Advanced Small Console Techniques: Maximizing The Available Feature Set

What about those times when, for whatever reason, a big console is not available? That's the time for ingenuity and some special techniques

By Dave Dermont March 30, 2012

Everyone loves a big console.

Even when they’re small in size, like modern digital consoles, we favor consoles that have everything we need to solve any problem that may come up.

But what about those times when, for whatever reason, a big console is not available?

That’s the time for ingenuity and some special techniques that maximize the usefulness of the available feature set. Some people call these “workarounds,” but the term I like is “tricks.”

You know, like a magician. Here are some of my favorite tricks.

The XLR “Y” Cable
The one-female-to-two-male XLR “Y” cable is a powerful problem solver that should be in every audio person’s bag of tricks. It’s most common use is splitting an input to two channels of a mixer, using one channel monitors, the other for mains. This allows the EQ and processing used on one to not appear in the other.

It can be especially important if you need maximum gain before feedback in the monitors for a vocalist, or the input channel EQ helps with an acoustic guitar that’s giving you feedback issues. This trick can also be used for “wet/dry” channels, or if you need some sort of crazy EQ or effect for one part of a song and then quickly need to change back to normal.

Channel Insert As FX Loop
When a console is lacking a function, sometimes it can be found in a piece of outboard gear. For example, most effects units have a built-in mixing feature. When the aux sends are all used up, but you still want one more special effect on one more input, it’s a simple thing to insert the device into the input channel, and use the effect’s wet/dry mix control to vary the amount of effect.

No, it’s not ideal, but under battle conditions, you do what you must.

Direct Out As FX Send
The input channel’s direct output is not just for multi-tracking any more! An input channel’s direct output is another way to get signal to an effect that is only needed on one channel. This trick works well for things like a chorus on an acoustic guitar, or a reverb on the lead vocalist.

It’s best if the direct out is post-fader. A pre-fader can also be used as a direct out too, but you’ll have to keep a watchful eye (ear) on relative levels.


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