Virtual Mixer Parameters

Cheat Sheet delivers concise, explicit information about specific recording/audio-related tasks or processes. This installment describes virtual mixer parameters, as found in DAWs and some virtual instruments.

Typically a toolbar with buttons that allow showing/hiding mixer sections (e.g., sends, meters, EQ, inputs, etc.) to customize how much space the mixer takes up on-screen.

Changes the mixer channel width. Narrow mode allows seeing more channels at a time, but wide mode usually allows seeing more channel parameters, or presents more detailed channel parameter values.

This goes by different names, but simply means that a section (such as sends) can be shown in a more compact way to save space. Example: In compact view, knobs might become linear sliders that take up less space.

Unlike analog mixers, virtual mixers often have different track types for a given channel: Audio, MIDI, Instrument (has a MIDI input, hosts an instrument, and outputs audio), FX Return (takes the output from an effects bus), etc. Channel types are assigned when creating tracks.

Shows a channel signal’s maximum (peak) value. Positive values indicate the amount over 0dB, negative values show amounts under 0dB.

Holds the peak level attained so that even if you’re not looking at the meter, you’ll be able to see the maximum peak level at any time.

Conventional peak meters measure the value of individual samples. However, when the samples are reconstructed into an analog waveform, waveform peaks may exceed sample peaks. Intersample metering measures the final analog waveform, giving a more accurate representation of the signal.

Sets the range covered by the channel’s meter. Example: When tracking, you might want a wide range (e.g., 0–90dB) to catch low-level noise, but while mixing, a narrower range (e.g., 0–36dB) makes it easier to see the effects of compression.

Some mixers allow trimming delay in small increments to tune out timing differences among tracks. Example: The miked sound from an amp will likely be delayed compared to the same amp sound taken direct. To compensate, you can delay all channels except the miked sound, or delay the direct sound compared to the miked sound.

By enabling Write, the program remembers any fader, panpot, send, etc. moves during mixdown. Enabling Read allows the program to follow these changes on playback.

Generally a control assignable to two channels that allows crossfading between them.

A small image (such as a picture of a mic, guitar, piano, etc.) that can be added to a channel, making it easy to see at a glance which instrument is playing through a particular channel.

Allows grouping selected channels together so that moving one control affects the same control in all grouped channels. Example: Consider a drum kit with multiple mics feeding multiple channels. By grouping each channel, you can change the level of the entire kit by changing the level of any of the grouped channels.

RATIOMETRIC (LOGARITHMIC)/ LINEAR GROUPING With linear grouping, changing a control by a certain amount (e.g., 3dB) changes all other grouped controls by the same amount (3dB). With ratiometric grouping, changes relate to ratios. Example: Turning down one control halfway turns down all other grouped controls by 50 percent.

Allows inserting plug-ins into the channel’s signal chain. Inserts typically sit between the input and main fader, but some may be post-fader, or switchable pre- or post-fader.

Selects the hardware audio interface’s input that connects to the mixer channel.

OUTPUT ASSIGN Sends the channel to either a bus or hardware audio interface out. Typical, individual channels go to a master bus, which then feeds an audio interface output for monitoring.

When selected, only the soloed channel will be heard. There are two solo types: “additive” (multiple channels can be soloed and heard) and “exclusive” (soloing one channel mutes all other channels, as well as disables any existing solo assignments).

When selected, turns off the muted channel’s output. If both mute and solo are selected, one will have priority but this is not standardized.

With a mono signal, the audio can be placed anywhere within the stereo field, from full left, to center, to right. With stereo, balance weights the audio more toward the left or right. Example: With balance full right, the stereo signal’s right channel will be at full volume, and the left channel at minimum volume.