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Video: How to use a mixing board

Heads up!

Welcome to this article from the Crutchfield archives. Have fun reading it, but be aware that the information may be outdated and links may be broken.

A mixer is the brains of a live concert or recording session. It takes the various signals from all the different singers and instrumentalists and combines them into a clear stereo mix. In this video, one of our experts explains the ins and outs of a typical mixing board and offers some expert tips.

Read video transcript

A mixer is the brains of a live concert or recording session. It takes different audio signals, like those from instruments and vocals, and combines them into a clear stereo mix. A mixer can also shape audio signals and apply effects. In this video, we'll break down the inputs and outputs of a mixer and give you some expert tips.

You'll use the mixer's inputs to connect your vocal and instrument microphones. Each input, or channel, has its own set of controls that will let you manipulate the signal after it arrives. For instance, all mixers give you a trim, or gain control, plus some EQ for shaping the sound on that channel. Depending on your particular mixer, you may also find controls for each channel like effects, compressors, left-right balance and mute switches. The mixer's microphone inputs amplify weak mic-level signals to line level that mixers and other pro gear need to process the sound with the best signal-to-noise ratio. The inputs also provide phantom power that some microphones need.

Here's how you set up most channels on your mixer. Start with your channel's gain control. Set your initial volume to a point where the signal is present but not clipping. You can tell that by checking the LED peak indicators. From here, you'll use your channels level, or fader, control to fine tune its volume.

Here's how mixer outputs work. Mixer buses transport mixed signals to the outputs. The mixer assigns input signals to a bus and the bus carries all the signals mixed together to an output. The main output buses carry the signal to an amp, or speakers, or to your recording device. There are situations where you'll need more than just the main outputs. You'll use monitor, or Aux outputs, to deliver music to speakers not heard by the audience. These could be stage monitors or headphones in a recording studio. The monitor, or Aux output buses, can be configured differently than the house mix so performers can hear their own customized mix onstage or in the studio. The more Aux outputs your mixer has the more individual mixes you can provide to the performers.

You may also see an "effects bus" on your mixer. This bus sends its signal out an effects send where it travels to an outboard effects device like a reverb or echo unit. This effects output comes back to the mixer, typically through an effects return and gets blended back into the mix.

If you plan to record live, look for a mixer with subgroup outputs. These are preliminary outputs before the main out where you can group parts of the music together-vocals, drums, and keyboards for instance-to record distinctly and clearly for later mix down and processing. Subgroups also come in handy during live sound mixing allowing you to control the volume of multiple channels like a drum kit or backup singers with just one fader.

We've just covered the basics of mixer inputs and outputs in this video. If you have any questions or want some help picking out the right mixer for your application, please give Crutchfield a call.

  • Jay LeVert from Cleveland

    Posted on 6/1/2018

    Useful info.

  • Brian torreano from Menominee

    Posted on 8/2/2017


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