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Audio & Recording

Best Audio Mixer

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.

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

With 14 channels to play with and 800 watts of power, the Behringer Europower PMP2000 is a powered mixer that can easily handle most mid-sized rooms. The PMP2000’s Class D technology allows this thing to heat up sound wise, but always remain cool physically (a dichotomy that's important for people who want to sound good but don’t want their equipment to melt). However, melting faces off is a completely different story, and using the unit’s 100 built-in 24-bit stereo effects can help to do just that, including presets for reverbs, delays, chorus, echo, and more. Dual 9-band graphic EQs also help to enhance the mixing experience.

Peavey PVi 6500 400-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

All six of the Peavey PVi 6500’s channels are equipped with Silencer microphone preamplifiers, giving this powered mixer a clean and pristine sound. A nine band graphic EQ helps you to adjust the character of your signal to fit the room you’re working in. Built-in 24-bit effects can easily be triggered via a footswitch, giving your mixing process a definitely more performance-like quality. Additionally, a Kosmos-C audio enhancement module allows you to punch up dull signals and grant them more clarity. Connecting this unit to the 21st century even further, the PVi 6500 also offers Bluetooth wireless audio to allow you to stream signal from portable Bluetooth music players.

Yamaha EMX212S 8-Channel Powered Mixer

Up to eight of the mic inputs on the Yamaha EMX212S powered mixer can be used simultaneously, making this unit ideal for live mixing. Built-in SPX effects put powerful tone-coloring tools at your fingertips, allowing you to add reverb, distortion, flanger, phaser, echo, and more to your signal. A built-in graphic EQ is available on both the main and monitor channels, giving you the ability to control feedback. The EMX212S is a lightweight device that clocks in at just 22 lbs, making it easy to travel with, while the unit’s handles put that mobility to even better use. Finally, the stand-by mode on this powered mixer allows you to mute all mono channels while still leaving the two track inputs active, giving you the perfect vehicle to play background music between sets.

Behringer PMP550M Europower 500-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer

Behringer’s Europower PMP500M powered mixer provides five mono channels coming out with a total power of 500 watts. The unit’s Class D technology is designed to run very cool, so there is no risk of overheating. Built-in FX enable you to create great sounds, adding delays, reverbs, pitch-shifters, modulations, and multi-FX to incoming signal. A seven band graphic EQ not only helps you sculpt the sound you send out, but it also comes quipped with a feedback detection system. This feature detects the unwanted signal and alerts users via an LED light above the offending channel, giving you a perfect cue to turn down the slider and eliminate unwanted noise.

Peavey PVI8500 400-Watt 7-Channel Powered Mixer

The Peavey PVi 8500 powered mixer provides eight channels that are all equipped with Silencer microphone preamps. A feedback locating system which makes finding (and eliminating) feedback onstage an easy task. This unit comes equipped with built-in 24-bit effects that can be muted and turned back via a footswitch. Because mix engineers are also responsible for playing music between bands/acts, the PVi 8500’s ability to support SD card/USB flash drive audio playback makes this affordably priced unit particularly noteworthy. Additionally, you can play back streaming audio from portable Bluetooth music players thanks to the unit’s Bluetooth capability.

QSC TouchMix-16 Compact Digital Mixer with Bag

The QSC TouchMix 16 digital mixer is only the size and weight of a small laptop computer, but that doesn’t mean that this piece of gear can’t compete with some of its bigger brothers. Its portability is definitely a big selling point, so much so that the unit also comes with a padded carrying case as if to drive the point home that this truly is the best tool for mixing on the go. But the actual mechanics of this mixer are really where it shines.

The unit features a Simple Mode which operates in a way that is not unlike the “Auto” function on a DSLR camera, going with quick and generalized settings to get you on your feet and moving instantly. The Advanced Mode relinquishes all control to the user and gives them the ability to truly tweak the sound to their liking. And there’s plenty of tweaking to do, thanks in no small part to four stereo DSPs containing a full selection of professional digital effects, a gate and compressor on all input channels, and a 1/3 octave graphic EQ, amongst other cool amenities.

PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2 Mixer

The caliber of processors and features that the PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI digital mixer brings to the table definitely makes it stand out from many of its peers, especially when placed in the live arena. The 24 Class A XMAX preamps in the unit make the signal sound clear and pristine. Fat Channel processing provides each of the mixer’s 24 tracks with a 4-band, fully parametric EQ, in-depth dynamic parameters, and more. A massive library of 32-bit, stereo DSP effects include reverbs, delays, and other time-based effects really add depth and character to the sound that you run through the StudioLive. in fact, these effects not only offer great-sounding presets, but they're programmable and can easily be stored/recalled for later use.

Slate Digital RAVEN MTi2

Forget pulling on actual knobs and faders, the Slate Digital RAVEN MTi2 is all about touch. This digital mixer sports a 27 uinch multi-touch display that not only integrates with most major digital audio workstations, but also allows users to really get hands-on with their mixes, all while interfacing with a 1920x1080 HD resolution display. Using the RAVEN, you can tweak plug-ins, pull faders, and navigate through tracks simply by reaching out and touching the screen. The unit’s Batch Commander software can also help to execute macro controls that will speed up your process and make your sessions run much more efficiently. Once you’ve been immersed in a mixing experience like the one this unit offers, it may be hard to go back to mixing any other way.

Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

On its own, the Behringer X Air XR18’s 18 inputs and 16 MIDAS-designed mic preamps would make it a digital mixer that is impressive in its own right. But what really sets this device apart is that users can mix remotely using their tablet, phone, or other mobile device via a WiFi connection. This unit is also stocked with four effects engines, giving you full access to high-end simulations of legendary studio effects like the Lexicon 480L and PCM70, along with reverb effects such as the EMT250 and Quantec QRS. Separate effects racks containing high-end compressors, EQs, and even a sub-octaver can help give you even more creative tools to work with, whether you are enhancing a live performance or adding effects to a recording session. The XR18 also comes with a three year warranty, so you can rest assured that any issues that could potentially pop up will be covered by the manufacturer.

Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer

For its price, the Soundcraft Ui16 digital mixer is something of a real steal. Never mind the fact that this unit can be used to connect with and control any device via WiFi or Ethernet, but each of its 16 channels also has its own 4-band EQ, compressor, de-esser, and built-in Lexicon, dbx, and DigiTech signal processing. The Ui16 also fights against feedback, thanks to its included dbx AFS2 feedback suppressor. Drawing from an updated version of dbx’s Advanced Feedback Suppression algorithm, this feature listens to and anticipates problematic frequencies before feedback is even present, and removes the culprits before they can spoil the mix. The unit also is a compact tool that is ideal for use in small venues or studios, weighing in at just under eight lbs.

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

Forget dealing with prohibitively large mixing boards, good things can indeed come in smaller packages. Peavey’s XR-1212 powered mixer is driven via a Class D power amplifier, a component that surprisingly only weighs 22 poounds despite its loud output. This piece of gear offers 12 channels, all of which can be sweetened by a 4-band EQ, two monitor sends, and an effects send on each input channel. Dual 9-band graphic EQs also can be used to enhance the sound even further. The XR-1212 takes advantage of five power amp modes that allow you to set up your system to fit whatever room or environment that you’re in, giving this mixing board a wider range of potential uses than its appearance might indicate.

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

Mackie’s PPM1012 powered mixer utilizes the company’s premium preamps for a low-noise sound offered via its eight mic/line channels. A 3-band active EQ makes sweeping through frequencies to make the signal sound sweeter an easy feat. This piece of gear also comes stocked with “gig-ready” effects. The RMFX+ processor offers 24 FX including a range of reverbs, choruses, and delays. The processor also has a user tap function to allow for time-based effects to perfectly match the music that they are being applied to. The PPM1012 is housed in solid metal, which definitely is a bonus to anyone who has ever had their mixer damaged (or even almost damaged) in the wacky world that is live sound. If a bar fight does escalate into a full-blown riot, the integrated front handle makes it easy to grab your gear and go.

Yamaha EMX5016CF Powered Mixer (2x500 Watts)

Yamaha’s EMX5016CF powered mixer provides users with 16 input channels to choose from, with eight of them for mono microphone or line input and four stereo pairs. Each channel has a wide range of options to improve the audio, starting with the 3-band EQ on all of the input channels. There are also compressors on all monaural microphone/line channels. Also included are two Yamaha SPX digital effects processors which handle a wide range of ways to color your signal, including reverb, echo, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion, and all of the effects can be customized via editable parameters. An onboard feedback suppressor detects any unwanted frequencies on the stereo bus and adds notch filters to kill the detrimental noise.

Harbinger LP9800 Powered Mixer

The newest model in Harbinger’s popular LvL series, the LP9800 powered mixer offers up 800 watts of clean power through its 14 channels. With nine XLR inputs, six XLR mic/line channels, or three XLR mic/stereo channels, you’ve got plenty of options to play with. The unit also comes equipped with studio-grade DSP effects that can be customized, alongside rumble filters, a -25dB pad, and a dual 9-band graphic EQ. These features are quite literally illuminated via LED lights that succeed in showing you your settings even in the darkest of venues. The LP9800’s rugged build with protective corners and covering also ensure that you’ll never be too worried about causing any damage when you take it out into the field.

Behringer Europower PMP6000 1600-Watt 20-Channel Powered Mixer

The 12 channels available in the Behringer Europower PMP6000 powered mixer would normally be enough for most mix engineers, but the amount of bells and whistles that come in this unit are just the added icing on the cake. Two built-in FX processors provide you with the ability to really take your sound in a new direction, with a wide variety of delays, reverbs, modulations, pitch-shifters, and multi-FX. All of these effects can easily be selected via a non-latching footswitch.

There are also a few mixer modes to choose from outside of the standard L/R stereo setup as you can also go with Dual Mono, which is optimal for working with passive stage monitors, or a Bridged Mono Mode that combines the signal from both outputs to deliver a 1,600 watts-strong powerful mono mix. The PMP6000 also comes with a dual 7-band graphic EQ, complete with a feedback detection system that will alert you via LED light when feedback occurs and give you the cue to make the necessary adjustment.

Harbinger L802 8-Channel Mixer with 2 XLR Mic Preamps

The layout and operation of the Harbinger L502 5-channel mixer is simple enough. Simply plug in your instruments or microphones in and you’ll be surprised at how capable this compact unit is at handling your signal. The L502 offers a top-quality 2-band EQ to help you sweeten your sound, and the LvL Series mic preamp ensures that your signal will be clean and clear. The unit also features headphone outputs so that you can monitor your mix in silence if the situation calls for it. The whole operation is contained in a durable metal chassis that should serve as an encouragement for you to take this thing out into the field and use it.

Mackie Mix Series Mix5 5-Channel Mixer

Don’t let the size mislead you, the Mackie Mix-5 mixer is one tough little cookie. Offering up five channels to work with (along with a single mic preamp that includes a 2-band EQ to help sculpt tone), this unit weighs less than two lbs and is ideal for artists or performances who want a simple solution to tracking or performing. The aforementioned preamp also provides +15V of phantom power, which is necessary for some condenser microphones. The unit also offers a tape RCA I/O for playback or recording. A headphone output has its own separate volume control, which is great for when you’re recording and might want to make adjustments without making noise. Because of its small size, this unit is the ultimate in portability; simply stick it in your backpack and take it with you anywhere you’d like.

Behringer QX1002USB 10-Channel Mixer

Unassuming as its size may make it appear, the Behringer Xenyx QX1002USB mixer is the gear equivalent to a magician’s hat that just keeps revealing how much is stored inside of it. To start things off, the unit contains two Xenyx mic preamps that are comparable to some stand-alone preamps, helping to make signal sound clearer and cleaner. The Xenyx’s compressors employ the popular “one-knob” functionality that takes a lot of the guesswork out of mixing as you simply twist and go. The unit also features neo-classic British 3-band EQs that can make your signal sound more warm and musical. To top it all off, there are 100 presets inside this mixer (courtesy of a 24-bit Klark Teknik FX processor) for adding reverb, flanger, delay, chorus, pitch shifter, and more to your audio. This piece of gear can also double as a stereo USB/audio interface to link up directly with your computer.

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

Whether you’re looking to record or perform with signal stemming from microphones, line instruments, or anything in between, the Alesis Multimix 8 USB FX is a mixer that can help get the creative juices flowing. As its name implies, this unit features eight channels, four of which are XLR inputs that have their own gain trim, switchable high pass filter, and 48V phantom power. A 3-band EQ offers sweepable parametric mids to give you a greater control of your sound. The unit’s multicolor LED meters give a much-needed visual slant to the mixing process, which is especially important if you’re using this in a setting where you can’t hear as well as you’d like. The Multimix 8 is also stocked with 16 built-in DSP effects that can be turned on and off via a footswitch bypass control.

Peavey 03513300 PV 6-Channel USB Compact Mixer

Whether you’re operating in a small, desktop studio or performing in more intimately sized venues, the Peavey PV6 is an ideal mixer to offer up great sonic quality in a small portable package. You’ve got six channels to work with here, and a variety of routing options to choose from. A master contour EQ helps to cut out mid frequencies while giving a bit of a boost to bass and treble before leaving the unit. A stereo effects send and return allows you to sweeten up the mix with external sources and run right back through the board. The unit’s tough, metal design suits the console-style look of this piece, and is just another reason why carrying around this piece of gear (which weighs less than seven pounds) should be of no concern.

Yamaha MG20XU 20-Input 6-Bus Mixer

Yamaha’s MG20 mixer comes equipped with D-PRE discrete Class-A mic preamps to ensure that any signal being routed through the board sounds impeccably professional. Just plug in and you’ll already be impressed by the sound that this mixer provides from the jump. However, if you’re looking to tweak some more, have no fear, as this mixer is set up to get you great results fast. Yamaha’s one-knob compressors make dialing in the perfect vocal, guitar, or drum tone as simple as twisting a single element. This mixer also hosts equalizers on all of its mono channels which gives you plenty to control as you get closer to the perfect mix. The whole operation is held inside a sturdy metal chassis designed to protect with an unparalleled degree of durability.

Soundcraft LX7ii 16 Console 16-Channel Mixer

Soundcraft’s LX7II mixer features premium mic preamps to make all 32 of the unit’s channels sound impeccably clean. Taking a page from their high-end MH series’ EQ section, the 4-band EQ offers high and low shelving sections that have been specified to reduce mid frequencies as well as unwanted muddiness. Every frequency band has a 15dB cut or boost; you can A/B the results in a snap thanks to a dedicated bypass switch. Six auxiliary sends open up the possibilities for routing signal between monitor or effects oriented mixes.

Avid S6 Mixer

Avid S6 Mixer

Avid’s S6 is more than just an unpowered mixer; it’s a console, it’s a DAW controller, it’s a new way to mix. With as little as 24 faders or as many as 64, there are versions of this unit for every type of scenario. While the S6 is specifically designed to interface with Pro Tools, it can also control other DAWs like Logic, Sonar, and Cubase. Multiple modules allow you to automate and improve upon some of your routine processes; the Fader Module offers 32-part LED meters per channel, along with a set of eight hot keys along the bottom of the section to give you handy shortcuts for your workflow. The Process Module allows you to control what each channel’s knobs correspond to whether EQ or dynamics parameters.

Toft Audio ATB24 Mixer

Toft Audio ATB24 Mixer

The Toft Audio ATB24 mixer utilizes the same EQ that was featured in their classic Trident Series 80 boards. This 4-band equalizer is regarded as one of the best in the industry, and can really make a difference that you’ll hear in the mix. A master control section might not be something you’d expect to see in an item priced this relatively low, but it’s here on the ATB24, providing you with accurate LED meters, multiple ways to route your signal, a talkback function, and an eight-bus mix down section. Inline monitoring for every input channel strip gives you the ability to tightly oversee every nuance of your project. The unit’s rear allows you to connect all of your favorite outboard gear and plug it into the recording process.

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

Mackie’s 3204 VLZ4 mixer offers up 32 channels to work with, all contained in a rugged analog build. Using Onyx mic preamps that offer up to 60dB of gain (making them a great match for nearly any mic you would wish to pair with them), this mixer provides a clear sound while eliminating any unwanted noise. Get a visual cue for the mix using the high-resolution studio meters and add studio-quality effects via a pair of FX processors. Whether you’re taking this unit out to mix live shows or keeping it in the studio, keeping things clean is of the utmost importance for any mixer’s performance; that’s why this piece of gear features sealed rotary controls to avoid unwanted dust. The VLZ4 can even link up to your computer easily via USB connection, which can be used for computer audio playback or to loop in external plug-in effects.

Allen & Heath DLive S7000

Allen & Heath DLive S7000

The DLive S7000 live mixer from Allen & Heath takes its cues from our familiarity with the common tools of the digital age (tablets and phones) and translates that experience into a mixing board. You’ve got two 12 inch touch screens that intuitively respond to the types of gestures that we use every day (including pinch, swipe, drag, and drop) to carry out all of the necessary functions. The unit also features its own dedicated multi-mode EQ view, which gives you a wide space to really focus on one of the most important aspects of live sound mixing. Despite the digital electronics built into this thing, the DLive S7000 is built like a tank, using high grade metal on its sides and folded steel in key areas of the build to make this gear road-ready.

Yamaha LS9-32

With 64 channels and 32 mic/line inputs, it’s hard to believe that the Yamaha LS9-32 mixer weighs just under 43 lbs. Fret not, that’s no misprint – after years of experience in making intuitive mixers, the folks at Yamaha have created something that not only is compact and ideal for working in small places, but also is designed in a layout that is easy to navigate. The mixer’s multifunction faders do more than just their primary purpose; they can be customized into fader layers to show only specific groups within the mix, and can also dial in 16 graphic EQs contained within the unit. Because live effects can always help to improve overall sound, the LS9-32 also comes equipped with a deep Virtual Rack stocked with EQs and multi-effects processors; these allow engineers to access preset effects such as modulators, delays, and reverbs.

Behringer XR18 Channel Mixer

On its own, the Behringer X Air XR18’s 18 inputs and 16 MIDAS-designed mic preamps would make it a digital mixer that is impressive in its own right. But what really sets this device apart is that users can mix remotely using their tablet, phone, or other mobile device via a WiFi connection. This unit is also stocked with four effects engines, giving you full access to high-end simulations of legendary studio effects like the Lexicon 480L and PCM70, along with reverb effects such as the EMT250 and Quantec QRS. Separate effects racks containing high-end compressors, EQs, and even a sub-octaver can help give you even more creative tools to work with, whether you are enhancing a live performance or adding effects to a recording session. The XR18 also comes with a three year warranty, so you can rest assured that any issues that could potentially pop up will be covered by the manufacturer.

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

Though we tend to think of DAWs as strictly living in the world of recording studios, the advancement of live rigs and technology has definitely brought them into venues. With that in mind, Mackie’s Onyx 1640i mixer works great in a live setting thanks to its quality build and superior sound. The 16 mic preamps in this unit are boutique quality, and they work in conjunction with a 4-band Perkins EQ that allows you to perform sweepable mids on all of the channels. The unit also features a Planet Earth switching power supply, so you can use it even if your travels take you to other countries where power runs a bit differently. Each preamp can also run off phantom power.

Soundcraft Ui16 16-input Remote-Controlled Digital Mixer

For its price, the Soundcraft Ui16 digital mixer is something of a real steal. Never mind the fact that this unit can be used to connect with and control any device via WiFi or Ethernet, but each of its 16 channels also has its own 4-band EQ, compressor, de-esser, and built-in Lexicon, dbx, and DigiTech signal processing. The Ui16 also fights against feedback, thanks to its included dbx AFS2 feedback suppressor. Drawing from an updated version of dbx’s Advanced Feedback Suppression algorithm, this feature listens to and anticipates problematic frequencies before feedback is even present, and removes the culprits before they can spoil the mix. The unit also is a compact tool that is ideal for use in small venues or studios, weighing in at just under eight lbs.

Buyer's Guide

 

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.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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