Mixing – Consoles and how they work
The mixer is the nerve center of your show and provides all of the main network and controls required to create the ‘out-front’ sound and often the monitors as well. Every sound that is going to be in the mix will be fed into the mixer, adjusted if required and then sent back out to the PA system ampliﬁers. Variously called a console, board or desk, the mixer car-
ries the main level and EQ controls for each channel in a vertical strip and arranged in a ‘frame’ that usually has many channel strips along with other strips and modules to perform various duties. The most common frame sizes are 16, 24, 32, 40, 48 and 56 although other sizes are available. Mixers can be analog or digital, with the new genera-
tion of digital consoles becoming more popular as time goes by. The new generation of engineers is becoming more accepting of their format and sound than the old analog guys. There are arguments for and against both types. The sound and hands-on capabilities of analog is usually cited as the biggest factor in their favor while digital consoles have the beneﬁt of total recall and being an all-in-one solution. They often contain onboard dynamics and effects processing, obviating the need for numerous outboard racks. Personally I can see the value in both. If I were specifying a mixer for a tour then I could jump either way, with digital looking very attractive. But until a standard for digital consoles is deﬁned (and it may never
happen) there’s always the possibility of walking up to a digital mixer at a festival and not understanding its system. Not good when you only have minutes to put your show together. At least with analog the controls, in general, will be familiar and easy to get at. This does mean that you may have to learn the nuances of several digital consoles if you don’t have the luxury of calling the shots. It’s still early days for digital in the live world, so there is plenty of time for change and the larger rental companies usually ﬁnd their own standard.