Know Your Gear: Anatomy of A Mixer

Headphone Outputs

All mixers offer a stereo headphone output. Your mixer may be able to select having the main mix, a monitor mix, or some other output routed to the phones.

Now that you know the basic concepts of how mixers operate, you should have a better idea of how these tools can help you in your musical pursuits. Keep in mind that mixing is an art, and practice, experience, and experimentation are some of the best teachers to help you learn a particular piece of equipment.


A Memo About Meters

Output meters are critical for getting a good sound out of your mixer. Signals that are too strong will distort, and that distortion will pass through the mixer and amplifier right into your speakers. When your meters read at a level of 0 you’ve still got some room left. In fact, it’s perfectly okay if the signal peaks (for example, the initial crack from your snare drum) between 0 and +7.

Getting the signal to the optimum level when it first enters the mixer is essential for a high-quality mix. Here’s a simple way to set the input levels correctly. Perform these steps on every channel of your mixer:

  1. Turn the trim to its minimum setting, turn off all aux sends, set all EQ to flat, and set the master output to 0 (also called “unity gain”).
  2. Set the channel level to 0 (unity gain) and bring all other channel levels all the way down (minus infinity).
  3. Begin sending a signal to the channel and gradually adjust the trim knob until the continuous signal is at around the 0 level and peaks don’t go above +7.
  4. To add EQ to the signal you may need to adjust the trim settings.
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