Whether your project is music or spoken word poetry, you decide you want to begin recording your output and build a home studio.
But how do you do exactly that?
You may want to look into investing in an audio interface, sound card, or analog or digital mixer in the near future.
It may get confusing figuring out what equipment and gear you will need, but we can help you iron out the wrinkles.
By the end of this article, you will feel like a professional sound engineer!
How to Record Audio from Mixer
When recording audio from a mixer to your device, we have a couple of methods we can suggest.
You can choose which method sounds the easiest or which is more accessible to you and the gear you have on hand.
For devices, we recommend you record directly to a laptop or PC.
You can try connecting your mixer directly to your laptop to record from your mixer. You can connect by using a USB interface cable or a sound card.
Alternatively, you can also connect your device to a USB mixer or use an audio interface.
What Is a Sound Card?
A computer or your mobile phone by itself is unable to produce sound.
Therefore, a device must have a sound card to translate signals into data that speakers can use.
A sound card can also do the opposite – translate sound into data your device can understand to store recording files.
You may be asking, “What is the difference between your computer’s built-in sound card and an external one?”
Your computer’s sound card is probably incapable of producing sound files professionally!
Check Your Soundboard Specs
With the methods we described earlier to start your record, we suggested that you connect your mixer to your laptop.
Some soundboards do not have a USB port.
If your board does not have a USB option, you will have to connect your board directly to your computer’s sound card.
This method will be the best for you if your computer has a sound card and a microphone input connector.
Once everything is connected, you can start your digital audio workstation.
But before we start recording, we need to be familiar with the capabilities of our soundboard.
- How many input channels does the mixer have?
- Where are the input and output placements?
- Is it a digital mixer or an analog mixer?
It would be best if you had a mixer with enough input and output locations to handle multitrack recording, depending on how many microphones or other instruments you plan to record.
Analog vs. Digital Mixer
If you do not already have a mixer and are still planning to buy one, perhaps you are wondering what the difference is between an analog one and a digital one.
Budget and Flexibility
For starters, an analog mixer is compatible with a good range of sound systems, and they are more affordable than digital.
However, analog consoles do not usually have their own built-in signal processor features (like delays and reverbs) per channel.
You will have to purchase other gear to help accommodate its inability to do these on its own.
A digital soundboard is a bit more sophisticated and flexible.
Digital boards usually have features built in that an analog audio mixer may not have; thus, you will not have to purchase additional equipment.
That means LESS gear and LESS cost!
Some digital mixers also have the option to save presets, and many of these mixers also have the benefit of being able to adjust with wireless control options – via your phone or tablet.
Ease of Usage
You may be expecting digital mixers to be more user-friendly than analog. However, it is quite the opposite!
Analog mixers are pretty user-friendly, and this is because most of them come in the same format.
Meanwhile, digital mixers come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. Some may not have the same tools and onboard effects as another.
A good analog mixing console would be the Behringer XENYX Q1202USB Premium 12-Input 2-Bus Mixer with XENYX Mic Preamps and Compressors, which you can order off Amazon.
Cables You May Need
Ever found yourself saying, “Yo pass the aux” on a long road trip?
Perhaps not so much nowadays because of Bluetooth connectivity options, but an audio cable will be one of the necessary professional tools in your workstation.
There are many kinds of auxiliary cords, so it is best to figure out what tools you will need for your audio mixer and what performance you will produce.
TS cables, short for Tip/Sleeve, are great if you are recording instrumentals. These auxiliary cables are often known as guitar cables but can be connected to other instruments.
They are known as MONO cables because there is only one channel to send signals through.
However, the downside to the TS cables is interference.
We call these cables unbalanced, so it is best to have them as short as possible.
Similar to the TS cable, the TRS auxiliary cable has two rubber strips on its connector header, forming three conductors – the Tip, the Ring, and the Sleeve.
These cables are mostly used in headsets, but you can also use them as balanced mono cables.
This means you can use them without worrying about audio signal interference – which means they can be longer!
An important cable you want to have is the XLR cable.
XLR cables are bulky. However, the XLR is always balanced.
These cables are mostly used on microphones and speakers but can also be used on instruments and even lights!
This cable is also known as a low Z cable because it carries a low impedance signal. You can be confident when using this cable that your mic input audio will be crisp!
RCA Phono Cables
RCA phono cables are common in audiovisual setups and are usually used by DJs to connect their turntables to their soundboards.
You may want to invest in these if the performance you are recording is from a DJ’s turntable.
Like the TS and TRS cables, the RCA phono cable is also unbalanced.
Used to sync between compatible equipment, these cables are very handy for instruments that have MIDI I/O or input/output.
You may not necessarily need this cable, as most instruments nowadays also have the option to connect with USB cables instead of MIDI.
This cable is also known as a Five Pin Cable because it has five pins.
USB audio cables are the most popular type of cable in the world and can be used for almost anything, and for a good reason!
Most devices have some form of USB port, and if they do not, their manufacturers sell USB adaptors.
They come in types A, B, and C, with USB-A being the most popular; however, USB-C is currently rising in popularity through its use on mobile phones and tablets.
For your home studio, however, most devices will connect via USB-A to USB-B, so it is best to invest in this kind of USB cable.
You can also invest in adaptor cables, such as an XLR cable to RCA or a USB cable to 3.5mm.
That way, you can plug into any kind of port at the same time!
We know it sounds heavy on the budget to acquire the cables you need and quite tempting to find cheaper alternatives, but it will be worth the price in the long run!
We recommend that you invest in professional, higher-quality cables; going cheap may result in poor audio recording.
Balanced vs. Unbalanced
We have mentioned balanced and unbalanced cables earlier, and you might be wondering what we mean exactly by that.
Does it even matter?
Unbalanced cables are unable to cancel out interference and noise. This is because if you open this cable up, you will find they only have two wires.
They lack the extra conductor wire needed to cancel out interference.
However, take note that if you want a balanced setup, ALL your cables and equipment have to be BALANCED.
Even just one unbalanced tool will make your entire setup unbalanced!
What if you have a mix of balanced and unbalanced cables and do not want to purchase any replacements?
Or do you want to hook up your guitar, which is unbalanced gear, to a balanced mixer?
Other Equipment You Might Need
Depending on the needs of your record, perhaps instead of a microphone, a professional voice recorder may be something you want to look into.
These devices are hardware recorders, and they do not need any software updates or any additional setups.
They also will not crash, unlike your PC, if overloaded.
Speaking of overloading your PC, if you are planning on recording and storing a large number of files, you may want to invest in a good external hard disk with a large amount of storage.
This way, your computer’s internal storage will not be filled to the brim with your files! Overloading your computer’s internal storage can result in slower device performance.
Capture from Sound Board to Computer
Now you have your audio mixer, all the cables you need, your sound card, you have your microphone or instruments, and all the tools you need ready.
All you need now to start recording is a digital audio workstation, otherwise known as DAW.
Digital Audio Workstation and USB Audio Interface
DAW software is required in order to record your audio recording. Luckily, it is easily downloadable online!
Some of the most popular DAW software include Pro Tools, Studio One, and Reaper, among others.
However, keep in mind that to use these, you must pay a subscription fee. If you are on a tighter budget, you can look into free software like Audacity.
Audacity is one of the few open-source, cross-platform audio applications you can use for your mixing!
And it’s FREE!
As usual, connect your mixer to your computer or USB interface/sound card, open the program, and easily record!
After your recording session, you are also able to cut your files, remove background noise, and rearrange tracks if you are editing a multitrack recording, among other things!
How do you get the application? It is very EASY!
You must simply visit the official Audacity website and download the application for your device.
The program is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is completely free software, so make sure you are not getting ripped off by resellers!
If you are willing to shell out money for a good DAW, Pro Tools is one of the best on the market.
Like Audacity, Pro Tools can be easily set up. Just have your equipment ready and open the program.
Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky.
Once your gear is prepared, you must set up all your audio inputs and outputs, select the proper playback engine, and check your input in preferences.
Now that that is done go back to Pro Tools and start a new session. Name this session, and then start a new audio track!
Now, click the R on the track you want to start with. This is so that when you record your audio, the sound will go directly on the track.
With all of that done, you may now start your record on the software! Find the huge red record button; you cannot miss it.
Pushing the SPACEBAR will start the recording on the Pro Tools interface!
Similar to Pro Tools, other DAW applications will have a similar method to record.
Open your DAW software and create a track. Then, direct the audio input into your sound card.
Once you have done this, you can use your audio mixer to play around with the settings, and then once you are happy with the sound, you can start an audio file.
Sound easy? There is a catch, though!
This method records everything into one track and not into different tracks – known as multitrack recording.
If you want to create a multitrack recording, we suggest you use a USB sound card compatible with stereo lines.
This method will split your audio into left and right tracks – which is also perfect for ASMR mic input!
If you want to make a multitrack recording using a different method, you may want to look into a USB mixer.
These kinds of mixers are capable of recording multiple tracks at the same time, which is perfect for live performance records.
Generally, the capability of this kind of mixer to record multiple soundtracks at the same time depends on the price – cheaper means fewer tracks at once.
In addition, the more expensive, professional mixers also have better audio quality. We trust brands like Yamaha and Tascam for the job!
If you want to be able to hear yourself while recording the audio, you should also look into a monitor mix.
This allows you to hear what you sound like, or rather what the recording sounds like while it is happening.
Therefore, you can make adjustments to your audio mixer right as it is happening.
Basic Audio Interface
You can use an audio interface both in professional and home studio setups.
It helps deliver a quality recording, as it converts sound into digital signals that your device can recognize.
Sound like a sound card?
That is because an audio interface is essentially an external sound card!
The difference is an audio interface will have dedicated drivers and a higher sampling rate and bit depth, which generally means your file will be more detailed and have better quality.
Audio Interface vs. Mixer: What’s the Difference?
An audio interface’s main purpose is to RECORD audio on any computer or device.
You can plug instruments and microphones into them and have the signal transferred to your computer.
In short, audio interfaces are responsible for the bare minimum recordings!
No effects or fancy-schmancy stuff at first. Whatever the interface picks up is what you hear on playback on your computer.
Meanwhile, mixers are more advanced and in-depth.
You can mix and edit whatever your interface picks up with a mixer. You can add effects, reverb, delay, adjust frequencies and EQ, and so on.
Think of an audio interface like a video camera and the mixer as your video editing software!
Fortunately, some mixers have built-in audio interfaces! You won’t have to buy two different devices at once.
You can turn to an audio interface if you are a beginner looking for some simple recordings and upgrade to a mixer once you gain professional experience.
Time to Mix!
Done with your recording?
Once you have finished recording your piece, you may leave it as is if you are already happy with it.
However, you may also want to consider MIXING it.
Mixing your record is a great way to improve the quality of the finished product.
This is because, when done properly, there will be a beautiful blend of all the sounds on just one sound file.
Now, we can help you find that style, but first, you should know what you must do. These include:
- Balancing the volume of all the tracks and channels involved in the mix.
- Add reverb, modulate, distortions, and other types of sound effects.
- Remove background noise and errors. No one wants to hear the door opening in the background or the squeak of guitar strings!
There are many different methods of mixing, and like most things, it is also trial and error based.
It is always a good idea to experiment with your equipment to find a style that suits you. Here are a few tips we can offer you to start off your mixing journey!
Don’t Overdo It!
Once you start figuring out how to add reverb, bass, and so on, you may be tempted to put a lot more of it.
DO NOT! Adding too many vocal or sound effects can and will drown out the original recording. Not good!
Find a sweet spot where your effects can add just the right amount of enchantment to the final product!
You might be thinking of the kitchen item Rapunzel uses to hit people on the head, but in this context, panning means pushing certain sounds to the left or right.
Panning your instruments on a music record will also help isolate and bring more attention to those instruments if done correctly!
Most people make the mistake of putting all the sounds in the center of the mix.
While this is not necessarily wrong, it would be good to pan certain elements to the left or right to add more depth and character to your mix.
A mistake a lot of mixers make is believing their mix is godly because they can hear it perfectly – on their headphones.
Some people will listen to your mix on their car sound system, some will have cheap $1 earbuds, and others will have a theatrical level surround sound system!
You do not have to listen to it on all kinds of sound systems, but you definitely want to hear what it sounds like from the most likely medium your listeners will listen on.
A good tip as well when listening to your final mix is to turn the volume all the way down.
If you are still able to hear all the important bits and pieces at a low volume, that is a good indication that your record is balanced!
REMEMBER: Mixing is about finding which elements you want to highlight and at what time on your recording.
Most of what you do from here is up to your creative discretion – perhaps you love the way your music sounds with a lot of reverb. That is up to you!
It is your product, and you ultimately get to choose how you want it to sound!
Can You Use an iPad/iPhone/Android?
Now that we have gone through the nitty-gritty of recording, you may be wondering, “Why is this so complicated?
“Can I not just use my phone as a recording device?”
Technically, yes, and if that is what you prefer or is more convenient for you, then why not?
However, take note that to produce a good quality music recording on a handheld device, you would still have to purchase some good-quality equipment.
It is wise to invest in equipment that is MEANT to record professionally.
If you visit your mobile phone or tablet’s app store and look up recording applications, you will find a good amount of these there. Choose which one looks the best for you!
We recommend the following applications:
- Smart Voice Recorder
- Voice Record Pro (available on iOS only)
- Titanium Recorder (available on Android only)
- Recforge II (also available on Android only)
However, you may also opt to just stick to your device’s built-in recording app.
Of course, you can’t record without a good microphone!
You might be tempted to just use your device’s built-in microphone. However, this may affect your mic input recording quality.
For microphones, popular ones used for handheld devices are usually smaller, more portable mics, like lapels.
But if you insist on using your device’s built-in microphone, be sure you know where exactly the feature is located.
Once you figure this out, ensure you aim the device – microphone side out – toward whatever you plan to record. This will make it easier for the device to catch the sound.
After you have finished recording your project, take your recording files and transfer them to your computer for further editing.
Take note that these handheld devices may not be capable of multi-track recording.
Whether you are an aspiring singer, motivational speaker, or have your own podcast, it is great to have your own sound studio to help create and produce your own records.
Starting may be confusing and expensive at that, but it would also be cheaper in the long run.
You will not have to shell out money to rent a whole studio every time!
Good luck on your sound engineer journey!