Why We Love The RJM Micro Line Mixer (Edited Transcript – Part 1)
This video / podcast turned out to be one of the most helpful videos we could even imagine to help explain not only the line mixer but all sorts of challenges that guitar players have with their reverbs and flangers.
Even with all the editing the video is still 47 minutes long. We’ve done our best cleaning up the transcript here.
What Is The RJM Micro Line Mixer And How To Properly Use It In Your Pedalboard
Mason: We’re going to talk about all things line mixers. And invariably this is going to get us into wet, dry, wet setups and how to properly use a mixer like this in your pedal board system.
What is a line mixer and what would be a reason that somebody might need one or want to implement it into their rig?
Ron: A line mixer is really a simple thing. It literally is just taking four inputs and mixing them down into one output. It’s incredibly useful though. It’s like any other mixer that you might use in audio, but it’s trimmed down and simplified compared to any kind of mixing board.
Basically, the idea here is to run your effects in parallel so you’re not running, your overdrive into chorus, into delay, into reverb. When you get down to the end of that chain and get the time-based effects that when you run one into another, you can get interactions between the effect if you have a lot of delay, a lot of reverb and all that where you’re delaying your reverb or reverberating your delay and all that.
If you’re doing something very effects heavy, instead of running the output of one effect into the input of the next, you actually split the signal so that the dry guitar signal goes into all of your effects inputs at the same time in parallel. You then take the delayed guitar signal and the reverb guitar signal and then mix them down at the end so you can hear them all, but each effect isn’t affecting the other effect. You can hear them together, but they’re not kind of playing off each other, I guess is the shorter way to say it.
WDW – Wet-Dry-Wet Rigs
Mason: The most common application where we might see this used is in somebody who’s trying to create a wet-dry-wet rig, and, and typically just to kind of go over what that means is that you would have a dry cabinet that would be accepting all of your sort of non-time based effects. It would be all of your overdrives, distortions, compression, equalization, maybe some modulation stuff in front of that, maybe univibes, flangers, phasers. Those would typically be in front of the amp. As far as all of the wet processing effects, the chorus delays, reverbs, that would typically come out in the classical sense out of a line out of the dry amp and then would feed maybe a stereo chorus that would be the splitter that would go into the input of the mixer and then the mixer might incorporate delays and reverbs, maybe pitch shifting.
What a Rig With a Line Mixer Sounds Like, Purposes, Pros and Cons
Grant: One of the hardest things I have as a rig builder with line mixers is just describing to people without the use of too many diagrams or flow charts or signal chain, whatever, trying to describe to them what it actually sounds like, or the purposes of it.
The easiest way I’ve been able describe to people with these and the pros and cons of them is it’s almost like your guitar is plugged into your delay at 100% mix. You’re only getting delay repeats and you play a guitar line that is line number or track number one.
Then you play the exact same thing again, plugged into only a reverb at 100% mix. You record that and put them on top of each other so that you get one of only delay, one of only reverb, and they’re stacked on top of each other in your DAW. Then you play the exact same thing again, just dry guitar.
And so you have these three duplicate guitar lines, one with a 100% delay, one with a 100% reverb, one with just dry guitar. That’s kind of where you’re headed in this parallel realm. From my perspective, this is neither a better or a worse way to run your rig, but it’s an approach to a rig.
I’ve had customers go fully parallel and they hate it because they’re so used to what Ron just described of the delay feeding into their reverb and having that cascading effect. But then I’ve had other guys and myself included who go to this parallel sound and it just brings all this clarity and separation between your guitar lines in a way that nothing else can.
I’m a huge fan of line mixers. Somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago when we started, we had the original RJM Mini Line Mixer in the shop and that’s when we first got into this. I was just blown away by the sound and so, I, among many other people, my customers as well, are all very excited that the line mixer is back from RJM.
I just love the simplicity of how the RJM version brings everything together with some pedalboard friendly approaches to it. I’d say if, if you’re a guitar player that finds that your delays and reverbs, lends itself to your sound getting a little bit muddy, or it’s hard to get some definition out of the notes and the playing then perhaps running a parallel delay and reverb to start and maybe chorus or some other effects down the line as well but especially delay and reverb, I think it could be something to really help get some definition. The transients, the pick hitting the string of your guitar, if that’s all getting lost, going parallel could be something to look into.
Mason: I want to look at some of the literature that is provided by RJM on this. One thing that I appreciate just as somebody who is building rigs is that there are color coded lines on the front of the Micro Line Mixer that explain very thoroughly where the signal path is going on the front of this.
You can very clearly see where each input is going, where the outputs are connected, and the really cool thing about this as well that I think really separates it from a lot of mixers is that you have the ability to go stereo out by using TRS cables.
Is the input also stereo in Ron on this one with TRS?
Ron: The wet inputs are always TRS stereo and then the dry input, the buffer / dry input and output have jumpers on the inside that let you configure for mono in or mono out and stereo in or stereo out so you can adapt to whatever your rig needs.
Mason: It’s just a really great way to be able to do it because you are saving on the number of jacks that you would need. Obviously, if every single one of these was a mono jack, for input left and input right this would be double the size that it is. It’s actually a great space saving measure as far as the design is concerned.
I think some of the basic uses might be best exemplified through The Quick Start Manual.
On the right side of the unit you have your dry input. Ron, you’ve said that this can go mono or stereo and you can configure it accordingly by way of an internal jumper, or is it dip switch?
Ron: They’re internal jumpers that you move.
Mason: All it will require is you opening up the bottom and then reconfiguring the position of those jumpers.
Ron: Correct. that’s for the dry input and then does that also affect the stereo output of the buffer out in, the mixer routers? Or are those always configured for stereo?
Ron: Dry in and buffer out are configurable for mono or stereo, and the wet inputs and the mixer out are always stereo.
Mason: You can see you have your mono. You have your dry in. You have your buffered out, and we’ll explain why this is important in a moment and there’s some of the demonstrations that show this.
You have three stereo wet inputs. You have a mixed output that’s mixing all three wet inputs. Of course, you don’t need to use all those wet inputs. If you only have two wet effects, you’re not required to use all three. You have your dry level which is adjusting how much of the dry signal that you want involved. And then you have the wet signal.
100% Wet vs Involving some Dry
Mason: A lot of people talk about the idea of running the wet effects, especially in a wet dry wet system as 100% wet with no dry in it whatsoever. Do you have a feeling about that versus involving some dry in the cabinets? It seems to me that the majority of the classic rigs typically didn’t have fully wet stereo cabinets. They always had some amount of dry in them. It was rare that you found people doing a 100% wet with no dry. Do you have a sense sonically or functionally as to a reason to do one or the other?
Ron: First thing I should make sure that people know is that, that definitely the effects themselves should be 100% wet – the pedals themselves otherwise you start losing control of your levels because you’ll have your reverb plus the dry signal and your delay plus the dry signal. You basically start boosting your level because you keep adding copies of your dry signal together.
Once you’ve got your pedal set to 100% wet or kill dry as some of them call it then there’s definitely two schools of thought on that. The nice thing with this line mixer, which is something we didn’t have in our previous one, is the wet level and the dry level controls. It’s super easy once you connect this, to try it for yourself and see. Generally speaking, you keep the wet level all the way up but then you can start with the dry level zero and then just start turning it up a little bit and see whether you like it or not and see basically whether you want any of that dry signal coming out.
It’s, much like doing parallel or wet-dry-wet. It’s really a matter of personal preference. The nice thing about having the dry level is you do have that immediacy and the transience and all that so you get more punch even if you mix in a little bit into the wet cabinets as well.
Grant: What I really like about this which I can’t remember off the top of my head it’s been so long if the original one had this or not, but you can have a rig set up for wet-dry-wet with three independent outputs using this box.
You could use the buffered out which is the yellow line shown on this line mixer or basically just your dry signal going straight through the box to the other side. Send that to an amp and then you can send out to your two wet amps as well with only receiving the wet signal. Tons of separation like we were talking about before.
I know you guys can all relate to this – when we’re doing our stadium tours that’s probably what we’re going to be doing as guitar players. We have three amps on stage at Madison Square Gardens next week when we’re all playing there. We’re all going to have wet dry wet rigs running to three independent amps.
But then when we’re back home in our personal studios, and it’s a smaller venue, we can blend in the dry with the dry mix knob, and we can run that dry signal to the wet outputs. So now you can run a stereo rig but still have some dry mixed in there to your desired level with your wet effects still in parallel with the parallel dry signal going to two amps or maybe one amp.
I love how this box actually allows you to do that just by turning that potentiometer which is really handy – so you don’t have to decide today that this is my wet-dry-wet rig. I always need to run three amps you could go back to a bit of a simpler rig by mixing in dry, if that’s your preferred way of running it.
Ron: Yeah, that’s a good point. You can go down from three to two to, to one amp even, if you’re, limited. and it’s just a matter of, letting that dry signal into the wet outputs and you have that flexibility.
Examples from the RJMMusic.com website
Mason: I wanted to show just some examples Ron provides here on the website. These are all available at rjmmusic.com and if you head to the Micro Line Mixer page these manuals are all a part of what is available to any customer. He shows a couple of different versions of what’s capable.
Mastermind PBC/6X parallel configuration (in front of amp)
I think one thing that that is worth talking about is sort of the confusion of connection because I know a lot of people that see the line mixers.
They’re not quite sure about how they’re configured because they only see these inputs for the wet. They’re like, what do I do with the input into the pedal that the output of those pedals is feeding this mixer? So, just to give you a visual. What you see here in terms of wet one, two, and three, those are only capturing the outputs of your wet effect.
So let’s pretend, for example, for this fictitious person, they’re using a Eventide Micro Pitch, a Strymon Big Sky, and an Eventide H9. Those are all going stereo in to wet one, two, and three. And again, for parallel it does not matter the order since it’s all in parallel they’re all receiving the same signal at the same time. The order is irrelevant now, so you don’t need to have any sort of concerted order in the signal path once these are in the mixers. The challenge, however, is you only have the outputs plugged in, so a lot of people are like, “Well, what the heck happens to the inputs? What do I do? Is there just some Bluetooth mystery that’s getting these in?”
Ron shows here an example of what to do. So you can see on the right side if you’re viewing this, that he has a sort of mocked up Mastermind PBC 6X. And the sends are feeding each one of these effects that are wired into the mixer.
And this is in essence just to mute the inputs of those effects. So when you want it engaged, you can set your switcher to engage that particular loop, and it’s going to be sending those effects into the mixer and making them live. This is different than if you had them sort of looped into their own send and returns, you don’t need to do that for this.