Inputs and Outputs
Many times, churches will base their purchasing decision for a new mixing console on how many inputs they will require (and I will add, it’s typically not enough). At the same time, though, they often fail to consider how many outputs they will need now, and in the future.
How many inputs and outputs will fulfill your needs?
With that said, the back panel of a digital mixer may have connections that aren’t on their analog cousins and may be labeled differently.
Analog consoles would have dedicated outputs: Auxiliary, Sub-Group and Matrix.
The number of auxiliary (Bus) mixes that can be sent to destinations other than the main mix are determined by how many aux outputs are on the board. If you want four separate monitor mixes for the band, you’ll need at least four Pre-Fader Aux outputs.
Pre-Fader: A monitor mix, or a recording mix for your livestream, needs to be independent of the main mix. If you need more vocals in the house, but the guitarist wants less in his monitor, pre-fader will allow you to adjust the monitors, to how the musicians and vocalists want to hear it, independent of the main mix.
If the musicians want a stereo mix through their in-ears, you’ll need twice as many aux outputs for the four mixes: eight in total. On analog consoles, mixing stereo monitors with eight mono outputs can prove rather tricky.
Post-Fader Aux: If you have external effects processors, reverb/delay, you will need aux outputs for as many effects as you have. The reason we use post-fader is because we want the amount of the effect to follow the channel or group of channels being fed to that effect.
If I turn up the guitar or the vocal group, I want the reverb/delay to follow. I also use a post-fader aux to feed subwoofers. As I turn up the bass channels in the house, the subwoofer level will increase as well.
Sub-Group. A Sub group has an output as well. At times, we will assign related channels: Instrument, vocals, or drums, so that with one or two sub-groups, we can control the level of the whole group. Drums would be a great example. If you have eight microphones on the drum kit, which you are trying to change the levels of during a service, it would be more than cumbersome, versus controlling their relative level with one fader on a sub-group. (or two sub-groups linked in stereo).
Sub-groups may be processed. I can apply a compressor to a sub-group of drums or to background vocals.
Lastly, sub-groups have a physical output. I can send a sub-group mix to a delay speaker under the balcony, for instance.
A better way to do that, however, may be to use a Matrix.
Matrix: A “Mix of Mixes,” is a great way to build alternative mixes for livestream, under balcony, front fills, foyer, even in-ear mixes.
Consider how many places you need to send mixes to:
• Individual Pre-Fader Monitor Mixes Mono/Stereo?
• Effects Processors?
• Sections of the church that need delayed audio: Subwoofers, under balcony, foyer, cry room?
This is the inventory you will need to take, so that you don’t come up short on outputs.
On the digital console illustration above, you’ll notice that some things are very similar to your analog board, or another brand of digital perhaps.
On this particular console, though, you don’t see AUX, but instead you see a MIX output, as shown to the left below.
Because digital consoles are basically software driven. I can make the MIX Output whatever I need it to be. It can be a pre-fader/post-fader aux, it can be a sub-group or a matrix mix, all by simply touching a button. To make a pair of mixes stereo, I simply link them and control their output and processing with one control. Simple!
You’ll notice that even though this model of mixer has 16 mix outs, it also features four additional Sub-Group Outputs, as shown to the right.
Are 20 outputs enough for your needs?
I want to explain a few other connections that may be on a digital mixing console, using this model as an example.
An Ethercon/RJ45 connection, to the left, is used to connect our mixer to a LAN network, a router, so that front of house and monitor engineers, musicians on stage, and a livestream can be done through a wired or wireless connection mix remotely. To me, this has always been one of the greatest advantages of digital mixers.
A USB connection, as shown on the right, provides a way to link to a computer for audio interfacing, recording and playback, control of mixer functions and file transfers, i.e., saving /recalling scenes, and presets.
Audio Network Ethercon/RJ45, below and to the left, is used for audio networking to other devices on a network, one-to one or with many, through a network switch.
An example of this would look something like the graphic at the bottom of the page.
In summary, don’t sell yourself short on the number of outputs you may need, whether they are to serve your current needs or those you anticipate in the future.
We will have more to talk about in days ahead and until then, if you have questions, you can reach me at email@example.com.