How do I record directly from a mixer?

Recording audio directly from a mixer provides a number of advantages over recording from other sources. A mixer lets you control and optimize the levels, EQ, effects, and overall sound of multiple audio signals before sending them to your recording device. This gives you much more flexibility compared to plugging microphones directly into your interface or computer.

Using a mixer enables you to create a polished, professional mix that is ready to record. You can adjust each channel independently and apply processing like compression and reverb while monitoring everything through the mixer. Once you are happy with the sound, you simply record the main output of the mixer, capturing the complete mix in one track.

This approach saves time compared to recording each track separately and mixing later. It also avoids unnecessary analog to digital conversions, which can degrade audio quality. Recording live mixing sessions is seamless, and musicians often appreciate having a tactile mixer to control their own monitor mixes. Overall, tapping directly into a mixer provides creative possibilities and convenience that make it a popular choice for artists, podcasters, and audio engineers.

Equipment Needed

The key pieces of equipment you’ll need to record from a mixer are:

The Mixer – This is the mixing console or board where all your microphones, instruments, and other audio sources are connected. Most mixers have a main output to send the master mix to your recording device. Examples include both analog and digital mixing consoles like the Behringer Xenyx 1202 or Yamaha MG10XU.

Recording Device – This is the external recorder or audio interface that connects to your mixer and captures the main output mix. For recorders, options include flash-based devices like the Zoom H4N Pro or Tascam DR-40X. For interfaces, choices range from affordable models like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 to professional rack-mount units.

Cables and Adapters – You’ll need the proper cables like XLR, 1/4″ TRS, or RCA to connect your mixer’s main outputs to the inputs of your recording device. Adapters may also be needed to convert between different connector types.

Connect Mixer to Recording Device

The first step is connecting the mixer outputs to the inputs of your recording device. This is commonly done using XLR, 1/4 inch, or RCA cables. You’ll want to pay attention to whether the connections are balanced or unbalanced.

Balanced connections use XLR or TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve) 1/4 inch cables and maintain the integrity of the audio signal over longer distances by using a twisted pair of wires. The signal flows down one wire and returns on the other, allowing any external interference to be canceled out at the receiving end.

Unbalanced connections use TS (Tip Sleeve) 1/4 inch or RCA cables and do not provide noise rejection over long distances. However, they are cheaper and easier to use. Unbalanced connections should be kept under 10 feet for best results.

For recording directly from a mixer, it’s best to use balanced connections whenever possible. Run XLR cables from the mixer’s main or subgroup outputs to the line inputs on your audio interface or recording device. This will provide the cleanest signal path and avoid noise issues.

Configure Input Settings

Properly configuring the input settings on your recording device and mixer is crucial for getting a clean recording. Here are some key steps:

Set the input levels on the recording device (audio interface, computer soundcard, etc.) to an optimal level. You want the levels high enough to minimize noise, but not so high that it clips or distorts. Play some audio through the mixer and adjust the input levels as needed. Refer to your device’s manual for details on setting levels.

Enable phantom power on the mixer channels/inputs if required for the microphones. Condenser mics typically need phantom power, while dynamic mics don’t. Phantom power provides power to the mic electronics through the XLR cable. Make sure the +48V phantom power switch is enabled for any channels with condenser mics [1].

Set the gain/trim for each channel appropriately. Start with the gain low and slowly increase while speaking/singing into the mic until the signal is strong but not peaking/distorting. This gives you plenty of headroom to work with.

Use the mixer’s EQ, filters, dynamics processing, aux sends, etc. as desired to optimize the source signals before they reach the recording device.

Route/assign the mixer’s main outputs (L/R or subgroup outputs) to the inputs on the recording device that you want to record from. For example, connect the mixer’s main outs to inputs 1-2 on your audio interface.

Route Mixer Channels

When recording from a mixer, you’ll need to assign each mixer channel you want to record to a track or input on your recording device. This allows you to capture each instrument, microphone, or other input separately for maximum flexibility during mixing.

Start by connecting the main mixer output to a stereo pair of inputs on your recorder. This will give you a master mixdown of your full mix to reference. Then, patch your important mixer channels to separate mono inputs on your recording interface using additional cables.

For example, connect your lead vocal to input 1, drums to input 2, guitar to input 3 etc. Assign each mixer channel to a track in your recording software to match the physical connections.

You may have more mixer channels than available inputs on your recorder. Prioritize the most important channels like lead vocals, solos, drums. Other elements like crowd mics or room ambience can often be left out of the multitrack recording if needed.

It’s also handy to solo or mute any unwanted mixer channels before recording to avoid capturing bleed or noise from unused mics. Listen on headphones to verify your routing and channel assignments. Adjust mixer levels to optimize gain staging going into your recording device without clipping.

Set Mixer Levels

When setting levels on your mixer, there are two main goals. First, adjust your channel faders so that individual sources such as vocals or instruments are at a consistent level with each other. Second, adjust your master fader to set an optimal overall signal level for recording without clipping or distorting your recording device’s inputs. 

The general guideline is to aim for a recording level between -16 dB to -6 dB, with average loud signals peaking around -10 dB ( This leaves some headroom to avoid distorting from signal peaks while still yielding a healthy signal-to-noise ratio. If you are recording to a digital device, it is best to keep peak levels well below 0 dBFS to avoid any chance of clipping. 

So watch your recording device’s input meters as you adjust the mixer levels. Adjust each channel fader until the loudest peaks from each source are averaging between -20 dB to -10 dB. Try to set levels at a consistent position relative to each other (like vocals around -12 dB and guitar around -10 dB, for example). Then use your master fader to optimally set the overall signal level. Keep an eye out for peaks over -6 dBFS and lower the master fader to leave some safe headroom if needed.

Add Effects/Processing

One key step before recording is to add any desired effects or audio processing to your mixer channels using the mixer’s built-in tools. Most mixers have EQs, compressors, and reverbs that you can apply to dial in your sound.

For example, you may want to use the mixer’s EQs to shape the tone and timbre of your audio. Compressors can be applied to control the dynamics and level out any spikes. Adding the right amount of reverb from your mixer can give your recording a sense of space if desired.

The key is to use the mixer to get your desired sound before you hit record. Get your EQs, compression, reverb, and other processing effects sounding just right on your mixer. By applying these effects on your mixer inputs as you’re monitoring, you record those ideal sounds directly without having to add any effects later.

According to one source, “Those type of built-in effects do NOT show up on their own outputs and can NOT be re-routed to individual channels.” So make sure to dial in your desired mix using your mixer’s built-in tools before you record (source).

Record and Monitor

When you’re ready to start recording, arm the record enable button on your recording interface or DAW. Then make sure the channel fader levels are properly set on the mixer before hitting record for the initial takes.

As you record the initial passes, monitor the recorded tracks via your interface headphone jack or monitor speakers. Pay attention to the sound quality, volume levels, effects, and if any extra ambient noise or other issues arise. Critical listening during the tracking process is key to making any necessary adjustments in a timely manner.

Play back the initial recordings and listen closely for potential improvements. If the recorded levels are too high or low, adjust the gain staging on the mixer for individual channels. If there is unwanted signal noise or distortion, check the input impedance settings or use an inline direct box for unbalanced signals.

Reference the monitor mix setup tips and best practices for stage monitor mixes in your specific recording scenario for additional advice on record/monitor signal flow and techniques. Fine tune the monitor output from the mixer according to artist needs and feedback during the session.

Export the Recording

Once you have finished recording your audio from the mixer, the next step is to export or save the file from your recording device. Most recording apps and devices will allow you to export the recording in common audio formats like WAV, MP3, or AIFF:

  • WAV files are uncompressed, which provides higher audio quality but also larger file sizes.
  • MP3 is a compressed format that reduces file size while still maintaining good audio quality.
  • AIFF is an uncompressed format compatible with Mac/iOS devices.

On an Android device, open the recording app and look for an export, share or save option to transfer the file out of the app. On an iPhone or iPad, go to the Files app or connect the device to a computer to access the recordings.

It’s generally recommended to save mixes and recordings in the uncompressed WAV format if possible, to preserve audio quality before later exporting to MP3 if needed for sharing or online uses.

Final Mix and Edit

After recording, the last step is to polish and enhance your recording with post-processing and effects using digital audio workstation (DAW) software like Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, or Reaper. Here are some key techniques for editing and enhancing a recording from a mixer:

1. First, edit the raw recording to clean up takes, fix mistakes, and compile various takes into a master performance. Select the best parts from each take, fade and crossfade between edits as needed, and remove any unwanted background noise or mistakes.

2. Apply various audio effects such as compression, EQ, reverb, and delay to balance the tone and dynamics of your recording, as well as add clarity and depth.

3. Use automation to dynamically change effects, volume, panning, and more throughout the track for maximum polish.

4. Master the final mix with limiters, maximizers, and saturation to increase the loudness and optimize the signal for your required format.

5. Export the final edited mix, either as a single stereo WAV file or as individual tracks for latter remixing or distribution.

With thoughtful post-production editing and mix techniques, your recordings from the mixer can sound incredibly polished and ready for release.

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