Harmony Central Forums
Announcement Announcement Module
Collapse
No announcement yet.

Line mixer vs. "regular" mixer

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse









X
Conversation Detail Module
Collapse
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Line mixer vs. "regular" mixer

    Currently I'm running my three synths through a simple Peavey PV6 and then either left/right to our recorder, or through a stereo DI box for stage sound. I'd love to be able to tuck that mixer functionality inside a rack box to make the whole setup tidier. I'm also going to need to upgrade the mixer anyway because I'm planning to add a fourth keyboard to the mix, and the PV6 is already full.

    But rack mount = line mixer. I'm still learning to speak "Recording" and "Live Sound" and again I've run into something that's a basic assumption that everyone takes for granted but I don't get yet.

    What's the difference between a line mixer and a plain analog mixer, and will the former do the job for what I want or should I stick with the analog? This doesn't have to cope with microphones, I'm running only synths through it.

    Martyn Wheeler (playing synthesizers/organ like it's 1973 in England)

    now: Fredfin Wallaby
    was: The Gonzo Symphonic

  • #2
    This isn't a digital vs. analog question (thank god). A line mixer only accepts line level inputs like keyboards/ipods/tape decks, ect. A 'mic' mixer will accept line inputs as well as mic inputs, because some or all of the channels have mic pre-amplifiers (and phantom power) built in. Usually the inputs are individually switchable between the two. Usually the channels have individual EQ and FX buss sends for each channel. Even with all that, lots of mic mixers will fit into a 19" rack if you remove the end caps, but they take up lots of rack units. Some mixers will digitize the output, but you don't need that for live playing. If you want to plug your rig into a DAW, that's different.

    I think what you want is a 1 or 2 RU stereo line mixer. This thread contains the thoughts of highly qualified and extremely opinionated experts. I think I'll exhume it...
    ComputerMusicGuide.com

    Comment


    • #3
      line mixers are better because they don't have mic preamps or EQ sections, which are the parts that make normal mixers sound like dookey.
      main: http://suitandtieguy.com
      Lawrence Miles style rants: http://suitandtieguy.livejournal.com
      handbuilt boutique synthesiser modules: http://stgsoundlabs.com
      my digital albums: http://suitandtieguy.bandcamp.com

      Comment


      • #4
        line mixers are better because they don't have mic preamps or EQ sections, which are the parts that make normal mixers sound like dookey.


        And with most keyboards having internal EQ now, you don't really need the EQ on the channels.
        My Live Gear: Roland FA-08, Hammond SK1-73, Moog LP
        My Band: http://www.bksband.com

        Comment


        • #5
          line mixers are better because they don't have mic preamps or EQ sections, which are the parts that make normal mixers sound like dookey.


          I don't think there's any requirement that a line mixer can't have EQ. Also, I don't think the presence of mic preamps affects the sound at all if you don't use those inputs.

          The terminology isn't precise, though. There are some "line" mixers that may have, say, one mic input too.

          Comment


          • #6
            And with most keyboards having internal EQ now, you don't really need the EQ on the channels.


            EQ could still be nice in a mixer. Not all keyboards have EQ built in; and even if they do, the EQ functions can be inconvenient to get to; or they may have EQ available on a patch-by-patch basis and no simple way to affect the EQ of the whole board, to adjust for a different amp you may be using or some funky sonic characteristics of the room you're in. Though personally, in practice, the only outboard EQ I've tended to use on my boards is bass roll-off in some situations.

            Comment


            • #7
              A line mixer is called a line mixer because it has one row of knobs in a line across the front (J/K)

              Okay I am joking but reasons why I like my line mixer include its compact format, simple controls (gain, send, and pan on each channel plus masters), transparency, and low noise. Also the Rane line mixers can be chained if you have the need for more than 8 stereo channels.
              Gribs

              ...Music can be used to stimulate mass emotion, while mathematics cannot; and musical incapacity is recognized (no doubt rightly) as mildly discreditable, whereas most people are so frightened of the name of mathematics that they are ready, quite unaffectedly, to exaggerate their own mathematical stupidity.

              G.H. Hardy in A Mathematician's Apology (London 1941).

              Comment


              • #8
                EQ could still be nice in a mixer. Not all keyboards have EQ built in; and even if they do, the EQ functions can be inconvenient to get to; or they may have EQ available on a patch-by-patch basis and no simple way to affect the EQ of the whole board, to adjust for a different amp you may be using or some funky sonic characteristics of the room you're in. Though personally, in practice, the only outboard EQ I've tended to use on my boards is bass roll-off in some situations.


                I have a graphic to handle the room tweaks, though I rarely have to touch it.

                I guess if you had boards with no EQ built in, then you might want a mixer that had it on board.
                My Live Gear: Roland FA-08, Hammond SK1-73, Moog LP
                My Band: http://www.bksband.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/alesis-multimix-8-line-rackmount-mixer/500531000000000

                  mic pre on the first channel just in case . . .
                  an expert on what it feels like to be me
                  & you are who you google
                  http://soundcloud.com/mrnatural-1

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    ...I'm still learning to speak "Recording" and "Live Sound" and again I've run into something that's a basic assumption that everyone takes for granted but I don't get yet.....


                    I have the same problem. I read a set-up manual and encounter many terms that the writer of the manual assumes everyone knows.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Note that you can buy a Mic pre-amp separately (high-quality rack-mount versions too) for use with a line mixer. So you don't necessarily need a mixer that has built-in mic pre's. You can later "add" them (externally).

                      In any event, I use a MOTU Ultralite Hybrid for my mixer, because it takes up only half of one rack space, allows 2 mics to be plugged into it (along with 6 additional mono 1/4" line ins, and 1 stereo SPDIF in), and has built-in EQ, compression, and digital reverb. It also functions as a 24-bit digital audio interface to a computer (via USB or firewire), for audio recording/playback with DAW software. (It additionally functions as a computer MIDI interface, but MIDI input is erratic on Windows OS).

                      http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/ultralite-mk3

                      It can be used standalone (without a computer), but then to alter settings on-the-fly, you have to do multiple button presses to navigate "menus" on its LCD. (It's like editing a "patch setting" on your synth -- diving into menus on a small text screen). So, it's a bit easier to setup with a computer (running the Ultralite's mixer software). But the Ultralite remembers its settings after you turn it off. So I set my levels, EQ, compression, reverb once using the computer software mixer, and then "set it and forget it". True, the Ultralite has dedicated knobs for master volume, and the volume of the 2 mics, so those are easy to change on-the-fly without a computer. Motu does make a version of the Ultralite with a few more dedicated knobs (the "Audio Express"), to make computer-less setup quite a bit easier, but that version loses the EQ, compressor, and digital reverb (http://www.motu.com/products/motuaudio/audio-express).

                      My Fantom XR has a SPDIF out, so I run that into the Motu's SPDIF in. The sound of the Fantom is cleaner than if I ran its audio outs to the mixer line ins. I also use a "Drum box" software (VST). This runs on a Windows rackmount PC inside the same rack as the MOTU. The computer's USB out is connected to the Motu's USB in. So the sound of all computer VSTs go to the mixer over that USB cable. This is a very powerful, flexible, high quality sounding, compact setup for playing VSTs live. Craps all over a Muse Receptor, and cheaper too. Then I plug my mic into the Motu's front XLR jack. I've still got another mic in, and 6 mono line in jacks to utilize, if I need them. I run the Motu's Main Out L and R jacks to my power amp (also mounted in the same, small 6U rack). And I have a 1U rackmount power strip in there too.

                      So everything is already plugged in and ready to go. When I get to a gig, I plop down the rack and remove the covers. Out drops the one AC power cord to power everything up. I plug that into the wall socket. Out drops the two speaker cords, already plugged into the power amp's speaker outs. I plug those two cables into my two speakers. (I run my PA in stereo, with all my synth patches setup for stereo, and the Drums VST in stereo. Sounds awesomely spacious for a one-man gig.) Out drops the MIDI cable already attached to the Fantom XR MIDI IN. I plug this into my MIDI controller keyboard's MIDI OUT. When done with the gig, I simply detach the MIDI cable from the controller only. I also detach the two cables from the speakers only. I don't detach the cables inside the rack. I just roll up those cables inside the rack. In other words, all my cables are permanently stored/transported inside my 6U rack. I never lose a cable, and it takes me literally a minute to "hook up" my PA. It's the ultimate in efficiency, size, and light weight.

                      The Motu Ultralite isn't the only mixer like this. Edirol/Roland make some. (Check out the octa capture at http://www.rolandus.com/products/productlist.php?ParentId=104 as that can also be operated with or without a computer). Mackie makes some. M-audio makes some. Etc. Many of these are billed as (computer) "audio interfaces" rather than "mixers" per se. But since some (but not all) can be operated without a computer, and contain pretty feature-complete mixers in a very small, rack-mountable form, they may be ideal for your needs. And having it do digital recording/playback to a computer gives you the option to master your own recordings, or get into VSTs live.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If you use a regular mixer, make sure all the volume faders and gain knobs are turned down completely on the unused channels. The "extra" circuitry inside [pres] adds to the noise, especially if recording in the studio. Same thing applies to line mixers: unused channels = all the way down.

                        If all my instruments were synths and I didn't use microphones, I would definitely use a line mixer as these boards are specifically designed for line-level signals.

                        And I'd probably get something like this:

                        It actually has a single microphone input, just in case you need one.

                        Less than $200.


                        Shoemakers wear the worst shoes.
                        You left your ISO on Auto. That's a no-no.
                        Click here to search HC forums.
                        SoundClick
                        SoundCloud
                        YouTube

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'd probably get something like this


                          That Alesis unit seems to fit his minimal requirements, and it's cheap, but I'll say this about it:

                          1) You do ultimately get what you pay for, even if you're a savvy shopper. The Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), distortion, and crosstalk specs (not to mention durability of the components) on that Alesis unit (and similiarly-low-priced gear) aren't as good as the specific units I mentioned in my previous post. Granted, the stuff I cited can be $500 or more, but you do get an audible benefit (for example, hearing less hiss coming out of your speakers), and often better durability (ie, higher quality, better tolerance components are used). Personally, I think it's worth it to a professionally gigging musician. I've had to use some cheap stuff (ie, Behringer, and cheap Mackies), and bottom line for me is that higher quality stuff (ie, Rane, Allen+Heath, and some of the stuff I mentioned) more than pay off for the gigging musician.

                          2) Some of the stuff I mentioned has a lot more features than that Alesis. For example, what if you want to add a little compression to the vocal mic? That Alesis doesn't have a compressor. What if you want to add some reverb? Ditto. What if you want to use a stereo 1/3 octave graphical EQ to notch out feedback at a certain frequency, or tailor the sound of the speakers to compensate for the room? The Motu Ultralite has all three components (compressor, EQ, reverb). What if one of his synths has SPDIF, and he wants a cleaner/quieter sound by plugging into the Motu SPDIF in (instead of using the synth's audio outs), thereby keeping the digital synth's sound passed digitally to the mixer? The Alesis doesn't have any SPDIF inputs. What if the OP is using that DI box only because his current mixer doesn't have balanced outs (and yet he wants to run balanced lines to the house mixer)? He wouldn't need that if he used the Ultralite's balanced outs (8 of them so he can set an entirely different mix for his monitors versus what he sends to the house). I'll bet that Alesis doesn't have balanced outs (let alone 8 of them).

                          Furthermore, the Alesis doesn't directly interface to a computer. What if he wants to master recordings of himself? Or maybe he'll want to bring a laptop loaded with VSTs, and instead of using the laptop's crummy audio out (with a mini jack probably) running to a line in, he wants to just attach a USB cable and play his VSTs with the Ultralite's vastly superior 24-bit 48KHz digital audio interface (adding the MOTU's compression, EQ, and reverb to it)?

                          In other words, there is difference in both audio specs, as well as features, between the really cheap/basic stuff, and what I suggested.

                          Mind you, there's stuff with even better audio specs, and more features (such as more SPDIF inputs), than what I cited. (And more expensive too, obviously). For example, the mic pre's on an Apogee Ensemble are cleaner/quieter than the Ultralite's pre's. (OTOH, the Ensemble can't be used without a computer, and doesn't have built-in effects. Probably not what the OP wants). And if a guy wants more, and is willing to pay, he should investigate those options.

                          But bottom line: With a 4 keyboard setup, the OP appears to be a professionally gigging musician who's very likely going to want something "better" than that Alesis (or similiar units), and should be able to afford it. You probably spec'ed too low here. I'd advise him to start with one of the options I cite (or if he wants something more like a traditional mixer, check out Rane or Allen+Heath gear). And then move on up if he wants.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I used one of these for years and it worked great:




                            Very clean, and 12 channels, with effects loop and Monitor Out. Only word of caution on any of these units: support your cables! Do not let them hang with all their weight from the inputs. Space is tight inside one-rack-space units, and there isn't a lot of support for each jack. It's easier to break a solder connection.
                            "I remember when dubstep was just called "LFO-Locked-Filter-On-Square-Wave-Bass-Synth" in the '60s" - Alan Parsons

                            Kurzweil PC3♦Alesis Fusion 6HD♦Alesis Quadrasynth+Piano (3)♦Alesis QS7.1 (2)♦Alesis QSR♦ Alesis S4+♦Alesis DMPRO♦Evolution MK-461C♦Rhodes Mark II Stage 73♦Roland JX-8P♦Kawai K1 & K1m♦

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              line mixers are better because they don't have mic preamps or EQ sections, which are the parts that make normal mixers sound like dookey.


                              Most mic/line mixers only have one gain stage. If you pad a mic pre and alter the input impedance you now have a line input. So line inputs can actually sound worse on mixers with mic/line inputs because of the extra components in the signal path. Line mixers are designed to have less gain and the correct impedance for synths and other line out gear which make them usually sound better than mic/line mixers. Also, a lot of mixers have a bypass for the eq section so no problem there.

                              Comment



                              Working...
                              X