If you are interested in building your own recording studio in your home, or any other location, you are going to need the right equipment. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to go crazy and get the primo, top-of-the-line equipment; you can start off with the basics and move up from there. In fact, starting simple is highly recommended, as it allows you to learn the ropes without having to invest a tremendous amount of money at first.
Of all of the recording equipment that is available, there is one piece of equipment that you are definitely going to have to get in order to create your own recording studio: A mixer.
What is a Mixer?
Simply put, a mixer is the brains of your recording operation. It is the control center of your studio, as well as your PA system. The mixer connects all of the sources of music and sound right to your studio’s recording system, the amps and speakers, or the PA system.
How does it work? Basically, every type of audio signal that you bring into your studio is custom blended with other signals, which are directed out to wherever you want them to go; to the amps and the speakers, or to the recorder, for example. A mixer features different knobs and sliders, the majority of which are volume controls that direct every input signal to the output that it belongs to. It also allows you to get those signals to the volume you want them to. A lot of the knobs are tone controls, which usually has a treble, a midrange, and a bass control. Another job that the mixer does is pre-amplify microphone level input signals, bringing them up to the line-level that is needed to process sound with the best signal-to-noise ratio possible.
How will you utilize a mixer?
Before you head out to shop for mixers, you really need to consider how you are going to be using this piece of equipment. If you just go out shopping without an idea of how you are going to use your mixer, you will quickly become overwhelmed.
So, how will you be using this piece of equipment? Will you be creating a PA system that will be used to travel with your band? Will you be using it as a permanent piece of equipment in your home recording studio? How you intend to use the device is the first thing that you need to take into consideration.
How many input channels do you need?
Input channels are a staple on a mixer, but you should always choose more channels than you think you will need. Why? Because this will allow you to accommodate those times when you need extra inputs. Even if you don’t think that you are going to need those inputs when you are purchasing your mixer, chances are, you will at some point. Extra input channels also allow you to accommodate the future expansion of your system.
What about mixer outputs?
Ever mixer has at minimum of one set main stereo, as well as left and right outputs. If you are recording, those outputs will go to an analog-to-digital converter, and then go to the software on your computer. Depending on the type of mixer you choose, you may also be able to get a built-in A/D converter, as well as a USB or a FireWire output, which will enable you to connect directly to your PC.
If you are purchasing a live sound mixer, the main outputs will send their final mixed signals to the amplifiers. These boost the sound, and then send that sound to the speakers.
Do keep in mind that you will need additional outputs in order to deliver the music to the speakers that are not heard by others, but so that the musicians can hear themselves over the other music that is being recorded. For instance, a singer will be able to hear his voice over the sound of the drums and the guitars that are playing.
Buses are Important, too!
The bus is basically a wire inside the mixer, that stretches from the left to the right. The mixer assigns input signals to a specific bus, and then the bus transports the mixed signals to an output. The primary output buses transport the signal to the main speakers, or to the amp, or to your recorder.
Don’t Forget Meters and Peak Lights
Mixers have input channel clip lights, which help you set up the main control’s of the device. They also alert you when it needs to be taken down. Many mixers have a monitoring bus, which is called a pre-fade listen (PFL), or a solo. This connects a specific channel directly to the output meter, and illustrates the level of the signal you want to reach on the monitor.
With this information in mind, you will be able to find the right mixer to meet the specific needs of your home recording studio.