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Analogue Audio Mixer Buying Guide

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Analogue Audio Mixer Buying Guide
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Analogue Audio Mixer Buying GuideAnalogue audio mixers are one type of audio mixer, or mixing console. Analogue mixers are the earliest type of audio mixer, predating modern digital mixers, and are still popularly used due to their many advantages and intuitive features. They have been used in television and radio broadcasting and in various other applications besides live music performance and recording.

About Analogue Audio Mixers

Analogue audio mixers manipulate analogue signals in various ways to create different sounds and effects. They require a microphone, which works as a transducer to convert air pressure from the sound created by instruments or vocals into electrical analogue signals. These signals are passed into the mixer through an input jack. They can then be modulated in various ways by the audio mixer, for example by boosting, minimising, splitting, or filtering. A variety of devices are used for these manipulations, such as equalisers and compressors. The signal is then enhanced by an amplifier and passed to a speaker. The speaker is another type of transducer, this time converting the electrical signal back into air pressure, or sound. The process is almost instantaneous with no delay.
Analogue mixers are still widely used in live music venues and in recording studios. There are a number of reasons why they continue to be used despite the development of digital mixers, which have a wider range of functions and connective capability. One of the most apparent is their basic intuitiveness when it comes to operation. Analogue mixers have a number of controls on their interface, such as knobs and sliders, which can be simply adjusted to cause various manipulations. In comparison, the controls on digital mixers can be complicated to learn and operate, and there is a smaller user interface which means that not all controls are visible at once. Further advantages of analogue mixers are their cheaper price, lower potential for crashing, warmer, more natural sound quality and lack of propagation delay caused by the conversion of analogue signals to digital. For those requiring added functionality with regards to effects processing, analogue mixers can be used in combination with a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Choosing an Analogue Audio Mixer

Analogue mixers vary in functionality, complexity, size, and price. Consider the essential features required and a top price bracket before reviewing available models. Second hand mixers can be a good option where budget is a limiting factor.

Functionality

Factors to consider when it comes to functionality include microphone preamps, the number of input channels, monitoring capabilities, number of sub-group channels, master output options, phantom power provision and built-in effects. Whether the mixer is to be used primarily for live or studio use will also have implications for deciding which mixer is purchased.

Microphone Preamps

Microphone preamps are used to enhance and transmit audio signals from a microphone to the mixer. They are often required because the signals transmitted by a microphone are too weak to be processed by mixers. Preamps enhance signals while minimising noise. They can boost the signal from under 100 microvolts up to 10 volts. Low-quality preamps can change the sound quality of a microphone, so it’s worth checking how good the preamps are on a particular mixer.

Number of Input Channels

Input channels, or input jacks, are electrical connectors for connecting various sources to the mixer. Mixers vary in the number of input channels provided, and it goes without saying that a larger number of input channels enable a larger number of sources to be connected. More basic mixers may have four mixers, while more complex mixers may have 24 or more. Each channel has its own set of controls.
Instruments are generally given their own inputs, though if necessary the same type of instrument can sometimes be combined. Different types of instrument should have their own inputs for the sound to be correctly handled. Instruments with various components, such as drum kits, may need multiple inputs. If in doubt, select a mixer with slightly more input channels than needed, as more may easily be required in the future.

Input Controls

The number of different input controls gives an indication as to the mixer’s monitoring capabilities. Input controls include gain controls, faders, equalisers, auxiliary sends, and pan pots.

Gain controls

Gain controls buffer and adjust the level of signals, controlling the amount by which they are amplified. This allows interference to be picked up and minimised, while other signals are boosted.

Faders

Faders are sliding buttons used to control volume and the speed and extent of fading. Crossfaders can simultaneously fade in and fade out two inputs.

Equalisers

Equalisers are used to enhance a range of frequencies, with most mixers having at least two controls. More advanced mixers have parametric or graphic equalisers. Parametric equalisers are able to control equalisation in three main ways - bandwidth, centre frequency, and amplitude. Graphic equalisers have various filters.

Auxiliary sends

Auxiliary sends route a copy of the signal to be processed with external devices, which can then be sent back. They can be used in this way to add effects or to provide a monitor feed.

Pan pots

Pan pots send the signals where required between the stereo speakers.

Number of Sub-group Channels

Larger mixers will usually have sub-group channels, which are used to mix groups of channels together. They are often used with drums, where individual drum inputs are combined into one or two sub-groups. The combined inputs can then be easily adjusted as a group before being sent to the output mix.

Phantom Power

Most audio mixers provide phantom power, which is direct current used to power microphones. On many mixers this can be turned on and off. Higher end mixers tend to have individual channels whereas mid range mixers tend to have grouped channels. Isolation transformers can be used with those mixers that do not have the option to individually control phantom power.

Master Output Controls

Output controls include master faders, audio meters, output connectors, and auxiliary faders. Master faders adjust the level of the entire mix. Advanced mixers also have group faders. Audio meters measure the voltage of signals and adjust the recording level which is important to cut out noise and distortion.
The monitor section of a mixer does not affect the final recording, but allows adjustment via various controls to create a simulation of the final recording. Monitor mixer controls control the volume of inputs, while monitor select buttons select the particular input and auxiliary faders adjust the monitor mix.

Built-In Effects

Modern analogue mixers often have built-in effects processors with an excellent range of effects, including standard effects such as delays, reverbs, choruses and phasing and combination effects. For convenience these may have footswitch controls. If the range of effects and processing capability offered by a particular analogue mixer isn’t sufficient, it could be used with a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Expenses

Analogue mixers range in price from fairly inexpensive models used in the home to expensive, top-of-the-range models used by professional artists. In between is a good range of models with something to suit most requirements. Of course, functionality and quality tend to be greater in the higher end models, but there are many decent-quality budget analogue mixers out there.

Find an Analogue Audio Mixer on eBay

To find an analogue audio mixer on eBay, navigate to the Pro Audio Equipment page via the Musical Instruments page. This can be done simply by visiting the eBay home page, scrolling over the All Categories tab to the left and selecting Musical Instruments followed by Pro Audio Equipment. From here scroll down the tabs to the left and select Mixers. Under the Analogue/Digital tab, Analogue can be selected. However, many sellers do not specify if their mixer is analogue or digital so it can be worth leaving this tab unselected and simply browsing through the listings for mixers. Other criteria that can be selected as required include what the mixer is suited for, the number of channels, brand, condition and price. Alternately, type search terms such as “analogue mixer”, “analogue mixing console” or “analogue mixer 24 channels” into the search field at the top of the page and press Search.

Conclusion

Analogue audio mixers are used both in live music and music recording to process audio signals in various ways. They are still often preferred over digital mixers for their ease of use and sound quality. Analogue mixers have various features to consider before purchasing. The quality of the microphone preamps has an effect on sound quality. The number of input channels will determine how many sources can be included. The various input controls, such as faders and equalisers, will influence how finely the sound can be adjusted. Sub-group channels enable input channels to be combined and adjusted as a group. Output options will control how the overall mix can be monitored and controlled. Lastly, many analogue mixers have built-in effects processors and it is worth checking these out if effects are an important consideration.

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