Why use a mixer?
A mixer is a flexible piece of analog circuitry- it allows connecting all sorts of components that make sounds, and mixing the sounds together in different proportions.
While the JackTrip Virtual Studio device does not require a mixer, it is a useful piece of equipment for a number of reasons:
- It supplies phantom 48v power, allowing you to use microphones that require it
- It allows boosting your microphone volume higher than you could with the device alone, which is especially helpful for dynamic microphones
- It allows you to use professional audio cables, like XLR, which are more durable and less noisy than 1/8" cables and plugs
- It allows you to use multiple mics/instruments/sound-makers simultaneously while connected. This can be especially helpful while conducting a rehearsal or teaching a lesson. Some useful devices include...
- Electric Piano
- Cell phone/iPod audio
- Multiple microphones (for recording a drum kit, for instance)
What about my Audio Interface? Can I use that?
The primary function of audio interfaces is to convert analog signals to digital. The Virtual Studio Device only accepts analog input, and then it does the conversion to and from digital.
However, some audio interfaces can serve as mixers and deliver analog output via headphone or line outputs without adding significant latency. If your audio interface has mixer-like functionality, you can likely use the headphone monitor to send audio to the input of the device. Consult the documentation or help desk for your interface to determine if it can send low-latency audio out through the headphone monitor or main outs.
While not the primary audience for this guide, those who want to use an audio interface in this fashion may find the information below helpful.
First, we'll need a mixer. All mixers should be supported! For this guide, we'll be demonstrating with the Mackie 402VLZ4 4-channel Compact Analog Mixer
Note: Mixers allow for a lot of different arrangements of parts. They're very flexible, and that's why we like them! There are therefore multiple ways to hook everything together that might not be covered by this guide.
You will need cables for a few purposes:
- to provide the mixer power. Your mixer should come with a power cable!
- to send the mixer audio to the JackTrip Virtual Studio device
- to connect your desired sound-makers to the mixer, like microphones, pianos, and iPods (oh my!)
Dual Mono 1/4" to 1/8"
The first cable we need is for sending audio to the device itself. We will plug the 1/4" mono plugs into the "Main Outs" on the mixer, and the 1/8" stereo plug into the input on the JackTrip Virtual Studio.
Example Cable on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083R59ZNL/
The next cable is one of the most common in audio tech. It's a sturdy cable for mono signals, and it does a great job at eliminating noise. This is most commonly used with a microphone.
RCA Adapter + 1/8" stereo audio cable
Since many mixers will not have 1/8" stereo plugs, but will likely have an RCA input, we will need an RCA -> 1/8" adapter or adapter cable. This picture shows an RCA adapter (exactly like the one we use with the VS device for headphones) connected to a 1/8" cable.
Putting it all together
Step 1: Power the Mixer
Step 2: Send the mixer audio to the device
Connect the Dual Mono 1/4" plugs to the "Main Out". Remember "R" stands for "Red" as well as "Right"
Connect the 1/8" plug on the other side of the cable to the VS device just above the power cable. This 1/8" plug is the most delicate component- make sure it doesn't get bent or broken.
Step 3: Connect microphone(s) to the mixer
Grab your favorite microphone, for example this AT-4040, which requires Phantom Power
Use your XLR cable to connect the microphone to the mixer in the top left.
- Remember to turn on Phantom Power if your mic needs it! And off if the mic doesn't need it. On this mixer, the switch for Phantom power is in the bottom right, just left of the power indicator.
- There are several volume knobs- both on the channel as well as on the "Main Mix" in the bottom right. Set them in the middle (pointing straight up) while you're getting started, adjust them from there.
- There are blue EQ knobs on each channel- those should be set in the middle (pointing straight up) unless you are trying to change the amount of high or low frequencies.
Step 4: Connect cell phone/computer/walkperson to the mixer
Connect the RCA plugs to the "TAPE IN" ports. Remember "R" stands for "Red" as well as "Right"
- in order to include the audio in the main mix, you need to press the "TO MAIN" button
- There's a volume knob just under the "TO MAIN" button. Set it in the middle (pointing straight up) while you're getting started, adjust it from there.
Know a great mixer? Feel like this guide could be improved? Want to show off your fangled setup? Please feel free to mention it in the comments.