The audio mixer has been a critical feature for many recording artists since the 1960s. Since that time, the mixer has developed enormously, having many added features and greater efficiency, but the principal remains the same: to gain control over audio signals sent to a sound system. The audio mixer may be used for live performances, recording purposes, or leisure.
Over the years, the mixer has become standard equipment wherever a public address is being held. It is an essential item for live performances of various kinds, but whether the mixer is needed for a live rock gig, a worship service, or sporting event, such occasions are so much the poorer without the enhancements an audio mixer provides.
Audio mixers are available in both analogue and digital formats with both kinds well represented on eBay. Traditional, analogue format mixers tend towards being larger and having more controls. The newer digital mixers are somewhat more condensed and include extra media input options for storage and playback of pre-recorded material.
The type of mixer a customer pursues depends on the intended use. A home user may simply want to mix and record their own musical compositions, or the band technician may need a strong, robust and comprehensive system with every imaginable feature. Therefore, potential buyers of an audio mixer should first determine their own requirements for a mixer. This depends largely on whether the mixer is intended for a professional, amateur, or hobbyist capacity.
Audio Mixer Basics
Audio mixers are used to enhance musical performances. An audio mixer receives at least two audio signals and combines them, tweaking certain sound qualities, such as timbre, dynamics, and intensity, to establish the type of sound that best reflects the artist.
The mixer is the third most important piece of equipment at a live performance. Without it, live music can sound flat and not project the full tonal range to the ear. The artist, therefore, cannot efficiently express their musical craft which leaves the audience with an under-appreciation of their talent.
Determining the Right Mixer
A primary consideration in today’s market is in choosing between analogue and digital. There are many advantages to a digital mixer, and they are the most favoured today; however, as with other digital musical output, the ultra-clean effect is not always desirable. Many professional users still prefer analogue, not just because of its warmth in terms of sound quality, but ironically, because of faster audio response time and the ability to make finer adjustments that are not possible with a digital signal.
Digital and Analogue Performance Attributes
Analogue mixers have largely been superseded by digital, although some people prefer the characteristics of an analogue mixer despite the technical advantages to digital. A customer needs to make some comparisons between the two so as to be able to determine which is the most suitable for them.
Type of Mixer
Cleaner sound, lightweight, multi-media inputs, built-in outboard; ability to save settings
Far more expensive, slower audio response time, slightly less control over fine audio detail
Warmer sound; slightly more control over fine audio detail; faster audio response time; considerably less expensive
Heavy, cumbersome, and requiring an external outboard; single-media inputs; unable to save settings
Although these points may not reflect everyone’s experience, they are a general guide regarding the various characteristics of analogue and digital. There are likely additional nuances that are not included in this chart.
All Mixed Up
Audio mixers are designed for a wide spectrum of uses, from board meetings to rock stadiums. With this in mind, there are buying options that suit all intentions for usage, from the home user on a tight budget to the high-flying sound engineer with thousands to spend in pursuit of the perfect sound.
In-Line Recording Studio Mixing Desk
The recording studio mixer is designed to receive external audio signals, mix them to a desired output quality, and record. The most popular mixer for the large studio is the in-line mixing desk. It is a large, extensive unit that has two kinds of faders on the same track and many controls for fine, detailed mixing and recording. They are traditionally analogue and quite large; however, the digital version performs the same function with the obvious conveniences of newer technology. Below are two examples of in-line recording studio mixers: the first being a classic analogue unit and the second, a digital one.
Analogue In-Line Mixer
The analogue in-line mixer is an extremely comprehensive piece of equipment that allows for the finest quality studio recordings. The user can gain an incredible amount of control over the incoming audio signal, but it has its drawbacks. Being analogue, it cannot record previous control settings, and so the operator needs to manually configure the controls for each recording session and take special note of each control position if the session is interrupted before completion.
Digital In-Line Mixer
The digital in-line mixer has inbuilt compression, equalisation, and effects processors. It functions in the same way as the analogue version although some may find it more difficult to tweak certain effects to quite the same detail. Nevertheless, its ability to record and save each part of a previous session makes it a far more convenient option than its senior equivalent. Despite the arguments regarding digital versus analogue sound quality, this one wins every time from the point of view of working efficiency.
Live Mixing Desk
The live mixing desk performs the same task as the studio mixer, except it does not need to record. A more obvious difference between the two, however, is the operational aspect of the desk itself. The live console needs to be a lot more straightforward and easy to use. Unlike in the studio, a live situation does not possess the luxury of time for experimenting with various effects. It is a single-take occasion, and it has to be right the first time. As with other recording studio mixers, there are both digital and analogue versions of this mixer.
Analogue Live Mixing Desk
Although some sound technicians still favour the analogue mixing console, it nevertheless requires a dedicated outboard for its effects and processors in order to enhance the audio to optimum levels. It may sometimes have a small advantage over the finer mixing details, but the inconvenience is hard to overlook as it means more equipment to carry about.
Digital Live Mixing Desk
A main advantage of the digital live mixer is that it has built in processing, compression, and equalisers. This saves both time and effort as less equipment is needed. It is also contested that despite its slightly lower ability to tweak the sound to perfection, the digital mixer provides both artist and audience with cleaner sound through the PA system.
The DJ mixing console is designed to mix pre-recorded music, particularly from turntable and CD. Club DJs often use them to mix already recorded music. This type differs from a recording studio or live performance mixer in that it use replaceable faders, specially assigned crossfaders, and dedicated turntable connections.
Two Channel DJ Mixer
The basic two-channel DJ mixer includes all the essential features. Moreover, high-performing scratch DJs still favour them the most since they facilitate higher speed and accuracy when performing complex turntabling techniques.
Four Channel DJ Mixer
The most popular DJ mixer today is the four-channel mixer. With a diameter of only 12 inches, it enables the DJ to mix up to four decks at a time whilst minimising space requirements. This type is a particular favourite with mobile operators as a smaller DJ rig is highly convenient in tight spaces. Some of these mixers allow direct access to the laptop computer via USB, enabling setup and media changeover to be done with great efficiency.
How to Buy the Perfect Audio Mixer on eBay
eBay contains audio mixers by the hundreds. You can search for your preferred mixer by adding specific keywords into your search queries, such as "analogue audio mixer" or alternatively, "digital audio mixer". When you have found several items that interest you, carefully go through each one and take note of the details. Read, mark, and inwardly digest all available information from each listed item. As well as the listed specifications, up-close photographs can help you determine if the listed item matches your expectations.
The other important step in the selection process is to glean as much about the seller as possible. An audio mixer can be a considerably large purchase, so you want to know that you can trust the individual you plan to purchase from. Check the ratings score the seller has earned from previous customers and read any feedback from other people’s experiences. If you have questions about your designated item, always contact the seller and have all scruples resolved before agreeing to buy the item. Lastly, delivery or shipping costs, of course, add to the cost, so always factor this into your budget. If you are fortunate enough to live close to your seller, you can arrange for personal pick up.
It is easy to take it for granted, but the music we listen to each day has all been through a mixing, recording, and editing process. Without this chain of events we would be left with some very substandard sounds indeed. The audio mixer, therefore, is a crucial part of the process and represents a juncture point where talent meets technology. The following final stages then go towards achieving the desired outcome that any performing or recording artist strives for.
The audio mixer serves a multitude of purposes, and there is a suitable mixer for any purpose. Finding the one that serves its intended purpose does not have to be painful. Each type is well represented in the expanding directory of eBay, from the highly portable two channel unit to the sixty four channel studio recording console. Both digital and analogue mixers have their own advantages, and the customer is ultimately left to best determine the type that serves them best by weighing each factor into the mix according to their own needs.