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How to Hookup an Analog Mixer

To a Soundcard or Audio Interface

by Tweak


Old mixer

dude, don't figure this out after you buy the WRONG mixer!So many newbs think you need to connect the main outs to a soundcard and can monitor off the control room outs too.  Is that you?  Hah! Enjoying that high pitched whine every time you want to record? That's called FEEDBACK. You are getting it because you hooked up the mixer improperly. Here's some better ways. First with a cheap mixer (which I don't recommend) and second, with a mixer with an alt 3-4 bus or direct outs (required if you are serious!)

alt3-4 bus


One Way Communication: Mixer to Soundcard



Here's all you do is connect the main outs of the Mixer to the soundcard line input(s). You then connect your speakers to the line outs of the audio interface or soundcard. That's all you do. Yes, you will need adapters if you have a Soundblaster type 1/8th inch input on the soundcard and typical 1/4 inch phone jacks as outputs of the mixer.  You may also need adapters to connect your powered monitors to the soundcard's output.


Any stereo mixer will work

Its easy


Monitoring directly off a soundcard with active monitors means you have to control the volume in software on your computer.  This is less than ideal.  If you have multimedia speakers it's not so bad because there is a volume control on the speakers.  Active monitors may not have that and your monitors may occasionally blast you with full volume (that's loud!)

You cannot monitor your external MIDI synths while you record or they will get recorded too.  There is no way to separate the signal.  If you are just using soft synths this is not a problem.

You can't monitor the mix at the mixer.


Two Way Communication: Mixer to Soundcard AND Soundcard to Mixer with ALT 3-4 Bus


Here's what an ALT 3-4 bus looks like on the back of a mixer.  The Mixer shown is the Mackie 1402 VLZ3  



This is for people that want to connect their active monitors to the mixer, as it is done in advanced studios.


Note the following:

You need a mixer with an ALT 3-4 output (sometimes called a subgroup out, or group out) You can also use direct outs (see below) from two channels.  Don't go cheap if you want this bi-directional communication between mixer and soundcard/audio interface.

The subgroup (ALT 3-4) connects to the soundcard line in. The soundcard line out connects to any two available line inputs.  The can be aux returns, tape ins, or channel line inputs (preferred).

The active monitors (or cables to an amplifier) go to the CONTROL ROOM OUTS.

NOTE: Though it defies newbie common sense wisdom, you do not have the main outs connect to anything. The Control Room outputs act as the main outs and acts as a volume control for the whole system.

You simply press the ALT 3-4 button (often the "mute" button) to send the channel to the soundcard. 


You can monitor both the signal you are recording and the playback signal from the computer.  You can use the headphone jack and this will keep the studio quiet and the recording clean.

You can adjust the level of your monitors from the mixer. 

You can put processors like compressors in between the alt3-4 out and the soundcard input.

You can monitor your external MIDI synths and modules without recording them to audio and when you want to record them to audio it's just a button press away.


Mixers with ALT busses cost more, but are worth it in my opinion.

Note:  The same setup applies to large 8 bus  mixers like the Behringer mx9000 and Mackie 24-8, except with these you have 8 alt outputs instead of 2.


 Here's nmodi's famous pic (my eternal thanks for his graphic wizardry)

Two Way Communication Mixer to Soundcard AND Soundcard to Mixer with Direct Outs or Inserts

Simply connect the direct out on the channel you want to record to the soundcard's line input.

Note: When a cable is connected to the direct out jack, the signal from that channel goes down it and is removed from the rest of the mixer.  That is, it goes out, but does not go through.  So the signal travels to the soundcard, get recorded, and if software monitoring is ON in the sequencer, it comes back with the soundcard output.

You can sometimes use inserts to function as direct outs by inserting the plug in "halfway" (to the first click). Not all mixers have these. The cheaper mixers do not


This pic, from a Soundcraft M12 (which has no conventional busses) shows the direct outputs and inserts at the top of the mixer.

Workaround with a mixer without an ALT bus, direct outs or inserts

 If you already bought a cheap mixer without alt/subgroups out here is the workaround.

 Connect two of the send outs (hopefully you have 2) directly to the soundcard. Bring the soundcard output back to any 2 available line in channels.  Yes you may need adapters to take the 1/8th inch stereo out of the soundcard to two separate line in jacks. You need an stereo mini jack to dual mono cable.

 On your mic channel, when you want to record, turn up the send on that channel so the signal goes to the soundcard.

 In some situations you may have to turn off "software monitoring" in your sequencer software while you record.

 NOTE: If you still have feedback you might use the TAPE inputs on the mixer. This works sometimes but often will not allow you to monitor your hardware synths playing back MIDI. Its hard to give an absolute answer as every mixer is slightly different. Experiment before you ask a question about this, OK? Try the Tape, try the line ins, try the aux returns, try turning software monitoring off. One of these 6 possibilities usually works.



In the Behringer 1002 you only have one FX send, so that means you will have to record track at a time in mono.  Note that you can send both channels back to the mixer.  You could also route the cables from the soundcard to the tape in jacks. 



How to hook up a Large analog Console to your DAW

2-way communication

Lets assume you have a 24 channel 8 bus mixer and an 10x10 audio interface like a MOTU 828mk3.  The easy way here is to simply take your bus outs and connect them to the 828's 8 line inputs.  You then route the 828,'s 8 line outputs to channels 1-8 of the mixer.  This way you can route any mixer channel to the audio interface's inputs by selecting the bus button at the bottom of the fader.

large product image

back of the MOTU 828mk3

large product image

top view of the Behringer 4882 24 ch 8 bus mixer with Mix B

You don't have to use busses though.  You can also use direct outputs if your mixer has them or aux sends.  Lets say you added a Behringer ada8000 to your 828mk3 so now you have 18 ins and 16 outs on your audio interface.  Here you could use any combination of busses, sends and direct outs going to the DAW and you could monitor the 16 outs of the DAW on channels, aux returns, or even tape inputs.  You should be getting an idea of the flexibility that you have.  Do you absolutely have to have 8 busses?  Of course not.  You can get by with 4 or even with just one stereo bus and direct outs and sends if you are not recording a lot of tracks at a time.   Its just for those times when you need to record 24 tracks in one pass that you need an appropriately large mixer and audio interface.

Lets say you have a MOTU 24io with 24 ins and 24 outs.  This is where the 24 ch 8 bus with Mix B boards come in handy.  The Mix B allows you to connect 2 inputs to each mixer channel and monitor both at the same time.  Here you'd run 24 DAW outs to Mix B and 24 direct outs to the 24 io.  Or if you want you could use busses, which will allow you to group channels and send them to the DAW as a stereo submix, always a cool thing to do.  The good thing about having a 24 ch mixer with Mix B and a 24 io is that you have unmatched flexibility for a home studio.  There is always an input open somewhere and you are just a button press away from being able to record it into your DAW.

large product image

rear panel of the MOTU 24io


Go to the Next Class

Go back to page 3 on Mixers


Check out my article on choosing a mixer

Go to the studio central forum on Mixers

More Articles by Tweak on Mixing

Mixing and Mastering
Choosing a Mixer for your Studio
Understanding your Mixer
Digital Mixers
Classic Analog Mixers
How to Hookup a Mixer
Guide to Control Surfaces
How to use EQ
How to Use a Compressor
Using Pan Controls
The Perfect Mix
Review of the UAD 4k Processors
Mixing on a Virtual Console
Tascam DM3200 Resource
Mackie 8 bus Console Resources
Elements of Mastering
Mixer catalog List



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