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Mixing Board

The Master Section and Recording Consoles
by Ron Tongue

In the last section I talked about the features found on the channel strip common to many recording consoles. Now, I'm going to continue by talking about the master section.

Click here to see the example I'll be talking about.

The master section of the mixing board is where you control most of your output options. Here you can insert effects and route the audio to different locations for various monitoring purposes.

Since the ultimate purpose of a mixing board is to combine multiple tracks of audio into fewer tracks, the master section is where that part of the process takes place.

The master section can be broken down into four sections.

AUX - Auxiliary SEND and RETURN

master section auxiliary sends and returns

The top two sections of this console control the AUX channels "SENDS" and "RETURNS." The "AUX SENDS" control the level or volume output you send OUT of the board and IN to another device such as a reverb unit or headphone amp.

The knobs to the right are the "AUX RETURNS." Here you adjust the level or volume returning from your reverb unit (you would not have a return feed from a headphone amp) back into the console. Then use the buttons to the right of the knobs to assign the reverb to the sub and main channels if you want.

NOTE!! To add your effect from an AUX buss into ONE of the channel strips, just increase the appropriate AUX knob on the channel strip to the desired amount of effect. Basically, there are three knobs you have to adjust on the board in order to add an effect such as reverb to a track. The "AUX send" and "RETURN" in the Master Section and the corresponding "AUX" knob on the channel strip.

Secondary Input and Output Controls

master section secondary controls

Below the AUX section on the console are other knobs, buttons, and lights to control other various outputs such as MIX-B, Headphones, Studio Mix and Control Room Mix (many recording consoles offers multiple stereo outs for monitoring the sound in multiple locations), and your talkback mic.

NOTE!! The talkback mic is usually built into many recording consoles. The musicians can hear you talk in their monitors or headphones by pressing and holding one of the talkback buttons. The sound quality is usually horrible, so I wouldn't try recording with it!

Light Meters

master section light meters

The light meters tell you the level or volume of various signals within the console. For example, the first eight meters on this board indicate the level for the sub channels located directly below.

The "MAIN" meters to the far right indicate the main output or the "SOLO" level of any channel if a solo button is pressed somewhere on the board.

TIP!! If you see the red lights at the top of the meters at all, then your channel levels are too high. Running in the red for too long can damage your mixing board, so make sure you pay close attention to those levels. If you are seeing red, first, check the "OL" LEDs on each channel and see if any of them are illuminating. If so turn it down. Otherwise, go back through each channel and bring them each down so you don't overdrive your master section of the console.

SUB or BUSS Channels

master section sub or buss channels

The eight faders grouped together in the master section of the board are the "sub" or "buss" channels. Some recording consoles have four, others have eight, and some don't have any. If you have enough available tracks on your recording interface you may not need to use the sub channels. So don't rule out a mixing board if it lacks these sub channels.

I pointed out earlier that the buttons along side the fader slider on most recording consoles for each channel strip is where you send audio to one of the sub channels. Notice how those buttons are labeled in pairs. If you press one of those buttons, it will assign that channel to both sub channels. You CAN assign ONE channel to ONE sub by selecting the correct button above the sub fader and turning the "PAN" knob hard left or right on the channel strip (for busses 1-2, PAN hard left = buss 1, PAN hard right = buss 2).

The "LEFT/RIGHT MIX" fader slider controls the MAIN volume output from the board. The MAIN outputs would most likely go into your recording interface for final mixdown. Or you could also assign them to a pair of studio monitors.

Now let's take a look at the INs and OUTs for the master section found on many recording consoles.

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Related Articles

A Detailed Overview of the Various Options Found on many Mixing Boards

Part 1 - Channel Inputs

Part 2 - The Channel Strip

Part 3 - The Master Section

Part 4 - Master Section I/O

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