Chapter Two: Studio Gear
3. Mixing Console Basics
A mixing console (or mixing board, or simply mixer) is used for a wide variety of purposes in a computer music and recording studio, as well as for live sound and concert playback situations. Mixers are often classified by their input and output (I/O) capabilities. For example, a 32 x 8 mixer would have 32 individual channel inputs and eight main output channels. Most professional boards have many more input and output capabilities besides the main I/O's. In addition, boards can serve as signal routing devices, moving audio signals from one device to another.
Recently, digital mixing consoles, formerly reserved only for very expensive commercial studios, have become much more affordable for smaller studios. These boards handle not only analog signals from devices like microphones, but also mix analog and digital signals with each other from devices such as DAT's, multi-channel tape decks and computer audio interfaces. Such device specifications, in addition to the basic number of channels, include digital I/O terms such as AES/EBU, TDIF, Lightpipe/ADAT, S/PDIF—all different forms of digital connection and transmission protocols.
Most digital boards, and some analog boards, have some form of mixing automation, where predetermined movements of faders, often sync'ed to timecode, can be rehearsed and modified. (These were often called "flying faders.") Digital boards are also highly configurable, where various patches change the function of each input or output channel at the touch of a button.
The image below indicates the layout of the various section of a typical mixing console, in this case, a Mackie 8-bus analog board.