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Sound Ideas For Sound Mixers

Both analog and digital units offer attractive features

Today’s array of sound mixers meet the changing needs of the digital age while at the same time retaining the tried and true features that have stood the test of time.

Developments in sound mixing technology have mirrored advances in recording equipment, and the advance in recording regarded as rivaling the invention of the wheel was the realization by engineers that it was possible to overdub by playing back a previously recorded tape through a mixer, blending that with live microphones and sending the composite signal to a second recorder. This rudimentary technique allowed artists to add layers of new music.

Today’s digital mixing consoles offer advanced features and are relatively more versatile, but analog consoles remain popular because they still feature one knob, fader or button per function. Digital mixers use less space but do so because multiple adjustments are made with a single control, and they feature processors that reassign inputs so convenient groupings appear near each other at a fader bank, but that can be disorienting to a user having to make a hardware patch change. Conversely, analog consoles make for simpler understanding of hardware. Some of the mixers now on the market are:

Mackie’s 1642-VLZ3


With its famous solid-steel chassis, the Mackie 1642-VLZ3 is an upgrade from a previous popular version and suited for the road as well as home and studio recording. It features a new look, upgraded microphone preamps and two unique EQ (equalization) formats. Equalization is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal. Channels 1-8 have 3-band equalization optimizing the center points of the microphone channels. The remaining channels are designed with a fixed 4-band “musically-correct” EQ, which are primarily intended for line-level signals such as keyboards.

The 1642-VLZ3 features greater headroom, which refers to the difference in decibels between the nominal input level in an audio system and the maximum level before clipping (distortion) occurs. Any mixing system creates its own noise but with high headroom it can be run hotter on quiet sound sources, allowing for a cleaner signal, while avoiding distortion.

Roland’s VR-5


Designed for video and audio recording, but also geared for many types of live events, the Roland VR-5 incorporates a video switcher, audio mixer, video playback, recorder, preview monitors and output for web streaming, all in one unit. The VR-5 is a USB video/audio class device, so it can be hooked up to a computer running a live streaming service.

Roland was the first to build a USB audio interface, because “it made sense to integrate all those feature sets into one unit,” said John Broadhead, Roland Systems Group’s vice president of technology and communications. Two mono and five stereo audio inputs (12 channels) are mixed with full digital audio processing. High quality sound is achieved with effects such as “Noise Gate” for reducing background noise and a “Mastering Tool” to maintain consistent output volume. An “Audio Follow” function enables audio to fade from one source to another as the video source changes, and the VR-5 has two touch-screen monitors, one for program and the other for preview. Touching the screen selects video sources and picture-in-picture.

Yamaha’s MG32/14FX


Yamaha’s MG series combines old school controls with modern bells and whistles. All features and were made “novice friendly” and implemented in response to a range of customer requests and opinions, says Marc Ferris Yamaha account executive. “Things as trivial as color coding the controls to make them easier to find is one example of our listening and learning from customers,” he says.

In addition, Ferris suggests that anyone looking for a mixer should start that search by counting how many and what types of inputs and outputs will have to be accommodated. The Yamaha MG32/14FX has 32 inputs while the MG24/14FX has 24, he said. Each unit features two high- performance DSP (digital signal processing) stages, fed by separate effect buses, making it possible for an engineer to enhance the mix with two separate effects at the same time.

Therefore, each stage provides a selection of 16 professional- quality SPX digital effects, and parameter controls that can be adjusted to tailor the effects to sonic requirement are also provided. The units also can produce tempo-synchronized delays. Microphone pre-amps offer low-noise, transparent amplification with the widest possible range of dynamic and condenser microphones, thus allowing for cleaner and better sounding mixes.