Picture of How to use an audio mixer (soundboard)
In this instructable I am going to go through all the control features found on most mixers (mixing consoles, mixing desks, audio consoles, soundboards - they all refer to the same thing). I will start with the absolute basics:
What is a mixer?
A mixer, in its purest and simplest form, combines or meshes an array of inputs into a few controllable outputs (hence the name, MIXer). It is pretty much universal that mixers will have at least a volume control on the output. The vast majority will have volume or "level" controls on each input, or "channel." A great many still will have a variety of controls on each channel, from gains or trims to EQ and aux'es and buses and PFL's and more; don't worry though - I will go through each of these at least briefly.
When a new sound guy looks at a mixer for a large church, per se, he may feel overwhelmed by the oceans of knobs that may or may not be there. But here,I will explain what these knobs do, and you will actually find them to be overwhelmingly simple.

The first thing you need to know is that I will be dealing with moderate to large mixing desks and sound boards, with at least 10 channels (available inputs) or more. These are what you will see if you want to "run sound" for a church or venue or record music of bands, etc.

Step 1: Channels

Picture of Channels
The most important aspect of understanding mixers is understanding the channels. On almost all consoles, the channels are laid out in strips; the signal comes in physically through the back of the device, then passes through that channel's various controls from top to bottom, with the gain or trim at the top and the fader at the bottom. I will go through what each of these steps does in their own, well, steps.

Simply look at one of the black circle inputs (XLR's for microphones and snakes), then follow the column of knobs straight down. This is a channel strip.
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Aruna56 months ago

I am beginner to PA system. In our church we are using Yamaha MG 166 CX with two speakers but the performers feel that need a proper feedback. Earlier we were using powered mixer (mixers with buit in amplifiers) with two small speakers. Can I take a out from my mixer (phones) and in to powered mixer. I tried it, it works out but i am looking for a technical guidance will it leads to any troubles. Please reply me.

Dave85 Aruna51 month ago

Yes you can. A non powered mixer sends out a plain signal referred to as a "line level." A powered mixer should also receive a "line level" which it's getting from your unpowered mixer.

BlakeM42 months ago

I'm currently using this same board at a small theatre, however I do not see on it how to make the two FX knobs work as 3rd and 4th Auxes. Any tips on how to make that work? Could I use the subgroups on the board?

glennthegeek3 months ago

Question about subgroups on using them for podcasting. I have two hosts with mics in to two different tracks. Also, have two computers into the mixer using Skype. I have a mixer that allows 2 subgroups with separate outputs.

Question is could producer take a call on Skype on one of the computers by connecting her track with 2nd computer track through a subgroup, talk to the guest on Skype (off air) away from main output. Then when the guest is ready change it so the 2nd computer skype guest can be brought into the main mix? Sorry if it is so confusing.

shaker.kp6 months ago

HI....Great Explanation

please help me to buy these products...

i need yamaha 16 channal mixer --- 1

jbl speakers ---- 6

shure cordless mics ---- 5

shure podium mic ----- 1

suggest the models names to buy....

A yamaha mg16xu will be good
and the shure pgx2 with the sm58 mic will be good
just search on sites like musiciansfriend.com or something
The best explanation of a mixing board I have found to date. Congratulations. Like *****
jc tyler8 months ago

Was looking for a related topic - excellent introduction to soundboards - it's simple in the sensen that a complex thing is explained correctly and with common sense.

idekmae9 months ago
im wantinf to create electronic beats essentially, what kind of mixer would you suggest? and what would the proce range for that be? would a digital mier be better for that purpose?

I can not get sound from my 8 channel line mixer amplifier

joeltan1115 years ago
I love this tutorial....
going to use it for teaching purposes. 
But, i wish to ask if there are any guides or tutorials which detail the operation of a digital board, as this guide is focused on a analogue board.

This response is 4 years to late, but as of right now it would be difficult to create a guide like this for digital mixers as they are all different. If you want to use a digital one then you will need to find information specifically for that board.

sdmccoy2 years ago
Thank you so much for this. It is so simplistic and I'm glad I found you. Know I understand what I am suppose to do/be doing.
musicmike12 years ago
You mentioned headphones here. I wonder if you could answer a question.

I have a Kam KMD20 and want to hear the applied effects through the headphones and but seem to find out how to do it.

Any ideas?


yoyology2 years ago
This is extremely helpful! I run video for our church's Praise and Worship service, and if the sound guy doesn't show up, I'm left sitting next to the mixer and shrugging when somebody asks me to do anything. I need to get a basic understanding of the board so I can run it in an emergency, and this is just the intro I was looking for. Thank you!
_Basse_6 years ago
Can anyone recommend a "begginer" Soundboard ?
It all depends on what you're using it for. So, how many mics, instruments etc and what it's actual purpose is. Tell me that and I'll give you a recommendation :D
David, my purpose is home recording of "live" instruments. I have been jamming with some friends and we are now interested in recording our music. We would be connecting an Akai XR-20 drum machine, an electric bass guitar, a MIDI keyboard and possibly a microphone. What is a good mixer or soundboard that you would recommend for that. I have a lead on a Studiomaster Club 2000 14x2 for $200. Is that a good buy?
Yeh, that's a good bargain if you can get hold of it. You will need  fair amount of cables too. If you're looking to record digitally (idealy) you will need a way to connect the desk output to the computer sound card for recording. This can be done by connecting the stereo output of the desk into the line input on the computer, and use a simple program like Audacity (free) to record your session. The drum machine outputs in stereo (two channels) so you'll need two jack cables to go into the mixer. The same applies for the keyboard I would think (if it has a stereo ouput). The bass guitar can be run directly into the mixer on a jack cable like the other sources. The microphone will use one XLR cable. Ideally, you want to keep the jack sources on as shorter leads as possible, as they can easily pick up interferenace from other electronic devices, but the mic can be on a long lead.

So yeah, that desk should be fine! The only thing is that you'll be recording on just two tracks, so everything you record will have to be balanced correctly on recording to give a good sound output. You can kind of cheat with multitrack recording, my recording each track one at a time, and then layering them all together on the PC. This can also be done on Audacity.

Good luck!
This may be old, but you can NEVER plug a bass or any other guitar direct to the jacks on the mixer. It will sound horrible! This also applies for Pianos. You have to use a DI-Box (Direct input), converting jack to XLR
Our praise and worship band always plug directly into our mixer. We go from the mixer to powered speakers & have a great sound. The ONLY problem we have is the Behringer mixer started loosing 2 of the channels our mics use so we went w/ a Mackie PRO FX 16 mixer. MUCH BETTER!!! Our Church uses a Mackie PRO FX 22 mixer. We plug everything into a 16 channel snake which then runs to this mixer. Same as our band, great sound. We did however install DI boxes to take the noise out of the system. I hope we get years of service from the Mackies as this is our first time going to that brand. I trust Behringer powered speakers & amps but have too many friends that have had trouble out of their mixer boards. I really enjoy this forum 7 will definately have to lean on some of you from time to time as I've been a drummer since the 70s but am just now starting to learn the mixing end.
Hmm, that only applies on instruments and keys that are cheaper and so don't have a "true" line out as far as I know, otherwise there would be no purpose in mixing desk manufacturers having line ins on their desk, no?
Easy, it can be used if you want to plug in an iPod or CD player. You can go from <3.5mm minijack> to 2 (a red and white one) You have to use 2 channels, one for the white (left) and one for the right (=red). Make sure you set the balance for the channels respectively far left and far right.

I've never come across a piano with XLR. After reconsidering, yeah, a piano might be able to plug in directly. But we (my soundcrew) always use XLR because we don't have jack-jack cables that are over 50feet.

Only acoustic guitars with an element with XLR can be plugged directly in a mixer without a DI. (not very common, mostly only jack)
The Jack from a guitar gives a different impedance and voltage, and it will sound very crappy.
A DI is small pre amp converting it to XLR, using a 9Volt battery or the 48volt from the phantom.
Also, an electric guitar draws his current from the amplifier, and if you plug it in your mixer you might blow out some fuses.
If you're going to record separately and layer everything together, you might as well save on the $200 mixer, use a preamp, and do everything on your computer. I'm sure they have some good software for Windows if you're using a PC that isn't as costly as Pro Tools. If you have a Mac, GarageBand works fine, perhaps with a few more programs you can get for free. I use Logic Studio. It has tons of great tools for mixing, and a whole lot more.
I would like a 3-input stereo line input mixer (simple and cheap as I can get away with) to combine an mp3 player, my laptop, and a white noise machine. Thanks, I appreciate any and all suggestions you may have.
Depending on the the connection (ie as long as you can get them to quarter inch jacks, you should be fine) then these should be suitable. The first is about as basic as it gets, the second adds a mic channel and some control if you need to get a bit more customized, the third has a few more channels in case you feel the need. These links are for the UK retailers but they'll all be available on global sites. Have a look, hope this helps:



Thanks very much!!
Take care,
It all depends on what kind of things you are looking for the board to be doing, if you give me some sort of idea what you want and I can give you some recommendations.

07511 664218
idkdoyou6 years ago
do you have to use a coputer to record your music and do ect.........
It's actually arguable that you don't even need an external audio mixer. There is software for every computer operating system that can produce the same effects. I have an iMac with Logic Studio. All I use is a small preamp for my microphone and my friend's guitar. Pretty much everything is done on the computer.
your explanation is very good !!
and you are correct that there is no need of external hardware !!
In olden times , the computer processing speed was very low . so they used external electronic mixers . If you have a powerful pc you dont even have to use hardware mixers !! right ?
not always but most people recomend it if you are not able to use a pro sound recording system
It may not look like it, but this sound board has 28 channels.
Braedenb133 years ago
Hey, I run a tech booth at church and we want to start recording sermons and putting them on the Church Website for home-bound seniors. We have our computer and we have a 16-channel soundboard. If i wanted to record it, could i but a XLR cable that converts to a 3.5mm Jack and plug it into the microhone jack in the computer, and record it that way in Audacity, and upload it to the Website? I just want to know before i buy the cable.

thegeeke4 years ago
I know that this instructable, but incase anyone is still looking at this, NEVER waste your money on a berrienger (sp?) board. Anyone who knows anything about sound would agree.
agree. No matter what I would be for. The Behringer Xenyx mixers are a bad quality copy of mackie onyx boards!
Any berringer board is a copy of another decent board. Berringer just takes good boards and fouls them up. They will use the exact same design, except with the cheapest parts and labor they can find. I'm told (I never actually confirmed this) that Makie actually won a lawsuit against berringer because whoever had designed the Makie board had too much time on their hands, and if you looked at the circuitry from a few feet away it spelled "Makie". Makie opened up berringers board in the court room, and sure enough, the circuitry spelled makie! (I guess you could say berringer copied the board "to the letter"!) ;)
psychodalek4 years ago
im with sliff. i just need to know the basics of what to buy to create sound blends and mixing like Bassnectar, Reso, or Deadmau5.
You need a few things. You need a dj mixer, midi keyboard or any other midi input device OR a synth pad like a Native instruments maschine and a laptop with software (pro-tools or something like that)
Perkey3 years ago
Thank you for this post. I recently became interesting in how a Mixer works and this Instructable is well put together and very informative!
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