It’s not unusual for a personal studio to have a couple hundred knobs, buttons, switches, and controls. Your mixer likely has dozens of controls. The mic processor has a bunch. Any program compressors or equalizers you may use will add their share.

The good news is: you don’t need most of them. And those that you actually do need are usually set one time, then left alone. For most day-to-day work, you will only interact with a few controls.

So, why are they there?

In the case of the mixing board, it’s a matter of intended purpose. Most of the economical, general-purpose desktop mixers are designed for musicians, where each session may have a different assortment of mics and instruments connected. Each instrument may need different equalization. Separate recording mix, monitor mix, and effects mix may change with every song. Having lots of flexibility, quickly accessible, is very important.

We can use these “musician” mixers for internet radio and podcasting because they can perform many of the functions we need in broadcasting. Broadcasters tend to set up the configuration one time, then leave it that way for months or years with no changes.

Generally, we’ll set the mic gain trimmers to match the microphone being used, and the Aux Send to work with telephone hybrids for phone interviews. The equalizer controls will typically be ignored or bypassed (they are not used for broadcast). Once set, the controls are seldom touched. Daily mixing duties are managed by the Mix Level controls across the bottom row of most mixers.

These functions exist in purpose-built broadcast consoles… they are just buried inside. This leaves the work surface with only a few exposed controls… mostly on/off and level control for each audio source. (This ensures that the “set-it-once-then-leave-it-alone” stuff doesn’t get disturbed.)

So, if you are just starting out, don’t be intimidated by the vast sea of knobs and buttons that you see. You only need to deal with a few of them. (Visitors to your studio might be impressed by the “complexity” of your setup. So that could be a good thing.)

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