I always like to think of mixing as a form of art. You experiment and bring together a number of different sounds and voila, there it is. But all this magic doesn’t just happen – you need the right equipment and tools to get the job done and that’s where studio mixers come in. I’ve had my experience with a fair number of mixers in my lifetime. In fact, I’ve had an obsession with them for quite some time. Buying your first studio mixer can seem like quite a challenge – you definitely don’t want money going down the drain.
If you are in a rush and need to pick quickly then this model offers the best value for money (link takes you straight to Amazon).
And so, that’s exactly why I’ve compiled this compressive guide on the best home studio mixers:
1. Tascam DP-32SD 32-Track Digital Portastudio RecorderThe Tascam DP-32SD is a quite impressive studio recorder. It’s not expensive as the other high-end products in the market but it does the job quite well. It comes with an integrated 40-input mixer on which you can go crazy and record up to eight tracks at the same time.
Owing to its easy to use design and fairly affordable price tag (mind you, this isn’t dirt cheap), the DP-32SD makes an excellent choice for beginners. Best of all, it doesn’t require a complicated set up which means you can start mixing and capture sounds in a variety of different environments. Users can also benefit from input processing such as limiting and compression while recording. You might also very much like the channel strip knobs and the color LCD that’s sure to enhance your mixing experience.
And for folks who are always worried about losing their masterpiece, the studio mixer comes with a 4GB SD card. If that doesn’t work for you, you can replace it with a 32GB SCHC media or any other card that would suit your needs. All in all, I’ll have to say that this is a pretty powerful device and gets the job done fairly well. I would recommend this to newbies who are still navigating their way around home studio recording. (Also check out this guide on reducing echo in a room for recording!).
2. Rockville RPM109 12 Channel 4800w Powered MixerIt’s insane how awesome some products perform despite their low price tags and the Rockville RPM109 is definitely one of them. This studio mixer is (very conveniently) powered by SD/USB input and comes with an LCD display. I’m not sugar coating it when I say this: this is one of the best sounding powered mixers that you can ever get your hands on. For one reason, Rockville is definitely a highly reputable brand hence you won’t have to worry about wasting your hard earned money.
I’m almost always very particular about manufacturers and the overall quality of the product. This is why I always advise rookies to invest in reputable brands that are known to offer guarantees and exceptional customer service.
The clarity you’ll get with this is unbelievable, especially if you take the incredibly low price tag into account. Also the overall build of the product isn’t flimsy or cheap, it’s incredibly sturdy and isn’t too shabby to look at either. The product is enclosed in a wooden enclosure, meaning it can take quite a beating if it has to. Apart from it being a great studio mixer, it’s versatile enough to also rock at parties and gigs since it features 12 channels. There are also a ton of playback options with built-in USB and Bluetooth.
Keeping the low price-point in mind, I highly doubt that you’ll find a better product elsewhere. I highly recommend this for beginners or folks who are on a limited budget, and if you’re also looking for an affordable MIDI keyboard, click the link. You also get 8 superior quality mic preamps that makes recording much more pleasant. The brand also provided a 90-day warranty which is great since it secures your purchase.
3. Behringer Eurodesk SX3242FX Ultra-Low Noise DesignIf you’re of the opinion that analog sounds way better than digital then perhaps you’ll like this awesome studio mixer. Personally, I’m a huge fan of digital sound since it gives lunatics like me the chance to go crazy and experiment with all kinds of sounds. But as far as the Behringer Eurodesk SX3242FX is concerned, I don’t have many complaints.
At first glance, yes, the product is a bit pricy but if you’re planning on getting long use out of a studio mixer, there’s no point in settling cheap. What truly sets this model apart from others is that it completely vanishes feedback, this ensures that your listeners only enjoy crisp sound.
I’ve used some more expensive mixers but I believe this one does a pretty decent job for its price. It comes with 32 different inputs along with 24 mic channels. I used this with a large-diaphragm mic for rapping and I was quite surprised by the quality of sound. You also get 24-bit stereo FX processors with 99 amazing presets. This further allows you to have the super-sonic experience. What I absolutely loved about this product is it works great as a studio mixer but you can also use it for live jamming.
You can set up to 24 mono instruments or microphones with this baby, making it incredibly versatile.
4. Yamaha MGP16X 16-Channel MixerNow, this is one brand that everybody (perhaps, even folks that are not into recording) have heard of. Yamaha has been around for years and certainly does not compromise when it comes to quality. The MGP16X is a part of the brand’s exciting MGP series. This model comes with an amazing microphone preamps that are very well suited for professional recording environments. I certainly know that I’m a fan.
It also features a unique Darlington circuit design that results in smooth and crisp audio. The amazing sound output definitely allows this model to stand out from other gear. This analog mixer also utilizes digital technology for added convenience. It comes with iPhone/iPod integration. So, in short, the MGP series does its best to combine its traditional musical roots while adapting with new technology at the same time.
I also loved how this model features exceptional EQ modules. The precise response and ability to tweak your music just the way you want to further contributes to a great experience. At present EQ is one of the most amazing sound-shaping tools out there and is definitely a deciding factor when you are purchasing mixers. You will also find a mute button that accompanies the LED, allowing you to cut signals from the channel according to your convenience.
Other features such as level set LED and trim control will also enhance your music recording experience.
5. Behringer X32This is hands down one of my favorite mixers, mostly because of its versatility. I’ve had this one for quite some time now and though it was hefty in terms of the price tag, I didn’t really mind cause I’ve gotten plenty of use out of it for studio and live application. This fully programmable mic preamp is definitely worth raving about while the 25 fully automated faders also enhance sound quality.
In terms of features and performance, this model really does take the cake and changes the way digital mixers produce new tracks. My favorite thing about this mixer is its stunning main display. It’s a sight to work with, displaying all kinds of setting parameters, great for digital geeks who are always ready to experiment with new sounds. The screen comes to life the moment you apply a range of adjustments – it is certainly a sight to see.
It also features 29 programmable LCD scribble stripes that offer a multitude of controls. You can also assign colors to differentiate inputs. The incredibly efficient layout of the channel strip is also worth praising. The illuminated controls guarantee clear indication of various statuses and levels regardless of viewing angles.
The Behringer X32 is definitely your mixer if you want to experience the convenience of digital mixing with your aux. And that is all thanks to the Sends and Faders feature. Thanks to this awesome function, you will be able to come up with super sub-mixes for secondary zone feeds and much more. This makes it possible for you to send selected signals to your aux and then mix it up using channel faders. Rest assured, the console is designed to remember where you have set the faders so that you won’t have to make adjustments the next time around.
It also features DCA groups that will allow you to control multiple signals simultaneously without mixing them all in a subgroup bus. This provides greater flexibility and convenience in terms of achieving the perfect sound.
On the downside, this board may be difficult to navigate for beginners but that shouldn’t be a problem as long as you watch a couple of YouTube videos. However, once you have learned your way around this studio mixer, you’re all set for life and will be amazed by what this beauty can do. I for one what quite surprised by how it completely changed my music (and this is another product that changed my life).
6. Sound Town Professional 12-Channel Audio MixerLife can be pretty hard for beginners. I know I say that a lot but only because it’s true. When you’re first starting off, you don’t have a very high budget to work with and that can be rough. So for all you newbies, this Sound Town mixer is just what you need. It may not have all the bells and whistles that you could expect with a more expensive model but it will definitely get the job done. I also love how this model is incredibly portable and compact, it’s great for folks who would also need a mixer for outside use. It is built with the best quality preamps along with natural sounding bass that results in crisp and smooth highs. For added convenience, the +48 phantom power is also works well with most condenser mics.
This product may be fairly inexpensive compared to the other mixers on this list but it still has most features that you would need to get the job done.
This is the cheapest studio mixer on this list but it certainly doesn’t feel flimsy or low-quality. This is definitely a bonus since the construction will hold up for a couple of years. I’ve used this mixer for home recording but my friend Mike took it out for some live sound too and it did a pretty decent job. I also liked how it has built-in Bluetooth so you can conveniently connect it to other devices without needing wires or cables.
7. PreSonus StudioLive AR12 USB 14The PreSonus StudioLive AR12 USB 14 is an amazing mixer that is incredibly versatile. You can use it for studio recording or for live sessions – whatever works best for you. It includes four mono channels and four studio channels. You can conveniently plug it directly with your guitar and basses for seamless mixing. This awesome model includes two channels with incredibly high impedance so that you can directly plug in instruments to the board without needing a direct box.
The USB interface is also worth raving about since it makes the task much easier. You can use the SD recorder up to 32 GB of sound that makes mixing much more convenient since you have access to tons of files. And let’s not forget that this product also features Bluetooth so you have multiple ways to get the job done.
The integrated software also makes recording a breeze. This will allow you to achieve the results that you really want. With your purchase, you get a recording and production software absolutely free. All in all, I really like how the StudioLive AR12 USB 14 really goes ahead and simplifies everything. I also liked how it’s really compact and fits right into your home studio without taking up much space. The buttons are also well-placed so that you have no trouble navigating the device. I’d say, considering all of its features, this model really is a good buy for both experienced folks and beginners.
Factors to Consider when Purchasing a Studio Mixer
Buying gear isn’t a joke, especially if you’re investing in your home recording studio. Your journey is likely to be a little bumpy but if you have the right equipment sorted out for you, things will get a whole lot easier. Here are a couple of factors you should consider before investing in a studio mixer:
Number of Inputs
This part is important so read it carefully. You may need multiple inputs depending on how many channels you plan on using simultaneously. If you’re only a beginner, you’re better off with an affordable model with two-channels. On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore music enthusiast, you’re better off with a studio mixer that offers a multitude of inputs. Some folks aren’t even satisfied with 12 or 24 inputs because they like to plug in a number of instruments simultaneously.
What’s the point of investing in a mixer if it isn’t compatible with your gear? Ensure the piece of equipment you’re about to buy is compatible with your mixer. Since we are dealing with recording here, you ought to consider two aspects: the hardware and the software.
If you’re planning on using a specific DAW, you’re better off knowing in advance if you have all the basic gear ready such as cables, mics, the right software etc. In such cases, I would advise you to compile a list of all the stuff you’ll need. Also, make sure that the mixer you’re about to buy works well with your computer too. While most brands have adopted a futuristic approach and some products in the market still Mac or PC compatibility issues.
Digital vs. Analog Mixers
The difference between analog and digital always creates a big discussion…
Sure, we live in an incredibly fast-paced world but a lot of folks still enjoy using analog mixers today. Here’s how you can compare the two to figure out which one is better suited for you:
I love everything digital but some I will admit – analog mixers offer a completely different feel. It’s also great for beginners since most designs are easy to use and not to mention much more affordable compared to their digital counterparts. Keep in mind that with an analog mixer, the functions will need to be controlled physically using switches, faders and knobs. This can make your experience more intuitive.
On the downside, these models typically take up more space which doesn’t make them a good match for small spaces. As far as sound quality is concerned, I believe both digital and analog models are capable of producing high-quality sound. So your expertise and the quality of the rest of your equipment should also be taken into account here. You’ll also be able to achieve better results if your device has great preamps.
Coming over to digital mixers, you’ll certainly be astounded by everything you will be able to achieve. Most devices offer a plethora of effects that can seem overwhelming at first but also great if you’re into experimentation. With a single press of a button, you should be able to preprogram all kinds of effects and routing. This is obviously convenient for mixing because sometimes having only two hands isn’t enough!
But in all honesty, you would be much better off spending your money on a digital mixer. This is really important if you want to grow as an artist and really find the right sound. You can learn more about mixing in this guide where I discuss mixing with headphones vs. monitors.
People don’t really care about the size until they realize that their recording studio is too small for their new incredibly large drum set. Always take size into account when investing in musical equipment, it will certainly impact performance. If you move around or travel a lot, you’re better off with something more portable.
Buying a best home studio mixer doesn’t have to be complicated. I hope this detailed guide will eventually lead you to the right product. Let me know if you’d like to recommend some mixers yourself.
What would you like me to write about next? Let me know in the comments below. Happy recording!
Further reading: best laptops for music production.