A digital audio mixer is an electronic device used to combine multiple audio signals from individual sources. This type of audio mixer encapsulates three phases of functionality. The first is mixing, which uses a basic algorithm to process the information with an assigned summing amplifier. The second would be routing, which allows the channeling of source audio to internal buses or external effects processing. Finally, a digital audio mixer will handle some processing through internal equalization and compression modules.
Most often, a mixer of this type accepts both digital and analog sources, converting analog signals into digital data immediately through its processors. A digital audio mixer often has effects and processors that can affect the source audio digitally before it converts the data back to analog on output. A sound card, which can be easily installed in most workstations, acts as an audio interface, typically converting analog audio signals into digital form, while helping with processing audio. Generally, a software application will control the functionality of both the mixer and the sound card, providing the user with a graphic interface for audio recording, editing, mixing, and playback functionality.
With a digital audio mixer, effects may be added to specific channels, and individual instruments may be relocated to new positions in the stereo spectrum. Channels on this mixer may also re-route audio interface input channels to a dedicated equalizer where the bass, treble, and mid range can be adjusted seamlessly. Depending on the mixer's capabilities and if it contains enough channels, a user can also route the outputs of an audio interface to another mixer or additional processing to touch up the sound within the analog realm. This allows the user to separate vocals, drums, and bass, and have complete control over the mix.
Unlike analog mixers, which usually have limited logic and no memory capabilities, a digital audio mixer can retain information assigned by its user. A sound engineer may set level assignments for multiple microphones, monitors, and instruments during one night of performance. Through the software application controller, this configuration can be saved, named, and stored in the mixer's memory. The following evening, an engineer unfamiliar with the last performance can easily launch the application, recalling the saved configuration.
A digital audio mixer can a significant and valuable tool for sound engineers. It can be used in a studio for recording music, designing sound for television and film, or mixing audio signals for live performance.