Nowadays, streaming is one of the most trendy endeavors. Every day more and more content creators engage in streaming. So it’s needless to say that if you want to be on top of your competition, everything must be top-notch. So in this article, we’ll tell you how to setup audio mixer for streaming.
Why do you need an audio mixer?
There are lots of ways how you can put together your streaming setup, starting from a simple USB mic to a multi-channel audio interface. But using an audio mixer specifically gives you a number of very beneficial advantages over the other methods. Although we must admit that streaming equipment is eventually a matter of personal preference.
Although the age of bulky and heavy equipment has ended with the 20th century, there’s always room for improvement. So naturally, you want your streaming setup to be as portable as possible, even if you don’t intend to move from place to place a lot. If portability is your main priority, your best choice would be a simple USB mic, but your second best option would be, of course, an audio mixer.
Modern digital mixers usually come with a lot of onboard effects, which you could use to your own advantage. You can easily set up, store, and recall your own custom FX chains, which is especially useful if you stream multiple different types of content. If you use an analog mixer, don’t worry because those also have onboard effects just without a total recall function.
Ability to record multiple people
Every seasoned audio engineer knows that recording a coherent dialogue is one of the most challenging tasks. So if you intend to stream full-on talk shows or even tet-a-tet conversations, having an audio mixer is a must. Even the most basic audio mixer, if combined with a couple of decent microphones, tremendously ease the task.
Why not use an audio interface instead?
This is a very reasonable question since an audio interface offers the same, if not greater, portability as a mixer does. And also gives you an opportunity to record multiple sound sources, but where the mixer has an undisputed advantage over any conventional audio interface are onboard effects. To use additional audio plugins with an audio interface, you’ll need dedicated software and a rather complicated digital routing in addition to increased CPU load.
The difference between digital and analog mixers
If you’re only at the beginning of your journey into streaming and intend to purchase a new audio mixer, this question shouldn’t really concern you since most of the audio mixers available on the market today are either fully digital or hybrid ones. But on the other hand, if you’re not sure about streaming prospects and want to borrow a used mixer from a local studio or buy one second-hand, it may as well be an analog one. That said, in some case scenarios, it might not be simply connectable right out of the box. More on this later.
A modern digital mixer differs from an analog one mainly by the addition of a digital output, which means that it has a built-in A/D converter. Usually, this digital output is a USB port which is very convenient, especially if you stream on your laptop. And the other key difference is that digital mixers utilize built-in DSP technology, which means that they also have built-in effects.
Unlike digital mixers, analog ones don’t use any digital conversion. This means that every input and every output is fully analog, which, in turn, means that it would be impossible to connect to the laptop since they usually don’t have any analog inputs. The only advantage over a digital mixer that analog ones have is its price range. Analog mixers are usually much cheaper than digital ones.
How to connect a USB mixer to your PC?
If, eventually, you decided to use a digital mixer, you shouldn’t have any problems connecting it to your PC and setting it up afterward. All you have to do is connect the USB output of your mixer to any USB port on your PC with a dedicated cable. Then simply plug in your microphones and from a hardware standpoint, you’re good to go.
The next logical step would be to make sure that every piece of software that you need is up and running. Every digital mixer usually comes with very thorough instruction on where to download its drivers and how to set them up. Make sure that you don’t skip this step because otherwise, your digital mixer wouldn’t work as intended.
Choose streaming software
Since streaming is so popular nowadays, a new piece of dedicated software emerges almost every day. And it’s up to you to experiment and choose what works for you personally. That being said, most streamers use OBS software for streaming. And we believe it’s a very good place to start and see whether it’s sufficient enough for your needs particularly or you need something more.
At this point, your setup is almost done, but there’s one last crucial step to be made. You simply have to go to the settings menu of your operating system and assign your mixer to be the main input and output device. If you choose to use IBS, it should apply new settings automatically, but for some other applications, you may have to repeat the process.
How to connect an analog mixer to your PC?
If, after all, you’ve got your hands on an analog mixer, setting it up wouldn’t be easy and even harder if you use a laptop. In the latter case, you’re going to have to acquire either a separate sound card or an audio interface, which completely negates the need for the mixer in the first place.
You’ll have a lot less trouble if you use a PC instead of a laptop since they usually have analog input. All you have to do is to find a special RCA to 3.5 mini-jack cable. You may consider getting a pair of those since the second one might be useful if you want to send the audio output of your computer to the mixer.
The only problem with the analog input of your PC is that it introduces a significant latency, which is incompatible with streaming. In order to eliminate it, you’ll need to download an ASIO driver and set it as the main input. Note that it will significantly increase the load on your CPU, especially considering that OBS is also quite power-hungry.
The process itself is almost exactly the same as with the digital mixer but with one key difference. You have to choose your ASIO driver as your main input and the output should remain the same as it was by default. Also, note that this setup will not let you make multi-track recordings, so make sure to do a proper soundcheck before streaming.
After you’ve checked your setup, you may take advantage of the built-in effects of your digital mixer or the effects of the analog one. Regardless of what type of mixer you’ve chosen to use, the effects adjustment would be more or less the same. You may consider polishing the sound with some equalization and flattening out the dynamics a bit with a compressor.
When it comes to the human voice, a low-cut filter is always a good idea since it eliminates the low rumble and makes the voice sound more coherently. Then you may add a very slight high-shelf boost to add a little bit of presence. And if you desire to add a bit of clarity, make a very gentle boost in the upper midrange.
Analog mixers usually don’t give much control over compression except for its amount. But digital mixers give you much more control. Choose very low ratios and a soft knee if possible to make compression more subtle and natural. A very fast attack and fast release should help you to even out the dynamics and to make the voice sound more balanced.
Of course, you should never forget that any digital effect simply couldn’t fix the sound of your room. So make sure that you’ve used proper acoustic treatment and the room overall sounds nice and pleasant. Make sure that there are as few reflections as possible and the room is properly isolated from ambient noises. This will give you the opportunity to use very sensitive microphones and record very intimate details.
We hope that this article helped you to understand how to setup audio mixer for streaming. In order to do it properly, you have to decide what type of mixer you want to use and set it up accordingly. A digital mixer could be connected to your PC or laptop via a conventional USB cable, but an analog mixer would require special RCA cables. In both cases, install appropriate software and assign input and output devices in the settings of your operating system. Then, simply polish the sound with a very gentle equalization and subtle compression.