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A matrix mixer is an audio electronic device that routes multiple input audio signals to multiple outputs. It typically employs level controls like potentiometers to determine how much of each input goes to each output, and can incorporate simple on/off assignment buttons. The number of individual controls is at least the number of inputs times the number of outputs.
Matrix mixers can be incorporated into larger devices, such as mixing consoles, or can be stand-alone products. They always have routing and level control, and may include other features as well. Matrix mixers are often used in complex listening spaces to route audio signals to different speaker zones. They can be used to provide producers or directors with different mixes for TV, film or studio mixing projects.
In professional audio, matrix mixers are used to route audio signals from multiple sources to different destinations. It can be a stand-alone device or embedded in another larger product, such as a mixing console, digital audio workstation, or digital signal processor.
An analog matrix mixer consists of some simple electronic mixer circuits, the quantity being the number of inputs times the number of outputs. Each electronic mixer controls the level (gain) of one input to one output. The level control is usually a rotary potentiometer (called a "potentiometer"). Each row of an electronic mixer circuit, one for each input, feeds a summing or combining amplifier at the output. A fader (linear potentiometer) can be used to control the level of each output signal. Other controls may include a mute button for each input/output crosspoint, a mute button for each input, a mute button for each output, and a button to invert the polarity of the input signal. The output signal of the matrix mixer can be digital or a balanced or unbalanced analog signal. In a matrix mixer, an all-analog signal path can be combined with digital control of the level.
Any audio console that lacks a matrix section can be connected to an external matrix mixer. Many audio manufacturers have produced matrices that incorporate digital signal processing (DSP), which provide additional tools such as compression, equalization, masking, gating, and speaker system management.
During the mixing process for film or TV, a matrix mixer can be used to provide a film director, TV director, or producer with a working mix of a project while a mix engineer mixes it together. In the studio, the same method can be used to provide record producers with different mixes during the mixing process. Matrix mixers may also have been used to route various audio input channels to specific recording channels.