Sound mixers are always the most prominent equipment in a recording studio, so it is always the first thing you see and picture when you think. And this is for a good reason, considering that a mixer is enormous and expensive. But is it vital for the home studio you are building?
You don’t need a mixer for your home studio. What’s essential is an audio interface and a digital audio workstation installed on your computer. An interface is hardware that connects other equipment to your computer, while a DAW can record, mix, and edit music on your computer.
This article will talk in more detail about what a recording mixer does and how you can do away with it. It will also discuss why an audio interface and a digital audio workstation are sufficient for your home studio.
What Is a Mixer, and What Does It Do?
A mixer is essential studio equipment when you’re dealing with sound and music. It takes a wide range of audio sources through several input channels like microphones, adjusts and tweaks sound and other audio attributes through its many adjustment options, adds sound effects, then combines everything to a mono or stereo output that can be amplified with speakers or a PA system.
Mixers can look intimidating, thanks to their many controls, knobs, and buttons. But it’s a straightforward gadget, especially if you know what each part can do.
This equipment is primarily used in these environments:
- a recording studio
- live, like concerts
- film or television
- audio broadcast
It can come in either digital or analog form.
An analog mixer is all electrical and is not split into component frequencies and molded back together. As such, this kind of mixer produces a natural sound. On the other hand, a digital mixer takes a given electrical signal then turns it into a binary code that makes up the digital language. The sound then splits into component frequencies before getting sent back out as a reformed electrical signal.
Should You Get a Sound Mixer?
When you are just starting to set up a recording studio at home, you might be wondering what equipment to get. And since a sound mixer is always what people picture studios to have, it’s normal to think that it’s the one non-negotiable or that it’s the heart of your studio.
But do you really need a sound mixer?
According to experts like Home Recording Lab, you don’t need a mixer so you could record at home. As long as you have a computer, an audio interface, and a digital audio workstation, you’re already ready for that.
The audio interface will take care of a mixing console’s main functions and converts analog audio signals into digital signals. Meanwhile, a DAW allows you to record, adjust levels, manage several channels, and introduce additional effects. The audio interface is what you call the hardware that connects to your computer, and the DAW is the software installed on your computer.
In other words, the audio interface and the DAW can do the work of a mixer. Of course, if you have the money to invest in state-of-the-art equipment for your home studio, getting a mixer is still ultimately your choice. And while a mixer is not necessary, it would still come in handy, mainly if you record multiple channels simultaneously.
Sound Mixer vs. Audio Interface + DAW
A sound mixer is excellent for people who prefer things to be rather old-school, where they will turn knobs with their fingers and move the faders up and down. A mixer is also a better choice if you would like to work without a computer and without software running it. Moreover, a mixer is a nice thing to have if you are mixing live music. It will come in handy, too, if you are into making more nuanced audio mixing decisions.
Meanwhile, using an interface and DAW is the simplest way to do a recording. But while it’s simple, this setup will still allow you to record clear and crisp audio. It will also take the digital audio on your computer and do the digital to analog conversion. So, you will have high-quality audio outputs to edit, monitor, and mix your recordings in glorious detail.
However, an audio interface with DAW won’t cost you as much money and space as a mixer. So it’s more about the budget and being practical while you are still getting started and developing your skills.
But once you’re ready to move forward with your skills and are prepared to invest in a mixing console, then you should.
Find out here if you even need an audio interface for home studios.
Can’t Decide? Here Are Some Considerations
There’s no strict rule regarding whether you should get just a sound mixer or an audio interface and DAW. If budget is not an issue, you are always free to contact both. There’s no reason to lose sleep over choosing between the two. The more important thing to focus on when setting up your recording studio at home is to know what you want to achieve.
These things should be your considerations when making the decision:
If you want high-quality recordings at the end of the day, make sure you get the equipment that promises and delivers exactly this. If you are getting an interface, then pick one with good reviews but at the same time doesn’t break the bank. You may want to invest in a good microphone, too. Meanwhile, if you prefer something with plenty of hardware control over the audio you are recording, then a mixer would do the job.
Multi-Track vs. Stereo?
Do you need your recordings on separate tracks? An audio interface can do the job. Do you want to live stream? You can get your audio sounding right on a mixer. There are also mixers with interfaces, which are great for broadcast-style applications.
How small or how big is your home recording studio? A standalone interface requires much less space than a traditional mixing board. You can place it on your desk or hide it in an equipment rack when not in use. A mixer, on the other hand, will need its dedicated table. And while an interface will need a PC or a laptop, there are space-saving options for these.
What Will You Be Recording?
When deciding between an interface and a mixer, you also need to know what sort of things you’ll be recording the most. Will it be bands and solo musicians? If that’s the case, then a mixer is your best bet because it’s better with live sound. However, if you record something that requires a lot of post-processing to the tracks, then a multi-channel interface will do the trick.
Other considerations are more technical. These include several outputs, types of inputs and audio cables, phantom power, mono and stereo channels, and power supply. So if you are still looking around for the perfect interface or mixer, it is essential to study their specific features.
Remember that your choice does not stop in deciding between a mixer or an interface. There are many types, brands, and models of mixers and interfaces out there, and each one is different. So you’ll also need to look into them, compare them against each other, and weigh out their features against your needs.
If you’re setting up a recording studio at home and would like to stick with getting just the essential equipment while you’re still developing your skills, then an audio interface and a DAW would be enough, along with a microphone, computer, and speakers. And when you already have these, you can skip the mixer. Your interface can do a mixer’s job.
However, this doesn’t mean a mixer would be useless if you already have your interface. There are still benefits to having one outside of what your interface can do. So, a mixer would still make a wise investment.
- Studio D: A Guide to The Mixer And Its Various Features
- DJTechDirect: Analogue Vs. Digital: Battle of the Mixers
- Home Recording Lab: Do You Need a Mixer to Record Music at Home
- Music Repo: Audio Interface vs Mixer. Which is Right for Your Home Recording Studio?
- Home Music Studio1: Do I Need a Mixer for Home Recording?