Introduction to Mixing Audio - How to not sound like a Dial Up Modem
What is audio mixing? Is it helpful or a hindrance? What are my options for mixing audio and how much does it cost?
Audio mixing, what is it? Audio mixing is where you take multiple input sources of audio and put them into one or two different output signals. An example of input sources would be a microphone, game audio, stream alert audio. An example of an output signal would be the signal sent to our headphones, speakers, or stream. Can you achieve audio mixing for streams and videos without a digital or physical audio mixer? Mostly, but in practice it is significantly more complicated to route audio properly without using some form of audio mixing software or hardware when dealing with multiple sources.
Goals of Audio Mixing
The goals of audio mixing can be as simple as taking a microphone and game audio then pushing it to a single output. They can also be as elaborate as combining one or more microphones, game audio, alerts, computer sounds, and music. Each having their own source to pull audio from then pushing that audio to two or more outputs, headphones, broadcast software such as OBS or SLOBS, or discord. Of course we don’t want our stream audio going to friends on discord, and we don’t want our mic audio going to our speakers if we aren’t using headphones at the moment.
This is where audio mixing software and hardware comes into play. Audio mixing allows us to properly route our audio to where it needs to be and often times gives it a boost in quality, while also making it easier to handle unlike windows sound settings and such. Having more options can be daunting at times, especially when just starting out, but once you get the hang of it, more often than not it saves so much more time and provides you with better quality than if you just went without.
Audio Mixing options
Are you interested in having more control over your audio? Lets go over our options then!
Mixing in OBS?
You might say OBS has its own audio mix, that is true. However, just like using windows, it can be complicated. First you have to find audio levels in windows that suite yourself, so you can hear the game and other things. Then you have to pull the audio directly into OBS and try and manage it there. It can be a complete mess because the audio levels are already being adjusted for your hearing first. Optionally, if you adjust for the OBS Mix first, the levels for you hearing the audio will also be affected, too high, too low, and when you adjust the audio levels going to your headphones it will then adjust the levels in OBS. Big wonky mess right?
GoXLR, GoXLR-Mini, Elgato Wave
I’m sure every streamer has heard of a GoXLR or GoXLR-Mini which come with software mixing alongside hardware controls. There is also the Elgato Wave microphones which come with similar software mixing and some hardware controls. Between the current writers for the Library by Stream Sounds, no one has either a GoXLR, GoXLR-Mini, or Elgato Wave microphone. We are interested in pulling in someone who does have these devices and would like to add some articles on these devices to the Library.
Physical mixers are also available of various sizes and prices that stretch from less than $50 US Dollars to well over $500 to even $1000s. These beastly devices offer physical nobs and sliders for customization and take up a bit more space than a GoXLR but in some cases not by much or at all as some of them can be fairly small. However, their prices range from significantly lower than even a GoXLR-Mini or even cheaper then the Elgato Wave. For instance, the Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB 12-Channel Mixer can be found on amazon for $150 USD but I have seen it as low as $109 USD.
Finally, there is Voicemeeter, something either mostly unheard of or often not spoken. Voicemeeter is a digital mixing software for windows designed to help thread and control audio similar to a physical mixer, except that it is an application ran on windows. I wanted to learn what audio mixing was like before investing into equipment. Voicemeeter allowed me to learn the basics of audio mixing and helped determine just how far I wanted to go with audio mixing without having to spend any money. After heavily investing time into Voicemeeter.
I recommend skipping basic Voicemeeter and starting with Voicemeeter Banana. Banana has sufficient features to get started and covers nearly everything a streamer may need when wanting to improve their audio. Voicemeeter Banana is free and we also covered it in an article, which details some of the features and has a setup guide to help get you started.
Voicemeeter Banana Article: Voicemeeter Banana
At some point we would like to include different types of audio setups. I believe OGJunkyard is currently doing a piece on his entire streaming setup which will include a very in-depth audio setup. I have two different sized physical mixers and would like to cover each one both individually and comparatively together explaining my reasons for the upgrade and reasons I could have kept my old one and would have been just fine. As stated above, we are interested in working with someone to get articles on the GoXLR, GoXLR-Mini and the Elgato Wave, so if interested please hit us up!