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Mixing Desk

An electronic device for combining the signals from several sources (microphones, instruments etc) and mixing them together in controlled proportions for recording or stage work.

2 channel mixerA desk has a number of channels which is the number of devices that can be plugged in. Each channel normally has a jack input for instruments and an XLR connector for microphones. It also usually provides phantom power for condenser microphones. The channel will have a gain control to vary the incoming signal and prevent overloading and a slider to vary the amount of the signal that is let into the mix. Channels also normally have effects such as Equalisation and Reverberation built in.

16 channel mixerThere is a master control to set the overall level and sometimes some output effects on the combined mix. The output is normally stereo and is provided (with separate controls) for the main output (amplifier), foldback (monitoring), headphones and recording.
The number of channels can vary from 4 to 64 or more but 16 is common.
Some mixers have built-in amplifiers and provide an 'all-in-one' small P.A. System.