Knowing the audio path through a mixing console is absolutely critical to sound tech/engineer success.
Using this information, an engineer can quickly troubleshoot the likely causes of common problems, and can even narrow down the possibilities of unexpected major problems.
It can also prevent mistakes because you know what the audio is doing at each stage of the console, and it instills confidence as you sit behind the console, fulling knowing the the ins and outs (sorry for the pun) of the equipment.
Finally, it provides a foundation of understanding which makes it easy to move from room to room or console to console and not be thrown for a loop.
For instance, you might think “the second red knob on my old console was always set to 12:00, does that mean the second blue knob on this console should be set the same?”
However, after carefully studying a console’s signal path, you’ll know exactly what that knob is and where it is in the audio signal chain (even consulting the owner’s manual if necessary.)
You want to be an excellent all-around driver of vehicles, not a specialist who only knows and drives a Chevy Malibu 2-door with the small V6.
In general, the controls that you tend to “set and forget” are at the top of the console, meaning you have to actually reach for them. The controls that need more adjustments along the way are closer to your hands.
The channel strip tends to lay out generally “in order” as it applies to the audio signal flow – Gain, then EQ, then the Fader, for example. But this is a very broad overview. There is much more detail to be examined..
Figure 1: Yamaha DM2000.
So how do you learn the signal flow of your particular console? You break out the manual!
It will contain what is typically called a “block diagram”. Now, block diagrams like Figure 1 for a Yamaha DM2000 can be headache-inducing nightmares.
So I recommend that you take the time to create your own simplified signal flow. Just follow the lines on the block diagram to determine the signal path.
It’s also recommended that you make it in linear, vertical orientation so that it helps you visualize the flow better. You can use any drawing or paint program to make one.