The multi-channel recording console, also known as an audio soundboard (or mixer), is kind of hard to miss. It is usually the biggest piece of equipment in the recording studio.
The audio soundboard gives the operator full control over volume, tone, and blending for all signals applied to its inputs from microphones, instruments, effects, recording systems and other audio devices.
At first glance the hundreds of controls can be overwhelming. But upon closer inspection it will be noted that these controls are arranged in neat vertical rows and these identical rows are repeated.
Each row represents a separate input channel and each is associated with one part of the ensemble; drums, base, vocals, piano, etc.
A typical input channel, usually found on the left side of the console, has five sections; input control, channel assignment, equalization, a slide fader and a miscellaneous section.
Input Control Section: Here, the mic signal is first routed through attenuators. Line attenuators allow fixed or variable control of the incoming audio signals.
Channel Assignment Section: In this section you are able to route any input channel to an output bus. For instance, the operator can mix down 16 microphone signals on multiple tracks to 4-track master tape.
Equalization Section: Each channel has its own equalization to adjust the frequency response of a device or system to achieve a flat or other desired response.
Miscellaneous Control Section: This is where the operator controls magnitude of the signal sent to outboard equipment. Other knobs control the panpot, solo button, a cue knob and overdrive indicator.
Fader Section: The fader controls the level of the input module signal which is sent on to the output bus.
On the right side of the console there are several other types of modules:
Output Bus Master Module: Input modules are connected to the output bus by pressing the channel assignment buttons on each module. And each output module has a fader.
Master Fader Module: This module serves to open and close all of the output faders simultaneously.
Cue (Foldback) Module: Cue is used for sending signal through the head phones so the individual musicians can hear musical cues, or for overdubbing when a single musician is laying down tracks.
Monitor Module: This module allows the operator to select the configuration of the loudspeakers; quad, stereo, mono, and cue. Sub-masters control the loudspeakers output and a there is an additional control to connect to the output bus and the tape playback.
Talkback Module: Used for communicating back and forth between the musicians and the control room.
Reverberation Module: This module gives the operator the flexibility to send a specific signal to any of the available reverbs in any pattern desired without interaction. The level of return from each of the reverb units is also adjustable.
Level Indicators: These meters provide a means of indicating the absolute levels of signals coming from the input channels.
Jack Field: The jack field makes it possible to add outboard equipment and increases the flexibility of the console, making it convenient to change the functional configuration of the board.
Basically, the audio soundboard is the heart and brain of multi-channel audio recording. In order for the operator to fully concentrate on the quality of sound, he/she must master all of the audio console’s functions and be able to handle the controls instinctively.
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