Your Guide to Buying a Mixer on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying a Mixer on eBay

Different types of mixers are available on eBay. For someone venturing into sound mixing for the first time, it could be quite confusing to find the right mixer. For a start, a mixer can fall under two different categories, depending on the purpose it was built for. Although there might be professional disc jockeys or audio technicians that would argue that the purpose of a mixer has little or no relevance to categorization of the device because of the blurring lines in distinct functions among the different types of mixers, technically, if a mixer is for live events, it is called a live mixer, and if its purpose is to mix sounds for recording, it is a studio mixer. Then, there is a choice between an analogue or digital mixer, with each type of mixer having advantages and disadvantages. Aside from the features of a mixer, the type is also an important consideration when looking for the perfect mixer to buy.

Types of Mixers

In general there are three types of mixers: live, studio, and DJ mixers. As mentioned, live mixers and studio mixers are different mostly because of how disc jockeys or audio technicians use them.

Live Mixer

A live mixer can gather sounds, mix them, and send them to a limited number of areas in a venue, such as balcony monitors, main speakers, and monitors. Moreover, a live mixer can plug different audio sources at one time because of its multiple microphone and line inputs, so the device can support an entire music band set-up. When it comes to proper routing of signal to multitrack recorders, studio mixers used to exclusively have such a capacity, but recent models of digital live mixers with digital I/O capacity in the form of AES/EBU, ADAT, S/PDIF, or FireWire can also perform the same function. Although live and studio mixers these days share a number of features, group matrix mixing, which allows you to route mixes to alternate locations in an event area, is a feature of a live mixer that you cannot usually find in a studio mixer. Live mixers, especially the large models, can control or mute the volume of specified groups of inputs using a switch or a fader.

Studio Mixer

A studio mixer, on the other hand, can direct different inputs to a multi-track recorder and mix sounds to send to in-ear monitors (IEMs) of a performer, monitors in the control room, and a safety recorder. Times are changing, and the multiple-input feature that used to be exclusive to live mixers is now available in studio mixers. Nowadays, there are studio mixers that have several inputs, including a range of 16 to 24 microphone inputs, to rival the distinct function of live mixers. Digital studio mixers allow users to store it for future editing. Digital studio mixers come as either a regular mixing desk with inbuilt EQ, compression, and effects processors or as a control desk that resembles a mixing desk, but users can only control the DAW they are working on.

DJ Mixer

A DJ mixer is a type of console that disc jockeys use, and it has several features that you can find in a live mixer and a studio mixer, including stereo channels, equalization, volume and balance knobs, an input selector, and a cue switch. What sets apart a DJ mixer from other types of mixing consoles is its ability to let a disc jockey listen to a signal through headphones while that signal is inaudible to the master output. A DJ mixer also features a crossfader; a scratch DJ mixer has a crossfader curve control that helps in fast scratching because the control shortens the travel of a crossfader by one to two millimetres. Early DJ mixers were an effective device on the dance floor and utilised beat matching and beat mixing to fill the gap made by a song transitioning to another one, so dancers would not be tempted to leave the dance floor in between songs.

Distinctive Features of Different Types of Mixers

Although most features of a live mixer are also available in a modern studio mixer, there are still functions of a live mixer that you cannot usually find in a studio mixer. A DJ mixer, on the other, has two distinct features that separate it from other types of mixers. The chart below details the distinctive features of each.

Mixer

Distinctive Features

Live

Allows routing of mixes to alternate locations in an event area; can control or mute the volume of specified groups of inputs using a switch or a fader

Studio

Can direct different inputs to a multi-track recorder and mix sounds to send to in-ear monitors (IEMs) of a performer, monitors in the control room, and a safety recorder

DJ

Has a crossfader; allows a disc jockey to listen to a signal through headphones while that signal is inaudible to the master output

The table above is a quick reference to distinct features of each type of mixer. In the most basic sense, a live mixer is for live performances, a studio mixer is for music and mixes, and a DJ mixer is what disc jockeys hook up to a turntable.

Analogue vs. Digital Mixer

Aside from the general types of mixers, a mixer also can be analogue or digital. Analogue mixers are traditional mixers and what veteran DJs and audio technicians might prefer, and digital mixers are the newer models of mixers that plug into computers to work with music mixing software.

Analogue Mixer

Although an analogue mixer has basic features which a digital mixer has, the circuits inside an analogue mixer are not the same. In the process of sound mixing, an analogue mixer directs, mixes, and modifies signals from sources, such as a bass guitar, microphone, and keyboard with a fader, volume control, and other controls before sending the signal to a master output. An analogue mixer is more prone to hissing sounds because of the build-up noise the analogue circuits create as they process signals. This type of mixer can also pick up interference from electronic devices.

Digital Mixer

A digital mixer, on the other hand, converts a sound signal into a fast stream of numbers via a process called analogue-to-digital conversion (ADC). Then, the mixing software direct and process the numbers before converting again into an analogue signal. Because of the ADC process, digital mixers always have a delay of at least 1.5 milliseconds in the master output. This is problematic for musicians whose real-time performance is not in sync with what they are hearing from their in-ear monitors. A digital mixer is less susceptible to hissing sounds because signals convert into numbers in the process, except for the inputs and outputs stage. Digital mixers are more flexible than analogue mixers because a digital mixer can utilize a computer program to produce a lot of sound effects, loudness variations, and filters.

Troubleshooting Mixer Problems

You may encounter some problems with a mixer at a certain point. The two most common problems concern input channels and effects devices.

No Sound from Input Channel

If there is no sound from the input channel, make sure that the source device is connected properly to the socket. To know if an instrument or a tape device is producing sounds, plug headphones into its jack and check if you can hear anything. There are mixers with each channel having an indicator lamp, and when the light of a certain channel comes on, it means that the channel is getting a signal. You should also make sure that a channel is assigned to Stereo (L-R) bus if the monitor selection is on the same setting. If you are using group assignments, check if the channel pans to a group fader that has been slid up.

Problems in Effects Devices

The table below shows common problem in the effects devices of a mixer, such as the effects level control and effects send output. It also shows the troubleshooting tips for each problem.

Effects Device Problem

Troubleshooting Tips

No sound

Check if the indicator lamp of the effects device; make sure that the input channel sends and the effects (aux) send master is not on mute

Squealing sound when turning up the effects return faders

Make sure the effects (aux) sub-masters for the device is turned down on the effects return input channels; if there is a live mic, decrease the monitor level

Distortion from the effects return

Decrease the amount of signal from the input channel sends, the effects send master, or the effects device itself

These are basic troubleshooting tips. If a problem still continues despite following the tips above, consult the manual of the mixer or ask a professional technician for help.

Buying a Mixer on eBay

When buying a mixer, there is nothing more convenient than searching online from the comfort of your own home and waiting for the product to arrive at your doorstep. It beats driving to a physical shop with a vague idea of what mixers you would see. On eBay, you can view so many different mixers from either individual sellers or manufacturers. Searching for a mixer on eBay is very easy; just type keywords, such as "DJ mixers", "live mixers", or "studio mixers" in the search bar. It only takes a few seconds to see a long list of the type of mixers you are looking for. You can also add the word "analogue" or "digital" to your keywords for a more specific result. What is wonderful about eBay is that most sellers have a return policy, so you can return a mixer if you receive it in a condition that is not specified in the product details.

Conclusion

There are different types of mixers that are out on the market now. Basically, a mixer is called a live mixer if it is meant to be used at live events, and it is called a studio mixer if it is meant for mixing sounds for recordings. A DJ mixer, on the other hand, has the distinctive crossfader and the capability to allow a DJ to listen to non-playing source signal without affecting the master output.

In addition, there is also the option to buy an analogue or digital mixer, with each having its own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a mixer, it is important to know what purpose it is meant for in order to select the right mixer that fits the bill. Mixers are very effective consoles for music mixing, organizing sounds in an event, and recording live performances, and a quality mixer is a dream of any disc jockey, sound technician, or audiophile.

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