How To Connect A Mixer To An iPad – In 7 Steps


Using a mixer as part of your audio setup gives you more control over the dynamics, tone, and other aspects. They are particularly useful when connected to a playback device, such as an iPad.

How to connect a mixer to an iPad –

To connect a mixer to an iPad you’ll need to use a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter audio cable to connect the output of the iPhone to the input of the mixer and ensure that the relevant settings are used correctly on both devices.

iPads, iPhones, and similar mobile devices have revolutionized the way we listen to music and other audio. They’re conveniently sized and are compatible with most mixers, receivers, and speakers.

Whether you intend to use your iPad to play music at a party, or simply want to enjoy a playlist from your favorite streaming service, this guide will provide you with all the instructions you need to connect it to a mixer.

Step 1 – Establishing the Connectors You Need

The first thing you’ll need to do before attempting to hook your iPad up to a mixer is to establish the type of connection that you need to make for this to be possible.

This process is the same with iPhones and iPads so I have added a little info below about iPhone connectors that also applies to iPads.

All iPhones before the iPhone 6 model have a headphone jack, which uses a 3.5mm audio cable.

Models after the iPhone 6 are likely to use a different type of connector. Apple changed to a Lightning/USB-C port, which requires you to use an adapter to plug the 3.5mm audio cable into the phone. This caused some controversy amongst iPhone users, as it requires them to purchase the adaptor.

However, one of the reasons Apple made this change is because it is considered to be a more reliable and sturdy connection than the previous 3.5mm headphone jack. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but either way, you’ll need to use an adapter if your iPhone is newer than the 6th generation model.

Once you’ve established whether or not you’ll need a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter to connect your iPad to a mixer, it’s time to move on to choosing the relevant cables and understanding how to connect the two devices.

Take a look at the USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter here on Amazon.

Step 2 – Choosing the Right Cables

You may have connected your iPad directly to a portable speaker before. This usually requires you to simply send the signal from the iPads output into the auxiliary input on the speaker, using a 3.5mm audio cable that has the same sized connectors on both of its sides.

However, when you’re connecting the iPad to a mixer rather than a speaker, you need to use a different cable. Mixers usually have stereo inputs, which means they need a right and left cable to be plugged into them.

Check out this popular mixer from Behringer here on Amazon.

The cable you’re likely to need will have a single 3.5mm jack at one end, and two ¼ inch jack connectors at the other end. These cables are quite easy to identify. If you’re a musician or have experience with recording, you’re looking for a cable with dual guitar-sized connectors on one end, and a mini aux cable at the other end.

The 3.5mm end of the cable needs to be plugged into the iPhone’s headphone output. Again, you may need to use a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter to achieve this. The other end of the cable, with the dual ¼ inch jack connectors, is to be plugged into the inputs on your audio mixer.

In the table below, you can see a breakdown of the main audio cables.

Cable TypeAnalog/DigitalBalanced/Unbalanced
¼ inch jackAnalogEither
3.5mm jackAnalogEither
XLRAnalogBalanced
RCAAnalogUnbalanced
USB-CDigitalN/A
MIDIDigitalN/A

Step 3 – Stereo vs. Mono

The third step you need to take is more related to what not to do.

  • The most common mistake people make when connecting their iPad to a mixer is to use the incorrect type of cable, and use only one channel on the input section of the mixing desk.

I can understand why this may be tempting, as it seems to make perfect sense that sending the signal out from the iPad via a 3.5mm jack cable straight into one of the spare channels on the mixer would result in the audio being played successfully through the speakers.

The reason that this should be avoided is that the iPad is a stereo device. This means it must be used with two inputs on the mixer, otherwise, it will be played back in mono.

Plugging the iPad into a single channel on the mixer will result in only one side of the audio being played back, rather than getting the full panning of the right and left channels. While you can get a sound by doing this, it will seriously affect the overall quality of the audio played through your iPhone, and therefore should be avoided.

Take a look at this interesting YouTube video that shows how to make your own USB-C to 3.5mm Cable

Step 4 – Plugging into the Mixer

Now that you’ve made sure you’re using the correct cables and adapters, and you understand why the connection to the mixer must be made in stereo rather than mono, it’s time to hook the two devices up so that you can test the playback.

Take the two ¼ inch jack connectors at the side of the cable which isn’t plugged into the iPad, and insert them into input channels on your audio interface. If you’re using an extensive mixer, you may have to read the small print above the inputs to ensure that you’re plugging into the correct stereo ones.

Once the connectors are plugged into the input on the mixer, you can turn the device on and prepare some audio to be played from your iPad. It’s a good idea to use a song that doesn’t have crazy contrasts in dynamics when testing the levels so that you don’t damage your ears unintentionally.

Step 5 – Setting up Your Speakers or Headphones

It’s impossible to play audio using a mixer and iPad without connecting some speakers, monitors, or headphones to the mixer.

To test that the connection between the iPad and mixer has been successful you’ll need to hook the mixer up to playback devices.

The mixer should include outputs labeled ‘speaker out’ or ‘headphone out’. Depending on which playback device you’re using, connect them to the relevant outputs on the mixer. If you’re using monitors, switch them on in preparation for testing out the levels of the music from your iPad.

Step 6 – Testing the Levels

Your iPad and mixer are now connected by the 3.5mm to dual ¼ inch cable, and both devices are switched on. The speakers or headphones that you are using to listen to the audio are also connected to their relevant outputs. Now it’s time to test the audio and check that you’ve done everything correctly.

Before testing the levels of the audio from your iPad, I’d advise you to turn the levels on the mixer down to zero.

You can keep the level on your iPad set to a high level, but it’s best to start at zero on the mixer so that you can gradually increase the volume to find the optimal level.

Hit play on the audio you’ve got queued up on your iPad, and turn up the level on the mixer until you can hear it. Once you’ve set the level so that the audio is loud enough, you can check that it is coming through both speakers or headphones in stereo.

Step 7 – Adjusting Mixer Controls

The final step is to use the various controls and parameters included in your mixer to tailor the output to suit your preferences. Some mixers feature onboard effects such as reverbs and delays, which can make the audio sound more ear-friendly if used sparingly.

It’s also common for mixers to include EQ sections. EQ is short for ‘equalization’, and it is used to adjust the prominence of specific frequencies in the audio. The EQ may be applied to each channel separately, or the mixer may simply include a blanket EQ that affects each channel simultaneously.

Once you’ve set all of the tone-related and processing settings on the mixer, you can simply enjoy the audio that is playing.

Related Questions

Do iPads include a DAC?

iPads, and all devices capable of playback, must include a DAC. This device is responsible for converting the digital signal from the iPhone into an analog waveform which can be sent to a mixer, preamp, or speakers.

Check out this article for more information on DACs

Does a mixer have an inbuilt amplifier?

Mixers do not include amplifiers, and therefore they must be used with a device that is capable of amplifying the signal after it has been processed by the mixer. Monitors, preamps, and headphones all include amplifiers for this purpose.

What is the difference between a mixer and a preamp?

Although these two devices are commonly confused with one another, mixers and preamps are very different. A mixer takes multiple inputs and combines them into fewer outputs, while a preamp prepares the signal for the power amp section.

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