The Live Audio Academy

Mixing “Unplugged”

Shed the tether of cabling - get full control of your audio mix wirelessly using a tablet.

What if I told you that you can mix front of house from ANY seat in the house, and not be tethered by any kind of cable?  You would probably say, “Ummmm…  Why don’t you just use your tablet?”

Wireless audio mixing has been around for some time now, but I have not seen many people adopt it yet.  Outside of getting used to a new user interface, mixing on a tablet is relatively simple, and you add a great amount of flexability by adding wireless mixer control to your setup.

Here are some benefits to mixing “unplugged”.  You can:

  • hear your work at any place in the venue, and not have to rush back to a console to catch solos or make adjustments
  • rub elbows with VIP’s and catch their comments on the mix
  • get food and drink without sending a roadie (which is important to me, as my roadie has not shown up for a gig in years)
  • setup monitor mixes right next to the musician and get instant feedback (hopefully the good kind)
  • enact equalization for output zones while standing right in front of the speaker (this is particularly handy for monitor zones)

How to Go Wireless

Setup for wireless mixing is fairly straightforward.  Purchase a mixing console that can be controlled through an Ethernet port.  Connect a wireless router to the Ethernet port.  Connect your tablet to the wireless router using the credentials that you setup in the router.  Open the control application on the tablet, and select your mixing console.  You now have wireless control over the console.

Some mixing consoles come with a wireless router already integrated into the mixer.  Check out the Behringer X18 Air.  The console comes in multiple formats, and has no knobs or faders at all.  All functions are controlled by an application on a tablet.  I just purchased this and was setup and ready to mix in minutes.

Setup Examples

My current setup for my rock cover band involves the X18 setup onstage using the built-in wireless router, with the band connecting directly to the mixer.  No more big analog snakes or signal processing equipment racks.  I recall a preset from the previous gig and check my output zones.  Then the band plays through a soundcheck.  I ask the band for any monitor tweaks, and we are ready to go.  Once showtime hits, I mix from the normal mix position using my iPad.  I get the mix ballparked and move throughout the venue.

I use two other configurations with my Behringer X32 digital mixer and a separate wireless router– traditional front of house (FOH) setup using our analog snake and wireless iPad control, and side-of-stage monitor console setup with wireless iPad control.  I use the traditional FOH setup for shows where there are other bands and other mix engineers, or for days where I am nostalgic and want a real control surface to mix from.  I use the monitor position setup for shows where I need more inputs than the X18 allows, but I will mix FOH using my iPad.  This setup is great, as I can move to the stage and mix monitors for the musicians using the console and move about the room with the iPad to mix FOH.

Just about every major console manufacturer has digital mixing consoles with either Ethernet ports or integrated wireless control.  I have installed the Mackie DL1608 in a church with great success.  Wireless control allowed us to place all equipment to the side of the balcony, opening up sightlines and allowing services to be mixed from anywhere in the sanctuary.

Are you ready to unplug? Comment your thoughts and concerns below:

-JR-

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