How to Connect a Digital Mixer to a Computer

How to connect a digital mixer to a computer featured imageConnecting Your Digital Mixer To A Computer Or Laptop

What Is A Digital Mixer

For a little background let’s consider what the digital mixer is supposed to do and how. A digital mixing console is an electronic device for combining the sounds of many different audio signals. These include microphones for singers and acoustic instruments, signals from electric instruments and recorded music. They modify all of the signals to produce a combined output signal which is then ready to be broadcasted, amplified through a sound reinforcement system or recorded.

In a professional recording studio, there may be as many as 90 channels on a mixer. In practice, mixers do more than simply combine sounds. They can provide phantom power for condenser microphones, filtering and equalization, and dynamic range compression. This last one allows sound specialists to increase the overall gain without stressing the system. They can also send the signal from the mixer to another device such as a recording system or control room and monitor facilities allowing a number of sources to be routed to loudspeakers or headphones for listening. This is accomplished without affecting the main output of the mixture. Some mixers have built-in reverb and may include a power amplifier.

What Equipment Do You Need To Connect A Digital Mixer To A Computer?

In order to get the audio from your digital mixer to your computer, you will need an audio interface. These are also called soundcards. Your computer may contain an onboard soundcard. It also may have line or microphone inputs on mini-jack connections. If so, you can simply plug the outputs of the digital mixer (either the stereo out, monitor, rec out or aux sound) into the input of your onboard soundcard.

You will also need a cable with the relevant ends. When you are connecting from the ¼-inch jacks to a mini-jack line input of your PC soundcard, you will also need two mono 1/4-inch jacks on one end of the cable and a stereo mini-jack on the other end. This allows just about any recording package to hear the incoming audio.

As an alternative, you could purchase an external audio interface that meets your specific requirements. There are quite a few of these on the market and they are not expensive.

Identifying The Connections

Now, let’s identify the sound ports on your computer. First, what are the sound capabilities of your computer? Most PCs (both Windows and Linux) have sound ports on the back of the computer. They are color coded as follows:

  • Pink port: Normally the microphone input, it is usually mono, but it could be stereo.
  • Light blue port: Usually the line input port, it is normally stereo.
  • Green port: It is usually the headphone output port and is usually stereo.

These are typical on most computers but check your computer manual to be sure.

There is a wide variation in types of sound input and output ports on PC laptops. They are not always in the same location from laptop to laptop and they may be labeled differently from one laptop to another. There are many laptops today that do not have a line input. Your computer manual is the best source for this information as it will let you know the capabilities of your laptop, where the ports are located on the computer and how they are labeled and/or color-coded.

  • For mic in: Usually, the in port on a computer is meant only to accommodate a small computer mic. Should you have a microphone with a 1/8-inch (3.5 mm) 3-conductor jack plug it will most likely work with the port on the computer.
  • For line in: This is the highest quality in port on most soundcards and it expects to have a line level signal plugged into it, the same level used by most consumer-oriented audio equipment. It works with tape decks, record players, MiniDisc players, and Video game systems.
  • Macs do not usually have an input jack for a microphone. Audio connections on a PowerBook or iMac have a round port with the headphone symbol is the line output port. The round port beside the headphone port is the line input port.  Other Macs such as Mini, Mac Pro, MacBook are equipped similarly but do check your owner’s manual to be sure of the location and labeling of these ports.
  • USB devices: A USB audio device delivers better audio quality and is used by many people. If you have one, attach your microphone and speakers to it and plug the device into a USB port on your computer.

How to connect a mixer to your computer

You will need a dual RCA to mini plug (1/8-inch) cable to connect a mixer to the line input port on your computer. Then, you plug in the RCA plug into the RCA output jacks on the back of the mixer. Then plug the stereo mini plug into the line input port on your computer.

If you do not have a line input port on your computer, which many Windows laptops do not have, you will need a line level USB audio interface and a cable that connects from the output port of the mixer to the input port the USB interface. Then the USB interface plugs into the USB port on the laptop.

How to test your input connection:

Use your computer’s sound control panel or the custom mixer application for your specific soundcard, select the input device that you want to connect and then verify that you are getting sound into the computer from the mixer. Your computer’s sound control panel will take you through a detailed step by step process for this application.

Conclusion:

A digital mixing console is an electronic device for combining sounds of many different audio signals. These include microphones for singers and acoustic instruments, signals from electric instruments and recorded music. They modify all of the signals to produce a combined output signal which is then ready to be broadcasted, amplified through a sound reinforcement system or recorded. They also have other special effects included.

The system console hook-ups explained in this article give you several options so that you can find the right one to work with the equipment that you have or plan to have. Your system will sound great because you have made the right choices.

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Duke Taber has been a Senior Pastor of various churches since 1988. Prior to that, he was involved in the Christian rock scene opening for such notables as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band, and once played briefly with Darrel Mansfield. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.Currently he is serving as a Technology Consultant for Living Waters Fellowship In Mesquite Nv.