Mixing Board Considerations
In the production of music there are usually several sound sources involved. Even a solo performer usually has some form of accompaniment. If there are multiple sources that need to be amplified you need a mixing board. In its simplest form that would include a separate volume control for each signal the sum of which is fed to the output. Most mixing boards provide a few more features.
There are a wide range of mixing boards on the market. They range from a few input channels to probably as many as you need. The features of the boards vary widely as well. There are analog and digital flavors from which to choose.
When shopping for a mixing board there are several things that you need to consider. You need to determine the number of channels required to cover your input list. You probably should get a board with a few more input channels than you think you need. Although it is not a hard rule most mixing boards are offered with some multiple of eight input channels, so if you normally use 16 channels you should probably consider a 24 channel board.
Other things that you need to take into consideration are the features offered by the board. There is wide variation in the EQ sections on the input channels. The number of auxiliary sends for monitors and effects is another item you need to check. Some boards offer some onboard effects. There are now reasonably priced digital consoles as well as analog consoles available. While an analog mixer may be a bit cheaper to buy you may need several other additional pieces of equipment to provide some features that many digital consoles have built in. The digital console may represent a better value overall.
The mixing board needs to fulfill the requirements for the situation. If you are in a band that sets up its own equipment and operates the equipment form stage it is probably best to keep things as simple as possible. You may want to consider a rack mountable board so that you can keep as much of the system hooked up as possible. If you provide sound reinforcement to others you need to consider the type of services you will offer. You probably don't need a board with a high channel count if your PA consists of speakers on a stick. On the other hand, if you are providing a concert PA you need to be looking at boards that will meet rider requirements of the class of acts that you can handle with your rig.
The mixing board is a very important part of your sound system. It is nice to work with good tools but you probably don't need a board with feature overkill. If you want to keep things simple a mixer with basic features may be best suited. If you want to use more advanced features the board should have them available. A good mixing board with the features you want will make the job of mixing live sound more enjoyable.
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