How to combine two mixing consoles to make one super-size console

How to combine two mixing consoles to make one super-size console

Mixing console not big enough? Then you can combine two consoles to give you many more channels.

Audio Masterclass

An Audio Masterclass learning text.

There are two reasons why a large mixing console with many channels is desirable. The first is obviously for when you need to mix a lot of channels. A large jazz orchestra for example may have a microphone for almost every instrument, or at least one mic for every section of instruments, plus soloists. The other situation that calls for a lot of channels is where you need alternative setups readily to hand. This occurs in live broadcasting where you might have one group of channels for the presenters and guests, and another group of channels for a live band. You wouldn't be mixing both simultaneously, but it is important to have everything set up and ready.

How many channels are enough?
When choosing a mixing console, you will often find that a particular model of console comes in different sizes with different numbers of channels. 16, 24 and 32 are common options. It is important to choose the correct version. Buy one with too few channels and you will struggle; buy one with too many and money is wasted on channels that will never be used. A good rule of thumb is to calculate how many channels you will use in everyday situations, then add eight. Those eight channels may only be used rarely, but at least you know they are there. And if you have a project that you could have wished for a larger console to handle, then you'll just have to compromise. Many sound engineering tasks involve compromise and the ability to get a satisfactory result is the mark of a good engineer.

Console expansion units
Some mixing consoles have optional expansion units, so you can buy a smaller console initially, then add extra channels later. This is a good idea with only one problem... what if the manufacturer decides to discontinue the console, or perhaps just the expansion unit, from their line of products? So buying a console with the idea of expanding it in a year's time is an act of faith. You are reliant on the manufacturer still having the expansion unit available. Secondhand expansion units will be rare. It would be very unlikely for anyone to sell an expansion unit without selling the console too.

Combining two consoles
It isn't the most elegant of solutions, because parts of one console will remain unused. However, to gain more channels it will be a very effective option to combine two mixing consoles. To do this for a simple stereo mix, take the main stereo outputs of the first console and connect them to two channels, or auxiliary returns, of the other console. Set the faders of these channels or aux returns to 0 dB so that they are at unity gain and do not change the level of the signal. Route these to the main outputs of the second console.

Now you will be able to mix with the full number of channels of console one plus console two, minus the two channels or auxes of console two that you used for the outputs of console one. So if you had two consoles, each with 24 channels and 4 auxiliary returns, you can combine them to give 48 channels with 6 auxiliary returns.

The consoles do not have to be identical, nor even from the same manufacturer.

Any drawbacks?
Naturally you wouldn't expect this to be as good a solution as having one large console. The principal drawback is that the solo system won't be fully functional. Normally, when you press the PFL or solo button on a channel, you hear that channel alone through the monitors. All the others are muted. But now, if you press the solo button on a channel on console one, you will hear that channel plus all the channels of console two! The solo system on console two will work as normal. The workaround is this... When you press a solo button on console one, also press the solo buttons for the channels on console two to which console one is connected. You have to press three solo buttons rather than one, but you will soon get into the habit of doing this.

It is perfectly feasible to combine two consoles to make what is effectively one large console with lots of channels. The drawbacks are few and you have the flexibility to use the consoles separately on different projects if need be.

Publication date: Monday August 21, 2006
Author: David Mellor



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Earlier discussion on this topic...

Brymus, Bulhead city, USA

Like Duh ,the Yamaha OV 196 couples together( although cheaper models can be used as detailed above, can be routed adat(The essential elemenet) (also bought in groups of 8-16 whatever)for a truely profesional result ready to transfer to your mastering cpu all this is widely available used at reasonable prices comparable to an all in one DAW,whatever you use its the capture and seperation of the drums that will probably force you into multitracking(unless you go with programed live samples)
Thursday August 24, 2006

chris, Portland, OR

Holy crap! I never thought of this. Seriously, all this time I've been looking for a 16 channel board with 4 buses, but why not just use 2 8 channel (cheap!) boards with 2 buses each? Thanks so much for this idea, I'm deffinately going to use it. Now I just have to find the cash and a couple decent little mixers...
Tuesday August 22, 2006

Engr Simon I Egwuc hukwu, Calabar, Nigeria

Yea its quite a great experience U can combine the two and it will still give u what u wanted depending on ur capability. its quite easy.

But first u have to first off all check ur hard ware compatibilty before proceeding to aviod damaging ur board u could combine 48 chanels and 24 chanels together to give u 72 chanells but both of them have to be digital and not analog

thanks for more information contarct me

Simon I Egwuchukwu.

Tuesday August 22, 2006

Terry Smith, Dickson, USA

I feel a little like a dunce but I've actually been mixing for recording for quite some time. My problem is I just cannot seem to grasp the whole sub, aux, patchbay concept. My boards are terribly unutilized. Could someone point me to a good article or even a decent schematic that might get me on track.

Tuesday August 22, 2006

ken, toronto, CANADA


I use a Kawai 8 channel stereo keyboard mixer with my studio 8, that's like 24 channels 'front end". I usually premix MIDI output from my outboard gear to the Kawai mixer first.

Monday August 21, 2006

Dominic Purdue, Newcastle on Tyne, UK

I have two 02R's and cascade cards to make them into a single console. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm hoping for a seamless integration. It makes sense to use two desks especially when desks are relatively cheap to buy second hand.
Monday August 21, 2006

drew, KC, mo

You can use a simple patch bay and recording TRS snakes to combine your Aux's and Sub groups as well very easy to do very flexible and very inexpensive too... we use 2 mackie "onyx" 16 channel boards in our studio, giving us a 36 channell daw frontend, which can also be combined in the "aggregate device" driver in our MAC
Monday August 21, 2006