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What is a Mixer?

Perhaps the most important component to the audio production process, a mixer can be the difference in making your track sound like it was finished in a high-grade studio or your freshman dorm’s laundry room. Well, maybe that’s a stretch – regardless, a mixer is in charge of organizing, adjusting, combining and manipulating the audio signals and tracks in your session.

Whether it’s a studio vibe, a live recording, a night at the club or on-set at a post-production house, mixing is essential for creating a professional sound in a broadcast quality capacity. Depending on the size of your mixer, you’ll be dealing with any number of channels, EQs, pan control knobs, dynamic range compression and perhaps built-in effects like reverb or delay (that’s really just fancy talk for saying “a lot of stuff that makes stuff sound good”). Mixing is more than just moving knobs– we’ll show you how to find just the right mixer for the job.

Mixing Board 101

No, you’re not back in college–but consider this a complimentary course. Allow us to break down the “science” behind a basic mixing board, to paint a better picture for how this all works before you pick your favorite model.

Arranged via columns, mixers almost always feature a series of channel inputs in a strip. Here, you’ll find faders, knobs and buttons which will control everything from volume to gain to panning options, as well as equalization for your track – boost the low end, scoop the mids, essentially a frequency control center. Some mixers will feature different inputs depending on the intent. In other words, you may find that some mixers feature XLR cable ports if it’s meant for live music. Feel free to label or number these channels to keep organized. Adjust gain levels for your channel, but don’t let it clip; I know your clients will tell you the same. If you’re looking to achieve that wide stereo sound (and keep your guitarists from badgering with each other about levels), don’t ignore those pan knobs for your guitar channels. Take advantage of the sonic space.

This is only scratching the surface of what you and your mixer have the power to do. Check out the Sam Ash Spotlight to absorb even more information regarding mixing, bussing, EQs, compressors and more.

A Match Made in Audio Heaven

A big part of understanding what mixer you need to tackle your audio assignment is to consider that audio assignment; mixing a live performance at the local coffee house? Getting the next big pop hit ready for the radio? Getting YOUR next big pop hit ready for…the local coffee house? Intent is important to consider.

In today’s digital era, you can successfully use mixers that cater to both digital and analog technologies. Brands such as Yamaha, for example, are keen on digital mixers than can be used via USB connection, for lightning-fast connectivity and playback. You can even connect to your iPhone or iPad with this in mind. Bigger, grander productions in a live capacity may require a different approach. Many Mackie mixer products are specifically designed for sound reinforcement and addressing multiple channels in a live context.

Mixing is a vital component to your audio production process. Allow us at Sam Ash to steer your workflow in the right direction. We carry mixers from top brands such as Behringer, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Midas, and many more! Questions? Give us a call at 1-800-4SAMASH or speak with one of our experts online today.