What is a Software Mixer?
A software mixer is an imitation mixer that emulates the functions of a hardware mixer virtually or on a computer.
It exists solely on the computer in a purely digital format without any hardware attached to it.
All manipulations, tweaking, tuning and controlling of a software mixer needs to be done with a computer mouse.
Software mixers exist for MAC and PC and require a high-quality soundcard to be run smoothly. All data recorded is digital and is stored on the computer hard drive.
What is a Software Mixer Input/Output?
The input and output connectors for a software mixer are in a computer sound card or in an external audio interface. Sound cards and interfaces are 2-channel or multichannel. The effects that the mixer controls are either plug-ins (software) or external (hardware).
The software mixer needs a computer sound card or some sort of an external audio interface to be run. You can use additional plug-ins and/or external hardware to add effects to the input channels and sound signal.
Most sound cards have at least 2 channels. Many of the more expensive and advanced sound cards are multichannel. Emagic’s Logic and Steinberg’s Cubase have software mixers which would serve as a good example.
What is a Software Mixer Pros & Cons?
Software mixers haven’t really reached to a point where they threaten the market of digital or analogue mixers but they will have a say none the less in the future.
At the current stage, they are tedious to use, hard to maneuver and cause fatigue after long hours of use. They are mostly software specific and have limited usage in certain areas and aspects of mixing i.e. – software mixers provide EQ as an insert effect as opposed to the fully parametric EQ possible on a hardware mixer which can be applied to all channels and aux returns.
However, there is a plus side to using software mixers. In analogue mixers, the introduction of noise is possible through various entry points. In digital mixers, the conversion from analogue to digital and digital to analogue leaves a lot of room for distortion or noise problems. But with a software mixer, these problems can easily be avoided.
Once an audio signal is converted into the digital format and recorded by a software mixer, it can be sent straightaway for mixing without having to convert it back to analogue. This can be done by sending it straight to any software for mastering and then burning a CD. This ensures that there is a lesser chance of noise and limited effect on the quality due to the conversion.
Controller surfaces were designed to reduce the effort in trying to handle a software mixer using keyboard shortcuts and a mouse.
The controller surfaces are of two types – small and compact controllers and control surfaces added to keyboard controllers.
The controller surface can be connected to the computer via a USB port or FireWire port and is pretty easy to set up. These controller surfaces have faders and knobs and buttons which give you physical control over the virtual aspects of the software.
The basic function of the control surface is to enable users to manually tweak the automation modes, automate parameters and switch channels. This is aimed to make the software more user-friendly while maintaining the feel of the digital hardware.
A controller surface can cost anything from $500 to $ 3500+ in today’s market. Once more, these aren’t essential or mandatory to run a software mixer. Controller surfaces only promise to make it easy and more intuitive to use the software mixer.