What Are You Mixing?

Posted on November 9, 2011 by

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Nothing causes problems to a home voice over studio like adding an analog mixer to your audio chain.

Anyone who’s done some sound engineering like recording music or done live sound reinforcement  will make the same assumption. You do production? You use a mixer. However, all you need to do is look at the recording software interface to see that the software has replaced the need for an external analog or digital mixer. As a voice actor with a home studio, your only requirement for inputing a signal to your computer is a digital input connected by USB or firewire.

Like most of us these days, chances are, you are only using just your mic most of the time and not mixing in music and sound effects. If you absolutely, positively have to add those elements to your files, with computer based, multi-tracking software, its poetic simplicity!  You just drag, drop and manipulate for optimum placement and adjust your levels using automation.

A mixer can be used for a couple of things. One, its pretty much necessary for setting up an ISDN chain.You have to re-route audio to hear the other end. But if you don’t have ISDN, no need for mixer. Also, you need a mixer to balance your mic levels for when you’re using more than one mic with more than one person, or, if you are introducing another sound element like music in real time with the voices. (what we call….uh… Voice Over!)  A mixer can be used in post production to do that same thing, only with the pre-recorded tracks of voice and music.

A hybrid of this technology is an external USB mixer. There are USB mixers made by everyone including Mackie, Alessis, M-Audio and Yamaha. Again, I have to point out that all this gear is designed for bands making music, not single track, mono, flat response, well modulated voice.  With the limited need for us to produce mixed projects, why bother? Why use an external, analog mixer and add a noisy additional link to the audio chain? As I lead off with, these devices are more trouble than their worth to the novice, and even to folks who know how to use them. So why introduce something else that can go wrong, and probably will.

If you set  your levels properly, learn proper mic technique and analyze each read and its vocal requirements, there’s no need to constantly adjust your levels using a mixer. Simplify and concentrate on reading and interpreting the copy, not adjusting your levels.

Long-time audio veterans need to understand the technological paradigm shift that has occurred in simple digital voice recording. The old set-up of Mic, Mixer board, interface to computer is essentially obsolete. Mic to A/D converter to computer or a good quality USB mic is ALL YOU NEED!

Picture by David Pettersson