Whether you are a music producer who wants to have a more tactile approach to his mixer or a live performer who wants to makes his sound more dynamic, audio mixers are essential and inescapable components of any musical setup. Today, the options that are available are numerous. If analog mixers still constitute the most important part of the market, digital mixers are slowly catching up. This article will give you some valuable information about audio mixers, before providing you with a comprehensive list of the best audio mixers which aims at making your selection easier.
Table of content
Best Mixers Under 100$
Best mixers Under 200$
Best mixers Under 500$
Best Audio Mixers Under 100 $ | Top 3
Knobs and sliders are well made
Effects work well
Resistant & solid piece of gear
No power switch with this unit
Noticeable hum (if the power isn’t clean or isolated)
Starting the list of the low-range analog mixers, the BEHRINGER XENYX 1202 is an incredibly versatile mixer for your live performances. It features 4 onboard studio-grade XENYX Mic Preamps. The channel EQ on all XENYX mixers (this one too) is based on that very same circuitry that was used on the British consoles of the 1960s and ‘70s that changed the sound of rock and roll.
Included is also a 24-bit Multi-FX processor with 1202 FX, including 100 mind-blowing digital effects presets such as delay, chorus, and reverb. You can apply these effects to any channel, as well as to the monitors and main output. Of course, if you have the outboard gear you are used to, the 1202FX lets you integrate them into the mix – bypassing the built-in FX processor. Construction is solid and the unit seems rather resistant. However, no power switch is included with this unit, which can make for some uncomfortable experiences.
Accurate frequency representation
Smaller than its competitors
The only minor complaint is that channel 3 & 4 do not have separate level controls (treats as stereo)
Mackie’s 402-VLZ3 is an ultra-compact 4-channel mixer featuring Mackie VLZ3’s signature low noise, high-headroom design. The two preamps that are featured are qualitative and are of an extended dynamic range (130 dB dynamic range). In terms of sound, there is an extended low frequency, which is coupled with a very low distortion (under 0.0007%). Another useful feature is the phantom power for studio condenser mics. 4 high-headroom line inputs are featured with 2 selectable instrument inputs (no DI box needed).
With this analog mixing board, there is a 2-Band Active EQ (80Hz, 12kHz) and a Lo-Cut filter on mic channels. The dedicated stereo Line Input and Tape Input channels are accompanied by high-resolution 8-segment stereo meters. Construction-wise, the Mackie 402-VLZ3 is a rather sleek and rugged chassis. Moreover, its sealed rotary controls are very dust-resistant and demonstrate that this product will probably stand the test of time.
The casing is made of cheap plastic (1/4″ adapter)
The cutout for the power button is too wide
The Maker Hart Loop Mixer is a rare 3.5mm mixer which is quite hard to find on today’s market. It provides lots of inputs which means that you can add lots of devices. You also have independent volume controls and gains as well as a master control. One of the main advantages of this mixer is its versatility. If it is usable for music production, the mixer will be of great value and also compatible with smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, Amazon Echo/Dot, mics, and instruments.
Powered by an AC adapter, the LOOP Mixer lets you increase signals from MIC to LINE level to a max gain of 50 dB for each input. This analog mixer also features Stereo & Mono and stereo jacks with Mono to Stereo D. Moreover, 3 outputs are featured (headphones, output to speakers and REC Out stereo jacks) for 3 simultaneous outputs. The Maker Hart Loop Mixer is at the same time portable, yet, durable and build with a smooth and intuitive design.
Best Audio Mixers Under 200 $ | Top 3
Great sounding reverb
Solid and resistant design
EQ doesn’t have 3 bands on every channel
In the mid-range mixer market, the Yamaha MG20XU is a truly impressive analog mixer in features and performance. With 10-Channel mixers, USB connectivity and SPX digital effects, this mixer is very complete. Moreover, this mixing board has a huge number of ports and flexibility. With this mixer, studio class-A D-PRE preamps with inverted Darlington circuit have been implemented. In other words, the sound you will get from this mixer will be balanced between fat and natural sound bass and smooth and soaring highs.
Other features include 3-band EQ and high-pass filters which give you maximum control and eliminate unwanted noise, resulting in a cleaner mix. Moreover, 1-knob compressors allow easy control – resulting in livelier guitars, punchier bass lines, a tighter snare and a cleaner vocal sound. Yamaha’s MG Series mixers are well constructed. The series and this model in particular feature a chassis which seems to be built to last. Whilst the product is resistant, a sleek design will provide for optimal convection cooling. With this mixer, you will also get Cubase AI, a helpful software. And those of you who only need a mixer, without the additional effects, Yamaha has taken your preferences into account too.
Not really user-friendly
The pre-amps quality could be better
Behringer’s XENYX X1204USB is a quality analog mixer. Preamps sound good and the mixer is said to feature a channel EQ that is directly inspired by the British mixing consoles of the 1960s and 1970s. These were renowned for their incredible warmth and detailed music character. It applies to a certain extent with this model. As on the previous model, one knob compression is featured here. Once again, this is a great feature for any novice or intermediate who has trouble applying compression rightfully.
In terms of FX, a 24-bit dual engine FX processor with 16 editable effects is featured. These include the traditional reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, pitch shifter and multi-effects. An overall sturdy design makes the product resistant and ideal for live setups. Additionally, a software package that includes Audacity, Podifier, Juice, Podnova and Golden Ear is a great option for lives. Nonetheless, if we have on complaint, it is the rather “un-user-friendly” allocation of commands. However, with the built-in, bi-directional stereo USB audio interface, you can connect this mixer directly to your PC or Mac computer via a single USB cable. The novelty is that any signal source you connect to the mixer can be recorded directly to your hard drive.
Flexible mixer with numerous routing possibilities
Solidly manufactured, except some knobs
Loose USB port
Cheap metal used for the slider knobs
Mackie has been a renowned brand in the mixing console market for a very long time. The Mackie PROFX4V2 provides the quality we have always associated the American brand with. Starting with its sound, 4 low- noise Mackie Vita mic preamps will add life to any of your recorded sounds. Moreover, a precise 7-band graphic EQ for tuning mains or monitors will let you sculpt your sound even further. A 3-band EQ with 100Hz low-cut-filter is also featured on all channels.
An effects engine with 16 effects including reverbs, delays, and choruses is provided. The all-new ReadyFX effects engine employs floating-point DSP, designed specifically for intensive processing of high-quality audio. Connectivity is great. A built-in USB interface enables you to easily record your mix or for music playback during a show. In that regard, a Tracktion recording software is featured to help you get started. Moreover, an AUX output for monitor mixes, venue 70-volt systems, and more. Except for the sliders, this mixing board seems to be well put together and should stand the test of time.
Best Audio Mixers Under 500 $ | Top 3
Excellent sound quality
Compact and accessible mixer
Plenty of input and connectivity possibilities
Cheap build quality (faders)
At a higher price range, quality of mixing consoles incrementally augments. This is true for the Soundcraft EPM6 which comes in three different versions (6+2/ 8+2 / 12+2 channels). A true, professional +48V phantom power for condenser microphones is featured with this mixing console. Connectivity options are extensive with 2 AUX sends, which are switchable to pre or post-fade.
Sound quality is also fantastic with GB30 Mic amps which offer high-resolution adjustment over a wide gain range of 55dB. They provide +22dB headroom through the console. Adding to this Soundcraft has worked really hard on delivering a solid and well manufactured audio mixer. The emphasis with the Soundcraft EPM is very firmly on quality build and audio performance. Surface mount technology is used throughout, using close-tolerance components for high accuracy and repeatable settings for EQ and controls. It is an easy-to-understand control surface which will appeal as much to the novice as to the model advanced mixing console user.
Provides a lot of inputs
Offers a great amount of effects
The gain pot feels flimsy
Without a doubt, the Mackie PROFX12 is a perfect choice for smaller performing acts, solo performers or for small venues. With its USB I/O feature, you can l record the show or stream music straight from a laptop. Sound quality is enhanced by 6 Mackie high-headroom, low-noise mic preamps, a 3-band EQ (80Hz, 2.5kHz, and 12kHz) on all channels and a built-in DI for direct connection of a guitar or bass. Moreover, a 7-band Graphic Equalizer is also featured.
Integrated “Gig-Ready” effects can be applied to your mixes. Unusual and experimental effects such as “ghost ambiance are featured”. With the USB I/O feature, recording is not a painful process anymore. Just connect the ProFX12 to a laptop, start up your included copy of Tracktion 3 Music Production Software (or almost any DAW software out there) and you can record the whole mix. Finally, we would like to mention that this product is ultra resistant and “Built-Like-A-Tank”. It has an ultra-tough enclosure with additional impact-resistant side-cheeks.
Easy & Extensive connectivity options
Built-in effects can’t be applied to the monitor mix
To conclude our higher category of analog mixers, we have to mention the BEHRINGER XENYX X2222USB. This mixer is a premium ultra-low noise, high headroom analog mixer. 8 quality XENYX Mic Preamps are featured alongside 8 studio-grade compressors with accessible “one-knob” functionality. As on the lower range XENYX X1204USB, neo-classic “British” 3-band EQs with semi-parametric mid band featured. These make the sound warm and soothing. Similarly, the FX processor includes! 16 editable presets including reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, pitch shifter, multi-effects and a tap function.
A built-in stereo USB/Audio interface lets you connect the mixer directly to your computer. Free audio recording, editing, and podcasting software plus 150 instrument/effect plug-ins and ultra-low latency driver are provided. What you will also find are channel inserts and direct outputs on each mono channel plus main mix inserts for flexible connection of outboard equipment. 3 aux sends per channel are provided: 1 pre fader for monitoring, 1 pre/post fader switchable for monitoring/FX applications, 1 post fader (for internal FX or as external send). Moreover, the high-quality components and exceptionally rugged construction make the XENYX X2222USB seem lasting.
Why should you consider buying an audio mixer?
- Physical audio mixers have good manual controls to work with.
- To get the same with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), you need a digital control surface.
- An excellent analog audio mixer cannot hang or show time lag.
- Physical mixers especially analog are useful in live performances, that may be all that actually counts (and good mixers have recording outputs after the preamps so that you can use the digital workflows offline on the live recordings).
- The interface on a physical mixer (the part where you plug instruments/microphones in) still has to be physical somehow for a software mixer: you have to be able to plug your microphones and external instruments
What are the different types of mixers
- In an analog mixer, every channel, bus, preamp, EQ, and other component is comprised of physical circuitry (e.g., wires, resistors, potentiometers, transistors, tubes switches).
- Unlike digital mixers, analog mixers process the audio from input to output without sampling or major mathematical computation to handle all the mixer’s tasks.
- Essentially, analog mixers are extremely simple, with individual hands-on controls for every function and routing option.
- Therefore, these are easy to master and once you know your way around an analog board, you can quickly figure out what’s going on.
- Most of the time, a digital mixer will sample a signal immediately after the preamplification stage, then use various algorithms to shape the sound, and after mixing things together turn the final summed up 1’s and 0’s back into an analog waveform for amplifiers or speakers.
- Digital mixers (usually) have a lot more functionality for the same price.
- However, most functions on a digital mixer are tucked away in menu’s and submenu’s (which can make some simple functions difficult to find), while most analog mixers have a button or switch for every single function.
- Line mixers are nearly always analog mixers that deal exclusively with line-level signal.
- They are extremely simple, often with only a single volume control per channel.
- Live, line mixers let you combine multiple sources such as in-the-booth playback devices into a single output, freeing up channels (and preamps) on your main board.
- In the studio, many engineers use high-end line mixers called summing mixers to consolidate their final mixes.
- Powered mixers are basically analog mixers with built-in power amplifiers.
- For this reason, sound can be played with the mixer directly connected to speakers.
- In cases where the same equipment is always connected, powered mixers can be used by simply turning the power on, so operation is simplified and convenient.
What criteria should you be looking out for in an audio mixer?
I/O and Mixing Channels:
- How many channels do you need? How many microphones do you need to connect?
- Whenever you are buying a mixer, always keep in mind your current setup. Any stereo inputs for keyboards you have or direct inputs for bass and guitar should be considered.
- Some mixers, especially those in the higher price range have 16, 24 or 32 channels. It all depends on your preferences. If you aren’t going to use any additional gear such as microphones, guitars, other instruments or preamps and processors, a 4, 8 or 12-channel model should be more than sufficient.
Buses and Signal Routing:
- Important for recording purposes.
- When you need feeds to recording gear, monitors, headphones, and external effects mixes, these are crucial.
- These can give more flexibility and signal paths (greater possibilities).
- Do you need a sophisticated EQ or will a restricted one be more than enough?
- EQ is an important characteristic to consider since you will need it in any case. Besides, why would you buy an audio mixer if you don’t consider EQ capabilities?
- For more specific and higher-end results, multi-band parametric equalizers are recommended.
- For simpler live-sound mixing, you don’t need a mixer that does more than controlling the bass, mid and high frequencies.
Effects & additional sound processors:
- Internal mixer effects are always important but even more so if you rely on external mic preamps, effects pedals, and other tone tweaking gear during mixing.
- Some mixers have onboard effects and sound processing which allow a portable and comfortable setup when playing live.
To conclude, analog mixers are essential elements in any studio or live setup. They contribute a lot to polish your sound or make a performance more dynamic. Our review has considered all budgets and aimed at giving you a good head-start when selecting your analog mixer. Here is our breakdown:
In the low price range (under 100 $), it is the Maker Hart Loop Mixer that is the best option since it is solidly built, has a compact size and a quality sound. Moreover, this mixer comes one of the attractive prices.
In the mid-price range (under 200 $), it is Mackie’s PROFX8V2 that earns the prize of the most competitive mixer for its great connectivity, its flexibility with numerous routing possibilities and its solid manufacturing which make it a product that is built to last.
In the higher price range (under 500$) it is the BEHRINGER XENYX X2222USB, that makes the difference through its construction, qualitative sound, well thought out mixing-board design and its fantastic connectivity options.