Perhaps you’re a fledgling podcaster looking to get your feet in the water or maybe you’ve been casting for a while but want to refine your craft. What is mix-minus? And why is it an absolutely crucial topic to understand in order to be successful at honing your podcasting skills and producing professional quality content? You may keep seeing references to mix-minus in your research but find the topic to be rather mystifying.
Fear not. I will break down the basics for you and satiate your desire for clarity.
Mix-minus or a clean feed as it is also known in the world of audio engineering refers to a setup arrangement of your mixer (mixing console) that allows for an output that includes everything you want, minus a particular input – in this case, a guest voice or video conference feed. This is crucial in preventing rather distracting and aesthetically undesirable feedback or echos.
Imagine your podcast includes an interview with a guest and that guest is contributing via Skype, Webex, or Zoom. You don’t want them to have their own voice sent back to them when you are doing your interview. So a mix-minus set up will mix everything but the input of their voice to be sent to them. The overall mix is transmitted minus their feed. You can check out this mix-minus diagram if you’re more of a visual learner or if you want to see a pictorial representation of the mix-minus circuit.
I’m going to breakdown for you not only how to set up a mix-minus but also what it takes to set up a good mix-minus audio interface. I’ll cover a few different helpful pieces of gear that might aid you in your adventures in podcasting and will give you the groundwork to start pumping out quality casts that will keep your followers coming back for more – not scratching their heads.
The Ideal Set-Up
Now, there are literally hundreds of different set-ups to create a mix-minus, but for simplicity’s sake, we are going to stick with the basics. A typical Podcasting setup includes:
- Microphone – Might I suggest a condenser mic such as the Audio Technica AT2020
- Mixing console – I recommend the Yamaha MG10XU as it offers built-in mix-minus functionality right out of the box
- A computer for recording and transmitting
- Optional: a smartphone for video calls or additional guests.
When creating a podcast with a guest interview, which is where a mix-minus is most often used, you’ll want to make sure that the mix going to your guest doesn’t include their own voice, right? That’s why you’re here. Many modern mixers come equipped with mix-minus functionality but if yours does not, you are not out of luck.
You’ll need to utilize your mixers auxiliary output skillfully to your advantage to create a mix-minus. Most mixers label this output as AUX, MON SEND, or FX SEND. I will refer to this output as AUX SEND.
Your mixer should have the ability to regulate which channels get “sent” by the AUX SEND with various control knobs. Depending on how many channels your mixer can accommodate these will be numbered as such. Your mix will include your audio from your mic (input 1) and your guest audio (input 2). Just make sure that your AUX SEND is only a mix of Input 1. It’s as simple as that.
You can add additional input channels into your mix but always be keenly aware of what’s being sent. Consider doing an audio test before you start your podcast. Again, it should be relatively obvious if your guest audio feed is being sent back to them. This kind of feedback and echoing will be immediately apparent and totally unacceptable. Testing 1,2,3. Testing 1,2,3.
Alternate set-up – the low budget approach
If you are video conferencing via a smartphone or perhaps your mixer doesn’t include the aforementioned AUX SEND feature then you might want to invest in an external device such as IK Multimedia‘s brilliant iRig 2. Don’t let the fact that this gizmo was designed with guitarists in mind deter you. Its potential benefit to podcasters without pricier equipment is invaluable. You can pick one of these babies up for about forty bucks, so why not?
The iRig 2 allows you to separate your voice from your guest’s voice using two RCA line-in inputs and two line-out outputs. Because the iRig 2 is designed to function using 3.5mm audio cables, you’re going to need to invest a couple of extra bucks into a couple of cables to connect your phone to your mixer and visa versa. To get the job done you’re going to want to pick up a 3.5mm TRS to Dual 1/4″ TS Stereo Breakout Cable in addition to a 1/4 Inch (TRS) Male to Male Cable Cord. If you already have 3.6mm and 1/4” cables, alternatively you can also just pick up the corresponding adapters. The end result is mix-minus functionality rivaling that of a more expensive setup. This is the perfect solution to the podcaster operating on a budget.
The iRig 2 allows you to make a quick mix of your voice and your guest’s voice while simultaneously creating multichannel output that can either include or omit your guest’s voice. You can use this device as a standalone mixing tool or more commonly and efficiently use it in conjunction with a mixing console to make full use of volume control and equalization.
Another beautiful feature that the iRig 2 offers is the ability to very simply connect your mixer and mic to your smartphone. There are countless apps available in the Play Store and Apple Store that is targeted towards podcasters. I personally enjoy using AUM audio mixer and Mixpad. You can also use this added connectivity to use your phone or tablet as a virtual soundboard. It adds another layer of dynamic artistic freedom to your creative flow.
Not only will you find the iRig 2 to be the perfect tool to help you set up a mix-minus circuit without banging your head against the wall but you’ll also find yourself tapping into the extra dimensions of being able to connect additional devices and selectively choosing which audio channels you wish to go where.
Mixing using OBS
Another tool that the aspiring podcaster interested in creating the perfect mix-minus circuit is the brilliant Open Broadcasting Software or OBS studio. Not only is it a free and open-source piece of software that is fine-tuned for video or audio recording and streaming but it also has a built-in mixer with the ability to turn off or on output channels. You can use OBS as a mixer on its own in conjunction with streaming services and conference call applications such as Facebook, Twitch, Zoom, Skype, and Webex, or you can connect your mixer to your computer and use it as an additional tool to create your ideal mix-minus arrangement.
OBS allows VST plugin and an extensive array of controls. You can use it with your favorite DAWs as well. OBS is targeted to your more experienced audiophiles and audio engineers. It definitely comes with its own learning curve. If you are trying to figure out how to create a mix-minus circuit then perhaps you’ll want to figure out a simpler arrangement first and then branch out later with more experience to options such as this that open countless doors to the refinement and polishing of your podcast.
OBS is a perfect option if you already have experience with Pro Tools, Fruity Loops, Cubase, or other Digital Audio Workstations. Don’t expect to just install it and see an easily accessible mix-minus button. You’re going to need to learn the ins and outs of the built-in mixer, but if you have the time to invest in learning its secrets, OBS will change your world.
So… what is a mix-minus? Hopefully, after reviewing this tutorial you’ve developed a better understanding of what a mix-minus is and how it is such an essential part of any podcasters arsenal of tools at their disposal to produce quality content and reach their target audiences. Just to recap what we just covered, a mix-minus is your mix with all of your desired inputs, minus the audio feed of your guest that you don’t want to send back. This creates feedback and echo. Nobody wants that.
If you have the cash, I highly recommend you investing in a mixer with mix-minus functionality such as a Yamaha MG10XU. If you are on a budget I recommend picking up an iRig 2 and an entry-level mixer such as Behringer‘s XENYX 802 8-Channel Compact Audio Mixer.
If you’re an aspiring audio engineer with a little more experience under your belt, I highly encourage you to consider downloading the OBS studio software. It is free and has a ridiculous level of functionality, but does indeed have a bit of a learning curve.
Hopefully, this has been helpful to you. There is a lot of information out there on the web and it is easy to get overwhelmed by too much information. Setting up a mix-minus audio interface shouldn’t be the stressful thing that keeps you up at night. Happy casting out there!