To put it in the most basic terms, a soundboard (otherwise known as an audio mixer) combines different audio signals, processes and edits them, and sends them off to wherever they need to go, all in real time. Nowadays, because of all of the different kind of devices we have, an iPad, laptop, or your smartphone can (to some extent) perform many of the same tasks that a dedicated audio mixer would, with the help of a DAW. (Digital Audio Workstation). Check out this app for example.
However, nothing can beat the feel of real knobs, buttons, sliders, wheels, and switches when it comes to producing music onstage or in your studio at home.
If you’ve done any research into the world of studio hardware in the musician’s department, then you’ll know for sure that are there hundreds of options out there, not only for soundboards (or audio boards) but all sorts of other kinds of audio engineering kit.
One of the most important decisions that you can make when purchasing a new piece of equipment, in this case being a soundboard, is to know what each piece is specialized for and to know what you’ll be doing with it. Here are some things that you should expect to look out for.
The application of your new equipment: Are you going to be using your new mixer to play live, or to record? Will you be doing both? If you want a soundboard exclusively to live on your desk, used for production and recording, you’ll want to make sure it has hi-fi preamp quality, as well as the ability to connect external sound processors, if needed.
If you plan using it real-time for a live concert or festival use, you will want to make sure that your mixer is already compatible with the rest of your existing equipment. Unless, however, you plan on purchasing a whole plug-and-play style kit, or if you are buying from the same brand where you know everything will work together out of the box because they are advertised to be used jointly.
You will also want to be sure that your piece of equipment has enough audio channels (input and output) so that you’ll have enough microphones to connect. Certain kinds of electronic drum kits can use up to five audio channels by themselves. Your best bet would probably be to buy a piece of equipment that has way more channels than you need, for future-proofing reasons.
Signal routing and BUS capability is something that a lot of people can underestimate easily, and it’s not a path you want to go down. If you don’t have enough audio channels or signal routing ports, you won’t be able to connect your external amplifiers, recording gear, monitors, etc.
This certainly isn’t everything, but it should still give you a clear outline of the types of things you should look out for. In our opinion, everything else comes secondary to these few things, since they are the most important regarding functionality and upgradeability.
If you are interested in learning how to mix on your new sound board, take look at the video down below!