Audio Mixer Buyers Guide
If you need a little more info on what to look for in the best audio mixer, then this section is for you. We are going to break down the most important factors when looking for your next board.
What Are You Using Your Mixer For?
Depending on your needs, one mixer will be better than another. For example, if you have a home recording studio, you will want something that fits within your budget, doesn't take up a ton of space, but can still handle the input and output capabilities you need.
Larger venues such as gathering halls of churches and similar sized spots can handle a little larger mixer, especially considering most of the time there will be a full band plugged in.
The best mixer for your purpose will have just a little bit more capability than what you consistently need. That way, you will cover your essential functions most of the time, and you can add more musicians or lines if necessary.
What are Inputs?
One of the most important questions you will need to ask is how many inputs you're going to need. An input is simply any port where you will be plugging in an instrument or a microphone to send it through the mixer. There is no one size fits all when it comes to inputs; you have to determine how many you will need for your consistent mixing needs.
An input can also be known as a channel. A channel is any line where you are going to be running audio, whether that's with mics or instruments.
You'll want to make sure you at least have one or two XLR inputs. An XLR will provide the strongest microphone connection. Therefore, if you're going to be running a vocal line through your mixer, then you'll need an XLR input.
As a general rule, the more inputs and features you get in a mixer, the more it is going to cost. However, there is a decent amount of variance when considering things like quality.
All of the best audio mixers will have an EQ section. In most cases, a simple, 3-band EQ system is perfectly fine. However, when you're working with professional gigs where there are a lot of nuances and musicians to mix, having more detailed EQ options can be useful. That would come in the form of a Graphic EQ, which has a broader range of frequencies you can tweak to obtain the perfect tone across the board.
Also, the best audio mixers should have some effects included in the features. When you start adding more effects into the mix, then you generally are going to have a system that will cost a little bit more. However, having digital effects at your disposal can really spice up a mix.
Many vocalists prefer to work with some type of reverb on their voices. Keyboardists may prefer to have a chorus effect running on their channel—the more options you have to sed to different channels, the better. If you are looking to save a little bit of money, then the best thing to do is start cutting out some of the extra features. Effects may be the first thing to go in the hunt for a cheaper mixer.
If you need a mixer that you can take with you, then you'll need a portable one. The best portable mixers are not necessarily the smallest ones. Large mixers are built to be roadworthy as well. Some mixers need to be carted from venue to venue in between large shows. However, if you're in the market for a large, portable mixer, then you're likely already sure of what you need.
In most cases, the smaller a mixer is, the more portable and easy to move it will be. Typically, you'll want a mixer with less than 16 channels if portability is essential to you. 16 channels are not a harsh rule of thumb, but it is kind of the middle ground where mixers go from compact to beastly.
No matter what type of mixer you're getting, make sure it is designed with protection and a sturdy chassis to keep it safe. Even the best mixers have somewhat delicate faders and knobs. Just keep that in mind.
The size of your mixer will play a large part in the portability of it. If you have a small space where you're working, then keep in mind the dimensions of the mixer you're looking at. It may seem like a bit of a no brainer, but the last thing you need is for your mixer to show up and have it not fit into the space that you need it to.
Bigger doesn't always mean better. It just means you'll be able to fit more channels and effects onto it.
The most complicated mixer is not necessarily the best. Unless you really know what you're doing and you know exactly what types of features you want to work with, you'll want to go with something relatively easy to use.
Some of the best mixers will have a straightforward interface to deal with. Simplicity is vital if you're not a gear head, and you simply need a mixer to control basic audio functions. The easier it is to use, the quicker you'll be able to understand what is happening on the board and how to manipulate it to your most significant benefit. On the other hand, if you're looking for a mixer that will turn you into the next Dr. Dre, then dive right into a more complicated interface and learn as you go. It'll undoubtedly be a challenge.
You certainly need to make sure that your mixer will be compatible with any software programs you're using. If the software doesn't line up, then when you're recording or trying to run a live show, you'll run into all sorts of problems. The best mixers will generally be compatible with more major DAW's for digital mixing, but it is a vital aspect to check during your search.
You'll need to have a USB interface where you can plug into your computer. Without a USB interface, you may not be able to hook into your DAW. Not a likely scenario, but it is better to be sure than to run into that problem after you get your mixer home.
Any mixer that you're looking for should have some good mic preamps included. It is one of the essential features when you're trying to control the quality of your vocal audio. If a channel has a preamp, it can filter the sound better so you don't have to run your voice through a specific box that will provide the tone that you want. When you record, you'll want the best possible preamps in your control board, so you don't have to purchase any additional recording software.
What is an Audio Mixer?
An audio mixer is any board that you can plug your mics or instruments into, and send to an external speaker or recording source. They can be used to power live shows, or in studios to tweak the sound to perfection, so it comes out correctly on your MP3 player.
It is the tool you use to ensure that all of the volumes, tones, and effects work in a balanced way when in unison. Without an audio mixer, the sound would be basically way off balance, and nobody would stick around for the end of the set.
Audio mixers can be small and compact, but they can also be massive. Large ones like those you would see at a Kiss concert are not going to be the best mixer for your home studio - unless you've got an enormous basement.
Audio mixers are necessary at a wide range of venues, including clubs, concerts, pubic addresses, press conferences, restaurants, weddings, etc. If you want to project a person's voice or any type of instrument, there will be an audio mixer somewhere in the room.
How to Use an Audio Mixer
Chances are, if you're reading this article, you don't have a ton of exposure to audio mixers and how to use them. Like anything in the music world, a lot of it you need to learn by doing. They can be relatively delicate machines, so practice a little bit of caution before trying to jam certain chords into orifices. Still, if you start out small and work your way up, you will slowly be able to work for the best boards in the world without much of a headache.
What is the Smallest Audio Mixer
The smallest audio mixer on our list is the Behringer Xenyx X02. It is a simple setup meant for a single musician to amplify voice and guitar or keyboard. It is best for solo musicians.
Can You Get a Mixer With a USB Mic Input?
Most professional mixers do not have a USB interface or input. The reasons for this are that the connection on USB microphones are generally not as secure as XLR or 1/4" jacks. USB mics can be great for budget seekers who want to plug right into the computer, but audio mixers carry a higher capability. However, some mixers have a USB interface included.
Now, you have all the information you need to make the best decision possible. Whether you need a mixer with just a couple of XLR, 1/4' and stereo inputs, or you want a mixer with more than 16 channels. Then you're all set. Keep our buyer's guide in mind, and you should run into no problems. Nows your time to enjoy the best audio mixer for you.
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