Mixers can appear somewhat daunting at first sight. Even so, there are many reasons to get a quality audio mixer in your studio or on stage.
Not only do they allow you to control the levels of each individual track, but they allow you to connect multiple devices such as microphones, instruments, or other audio appliances at once.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the best mixers for home studio use. We’ll also explain all the connections available and how they can be used to help you get the best out of a mixer.
Let’s get right to it!
I’ve been through a few different mixers in my time and I know what goes into the right gear! I found the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX to be the best mixer for home studio setups. Why? It’s an all-around unit that is great for beginners and pros alike.
You see, it’s more than your typical 2-channel mixer.
First, It has USB I/O connectivity, meaning it can be used as an audio interface. You can save the hundreds of dollars you’d spend on a separate interface and use this mixer to record audio straight into your DAW.
Additionally, the mic preamps are extremely solid. I managed to get a pristine sound from my microphones without having to add any external preamps. They’re so good that you don’t need to shell out your hard-earned money on a separate mic preamp
Last but not least, the ZEDi-10FX is also extremely compact, making it perfect for small home studio setups.
Read our full review below!
At a Glance – Our Pick Of The Best Mixers For Music
- Best Overall: Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX
- Best Value: Soundcraft EPM12
- Best Budget Option: Mackie Mix8 8-Channel Compact Mixer
- Best Analog Audio Mixer: YAMAHA MG10XU
- Best Digital Audio Mixer: StudioLive 16.0.2 USB 16×2
- Best Compact Audio Mixer: Behringer Xenyx X1222USB
- Best Audio Mixer For Live Sound: Zoom LiveTrak L-12
- Best Multitrack Recording Mixer: Soundcraft Signature 22MTK
- Best Audio Mixer For Streaming: TC Helicon GoXLR
- Best Audio Mixer For Podcasting: Rode Rodecaster Pro II
Audio Mixers Mini-Reviews
Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX – Best Overall
When it comes to mixing, the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX is a great option for bedroom producers looking for something more than an average two-channel mixer.
You see, this mixer offers four mono input channels, each with an XLR and balanced 1/4″ TRS input. Additionally, there are two dual stereo inputs.
What really got my attention was the 4-in/4-out built-in audio interface. Compared to the standard 2-channel output, this setup offers unparalleled control over how you get audio into your DAW monitoring.
As an example, you can record your guitar on a track, but at the same time monitor the signal coming through one of the stereo inputs.
The ZEDi-10FX also offers full control over what you want to hear in your headphones or speaker mix.
Furthermore, this mixer features a 3-band EQ, offering plenty of options when sculpting your sound.
You have the high-pass filter at 12 kHz, along with a Low-pass-filter band at 80 Hz. The medium frequency EQ is a broad bell-shaped filter at 600 Hz.
So, what about the sound quality?
Honestly, the quality of the preamps surprised me. They offer a clean signal with a low noise floor.
Besides, they have plenty of headroom, meaning that you won’t have to worry about audible self-noise or your audio quality being degraded by clipping.
Actually, it was hard to pinpoint.
Still, one downside is that the faders are not as smooth as some more high-end mixers.
Also, I find the frequency choices of the EQ bands a bit odd. It’s more common to see Mid control around 1 kHz and Highs at 10 kHz.
Anyway, the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX is a great option for those who are looking for something more than a conventional stereo unit.
- Premium preamps in an affordable package
- The 61 customizable FX presets offer tons of usability
- 4-in/4-out built-in audio interface
- It took me some time to get used to the frequency choices of the EQ-band
Soundcraft EPM12 High-Performance 12-Channel Audio Mixer – Best Value
The Soundcraft EPM12 is a great option for those in need of a quality analog mixer on a budget.
It boasts 12 mono input channels with both XLR and Line connections, along with 2 stereo inputs. Also, each channel is equipped with an independent three-band EQ.
Furthermore, the 2 auxiliaries give users the ability to route signals to external effects, and create custom headphone mixes or monitor mixes.
Sonically, I find the EPM12 to deliver a very transparent and detailed sound. The mic preamps are clean and you can add tons of gain without coloring the signal.
In fact, it’s one of the best-sounding preamps in this price range.
Still, the EPM12 lacks some bells and whistles.
The EPM12 doesn’t have any onboard effects or compression.
Still, it can be used as an audio interface thanks to the USB output. But built-in effects would be a nice addition when it comes to sweetening your mix.
In addition, the stereo inputs are equipped with 2-band equalizers, rather than 3-bands. This is a bit of a bummer, but considering the price and sound quality, I’m not complaining.
Overall, the EPM12 mixer is a great buy for any home studio or smaller project studio. What it lacks in features, it makes up for in high-quality preamps.
- Top-notch transparent preamplifiers
- Very beginner-friendly
- A very cost-effective mixer
- A bit bare bones
- No onboard effects
Mackie Mix8 8-Channel Compact Mixer – Best Budget Option
Mackie Mix8 8-Channel Compact Mixer is a great addition for any musician or engineer on the go.
This mixer is perfect for small gigs and events where space is limited. Besides, the steel case is durable and will protect the mixer from bumps and scratches.
The Mackie Mix8 features eight channels, including two XLR and 6 TRS with individual three-band equalizers. The post-fader aux send allows you to send the signal to an external effects processor, amplifier, or monitor.
The sound quality of the Mackie Mix8 is very good for a compact mixer. The mic preamps are clean and can provide a considerable amount of gain.
I did a couple of vocal tests with my Shure SM58 and the tone is much richer and more nuanced compared to other budget-friendly alternatives.
Are there any reasons to avoid this mixer?
One downside of this mixer is that it does not have any onboard effects. Yet, looking at the price tag it might be too much to ask for.
Additionally, the Mix8 doesn’t feature a power switch. This forces you to unplug the mixer from the AC outlet when not in use.
Last but not least, the Mackie Mix8 houses TRS rather than balanced XLR main outs. This is not suitable for professional usage but should be enough for most home studio setups.
Overall, the Mix8 is very easy to use, with simple controls and a well-designed layout. For the price, the Mackie Mix8 is a great-sounding mixer that’s perfect for small studios, desktop production, or duo gigs.
- Perfect for singer-songwriter gigs in small venues
- Aux channel for separate monitoring
- Clean preamps
- No power switch
- Aux send is mono
- No XLR outputs
YAMAHA MG10XU – Best Analog Audio Mixer
The Yamaha MG10XU is a 10-channel mixer suitable for a 4-6 piece band, or small to mid-sized venues. The best part? It’s crammed with useful features.
Channels 1-4 are mic/line-combo inputs and are all phantom power capable.
The other channels are stereo inputs for line-level instruments such as keyboards.
Furthermore, channels 5/6 and 7/8 have both ¼ -inch and RCA connections.
I really appreciate the fact that all four mic preamps have Phantom Power (+48V).
Usually, you’d only get two phantom-capable channels from a mixer of this size.
Here, you can simultaneously record a couple of singers, drum overheads, or an acoustic guitar. All with delicate condenser microphones.
As you would’ve expected from a Yamaha mixer, the onboard effects sound great. They are stereo and don’t sound like those crappy effects you find in cheap entry-level mixers.
So what about the downsides?
First, the sides are plastic. This is not just a matter of aesthetics, but also durability. Yes, it’s a very solid-feeling mixer, but I wouldn’t trust it to be dropped many times (which you will do over the years).
Lastly, to be able to use the MG10XU as an audio interface you have to buy a USB cable separately. It’s only for $20 or so, but it would’ve been nice if it was included.
Overall, the YAMAHA MG10XU delivers great value for the price. It’s easy to use and sounds great. If you’re looking for an affordable analog mixer, the MG10XU should be at the top of your list.
- All mic preamps have phantom power
- A relatively flat learning curve
- Can’t be accidentally plugged due to the power supply’s locked connection
- The mixer builds up some heat after hours of usage
- Yamaha didn’t include a USB cable
StudioLive 16.0.2 USB 16×2 – Best Digital Audio Mixer
The StudioLive 16.0.2 USB is a 16-channel, 2-bus audio mixer that offers a variety of features for live sound reinforcement and recording applications. It’s packed with 24-bit/96kHz converters and flexible routing options.
The LED strip meters on each channel give you an accurate visual reference of your gain structure.
Additionally, the onboard effects are quite good, adding just the right amount of polish to the mix. When selected, they are controlled by the rotary knobs, which can be used for controlling a wide range of other parameters as well.
I’ve actually owned the StudioLive 16.0.2 for a couple of years and tested it through its paces in primarily live band settings.
I’m always impressed with its sound quality and flexibility. This mixer performs well in both FOH (front of house) and monitor applications, providing clear, articulate sound with ample headroom.
Besides, it’s easy to recall the saved settings thanks to the easy-to-use interface.
However, there is a couple of drawbacks that you should know before buying!
First, there is no gain reduction meter for the built-in compressor. This is not a showstopper, but it’s always nice to have some guidelines when it comes to audio compression.
Also, StudioLive 16.0.2 lacks input gain recall. What does this mean?
If you connect a microphone and set the input level, then disconnect the mic and connect an instrument, the input gain for the instrument will not be recalled. This is somewhat of an annoyance.
All the downsides aside, StudioLive 16.0.2 is one of the best digital mixers for home studio producers. It offers a lot of features for the money and is very easy to use.
- Physical faders similar to an analog mixer
- LED strip meters
- Great-sounding effects
- Lacks dedicated output meters
- No input gain control
Behringer Xenyx X1222USB – Best Compact Audio Mixer
The Behringer Xenyx X1222USB is a 12-input audio mixer with six mic preamps.
The built-in USB interface also allows you to record directly to your computer, making the Xenyx X1222USB a great all-in-one solution for those looking to get started in the world of home recording.
The mixer is well-built, with clear labeling and simple controls. The mic preamps sound good and the three-band EQ on all channels is effective and easy to dial in.
The compression on channels 1-4 is a great addition, and it sounds surprisingly good. It’s not overly aggressive and can be used to smoothen out the dynamics on vocals or acoustic guitars.
Even if it’s a one-knob compressor, it’s better than not having one at all.
Furthermore, the stereo input channel inserts give you extra options for expanding your sound. Here, you can insert stereo inputs such as CD players, keyboards, or any other stereo audio source.
One of the most common issues with mixing is feedback. Luckily, Behringer has included a feedback detection function, allowing you to cut feedback frequencies on either the main mix or the monitor mix.
Pretty neat if you ask me!
Let’s talk about the downsides!
The preamps are a bit noisier than other options.
As an example, there were significantly lower noise levels on the Yamaha MG10XU.
Also, there is no PFL (Pre-Fader Listen), meaning you have to listen to the mix through your headphones, and then switch on the monitor mix to hear what is being sent to the PA.
Even so, the Xenyx X1222USB is a great choice for those who are looking for an affordable audio mixer that comes with enough inputs to cover most small-scale recording projects.
- Parametric EQ allows for detailed cuts and boosts
- The onboard effects sound big and rich
- The non-mic inputs also have gain controls
- A rather high noise floor on the mic preamps
- No Pre Fader Listen
Zoom LiveTrak L-12 – Best Audio Mixer For Live Sound
Zoom’s LiveTrak L-12 is a great digital mixer for those who need a versatile and powerful mixing solution with plenty of options for recording and monitoring your audio.
As the name suggests, the L-12 offers 12 channels, each with its own level control and LED metering.
There are also five assignable aux busses, used for monitor mixes. This is pretty generous, as it allows you to send 5 headphones signals out without buying additional gear.
The mixer also features built-in effects, including reverbs and delays. These can be applied to individual channels or the main mix. I found them to be decent but not as rich as Behringer’s Xenyx X1222USB.
The L-12 really shines with its recording capabilities in live environments.
You can name a project, pick a folder, designate your input channels, and hit record, all from the intuitive menu. When finished, you can transfer the recorded audio files to your DAW, using an SD card.
What really bugged me was that I couldn’t rename the recorded audio files. Each file gets assigned a sequential number, and that’s it.
This isn’t always ideal when recording multiple audio sources, or if you want to organize your recordings. The only solution is to play them back and rename them in your DAW.
Additionally, Mixer scenes can’t be transferred between Projects.
Meaning? If you have a setup that you like, you’ll need to recreate it in each Project. It would be nice to be able to save them by name and recall them later on.
With that being said, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is a great choice for anyone who needs a versatile and feature-packed mixer.
- A digital mixer, multitrack recorder, and USB audio interface in one package
- Easy-to-use mixing functionality
- Five headphone outputs
- Plastic chassis
- You can’t rename the recorded audio files from within the mixer interface
Soundcraft Signature 22MTK – Best Multitrack Recording Mixer
The Soundcraft Signature 22MTK is a mixing console that offers a lot of features for a relatively low price. It’s a great mixer if you’re looking to record small to medium-sized venues and events.
The mixer has 22 channels with 16 mic preamps. Additionally, all onboard reverbs and delays are generated with the best-in-class Dual Lexicon engine.
One of the stand-out features of the 22MTK is the multitrack recording capabilities.
You can record up to 24 tracks at a time with a single USB connection.
This is a great feature for musicians and bands that want to be able to mix and record live shows. The mixer can also interface with software like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, or Nuendo.
But that’s not all.
Audio plugins can be inserted into one of the input channels, enabling VST/AU/AAX/TDM/RTAS plug-ins to be integrated with live performances.
This expands the possibilities of what can be done with this mixer, which makes it quite appealing for musicians.
What I’m missing is XLR outputs on the aux sends or group sends. This would have been a great feature to have since the mixer can record up to 24 tracks at once.
Furthermore, the power cord is placed underneath the console, making it hard to reach. Besides, the vents are also placed underneath so you’d have to be careful not to cover them when using a tight-fitting flight case.
I’m sure this was done for aesthetic reasons, but it would have been nice to have it on the back of the unit.
Overall, the Soundcraft Signature 22MTK is a great mixer that offers good value for money. It’s well-built, easy to use, and sounds great.
- The I/O USB interfacing
- Superb on-board effects
- Fantastic-sounding preamps
- No XLR outputs on the aux or group sends
- The power cord and ventilation are placed underneath the board
TC Helicon GoXLR – Best Audio Mixer For Streaming
Whether you’re a seasoned streamer, podcaster, or a relative newcomer to the field, the TC Helicon GoXLR mixer is a piece of gear that is sure to impress.
This all-in-one mixing board offers top-notch sound quality, intuitive controls, and a comprehensive feature set that makes it perfect for both professionals and hobbyists.
First, the GoXLR is a 4-channel mixer which should be enough for most streaming setups. As an example, you can do live commentary, and play some background music, gameplay audio, and sound effects simultaneously.
It’s worth mentioning that the GoXLR isn’t for the tech-savvy audio engineer.
Unlike other mixers, it doesn’t offer any advanced routing possibilities or separate mixes for monitoring. It’s simply an intuitive solution in an easy-to-use package.
One cool feature is that it has a built-in sampler, allowing the streamer to record samples in real time. The samples can then be triggered with a single button.
This is particularly useful for adding some extra flavor to your stream and keeping your audience engaged.
Besides, the GoXLR has more creative options than your standard mixer with onboard effects such as reverb and delay.
It also features vocal effects such as Pitch Shift, Robot, and Hardtune. All the effects have their own dedicated button, making them hassle-free to activate.
So what about the flaws?
The only drawback is the lack of setup instructions. While you can get a lot done with the device, there is still some learning curve if you’re a complete beginner.
Still, it shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got a background in audio or have operated a mixing console before.
- An intuitive audio solution for your stream
- Regular software updates from TC Helicon
- Built-in sampler
- The price tag
- Doesn’t include any setup instructions
Rode Rodecaster Pro II – Best Audio Mixer For Podcasting
The Rode Rodecaster Pro II is a feature-packed podcasting mixer that offers excellent sound quality and flexibility. In addition, it’s easy to use, with a clear and intuitive touchscreen interface.
Similar to TC Helicon’s GoXLR, the Rodecaster Pro II is a mixer aimed at content creators.
Even if it offers more customization and setting up presets, there is a relatively flat learning curve in comparison to a standard mixing console such as the ZEDi-10FX.
The Rodecaster Pro II features a wide range of high-quality effects. From basic equalizers, compressors, and noise gates to comical voice effects. They’re easy to toggle between from the touchscreen interface.
The mixer connects to your computer’s USB-C port and I had no issues with the configuration. It was recognized immediately by my MacBook Pro and I was able to start recording into my DAW right away.
Additionally, the device can be battery-powered and you also have the option to record to a MicroSD card. This is convenient as it allows podcasters to record their sessions on the field, and then transfer everything to the computer later.
Furthermore, you also have the option to route audio from BlueTooth devices, meaning you can record phone interviews with ease.
It’s hard to pinpoint any direct disadvantages. The Rodecaster Pro II does exactly as advertised – providing an all-in-one solution for podcasters. Still, it’s an expensive product that I wouldn’t recommend if you’re just starting out.
Overall, the Rodecaster Pro II offers a lot of flexibility and is definitely worth considering if you’re an experienced podcaster who needs something more advanced.
- An all-in-one solution for podcasters
- Can go fully mobile
- Seamless integration with your DAW software
- You can find a more budget-friendly solution
Buying Guide – Choosing The Best Audio Mixer For Home Studio
What Is An Audio Mixer?
Mixing board, mixing desk, mixing console, soundboard, audio mixer – all these names refer to the same thing.
In short, an audio mixer’s primary job is to take multiple audio inputs and combines them into a single output.
They’re used in a wide variety of audio applications, such as recording studios, public address systems, broadcast television, and film post-production.
In a live setting, an audio mixer allows the sound engineer to control the level and EQ of each individual instrument or vocalist, and route the signal to the appropriate speakers or amplifiers.
In a recording studio, an audio mixer can be used to create a stereo mix of a song from multiple tracks of audio.
And in broadcast applications, an audio mixer can be used to control the levels of different microphones and other audio sources.
Mixing consoles come in a variety of sizes and configurations, from small portable units to large-format mixing desks designed for use in professional studios.
Digital audio mixers are another type of mixer that is becoming more popular in recent years. These units use digital signal processing (DSP) to alter the sound of the incoming signal.
Mixing Board Arrangements
Even if the number of channels can differ, every mixing board on planet earth can be divided into two different sections:
- The input section: where all incoming signals enter the mixer
- The monitoring section: where you listen back to your already recorded signals (outputs)
Also, you’ll find two different arrangements of these sections on hardware mixing consoles:
In-line mixing boards have all their input channels arranged in a single row or column. This arrangement is well-suited for smaller productions with fewer inputs since it doesn’t require as much space as other arrangements.
Split mixing boards have their input channels divided into two sections, typically with the mic inputs on one side and the line inputs on the other. This arrangement helps keep similar inputs grouped together.
Audio Mixer vs. Audio Interfaces
An audio mixer and an audio interface are two devices that are commonly used in music production. Both devices serve different purposes, and in most cases, they are used together.
As mentioned above, an audio mixer is used to mix multiple audio signals together.
This is done by adjusting the levels of each signal and adding effects like EQ and reverb. A mixer can also be used to record multiple tracks at once.
An audio interface is a device that connects your music production equipment to your computer. It converts the analog signals from your equipment into digital signals that can be processed by your computer.
An audio interface also allows you to control the levels of each input and output signal.
In most cases, you will need both an audio mixer and an audio interface. However, there are mixers such as the ZEDi-10FX feature a built-in audio interface.
Analog vs. Digital Mixers
Analog mixers have been the standard for years, but digital mixers are becoming more popular in both live and studio settings.
Analog mixers are typically cheaper and easier to use than digital mixers. They also tend to have a warmer, more natural sound.
On the downside, analog mixers are less versatile and more cumbersome.
Digital mixers offer more features and flexibility than analog mixers. They’re often smaller and lighter, making them easier to transport.
They also have the advantage of being able to save your settings so you can recall them later. Analog mixers don’t have this capability, so if you want to change something, you’ll need to do it manually.
Plus, they can be controlled remotely via computer or tablet. However, digital mixers can be more expensive and harder to use than their analog counterparts.
Main Features To Consider
The amount of channels is the first thing to consider when buying an audio mixer, and the console should be sized appropriately to your setup.
You don’t want to overinvest in a mixer and pay for features that you’re not going to use.
On the other hand, you don’t want to buy a mixer and later on realize that you’re 8 channels short.
So how many channels do you need?
Let’s take an example!
If you’re only recording a few tracks simultaneously, a 4-channel or 6-channel mixer may be all you need.
On the other hand, more channels are required if you have any outboard gear that you want to return to the console. For instance, a stereo delay alone requires 2 channels.
Additionally, the number of required channels starts to add up if you’re using the mixing board for actual mixing. Then the amount of channels is dependent on how many tracks you’re working on within your DAW session.
- How many tracks do you have in a session?
- How many channels of DA converters do you have
- Do you have any outboard gear that you want to return to the console?
Another thing to consider is how many microphones you’ll need to use simultaneously. So, how many of the inputs on the mixing board have mic preamps.
You see, some mixing boards have a lot of inputs, but only one mic preamp.
In that case, you’ll need to decide whether you want to use several channels on the mixing board for one microphone or just a few channels for multiple microphones.
Line inputs on an audio mixer are responsible for accepting and boosting line-level signals. These signals are typically sent via 1/4-inch connectors that are unbalanced.
The main purpose of a line input is to provide a way to connect external devices to the audio mixer. This could be something like a CD player, turntable, or even a drum machine.
Line inputs typically have their own volume control so that the overall mix can be adjusted.
Every channel on an audio mixer features some sort of equalizer. What’s more important is how many bands of EQ are available. Also, are they fixed or fully parametric.
Even if parametric EQs feature fewer bands than graphic EQs, they yield more control and precision.
An aux send on an audio mixer is an auxiliary output used to route signals to an external effects processor or monitor mix.
They’re typically pre-fader and provide a way to create a separate mix without affecting the main mix.
In short, they allow you to create separate mixes without affecting the main mix.
This can be very useful for live sound reinforcement, where you might want to send a signal to an onstage monitor without affecting the front-of-house mix.
Inserts are a type of input/output (I/O) connection found on many mixers.
They allow you to route the signal from one or more channels to an outboard processor, such as a compressor or equalizer and then route the processed signal back into the mixer.
Direct outs on an audio mixer are a type of output that allows the dry signal from each input channel to be sent to an external device without going through the main mix.
The direct outputs will usually output the signal directly after the preamp.
This is practical if you want to run a live show using the mixer controls, while also preserving a clean recording of each input signal that can be mixed later on.
One of the most important aspects of an audio mixer is its built-in effects. These effects can be used to enhance the sound of the mixed signal in several ways. Common effects include reverb and delay.
USB I/O is a feature found on some mixers that allow the mixer to be connected to a computer via a USB cable, and be used as an audio interface.
This feature can also be used to update the firmware on digital mixers or to control the mixer using a software application.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Audio Mixing?
Audio mixing is the process of taking live instruments or recorded tracks and combining them together to create a final product.
The goal is to create a balanced, full-sounding recording. This means adjusting levels, panning, adding EQ, and using effects like reverb and delay.
Can A Mixer Be Used As An Audio Interface?
Yes, but you’ll need to make sure that the mixer has USB I/O. This will allow you to connect the mixer to your computer and use it as an audio interface.
Keep in mind that using a mixer as an audio interface can be a bit more complicated than using a dedicated audio interface.
How To Connect An Audio Mixer To A Computer?
You can connect your mixer to the line and/or microphone inputs of your computer’s internal sound card. Just use any of your mixer’s output: Stereo Out, Monitor, Rec Out, or Aux Send.
The audio mixer is the epicenter of your PA system or recording studio. With so many options on the market, how do you narrow down the wide selection?
First, do you need a mixer for your home studio or a mixer for live sound?
Mixing consoles dedicated to recording studios should have direct outs from every channel for multitrack recording.
Additionally, a live sound mixer should have multiple auxiliaries, enabling users to route signals to monitor mixes.
And there you have it – the best mixers for home studios!