If I am playing along to my ipod, which I rarely do, I just play through the headphones plugged in the ipod. My mixer is only used so I can control my mic outputs if I am doing my own drum micing. I have also used the mixer and mics to record a few demos and rehersals. As far as playing along, the mixer isn't part of the equation.
Hello mate, hadn't seen the thread so I hadn't posted in here!
You have a couple of options. The way I would do it would be to have a pair of overheads, bass drum, etc. in the respective channels 1,2,3,4, etc. sending them to the main, panned appropriately. iPod input into the phono input (using an RCA connector) or a stereo to two mono 1/4 jack into two mono channels (or one stereo) and sending those to 'main' as well, panned left and right. Then you can quite easily balance the two signals.
Using a stereo channel for input means you wouldn't have to mess around with panning the iPod, although hard left and right would be all you had to do. You'd have one fader, too.
Headphones into the headphone output, make sure the main mix is being sent to headphones and adjust to taste.
The little Alesis mixer above would be a good choice and comes with the ability to be used as an interface for a basic recording setup (assuming you have FireWire). If you wanted to record yourself playing along to backing tracks, it would just be a case of firing up your DAW of choice (or even Audacity would do) and setting up the channels. Using the hardware 'headphone' output on the desk would ensure zero-latency monitoring (I assume).
If you didn't want to hook up a computer, then a basic analogue desk would do.
How many mics are you looking at using and what's your budget for a desk? That'll help me pin down a few more things. If it's just four, then that Alesis (provided you have FireWire) is a decent choice.
EDIT: I did this differently when I was using an interface but the principles are the same. I had my mics going into my interface with the hardware monitoring 'on' and played the music from my laptop using whatever I felt like. DAW, iTunes, VLC. If I wanted to record, I could just import the track into the DAW and record along. The advantage of using the computer this way is that I didn't need to input my iPod into the mixer, it just played straight into the headphones.
Thanks Duncan, it does make sense. I was Contemplating a 4 mic setup then I've tooled around with doing a 7 mic setup with an Audix DP7 and mic'ng my toms. Been looking at an Allen and Heath Zed60-14fx analog mixer with 8 xlr inputs and a yamaha mg166c. Right now recording isn't a huge thing for me, though at some point down the road I may dabble with some
Did find a combo on ebay for an Audix DP7 mic kit and an Allen and heath ZED22, way more inputs than needed but the price seems like a pretty decent price at $1300 for everything, all new