Best Audio Mixer

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An audio mixer (also known as a mixing console, mixing board or soundboard) is a device that uses electronic signals to modify and combine sounds together. This is done by routing electronic signals through different components, resulting in changes in volume, spatial positioning, timbre and tone. Mixing boards are found in just about every place that sound has to be produced from professional music studios to radio stations to television studios.

A mixing board is a great asset in attaining higher levels of control over the sound of your audio signal. When dealing with multiple audio signals, there is no better way to consolidate and control than with an audio mixer. For an in-depth look at mixing boards, please check out our buyer’s guide below.

Best Powered Mixer:

Mixers play a crucial role in both the recording studio and a live environment, serving to map out the components of a song or performance so that they can be manipulated by an engineer or producer separately or as a collective whole. Powered mixers refer to devices that come equipped with a built-in amplifier. These aren’t necessarily ideal as mobile setups and they aren’t as customizable as unpowered mixers, but they are an a one-stop-shop for all mixing needs and are able to amplify their own sound, which is ideal for those who want to cut back on the amount of gear used in their process. These are the best powered mixers available today, with each one listed here offers more than 500 watts of power to drive the unit’s sound, they have  built-in EQ and/or FX processors to help sweeten the overall mix, and each weighs less than 30 pounds, making them relatively easy to travel with.

Peavey XR 1212 Powered Mixer (12-Ch Powered Mixer w/FX)

The Peavey XR-1212 offers all that one would expect from a large mixing board in a compact package that is ideal for live venues that are short on space. 12 XLR mic channels and smooth 60mm faders are just some of the featured benefits to working with this great-sounding piece of gear. Read Full Review

Peavey XR 1212 Powered Mixer (12-Ch Powered Mixer w/FX)

Mackie PPM1012 12-Channel Powered Mixer (Stereo, 1600 Watts)

Built like a tank with enough special features to keep you entertained while mixing, the Mackie PPM1012 powered mixer also has the advantage of being portable. This unit has all you’ll need for running sound on a live gig. Read Full Review

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    Mackie PPM1012 12-Channel Powered Mixer (Stereo, 1600 Watts)

    Yamaha EMX5016CF Powered Mixer (2x500 Watts)

    The Yamaha EMX5016CF powered mixer excels in the live environment, providing 16 inputs that can be enhanced by a variety of tone-shaping features. Mix engineers typically like to have a bag of tricks to work with in getting live sound to where it needs to be, and with this unit, they’ll have it all at their fingertips. Read Full Review

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      Yamaha EMX5016CF Powered Mixer (2x500 Watts)

      Harbinger LP9800 Powered Mixer

      Harbinger’s LP9800 powered mixer offers 14 channels that are driven by an 800-watt amplifier. Complete with multiple input types and studio-grade DSP effects, this unit is great for rehearsals and live performances. Read Full Review

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        Harbinger LP9800 Powered Mixer

        Behringer Europower PMP6000 1600-Watt 20-Channel Powered Mixer

        Behringer’s Europower PMP6000 is a veritable playpen for live mix engineers, offering up plenty of creative options to help dial in the best sounds. For its price, this powered mixer is a huge bargain, providing plenty of channels and effects to help really dial in the best mix. Read Full Review

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          Behringer Europower PMP6000 1600-Watt 20-Channel Powered Mixer

          Best Budget Powered Mixer:

          If you want to have multiple sources of audio coming through one collective output while also sounding cohesive, you’re going to need a mixer. If you want an all-in-one unit that can also amplify the signal coming out of it, you’ll need a powered mixer. And if you’re looking for a device of this kind but operating under a restricted set of finances, you’re going to need a budget powered mixer. These are the best budget powered mizers available today, with each one listed here featuring built-in effects like reverb and delay to help sweeten the sound of your mix, at least five channels for all your mixing needs, and they all accept both XLR and TRS inputs, making it great for nearly every live mixing experience that might get thrown your way.

          Behringer Europower PMP2000 Powered Mixer 10 Channels, 2x350 Watts, Non-Factory Sealed

          The Behringer Europower PMP2000 gives budget-concerned users a powerful amp and mixer in one contained package. From the unit’s Class D technology to the 100 great sounding stereo effects built-in, this is a piece of gear that definitely packs a punch, especially for the price. Read Full Review

          Behringer Europower PMP2000 Powered Mixer 10 Channels, 2x350 Watts, Non-Factory Sealed

          Peavey PVi 6500 400-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

          If you’re looking for a cost-efficient and compact powered mixer that’s ideal for smaller venues and performances, look no further than the Peavey PVi 6500. This unit not only offers six channels to work with, but also a slew of built-in 24-bit effects and other useful audio enhancement features. Read Full Review

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            Peavey PVi 6500 400-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

            Yamaha EMX212S 8-Channel Powered Mixer

            Yamaha’s EMX212S powered mixer provides a pair of 200-watt amplifiers and 12 inputs to give you a leg up on mixing in small-to-medium sized environments. An onboard graphic EQ and built-in SPX effects sweeten the deal, allowing you more creative license to make your audio sound even better. Read Full Review

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              Yamaha EMX212S 8-Channel Powered Mixer

              Behringer PMP550M Europower 500-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

              The Behringer Europower PMP550M is a compact powered mixer whose price makes it ideal for those shopping on a budget and whose size makes it great for mixing on the run. Offering up five channels with mic preamps and built-in FX, this unit offers way more than its stature and price tag might lead you to believe. Read Full Review

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                Behringer PMP550M Europower 500-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

                Peavey PVI8500 400-Watt 7-Channel Powered Mixer

                Peavey’s PVi 8500 powered mixer features an eight-channel design and 200 watts of power. The unit features all you need for mixing small to medium sized rooms, while also showcasing some modern flourishes that prove why Peavey has always been looked at as a forward-thinking company. Read Full Review

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                  Peavey PVI8500 400-Watt 7-Channel Powered Mixer

                  Best Digital Mixer:

                  It’s no big news to note that everything in the recording and mixing world has essentially gone digital at this point. Bringing mixers into the digital realm has opened up several new doors for engineers looking to work with efficiency and speed, all while providing new avenues to get creative with the way that they manipulate sounds in the studio and onstage. And while the initial run of digital mixers may have had audiophiles skeptical about the fidelity of the sound and the risk of losing quality signal in the analog to digital conversion, today’s digital mixers have put all of those concerns to rest. These are the best digital mixers available today, with each one listed here offering no less than 16 channels to work with, they contain digital effects and processors to help you add more color and character to your mix, and each features some form of USB connectivity that makes it easy to interface with other devices, computers, and more.

                  QSC TouchMix-16 Compact Digital Mixer with Bag

                  Don’t underestimate the little guy; though the QSC TouchMix 16 may be unassuming in size, this digital mixer offers a full range of effects and processors typically reserved for the bigger guys. Separate modes of operation give you the option to roll with simple automatic functions or to get knee-deep in customizable hands-on control over all of the mix parameters. Read Full Review

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                    QSC TouchMix-16 Compact Digital Mixer with Bag

                    PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 Mixer

                    Though mixers can be used to excel in both the recording studio and in a performance venue, many of them tend to lean more towards one end of the spectrum. However, the PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI represents a fusion between the two applications, bringing studio quality features to a live setting while offering the immediacy of a live mixer to studio sessions. Read Full Review

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                      PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 Mixer

                      Slate Digital RAVEN MTi2

                      It’s hard to look at the Slate Digital RAVEN MTi2 and not feel like you’re witnessing the future of digital mixers. If you’ve ever operated a touchscreen device, you’ll feel right at home with this mixing board/DAW controller, which offers a bevy of controls and macros all displayed in stunning HD. Read Full Review

                      Slate Digital RAVEN MTi2

                      Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

                      Behringer’s X Air XR18 digital mixer not only provides you with 18 channels and six buses/groups to work with, but also the ability to mix remotely via WiFi-connected phone, tablet, or computer. Coupled with full-featured channel processing and a range of studio-quality effects, this is the ideal mixer for the modern age. Read Full Review

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                        Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

                        Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer

                        The Soundcraft Ui16 is a digital mixer that seems like it was made for live mixing. The unit offers 16 channels and also includes built-in effects and processing. Read Full Review

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                          Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer

                          Best Unpowered Mixer:

                          To an outsider, the concept of an unpowered mixer might make it sound as though such a thing were inferior to a powered mixer. But on the contrary, there are many aspects of unpowered mixers that give them an advantage over their powered peers. For one, these units are often able to be customized and upgraded in ways that powered mixers are not. They also tend to be a bit more portable, which is a great advantage for touring mix engineers, or really anyone who doesn’t want to be tied down to a single spot where the console sits. These are the best unpowered mixers available today, with each one listed here provides no less than 24 channels for you to really dive in deep with your mixing, they offer onboard EQs and/or filters to allow you to sweeten the mix right there in the box, and they all feature rugged designs specifically tailored to help these mixers weather the additional amount of wear-and-tear that comes with the territory when being used in professional recording studios or live venues. .

                          Yamaha MG20XU 20-Input 6-Bus Mixer

                          Easy to use controls, clean and clear sound, a load of mix-improving EQs and filters, there isn’t much more one could ask for from the Yamaha MG20 mixer. This unit can easily become a mainstay in your rig, whether you're on the road or in the recording studio. Read Full Review

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                            Yamaha MG20XU 20-Input 6-Bus Mixer

                            Soundcraft LX7ii 16 Console 16-Channel Mixer

                            The Soundcraft LX7ii mixer offers multiple routing abilities and a redesigned EQ section to make your mixing process much easier and more productive. Ideal for live recording as well as studio sessions, this mixer provides 32 input channels and group, master, and control room sections. Read Full Review

                            Soundcraft LX7ii 16 Console 16-Channel Mixer

                            Avid S6 Mixer

                            The Avid S6 represents the final stop in all of your recording and mixing needs for an unpowered mixer. Available in multiple configurations to match the amount of channels you need, this unit offers multiple modules that will allow you to mix with ease and efficiency. Read Full Review

                            Avid S6 Mixer

                            Toft Audio ATB24 Mixer

                            Toft Audio has resurrected some of the most beloved components of their classic Trident Series 80 board into their ATB24 mixer. 24 premium channel strip modules can be enhanced via vintage series EQ settings, inline monitoring, and more. Read Full Review

                            Toft Audio ATB24 Mixer

                            Mackie VLZ4 Series 3204VLZ4 32-Channel 4-Bus FX Mixer with USB

                            From its reliable design to its great sound, the Mackie 3204 VLZ4 mixer has earned its rank as one of the top choices for analog devices. With built-in effects, a built-in USB audio interface, and intuitive routing options, this is a mixer that you can truly rock with. Read Full Review

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                              Mackie VLZ4 Series 3204VLZ4 32-Channel 4-Bus FX Mixer with USB

                              Best Budget Unpowered Mixer:

                              Unpowered mixers provide free reign for mix engineers in both recording studios and live environments. Because they don’t come equipped with their own internal amplifier like powered mixers do, they can be customized to the configuration of your choosing. They are also much more portable than powered mixers. These devices can get pretty high-end, accumulating price tags that can scare off those who are shopping with a budget in mind. Luckily, there are plenty of options for buyers who are looking for something that is topnotch quality yet still affordable. These are the best budget unpowered mixers, with each one listed here offering no less than five channels to mix with, they're all designed to be extremely portable and weigh less than seven pounds, and each offers onboard EQs to help you improve your mix before sending out to any outboard gear.

                              Harbinger L802 8-Channel Mixer with 2 XLR Mic Preamps

                              Harbginer refers to their L502 model as the little mixer that could, but don’t take that as some form of condescension; it’s truly impressive what this 5-channel mixer can do. Ideal for small setups, this unit is a great way for singer/songwriters to organize audio signals when recording or for playing in more intimate environments. Read Full Review

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                                Harbinger L802 8-Channel Mixer with 2 XLR Mic Preamps

                                Mackie Mix Series Mix5 5-Channel Mixer

                                Mackie’s Mix-5 mixer is a compact secret weapon that’s ideal for on-the-go recording or performance, and is easy for anyone to use. Just as Mackie has always offered top quality with their larger products, this smaller scaled version of the company’s experience does not disappoint. Read Full Review

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                                  Mackie Mix Series Mix5 5-Channel Mixer

                                  Behringer QX1002USB 10-Channel Mixer

                                  The Behringer Xenyx QX1002USB mixer offers a decidedly modern take on compact mixing gear. Stocked with preamps, FX processors, and compressors, there’s much more to this small unit than meets the eye. Read Full Review

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                                    Behringer QX1002USB 10-Channel Mixer

                                    Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX 8-Channel Mixer with Effects and USB Interface

                                    The Alesis Multimix 8 USB FX mixer seems to have been made for the most creative of mixers in mind, as evidenced by the slew of crayons that are present in the proverbial crayon box here. This eight channel mixer offers up EQ controls, built-in DSP effects, and more. Read Full Review

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                                      Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX 8-Channel Mixer with Effects and USB Interface

                                      Peavey 03513300 PV 6-Channel USB Compact Mixer

                                      The Peavey experience has always been represented by huge, hulking pieces of equipment, so to see the same quality sound and build in a more compact device is something of a delight. The PV6 mixer has made it so that that larger than life recording or performance can now go with you wherever you are. Read Full Review

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                                        Peavey 03513300 PV 6-Channel USB Compact Mixer

                                        Best Live Mixer:

                                        The line between live mixers and studio mixing boards grows increasingly hard to distinguish these days, but there are definitely products that exist that are better suited towards one versus the other. Those who stand behind the mixer in a live environment is typically and primarily considering monitor feeds and a smaller amount of main outs in comparison to someone who is operating a mixer in the studio. These are the best live mixers available today, with each one listed here featuring a digital component that makes navigating, editing, or mixing your audio more intuitive and easier to integrate into the other aspects of your workflow, dedicated EQ or effect settings that help to add character to various elements in your live mix, and each pick weighs less than 50 pounds, making transportion from gig to gig an easy task.

                                        Allen & Heath DLive S7000

                                        They say that size doesn’t really matter, but any engineer who has had to work on large productions knows that it’s never a good thing to run short on available faders. To that end, Allen & Heath’s DLive S7000 mixer offers up a whopping 216 assignable fader strips, with 36 faders and 26 assignable SoftKeys. Read Full Review

                                        Allen & Heath DLive S7000

                                        Yamaha LS9-32

                                        If you were to read through the sheer number of features and options contained in the Yamaha LS9-32 live mixer, you would most likely picture a unit that far exceeds its actual size. But make no mistake, this was built for portable live mixing, and its features prove time and time again that it is an ideal choice for engineers who want a flexibility that was previously not afforded to their profession. Read Full Review

                                        Yamaha LS9-32

                                        Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

                                        Behringer’s X Air XR18 introduces a new component to the world of live mixing, the ability to work in conjunction with iPad or Android tablets via Wifi or USB. Mobile and versatile, this unit brings a new degree of ease to working live in the field. Read Full Review

                                        Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

                                        Mackie Onyx 1640i 16-channel 4-bus Premium 16x16 FireWire Recording Mixer

                                        Mackie’s Onyx 1640i mixer is a device that is useful in the studio, but is also versatile enough to hold its own in a live environment. 16 premium-quality mic preamps offer a clear and neutral sound, coupled with a slew of EQs and enhancements that can really get the mix cooking. Read Full Review

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                                          Mackie Onyx 1640i 16-channel 4-bus Premium 16x16 FireWire Recording Mixer

                                          Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer

                                          Digital and compact, the Soundcraft Ui16 mixer is a great asset for live engineers. Its rugged build and FX-friendly features that make it an obvious choice for those who want to step up the sound of their mixes. Read Full Review

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                                            Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer
                                             

                                            Audio Mixer Buyer's Guide

                                            An audio mixer is made up of three major sections. These three are your channel inputs, master section and level meters. A channel strip is a collection of controls, (coupled with an input jack) which your audio signal passes through before it reaches the speakers.

                                            Common variables you will find in a channel strip include gain control, dynamic processing, filters, equalization, routing options and volume faders. Depending on your preference, most of these controls can be bypassed to utilize favored outboard gear. The master section typically houses any output EQ controls, built-in effects and sometimes the main output volume control (if the mixer is small enough to not have faders).

                                            On some audio mixers you will find volume meters above the channel faders. This gives you an accurate visual on how hot your signal is. This is especially important in a studio where line and mic levels are a factor. Know how many mics you plan on using simultaneously, how much power you will need and which features are absolutely necessary when shopping for one to meet your needs.

                                            Gain Control

                                            The first knob you will encounter on a channel strip is always the gain control. This knob allows you to ensure the signal you’re working with is at a normal processing level. Many sound sources work at an input level far below an accepted processing level so a gain control allows you to boost the signal so it is workable. It also works to attenuate a signal that is too hot for processing. All of this is done by using the soundboard’s built in pre-amplifier. After the gain control, the signal passes through to dynamic processing.

                                            Dynamic Processing

                                            Dynamic processing is broken down into two categories: compressors and gates.

                                            Compressor
                                            A compressor is an electrical unit that attenuates high volume signals while boosting lower volume ones. Many soundboards come equipped with compressors either for each individual channel, a few individual channels, and/or one for the output. Compressors are very important to maintaining a reasonable even volume for the speakers and the listener. When looking for a mixer, you want as many compressors as you can get.

                                            Gate
                                            A gate is an electrical unit that cuts or dramatically decreases the volume of signals below a certain set threshold. Gates are extremely effective against microphone bleed and help clean up the sound. There are many affordable audio mixers out there that come with a gate control so make sure to check for this feature.

                                            Filters & EQ

                                            Filters and equalization are often coupled together because they both work directly
                                            with frequencies rather than volume.

                                            Filters
                                            A filter is an electronic unit that cuts out the extremities within the frequency spectrum. There are two types of filters; low end and high end. A low-end filter cuts out the lower frequencies and a high-end filter cuts out the higher ones. This coupled with gating can eliminate nearly if not all microphone bleed.

                                            Equalizers
                                            These are electrical units which can boost and cut certain frequencies anywhere across the spectrum. Equalizers come standard on every audio mixer. If you’re buying a soundboard without equalizers, take a deep breath and retrace your steps.

                                            Amplifiers

                                            A mixer in itself has no power and needs an amplifier. There are many mixers available now that come with an internal amplifier. There are pros and cons to both but the bottom line is that buying them separately is more expensive and more of a set up while buying them as one unit is more economic and less hassle.

                                            Mixers are available from 300 to 1600 Watts which is considered consumer level. Depending on the size of your venue depends on how many watts you need. Generally if you’re serving a crowd of 250 people or less, you don’t need more than 700 watts. Mixers with over 1000 Watts of power are intended for larger audiences.

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