A studio mixer (also called a desk, board, or console) takes multiple signals and sums (blends) them into a combined output signal. For example, say you have a vocalist, guitarist, bassist, and drummer. You'd run the signals from each instrument or microphone into the inputs on the mixer. You can then adjust their individual volume levels using controls called faders. Mixers have varying numbers of channels. The number of channels corresponds to the quantity of signals that it can accommodate. Besides combining signals (also known as mixing), studio mixers often include tone-shaping processors such as equalizers, compressors, and more. After they are mixed, the combined signals are routed to your recording device. Mixers also feature outputs that allow you to monitor (listen to) your recorded material.
Mixers are separated into two broad categories: analog and digital. Like other analog gear, an analog mixer uses changes in voltage to represent changes in sound pressure. The primary benefits of analog mixers are simplicity and sound. Once you learn your way around an analog console, it's very easy to use. And the distinctive sound of an analog desk has graced countless hit records. This sound is why many world-class recording studios still use an analog mixer. The downside is that analog mixers require nearly constant service and maintenance. Luckily, Sweetwater's Service Department is factory-authorized to repair nearly everything that we sell. Our technicians have the training and expertise to get you up and running with the fastest turnaround in the industry.
A digital mixer uses - you guessed it - digital signal processing to combine and process audio signals. Digital mixers, like most powerful electronic devices, can have a steep learning curve. But you gain the ability to recall your settings instantly, and most digital mixers are loaded with EQ, compression, reverb, and scores of digital effects. Many recording engineers have adopted a hybrid approach where they employ elements of both analog and digital mixers. In fact, Sweetwater's Studio A houses a one-of-a-kind Neve 6 mixing console with a digital center section, providing the best of both worlds.
Did you know that you probably already have a digital mixer in your studio? Most audio interfaces have an internal virtual mixer to route signals in and out of your computer. And most recording software features a mixer that you use to adjust the individual volume levels of your tracks. That being said, there's nothing like the sound of an analog studio mixing desk. That's where summing mixers come in. A summing mixer is basically a compact analog console with no faders or knobs. You use it to sum multiple signals from your recording software into a combined stereo signal. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of digital mixing, while achieving the unmistakable sound of an analog studio mixer.
If you're worried about dust, dirt, or damage, Sweetwater has a massive inventory of mixer cases. Use the Case Finder at Sweetwater.com to find the ideal case for you, or call your Sales Engineer - they're always happy to help. We have expansion modules to add inputs and outputs to your digital mixer and mixer lamps and meter bridges to help you keep an eye on what you're doing. We also have a huge selection of rack ears for your rackmount mixer, mixer stands, wall plates, and more.
At Sweetwater, we've had our hands on just about every mixing board in existence - everything from small desktop mixers to large-format consoles. Whatever your needs, we'll help you find the perfect mixer for your studio.
Questions about Studio Mixers?
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.