There are 2 primary console setups, inline and split. Inline consoles have input and monitor signal paths contained within one channel strip while a split console has its monitor signal path elsewhere.
When recording, monitoring and mixing, there are various stages of a signal path operating all at once. Based on workflow and methods of a producer, both inline and split consoles have their own advantages.
The internal routing, buss matrix, patch bay and outboard gear capabilities all determine how a signal can be controlled and re-routed. Along with these previously mentioned specifications, the console configuration and setup, quality of the hardware and circuitry, channel count, and metering all play an equally significant role when selecting the console or mixer best suited to the producer.
Inline console configurations are the easier of the two to grasp in terms of signal flow as input and monitoring appear on one singular channel strip. You have control over the input source material as well as the monitor path in a uniform column.
Split console configuration offer the flexibility of recording on one channel strip and mixing on another. Microphone inputs are routed through their own channel strip, into the multi-track (DAW) where you may digitally process the signal before routing it into another channel strip for mixing and monitoring.
When referring to channel strips, there are two types. Stereo and mono.
Stereo channel strips allow you to record or input two channels of audio while mono channel strips only offer one channel of audio. Depending on the source output, a stereo or mono track must be decided upon. Mono sources include microphones and electric guitars while stereo sources include various electronic synthesizers, outboard time-based effects and most digital playback devices (CD players, cell-phones, mp3 players).
A stereo source may utilize a console with strictly mono inputs by routing the stereo output into two mono channel strips, panning one hard left and the other hard right. When a mono source runs to a stereo input, the same signal is represented on the left channel as on the right channel with no stereo information. With a stereo source, the left channel will be the signal represented on a mono channel strip.