This post is part of a 6 part course on Sermon Podcasting. If you would like to see the whole course go to the Course Intro Page.
Hello, welcome to the sermon podcasting mini course lesson one – Getting Hooked Up. We’re going to start out by running over the mixer and learning some mixer basics. We’re going to move into choosing the proper cable for your application and then we’re going to finish up by talking about some computer setup. So, let’s get started.
De-Mystifying the Mixer
A lot of people look at a mixing board and they get a little overwhelmed with all the knobs, buttons and faders. Well, if you’re one of those people I’m here to clear that up for you. In this lesson, I’m going to use the Mackie SR 24-4 analog mixer. If you don’t have this particular board or even if you have a digital mixer that’s okay, all these concepts will apply. There might be a little difference in names, a bus might be called an aux and trim might be called gain, but all these concepts will apply. The way you hook up really doesn’t change.
So, let’s get into it.
If you really break a mixing board down and take out all the duplication, you really just focus on this section right here. If you know this section of the board you know everything there is to know about it because everything else is a duplicate. So, that means we can forget about the rest in this image.
There are two different types of channels stereo and mono. There are 2 stereo channels and 20 mono channels on this particular board. For sermon podcasting, we’re going to talk about just the mono. Let’s run down a channel from top to bottom just as the audio flows.
The audio comes in the top and hits the trim knob first. Some boards call this the gain. This is basically the gain or the volume control for your incoming source audio.
Then it runs through an aux section which is what you use to send the audio to monitors, effects and we’re going to use it for our sermon feed to the recorder. So, we will come back to it.
EQ (Equalizer) Section
Then it goes through the EQ section. There is a high, mid and low knob. This is basically a volume control for high, mid and low frequencies. There is also a low cut button to cut the lows out. Which is just rolling the lows off of the signal.
Pan Knob and Signal Lights
There is a pan knob which is only used when you are outputting a stereo signal. Most churches run their system in mono.
Next to that, there is a light that lights when the signal gets to -20dB and one that lights when it peaks.
Fader, Mute, and Solo
At the bottom, there is a fader which controls the volume of the audio sent to the main fader (the main out).
There is a mute button which mutes everything in the channel.
There is a solo button which allows you to listen to the audio on this channel on the headphones.
There are assign buttons which assign the signal to sub 1 & 2, sub 3 & 4, or the left and right outputs (the main outputs).
We are gonna focus on the aux outputs because that is what we will be using to send the pastor’s mic signal to the recorder.
Aux Sends (outputs)
Your board might call them busses but this Mackie calls them auxes. There are two different types, pre-fader and post-fader. Also, on this board, there are two that are switchable. When you press the “pre” button down they change from post-fader to pre-fader. We want to use pre-fader aux sends for sermon recording. What that means is it will take the signal before it is affected by the fader. So, whatever you do with the fader will not affect the signal going to the recorder. If you use post-fader then it has to flow through the fader and the fader will affect it. To use pre-fader we can use aux 1 or 2. We can also use 3 or 4 as long as this “pre” button is pushed down.
The aux sends flow out the back of the board in a little section shown to the left, it is right next to the main outs. As you can see you have jacks 1 thru 6 that correspond to the numbers on knobs in the aux section on the front of the board.
Let’s say we’re going to use aux 3. On the face of the board, on the channel for the pastor’s mic we would push down the “pre” button and then we would plug our cable into the aux 3 jack with our cable. The way to adjust this volume to get it to the proper level for our recorder (which we’ll talk about levels later) is to turn the aux 3 knob. Easy, right?
Now, if you notice above the jacks it says “AUX SENDS (BAL OR UNBAL)”. This stands for balanced or unbalanced and is referring to the type of cable you can use.
Selecting the Proper Cable
Before we decide on what cable to use here we need to understand what a balanced and unbalanced cable is. The type of cable you use to plug into the aux jacks is a quarter-inch cable. There are two types of these, TS and TRS. I hear a lot of people refer to these as mono and stereo cables and that’s only partly true. The TS is a mono cable but the TRS can be a mono balanced cable or a stereo cable. They’re actually called TS and TRS. This stands for tip-sleeve (TS) and tip-ring-sleeve (TRS). We’ll either be using a TS cable or a TRS cable depending on what we’re hooking to.
That brings us to the recorder end. For the recorder, you’re either going to use a computer or some other type of recording device like a CD recorder. First, off we’re going to talk about a computer because that’s the what I would recommend.
Connecting Your Mixer to a Computer
That brings us to a question analog or digital. Well, if we continue with the example I’ve been using, the Mackie 24-4, that is an analog board and I would continue to hook it up analog just for ease of use. If there’s a problem with noise or sound quality (a topic of a future lesson) then you could get an audio interface and you would be hooking up digitally which I’ll talk about later. If you already have a digital board, like the Behringer X32, you most likely have already hooked it to your computer via a USB cable and you already have audio flowing to your computer. If not hook it up with a cable provided. In this example, we’re going to continue with the analog path and talk about how to hook it to your computer and then after that, we’ll move on and talk about audio interfaces.
In the back of a desktop computer, you have three jacks.
The green one is an output which is a line output.
The pink one is a microphone input
The blue one is a line input.
I would always suggest using a line input (blue) if you have one. The main reason is it is expecting the audio level that your mixer is putting out, so you have a good matched signal. You can use a microphone jack (pink) in absence of a line in jack but you’ll have to turn your volume down on the aux to avoid peaking and distortion.
Unfortunately, on a lot of new laptops, they’ve stopped putting a separate line in jack and microphone jack. They put in a single headset jack, which is a microphone jack and an output jack in one jack. For those, we need a special splitter. Which is a tip, ring, ring, sleeve split into a headphone out jack and a microphone jack. In this case you use the microphone jack to get into your computer.
No matter which input you have, a line in or a microphone, you want to use the same cable. It is an eighth inch TRS cable. So, the barrel is an eighth inch and it has a tip-ring-sleeve.
If you try the analog route of hooking up and you find out you’re having a problem with noise, even after you get through the lesson on improving your signal. You might want to get an audio interface like this Focusrite Scarlett Solo, which is a nice little unit. You can get this one for around $99 and you can plug into the line in jack with a quarter inch balanced TRS cable. You wind up using that on both ends so you get the benefit of a balanced cable which will remove some noise from the signal. Then you turn the switch on the front to line level since you’re using a line level signal from the mixer.
Connecting Your Mixer to a Hardware Recorder
The last scenario we’re going to discuss is hooking to a CD recorder or similar device. Most of these devices have RCA jacks on the back of them so you’ll need an RCA type cable on the recorder end.
Let’s review the cable selection.
The proper cable to use if you are hooking to a computer analog is a TS male quarter-inch on the mixer end and a TRS male eighth inch on the computer end.
If you’re hooking to a computer audio interface like the Scarlett Solo you’re going to want a TRS male quarter-inch on both ends.
If you’re hooking to a recorder such as a CD recorder you’re going to want a TS male quarter-inch on the mixer end split into two RCA male on the recorder end.
Disable PC Audio Enhancements
If you’re using a PC to do your recording you want to check for “enhancements” that are sometimes installed on the inputs. What you want to do is in the task tray down at the bottom right you want to right-click on your little speaker icon and select Recording Devices (on some versions you will have to click on Sounds and then change to Recording Devices). In Recording Devices select the input that you’re using to record and click on Properties. In Properties click on the Enhancements tab. In the Enhancements tab, you want to click disable all sound effects.
Some of these sound effects could be useful but I would test them out and try them because I’ve found that most of them sound unnatural and will harm the sound more than it will help it. So, I just recommend turning them off and working on your signal until you get it to sound good.
If you have any questions about this particular lesson or suggestions on how I can improve it don’t hesitate to comment below. I’ll do my best to help you out. Thanks for checking this out and we’ll see you in the next lesson.