadest sound processing capabilities, are able to memorize all the settings of a particular studio project and greatly facilitate the work of sound engineers..
In the photo – a stationary mixing console.
Main characteristics of mixing consoles.
Number of channels: what you need to know about it?
If the console is called 10-channel, this does not mean that it has 10 microphone inputs. A stereo input (for example, for connecting a stereo player) is two channels. There is also an additional, unregulated TAPE (CD) IN input, which feeds the line-level stereo signal directly to the master bus: it also needs two channels.
Thus, a 10-channel mixing console can have 4 mono microphone inputs, 2 stereo inputs for connecting stereo sources and an additional input for connecting a turntable to the master section..
As we noted above, mixing consoles have mic and line inputs. They can be balanced or unbalanced. Most consoles have balanced inputs, which contributes to greater noise immunity and, as a result, noise reduction.
Therefore, you should use balanced (they are also called balanced), mainly XLR connectors.
Mixing console interface.
All signal control in the mixing console can be divided into channel-by-channel and general.
Each channel of a mixing console usually contains:
Line In 1/4 “TRS (fat jack).
Very often, the microphone and line inputs are performed on budget consoles to save space on the so-called COMBO connector. Both XLR and Jack can be connected to it.
Insert, which directs the signal to an external processing device (most often a compressor) and receives it back from this device.
GAIN control that allows you to adjust the mixer input channel to work with any source.
Equalizers: Budget models have a two- or three-band equalizer. More expensive and professional models usually imply parametric adjustment, which changes not only the level of each adjustable frequency, but also the frequency itself. This option is convenient for concert and studio work, as it allows you to make a more accurate and deep correction of the signal in the midrange..
Send, which makes it possible to mix the processed signal from an external processing device into the channel signal.
Pan control that controls the level of the signal that will be routed to the common left and right channels.
Switching, in which the activity and signal route are determined using the buttons.
Volume control. On budget models, it is made on circular potentiometers, on professional consoles on vertical faders: the longer it is, the more accurately you can set the signal level.
General management includes subgroups that allow you to combine the selected channels for further management. The general section contains a headphone output, switching (AUX sends and returns, monitor outputs), built-in DSP-processors. The indicator of levels is also required.
Professional consoles have a built-in microphone for negotiations with a sound engineer, a special output for connecting a backlight, and much more..
Do you need a mixer in a home studio?
Now that we know almost everything about mixing consoles, we will answer the main question that we are asked: “I have a home studio. Does it make sense to buy a mixer for it? “.
The minimum home studio usually includes:
– microphone; – sound card; – headphones; – studio monitors; – MIDI keyboard; – commutation and racks.
Do you need a remote control in this case? Our answer? NOT.
You don’t need a mixing console for recording: not only will it not improve the recording, but it will most likely worsen it. Of course, if you don’t use your studio to take “clear” pictures against its background 🙂 🙂
Why do we think so?
1. Modern sound cards contain mic preamps of quality that are usually superior to those of consoles. The preamplifier costs no less than $ 100, the 10-channel remote uses at least 4 microphone preamps, and there are also stereo inputs. Nevertheless, the price of the remote control does not rise above $ 400.
A completely normal 10-channel console can be purchased for $ 120-150 (it will even come with an effects processor, which also costs more than $ 100 separately). Logically, what is the choice under such circumstances? in favor of audio interfaces and separate preamplifiers.
By the way, cards can have up to 16 (and even up to 32) input channels and allow you to record any signal source.
2. When recording from a microphone, it is not recommended to use EQ or other dynamics processing such as a compressor. You can mess up your recording, and on final mixing, the error will not be corrected..
3. Mixing in 99% of cases will take place in a sequencer (special program). The remaining 1% comes from expensive analog mixing consoles. The cost of such remotes now starts at 500,000 rubles, they require a lot of expensive additional processing, and this is not at all home recording.
Mixing on an 8-channel remote control for 10,000 rubles and getting an excellent result, alas, is impossible.
4. Many people are considering mixing consoles with USB onboard. Unfortunately, for studio recording, these consoles are completely useless. They digitize only the master section, and you cannot write channel by channel with them. In other words, you will not be able to listen to a minus phonogram through such a remote control and write vocals on a separate track: a ready-made mix will be recorded.
But for small performances this is a godsend: you do not need a sound card, you connect directly to a laptop and have a sound that is many times better than through the built-in sound card. The more power, the more noticeable the difference will be. But all of the above does not put an end to the use of mixing consoles in a home studio for monitoring..
The remote can be useful because:
– You will have an additional headphone output (one more is mandatory on the sound card).
Note that if you need to connect more than two pairs of headphones, there are dedicated headphone preamps. Using them is more practical..
– You can connect through the remote control not one, but two pairs of monitors.
For serious studios, there are dedicated monitor mixers. They allow you to route the signal with great flexibility.
In the photo – a special
monitor mixing console.
– It will be possible to use equalization in the monitoring mode and evaluate the need for frequency correction in real time.
– Finally, you can calmly rehearse with your friends before recording, without thinking how to stick it all into your sound card.