In this article, I’ll show you a few ways to connect your mixer to your audio interface and I’ll explain why you might want to do that.
Why use a mixer in a recording studio?
There are three main reasons to use a mixer in a recording studio: to record more microphones, to mix with the mixer, and to route signals between devices.
Ways to Use a Mixer in a Recording Studio
There are infinite ways to use an audio mixer, but I want to talk about the most common situations where you’d connect a mixer to an audio interface.
If you’re unfamiliar with the difference between an audio interface and a mixer, this article I wrote about audio interfaces vs mixers will be helpful!
Here are 3 ways to use a mixer in a home studio:
1.) Recording More Microphones
These days, it’s normal to have a multitrack recording setup, where you can make individual recordings of each instrument and mix them together in a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, on your computer.
In the past, it was common to use a two-track tape machine for recording.
If a recording engineer wanted to use more than two microphones to capture a musical performance, they needed to mix those microphones together into a left and right track before pressing record.
They wouldn’t have control of each microphone after recording, so it was really important to get the original mix to sound the way they wanted.
If you have a two-channel audio interface, you can do the same thing.
You can connect many microphones to your mixer, connect the left and right outputs of your mixer to the inputs of your audio interface.
Listen with headphones to create a good mix of all instruments, then press record in your DAW.
Remember – You won’t have control over the individual channels after recording. So make sure to get a good sound before you press record!
When I was just getting started in audio, my friends and I couldn’t afford a big multi-track audio interface, but we still wanted to record the drums with multiple microphones.
Here’s what we did:
We had an old Crate mixer that someone had given to us for free.
This allowed us to connect 4 drum microphones into the mixer and mix them into a stereo left and right output to the first two channels of our audio interface.
You can also use the pan knobs on your mixer to utilize the left and right outputs separately.
For example, you can send all of the drum microphones to the left output by turning the pan knobs all of the way to the left.
Then you could connect a guitar, keyboard, and bass to the mixer and pan them all of the way to the right.
This means that you’ll have two tracks when mixing – a track with drums only, and a track with guitar, keyboard, and bass.
This gives you more control to balance the instruments with the drums after recording.
2.) Routing Signals
Another reason you might want to use a mixer in your home studio is to connect all of your equipment together.
A mixer gives you the ability to control which inputs go to which outputs without needing to change cabling.
If I connect everything to my mixer, I’ll have the ability to send any input to any output.
I can connect my guitar, microphone, and keyboard into the mixer and choose to send one of them or all of them to the audio interface to be recorded.
I can also connect several sets of speakers to the mixer and toggle between them to test my mix on different types of speakers.
3.) Mixing with the Mixer
The third reason to use a mixer in a studio is to use the effects built in to your mixer.
For example, let’s say I want to add some EQ to a guitar track.
I can send the guitar signal out of the interface and into channel one on the mixer.
I’ll use the EQ and other effects on that channel strip to get the sound I want.
Then, I’ll send the output of the mixer back into the interface to record.
Now I’ve got a new copy of the guitar track with the effects I added using the mixer.