How Do I Hook My Mac to My Mixer Board?

By Jeff Grundy

With advances in sound-recording technology becoming increasingly affordable to consumers, more people are creating their own home-recording studios using their computers. Apple's GarageBand and other Mac recording applications make it relatively easy for artists and music enthusiasts to create professional-quality recordings and discs without investing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. Although digital mixers included with the software recording applications do a reasonably good job of mixing sound levels for a few channels, they still do not compare with sound levels achieved with stand-alone mixing boards. Fortunately, a couple of options allow you to connect your Mac to a mixer.

Things You'll Need

  • 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter cable
  • RCA-to-1/4-inch adapter cable
  • RCA cables or 1/4-inch sound cables

Line-Out to Mixer Connections

Step 1

Connect the mixer board to other instruments, microphones or sources you want to use in the recoding. Connect the power source to the mixer. Connect the amplifier and speakers to the mixer board as well.

Step 2

Connect the small end of the 3.5mm-to-RCA cable to the line-out jack on the back of the Mac computer or on the side if a MacBook. On many Macs, the line-out port has a green ring around it and might be the connection used for your computer speakers if you are using a desktop computer. Other Macs have a headphone or audio-wave symbol next to the port to differentiate it from line-in or microphone ports. Disconnect the speakers from your computer if the port is already in use.

Step 3

Connect the other end of the audio cable to the RCA line-in or auxiliary jacks on the mixer. If the mixer does not have RCA ports, use an RCA-to-1/4-inch adapter to connect the Mac to the mixer board.

Step 4

Open an audio or music player application on the Mac. Load an audio file into the player, then click "Play." You should be able to hear the sound on the external speakers connected to the amplifier plugged into the mixer board.

Line-In From Mixer Board

Step 1

Shut down the Mac computer and the mixer board. Plug the 3.5mm-to-RCA audio cable into the line-in port on the Mac. In most cases, the line-in port should have a blue ring around it.

Step 2

Plug the other end of the audio cable into the RCA line-out jacks on the mixer board. If the mixer board does not have RCA output ports, connect the RCA plug to an RCA-to-1/4-inch adapter cable. Plug the 1/4-inch plugs into the right and left output jacks for the mixer.

Step 3

Power on the mixer board, then your Mac. After the Mac boots, open an audio-recording or audio-mixing application. Power on the source device connected to the mixer board.

Step 4

Click "Record," "Import" or "Stream" in the audio application, then play the audio from the source device. You should be able to hear the music over your Mac speakers.

Step 5

Use the dials or sliders on the mixer board to adjust the levels of the source music. You can hear changes you make on the mixer board over the Mac speakers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not set the volume level of the amplifier too loud when importing audio to your Mac. Setting the volume level too high might cause distortion in the source audio and could damage your Mac sound hardware if levels are at extreme volumes.