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so i'm wanting to record my band, im just 18 and i dont have hundreds of dollars to record in a real studio, the place we jam at have this pa system where we can connect mics and stuff, can i use it as an interface to connect to a mac and record on garageband? thanks

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    What make/model is the mixer? Without that information, the answer is Yes/No/Maybe... – PeteCon Sep 22 at 23:06
  • If the PA had a built-in analog-to-digital convertor and a USB or FireWire output, then you can connect it directly to your macbook (with the right cable). If it doesn't (which is more likely), you'll have to get something like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and plug a line-level signal such as the "record out" or "tape out" or "master out" from the PA into it (don't use speaker outputs). If that's still too expensive, buy it second-hand. – Your Uncle Bob Sep 23 at 1:59
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    The owner of the p.a. system should know, and have access to the instructions for it. That would be a good place to start. Or look on the 'net for those instructions. – Tim Sep 23 at 6:05
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Some mixers have a USB connection that let them act as an audio interface connecting directly to a computer. All mixers have an audio output that can be connected to a suitable audio input of a computer, probably via an additional audio interface.

But think what the recording needs to 'hear'. This is a rehearsal space not a stadium gig! Presumably you're not micing the drums. If there are acoustic instruments you'll be hearing them partly directly, partly through the pa. You'd be better off setting up to make the sound you want in the room, maybe including use of the pa, and sticking a microphone in front of it. Maybe the microphone will use your computer as recorder. Or get something like the little Zoom recorders. Ideal for recording a rehearsal, and for recording a live gig where you get one.

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As per the comments: this depends on the make and model of the mixer. If the mixer does not have a digital output, you can always connect an analog (line-level) output of the mixer to an audio interface.

Lots of two-channel USB audio interfaces are available, ranging from really cheap ($30) to really expensive.

The best setup depends on your goals. If you want to use the recording just as a tool for reviewing your performance, you can get away with just recording the main out.

If you want a recording you can share with others, you'll want to set up a separate mix:

  1. use mics for all instruments, including the ones already loud enough that you don't need to amplify them.
  2. add a 'room' mic which is placed away from the band, to pick up the room ambience. Do not output this to the monitor system, it's just for the recording.
  3. Connect the audio interface to one of the aux buses of the mixer, so you can set the volume of each channel for the recording independently of its volume for your monitor system.
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Well, it depends on the mixer. I used to pick off 8 channels from the analog recording outputs (after preamp, before fader and tone controls) of an Onyx mixer via an RME Multiface. For best quality, that required recording outputs in the first place and an 8-channel input audio interface. A later mixer had a Firewire interface for 16 input channels and the 2 channels of the completed mix.

Nowadays lots of cheap mixers are digital inside and provide an USB interface to some channels. It really depends on what your "PA system" actually is. At the minimum, it should have some outputs of the complete mix for a tape recorder which you can use more or less directly on any cheap audio interface, or balanced line outputs which are probably a bit high in level for built-in audio interfaces with unbalanced input.

The PA mix is not necessarily good but it's a good starting point. Whether that makes sense very much depends on the role of your PA and the kind and features of the PA. Since you don't give any useful information here, the principal answer is "maybe to some degree".

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