This week’s DIY video is an overview of audio mixers – what to look for before you purchase and the basics when using an audio mixer.
First – why bother with a mixer?
1) You want to control the audio levels (most obvious I think)
2) You have more than one audio source (like two microphones) and you need to mix or balance them
3) Your microphone needs Phantom Power (that means your external mic doesn’t have a power source of its own)
There are many different mixers available (some very expensive) – so in this video I’ll be demonstrating two:
1) the Zoom H4N (the one I’m using right now)
2) the Behringer XENYX 802 right here
Starting with the Zoom – It’s perfect to stay mobile and have lots of flexibility. It runs off battery or it can plug directly into an outlet. It does have two microphones built into the top (with good audio quality), but you can also plug in XLR inputs at the bottom. It can record to an SD card or you could even use the headphone output to go directly into your consumer camera or Mic input on your laptop.
The main downside? The controls are limited if you need to actively balance between two audio sources.
The Behringer is nice because it’s small and cheap – $50. It allows you to have 2 XLR inputs and to control the audio levels easily with these knobs. The Downside? Since it’s so cheap, it can break. I believe what breaks is the actual motherboard – it starts hissing on one or more of the audio lines making it unusable. I’d suggest purchasing this mixer if you don’t plan on using it everyday. Otherwise, spend an extra $50-$100 to buy something that’ll last longer.
Now - how would you use either one of these mixers?
Let me set up a couple test scenarios:
1) You’re in the field, and need a good audio source aside from your onboard camera micrphone. You can capture it straight to the SD card using the built in microphones on the ZOOM, or you can use an ⅛ inch audio cable to go from the headphone output to your consumer camera.
1a) Variation on that – you’re in the field or on location, need a way to take an XLR input – maybe your microphone or there’s a mic with that output that you can tap into
2) You’re at home, in a studio setup, and need to capture two microphones. Using the Behringer (or other mixer similar to it) Put the two XLR inputs into the mixer, then, if using a consumer camera which generally only has a ⅛ inch input, you’ll need a cable like this (http://bhpho.to/JztnOQ) – link below to buy it online – which will convert the two ¼ inch outputs to 1/8inch.
This may be a lot of information to process, but hopefully it’s provided some basic knowledge on the “what” and “how” on audio mixers.
If you have other test scenarios you’d like me to answer, please leave a comment. If you have a specific mixer you’re interested in, let me know – I’ll make a video to explore more on this topic.