Beginners Look at a Live Mixer: The Inputs

If you have an interest in mixing live music but don't know where to start, this is the post for you. I am going to take you through using a live mixer, step by step. The mixer I am going to use as an example is the Soundcraft EFX 8 for no other reason than it is small and it is the last mixer I used at an event.

This is the first post in the series where I will look at the inputs and similar aspects to the mixer. There will be follow up posts on the mixing sections and output sections.

The Soundcraft EFX 8

The inputs of a mixer are the parts where we plug each instrument in. Each input corresponds to one instrument, for example a microphone uses one channel, as does a guitar, or a snare drum. On the EFX8, there are two options for each channel, either XLR (mic) or Line.


As seen here, there are options for both Mic and Line 
inputs. (ignore the inserts as they will be covered in
 a later post)

Mic (XLR) Inputs
It will be no surprise for me to say that mics will use the Mic/XLR input. It would, to a beginner seem like you would plug a guitar into the line input, after all, the jack will fit but you should not do this. The reason for it is the strength of the signal carried by different wires.

Instrument level, the signal strength that goes down a guitar lead, is weaker than line level and so using a line input will have a negative effect on the signal/noise ratio. So what do you do? The answer is a DI box. You plug your guitar into one side and connect the other side to the mixer with an XLR cable. 

Most DIs also allow you to send the same signal to 
your amp for monitoring. 

Line Inputs
So if mics and guitars are all sent to the Mic input, what are line inputs for? Keyboards for one, any electric piano/synth will likely give out a line level signal. This is because they are plugged into the mains and don't have instrument pickups, they can generate a stronger signal.

If you are using a CD player for tracks in between bands or are using a DJ, line inputs will be needed as all that kit will be line level.

A setup that has synths and drum machines will plug
into the line level input.