Adapter. While I carry a lot of adapters to hook up almost “anything to anything” at a gig, sometimes there’s a connector I don’t have in the bag. For example, one time we needed to plug in an additional computer, and all that I had on hand was a 1/8-inch TRS-to-dual RCA adapter.
A small mixer sporting a stereo pair of RCA inputs came to the rescue and acted as the adapter, interfacing the computer into the PA system.
Direct Input (DI). More than a few times I’ve been on corporate gigs where musicians show up to perform and there’s a need to get an instrument (usually a guitar) into the house PA. If DI boxes are in short supply, it’s time to deploy a utility mixer.
Backline Amp. Similar to above, on several occasions I’ve used a small mixer with a powered loudspeaker as an onstage instrument amplifier. (Or, a powered mixer with a passive loudspeaker.) While the combination does not make a good bass rig, it does fine in a pinch for a keyboard rig or acoustic guitar.
Crossover. Once while working a small festival, the crossover decided to cease operation. The system was a simple 2-way rig with passive mains over subwoofers. We decided to run the mains full range, and use a utility mixer’s EQ section to roll off the highs to the subs and act as a simple low-pass filter.
Confidence Monitor. Sometimes it’s nice to have a visual reference for an important feed being sent to a remote location. Patch the signal through a utility mixer so that during the show, you can easily glance over and see the meters on the mixer to make sure it’s working OK (or not).
Utility (yoo-til-i-tee), noun: The state or quality of being useful; usefulness. (Dictionary.com) Small mixers fit that definition to a “T” in duties ranging from saving the show to providing additional options to enhance our presentation.
They’re also quite useful in making our lives on the job easier, turning “uh oh” into “no problem” while requiring little in terms of time, effort and money to have on hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and ProSoundWeb, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.