At the most basic level, a studio mixer mixes the audio signal. The mixer forms the core of your recording studio, providing audio inputs and outputs, routing capabilities and much more. There is a lot to consider when looking at different types of studio mixers and their application.
To help you choose the right studio mixer for your needs, we decided to create a mixer buying guide, that would be a good place to start with if you want to set up the best studio mixers and keep your creativity flowing.
To narrow down the wide selection of mixers available and decide on the best fit, we will look at parameters on what to look for in a mixer, useful information on analog and digital mixer basics (the two broad categories of mixers), connection types, key mixer terms and top 5 studio mixer recommendations from the experts at Ooberbad.
A checklist of parameters on what to look for in a mixer
- Channels and inputs: Evaluate your need for the number of channels and inputs you would need. Also, how many microphones would be required to connect. Be mindful of including the stereo inputs for keyboards or direct inputs for bass and guitar.
- Buses and routing: Consider your signal routing needs. For monitor mixes, recording feeds, and external effects mixes, you’ll need an adequate number of audio sends to meet the demand.
- Consider the effects of onboard and outboard processing: With onboard processing, you can eliminate any worries about adding outboard gear. In case you’re putting a new mixer into a rig that already has an outboard processing gear, don’t bother with onboard processing.
- Check if you need direct outs and inserts: Identify the requirement - do you need input channels to be routed to external processing gear or recording systems, or can you mix input channels to the mixer outputs.
- Know your mixer EQ: EQ's are tools that a mixer can use to tweak the frequency ranges. Check if your mixer provides multi-band parametric EQ on each channel with high and low shelving, or offer just the basic low/high-frequency adjustments.
Analog and digital mixer basics
An analog mixer uses changes in voltage to reflect the alterations in sound pressure. The main advantages of analog mixers are the unrivalled simplicity and the distinctive sound they offer. This high-quality sound is why many class-leading recording studios still use an analog mixer.
On the flip side, the analog mixers are high-maintenance.
A digital mixer utilizes digital signal processing to combine and process audio signals. It allows you to recall your settings almost immediately. Most digital mixers are loaded with EQ, compression, reverb, and scores of digital effects.
We recommend adopting a hybrid approach where you can employ elements of both analog and digital mixers, and get the best of both worlds.
An important consideration is the type of connections
Most mixers feature the following types of connections:
- Aux inputs like RCA connectors to connect additional sources to your mixer.
- TRS, or Tip-Ring-Sleeve, line inputs used for synthesizers and outboard processors.
- XLR input connectors used for microphone preamps and inputs, that accept both dynamic and condenser mics.
5 Must-know key mixer terms
- Channels: The more channels a mixer has, the more stuff you can hook up to it. It can be either mono or stereo. Each channel will have an equalizer, auxiliary sends, and pan control.
- Insert points: They are ideal for adding outboard processors such as compressors and equalizers to individual channels.
- Mute groups: Some mixers have mute groups that allow the individual channels to mute or unmute multiple channels at once.
- Buses: A bus is a path in which you can route one or more audio signals to a destination that can include groups, auxiliary sends or stereo mix. Each channel in a mixer passes the signal along to one or more buses.
- VCA groups: Some large-format mixers are feature-packed with channel grouping, also referred to as VCA groups that help manage a large number of channels.
Top studio mixer recommendations from Team Ooberbad in no particular order
- Allen & Heath (A&H) ZEDi-10FX 10-channel Live/4x4 USB Recording Mixer with FX
- Soundcraft Notepad-12FX Small-format Analog Mixing Console with USB I/O and Lexicon Effects
- Behringer XENYX 802 Premium 8-Input 2-Bus Mixer
- Allen & Heath (A&H) ZEDi-8 8-channel Live/USB Recording Mixer
- Behringer XENYX 502 5-Channel Mixer
No matter what your audio mixing needs, Team Ooberpad has something for everyone, so help us help you choose better! Reach out to our experts who will make sure you take the right (and informed) buying decision.