What goes where? There are many ways to handle what input goes to what output on a console, but how do you know what is best in a given situation? Here are some suggestions:
- Know the differences among the choices. In the simplest scenario, all input channels go to a single mono main output. However, for most situations, it makes sense to route several inputs to sub-outputs depending on their genre. For instance, drum channels logically go to a sub-group incorporating all the drum signals from kick to overhead so the entire drum kit level can be adjusted with a single fader. In more advanced environments, the drum channels are routed to DCAs (Digitally Controlled Amplifiers) which act as remote controls over the drum channels as opposed to funneling the actual audio signals in the manner of a sub-group fader. The analog summing buss on the group can be a weak point in the signal chain whereas a DCA avoids this issue.
- Be aware a digital console routing scheme creates different latency times for each routing layout. The longer the route, the more time it takes to get there. Most consoles have automatic compensation and transparently delay all signals to that of the longest path. It’s just something to be note in case someone accidentally turns it off.
- Use mute groups wisely. As it’s name implies, a mute group turns off selected channels together. For example, five praise team vocal channels can be assigned to one mute group so they are turned off at once instead of having to individually mute them. Just be sure they are assigned to only one mute group when starting to use this method as mute groups stack and multiple assignments can wreak havoc with a newbie mix. After some use, stacked groups can be handy, especially during complex Christmas programs. Mute safe is a common feature on digital consoles and allows a given channel, such as the worship leader vocal, to remain on during all scene changes.
- Whichever method you use, keep it consistent. If you want to use mute scenes for the vocals, then use mute scenes for all the vocals. Use a separate mute group for soloists to keep the muscle memory movements the same for every action. These tools are there to make life better, not worse.
- Spend some time creating matrix routing paths. A matrix is simply a combination of several outputs. So, a vocal buss can matrix with an instrument buss to go to the primary speaker output. The balance between the two can then be adjusted in real-time. Many worship mixes leave the L-R main faders out of the path, relying instead on a varying balance among matrices, including sends for the subs which incorporate the best of subs-with-mains and subs-on-aux methods.
Getting inputs routed to the right outputs depends on finding the most logical method for the application and then following it consistently to insure the smoothest transition between scenes and events.