If you’re planning to take your digital audio workstation to the NEXT LEVEL, it’s time to get higher-quality music with sound mixers and audio interfaces.
In this article, we’ll teach you how to connect a mixer to an audio interface and be able to create better-quality music recordings.
What Is a Sound Mixer?
Sound mixers are also referred to as soundboards or audio mixers. These allow you to manipulate the volume of each microphone or instrument input separately.
Nowadays, modern recording is usually done digitally. Audio mixers are mostly fully analog, which means they don’t have digital output ports.
What Is an Audio Interface?
Audio interfaces translate the sound from the analog mixer into computer digital signals.
Audio interfaces transform microphone and instrument signals into a format your software and computer can notice.
The audio interface also redirects audio from your computer and out to your headphones and studio monitors.
How to Properly Connect a Mixer to an Audio Interface
Properly connecting an audio mixer to an audio interface won’t take too much time.
Follow the steps below carefully to connect your audio mixer to your audio interface for an improved home studio:
Step 1: Set Up Your Audio Mixer and Inputs
Connect the line inputs, microphones, and other instruments, and double-check whether your mixer’s set up on default or normal.
Step 2: Connect Balanced 1/4″ Cables From Your Audio Mixer Output to the Inputs on Your Audio Interface
We’ll cover the different cable types and explain the difference between balanced and unbalanced cables later.
Keep reading to learn how you can produce the best sound output.
Step 3: Keep the Inputs on Your Audio Interface Turned Completely Down
You won’t need any assistance from the preamps on your audio interface since you’ll be sending a line-level signal.
Keep the main outputs on your audio interface turned up.
Step 4: Connect Your USB Audio Interface to Your Computer
On the back of the USB audio interface, there is a USB 2.0 output. There is a chance that you might get a USB audio interface with a USB-C output.
If that’s the case, getting the right cable is important. Once it’s plugged in, you’ll be sending a line-level output.
Everything that comes from an audio mixer is a line-level output. These are different from a microphone line level and an instrument level output.
Step 5: Monitor Your Signal
Once you’ve connected the line outputs to the line inputs of your audio interface, you need to monitor if the signal sounds great.
Monitor it precisely through your audio interface because that will be the signal that you will be recording or streaming.
Step 6: Set Up Your Recording Software to the Correct Levels
In your digital audio workstation or recording software, choose your audio interface as your default audio device.
When you start recording, ensure you see a good signal that peaks around -12Db.
Step 7: Press Record
Finally, once all your settings are tailored to your liking, you’re all set! You’ve learned how to connect audio mixer to the audio interface!
What Equipment Do You Need?
The equipment that you need to start digital recording the output of a mixer are the following:
- Audio Mixing Board or Console – This could be a DJ mixer or full mixing board for recording a band or taking the feeds from multiple microphones.
- Computer – The audio travels from your audio interface to your computer’s USB port. Your computer’s also where the analog signals and digital signals are mixed, saved, and played back. The computer is where the final output becomes audio files that you can share with any live streaming platform.
- Digital Audio Workstation – Any audio program that is capable of recording and doing a stereo mix would be enough.
- Audio Interface – The audio interface is used to connect the computer to the USB cables using firewire. First, make sure your audio interface is correctly installed and connected to your computer, in most cases, via USB. The audio signal that comes from your mixer will be line level, so make sure that you have changed them to line level if you have combo inputs.
- Correct Power Cables – Before you proceed to connect audio mixer, you’ll need the right power cables. Your audio mixer will need power, and some audio interfaces need an external power supply.
- Cables – You can choose from four main options: XLR cables, RCA cables, 1/4 inch cables, and TRS cables. Let us break these down for you:
- XLR Cable – An XLR cable is an industry-standard audio cable that you can heavily depend on. You will also notice that XLR cables are seen in virtually every recording studio. XLR cables also fall on the more expensive side compared to the other options.
- RCA Cable – These reliable cables are used to connect mixers and speakers. Many DJs use RCA connectors to connect the audio interface to the audio mixers or to connect their decks to speakers.
- 1/4-inch Cable – 1/4-inch cables are more affordable, but these cables tend to have unwanted noise or audio interferences present, especially over long distances. If you are recording from a bit of a distance, having these cables could be an issue for your recording studio. We suggest that you pick between the other two options if you live in an area where referring traffic is present.
- TRS Cable – TRS cables have three conductors that are separated by two black insulation bands. A TRS cable is reliable for carrying a mono instrument signal such as from electric guitars to an amp. The tip transmits the audio input, and the sleeve is the return path and also usually the ground.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables: Which Cable Sounds Best?
Audio cables are categorized between “balanced” and “unbalanced” cables. These are determined based on the way the audio signal is carried out.
Both cables are good for recording music but note that unbalanced cables can pick up unwanted audio sources, so choose wisely.
These cables have two wires carrying the signal. The cable retracts the signal in one of the wires at the start and flips it again at the end.
Any deformation in the signal is eradicated, along with the output sounds as they did going into the cable.
Any other noise that is not included in the composition is eliminated at the final main output.
Balanced signals are very reliable for very long runs of wire. XLR cables are familiar in professional studios and concert venues.
The cables are tens and hundreds of feet long but the main outputs are still extraordinary. The cables retain the true sound and reduce interference during signal transmissions.
These cables have one wire carrying a single copy of the digital computer signals.
If there are any interventions along the length of the wire, the audio quality suffers, and the stereo output becomes distorted. Unbalanced cables are limited to runs of less than 10 feet.
Balanced cables’ advantages do not apply in a home studio because the distance between the two inputs — the audio mixer and audio interface is small instead of long.
Although unbalanced cables come in clutch because there is no signal or distortion so there wouldn’t be a need for an XLR cable type.
How Can I Make the Sound Better?
All musicians and song producers have their own quirks in creating and mixing sound.
When you connect the mixing board to the audio interface for recording, make sure it’s connected properly.
Connect your mixer board with the audio cable to get the quality of inputs that you want.
For starters, you can try different mixers. Each mixer board will be able to produce a different analog sound.
Tips in Connecting Your Mixer Board to Audio Interface for Recording
A few reminders when you connect mixer with individual channels to an audio interface:
#1 Plug Your Cables Into the Mixing Board
Your mixing board will have a pair of female XLR sockets labeled Stereo Out, which will let you plug the left output and right output cables in.
#2 Try to Plug Microphones and Music Equipment
When you connect your mixer to audio interface, the line inputs should give you the desired audio.
Remember, everything that comes from the mixer is a line input.
#3 Locate an Available Line-Level Output in the Audio Mixer
The placement of the ports for you to connect the audio mixer to audio interface can vary because configurations vary between mixers.
For analog mixers, there is a pair of RCA cables labeled “REC OUT,” “TAPE OUT,” or just “OUT,” which are meant to record tape cassettes or tape reel recorders.
Even though this connection is intended for recording, we don’t suggest using it to connect the mixer to your audio interface because this output is NOT balanced.
#4 Set Gains and Levels Correctly to Get a Clean Signal for Recording
After finishing connecting the mixer to audio interface, it’s time to set the gains to their corresponding levels to get a crisp and smooth audio signal.
While the audio interface is powered off, connect a microphone to the mixer to set the levels.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes a Good Audio Interface?
Consider these 5 main factors when looking for an audio interface:
- Inputs and Outputs – If you are a solo artist who’s always on the go, a single mic pre and a DI on a bus-powered interface is enough. But if you’ve got a bigger recording studio and plan on using outboard effects, ensure you have a lot of line-level inputs and outputs.
- Budget – It’s up to you if you want to invest in it for the long term or to try it out with a cheaper one first.
- Build Quality – The most important factor in choosing an audio interface is the build. It must be durable, reliable, and feel right.
- Features – The features play a big role, too. Some interfaces have basic ways of manipulating your DAW and let you easily control your levels and plug-ins. But the key features should be monitor controls and low latency mixing.
- Sound Quality – Lastly, you want to ensure that your audio interface creates an amazing sound quality.
What Are the Best Audio Interfaces?
The best audio interfaces for both USB and Thunderbolt are the following:
- Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen
- Audient iD4 Mkll
- Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII
- Apogee Symphony Desktop
- PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
What Type of Mixing Board Should I Buy?
There are many mixers to choose from, but your choice will depend on the kind of work you do. Focus on these factors in picking the right audio mixer for you:
- Channels and inputs
- Onboard processors and effects
- Buses and routing
- Direct inputs and outputs
Connecting your audio mixer to your audio interface is a lot easier than you think.
As long as you know your elements and equipment by heart, you’ll do great!
Sometimes, a little tweaking is all it takes to get better sound quality.