In this video from Audio University, we show you how to use any mixer or console for live sound or studio recording. Perfect for a beginner audio engineer or someone wanting to expand their knowledge of the audio process.
The video covers inputs, outputs, channel strips, master faders, inserts, direct outs, phantom power, solo, pfl, mute, preamp gain, pad, HPF, EQ, aux sends, panning and more.
In this video, you’ll learn how to use an audio mixing console. There are a few basic principles that apply to every mixer on the market. If you learn those basic principles you’ll feel comfortable walking up to any analog mixer that you’ll encounter. I’ve divided this video into sections to make it easier to understand and to make it easier for you to find the specific topic you’re looking for you can find links to each section of the video in the description below. But if you’re new to this channel, my name is Kyle. You can learn audio production online by checking out the weekly videos I post to the Audio University YouTube channel. For more information check out AudioUniversityOnline.com.
First, let’s take a look at the different sections of a mixer by dividing the mixer into sections. You’ll realize that it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks. Either on the top or the rear panel of the console, you’ll find the inputs and outputs. This is where you connect input devices such as microphones and output devices such as speakers. On the left portion of the console, you’ll find a bank of channel strips. Each vertical column of knobs, buttons, and faders represents an individual input channel. That set of controls simply repeats itself again and again for each input. You can see that this console has ten mono channel strips and two stereo channel strips. On the right part of the console, you’ll find the master sections. This gives us basic control over each of our outputs – master fader, group faders, aux master knobs, and matrix master knobs.
The first step in a basic setup is to connect the main outputs to the main speakers or pa system. To do this, I’ll connect the left and right output of the mixer to the inputs of my main amplifier. The level of these outputs is controlled by the master fader, usually found in the bottom right hand corner of the mixer. In this case I’m also going to use auxiliary output 1 and 2 to feed some powered stage monitors so that the musicians on stage can hear themselves play. The level of each aux output is controlled by the aux master knob, found in this section. Now that we’ve set up the destinations, let’s plug in some audio sources so that we have audio signals to send to those destinations. This mixer has 10 channels that accept line level or microphone level signals.
I’ll plug in a dynamic microphone for vocals into channel 1 with an XLR cable and a condenser microphone for guitar into channel 2 with an XLR cable. I could also connect a line level device, such as a drum sequencer into one of these channels using a quarter inch TRS or TS cable. If you want to apply the same processing to a pair of signals, such as a left and right channel of background music, you can use one of the four stereo line inputs found on this mixer. I’ll connect my smartphone to one of these stereo channels with a 3.5 millimeter to dual quarter inch TS adapter. Your mixer may have insert jacks on some channels. An insert gives you a way to insert an outboard piece of gear into the signal chain. To use this, you’ll need an insert cable. It’s a TRS quarter-inch on one end that goes to the mixer.
The mixer sends the signal out one of the TS connectors on the insert cable that goes to the outboard piece of gear. The outboard gear processes the signal and sends it out through the other TS connector, which returns the signal to the channel strip. The signals that come out of the direct outs won’t be affected by the adjustments you make on the mixer. That makes it great for sending to an outboard multi-track recording device so that you can mix those tracks later and the recorded tracks aren’t affected by what you’re doing for the live show. Let’s go through a channel strip from top to bottom to see what type of control this mixer offers us on each individual input signal.
At the top of each channel strip you may see a phantom power switch. Some microphones, such as condenser mics, require external power to function. The microphone I’ve plugged into channel 1 is a dynamic microphone which doesn’t require phantom power. However, the microphone plugged into channel 2 is a condenser microphone, so I’ll engage the phantom power switch on channel 2. On some consoles there is only a single switch that controls phantom power on all channels. At the bottom of each channel strip you’ll find a fader and some basic routing buttons.
I want all of the input signals to be routed to the main speakers. To do that, I’ll engage the L-R button on all of the input channels. Let’s double check that the master fader is at unity so that the signals sent to the fader are passed through to the main outputs. Remember – the master fader controls the output level of the main outputs. Each input channel strip has a fader, too. These faders determine the level of the signal sent to the master fader. It’s best to start with faders at unity. When a fader is set to unity it won’t boost or cut the signal. It just lets the signal pass through. The fader also operates on a logarithmic scale, which means that the same movement of the fader would be a small adjustment around the 0dB mark and a much bigger adjustment the further you get from the 0dB mark. Working around 0 dB gives you the finest control over the signal level. If you’d like to listen to a specific input through headphones, you can connect your headphones to the console and use the solo or PFL button on that specific input channel.
PFL stands for pre fader listen, so pressing that button will allow you to listen to that input regardless of the position of the fader. And finally, the mute button will stop all audio on a specific input. Once you’ve routed your input channel to the main speakers or the headphones, the first thing you should adjust is the preamp gain. This knob determines the input level of the audio source. I recommend adjusting the preamp gain according to how loud that input needs to be in the final mix while keeping the input faders and the master fader set to unity. As you adjust the knob you should start to hear the signal through the speakers and see your meters jump. If the speakers are way too loud, I’d recommend fixing that by turning down the amplifier rather than fixing it by adjusting the master fader. The pad switch will allow you to attenuate an input by 10 or 20 dB, depending on which console you’re using. This is helpful when recording really loud instruments such as a snare drum or very sensitive microphones. This mixer has a high pass filter marked with the letters HPF.
A high pass filter will reduce all frequencies below a certain point. To learn more about high pass filters, watch this video I made all about how they work and how to use them. The equalizer section of this channel strip gives me four bands of EQ – high, high-mid, low-mid, and low. First I need to engage the equalizer section by pressing the EQ In button. The high frequency and low frequency EQs on this mixer have a fixed frequency band. Turning the knob clockwise will boost that frequency band and turning the knob counterclockwise will reduce that frequency band. The high-mid band and low-mid bands on this EQ give me the option to select the frequency band. I can choose the frequency bands I want to adjust with the green Frequency knob and determine how much to boost or cut those frequency bands with the blue Gain knob. In the first section of this video, I set up auxiliary outputs 1 and 2 to feed powered speakers on stage for the musicians to hear themselves. By using the aux sends on each input, I can determine how much of each source is routed to those on-stage monitors. Let’s first double check that the aux master knobs are set to unity.
The vocalist’s stage monitor is connected to aux output 1. I’ll send the vocalist a bit of vocal microphone and a bit of guitar microphone. The guitarist’s stage monitor is connected to aux output 2. Let’s send the guitarist some of the vocal microphone. The Pre and Post buttons determine if the signal will be affected by the channel faders. Pre means pre-fader and it won’t be affected by the fader. Post means post-fader and it will be affected by the fader position. If you have two main speakers – a left speaker and a right speaker – the pan knob lets you create a stereo image between those two speakers.