Being able to create quality music at home can be a great experience and when it comes to home music studio gear, it can be challenging to figure out what equipment you’ll truly need especially if you’re a beginner.
With the vast amounts of available information on the internet, you can basically get started building your home studio pretty much easily.
For a home studio, you don’t really need a mixer. You instead need an audio interface that can help you get audio signals in and out of your computer. Most Digital Audio Workstations have integrated digital mixers that are able to perform almost all functions of a physical mixer. This means you don’t have to worry about mixer functionality as much as you need to worry about audio signal capture/recording and playback.
I wrote this post to explain mixers and their application to the home studio so that I can help anyone having the challenge of deciding whether to purchase one or not.
So, do you need a mixer for your home music studio?
If you’re just getting started in music production or you run a simple home studio, with a simplified recording process then you do not need a mixer, most of the controls that mixers have are pretty much embedded in most Digital Audio Workstations these days.
I’d recommend an audio interface (as an alternative to a mixer) in a home music studio setting, not only will it save you a ton of space but it will help you achieve a better sound quality whilst providing you inputs for your studio monitors, instruments and microphone.
An audio Interface is basically an external sound-card; it converts audio signals from analog to digital and the reverse of this which is from digital back to analog again.
With that said, your decision is highly dependent on what you prefer to work with and your overall long term goals. If you have the space and can cover the cost of a new mixer then you can try purchasing one, especially if you’re looking to experiment and make discoveries with that can help your overall music production.
What is an Audio Mixer?
An audio mixer typically used in audio production and recording is basically an electronic device that combines sounds of many different audio signals that can be tweaked and controlled to your liking using the knobs that are present on the mixer.
They are equipped with inputs (usually XLR Inputs) in which electronic instruments and microphones can be plugged in to be used by live performers (or live instrumentation recordings).
Some mixers are able to control both analog and digital signals, and then these summed up modified signals produce the combined output signal.
Mixers are commonly used in most situations where there is the need to modify the audio signal coming from multiple microphones and instruments in order to create a mix that doesn’t consist of sounds that are over powering each other but are well mixed together.
What is the difference between an audio interface and a mixer?
Audio interfaces convert analog signals (e.g. voice recordings) to digital signals that the computer understands and records, and then this process happens in reverse when the computer converts the digital signal into an analog signal that is able to be played back through your speakers.
On the other hand, a mixer generally merges multiple audio signals that are being sent through it, these multiple signals can then be mixed with effects that are available on the mixing board, in order to change or alter the dynamics of the sound.
A mixer is what you would use in live audio productions where you need to effect live sound for example a PA system or live stage performance.
Do I need an audio mixer for podcasting?
Podcasters that generally need more inputs than an audio interface can provide should definitely go for a mixer, also if you’re looking to do a live like radio show then a mixer is definitely your best option, this will save you time because most of the time you can be able to do most of the mixing during the live show.
In a podcasting set up, a mixer will basically give you more control over your audio recording like muting, adjusting volumes and much more and the great thing is that you can do all these audio enhancements in real time.
Do you need a mixer for speakers?
If you have speakers that require an XLR connection and you happen to not have an audio interface then you can use a mixer to plug in your speakers.
For example in a situation that involves some live mixing you will need a mixer that has enough inputs to handle all the devices connected to it plus outputs to connect in your monitor speakers.
Depending on the work you’re trying to achieve you can either use a mixer or an Audio interface, I have an entire article on why you would need an audio interface here.
The bottom line is, if you’re dealing with simple audio recordings that can be edited in your digital audio workstation then you are better off using an audio interface, because it will allow you to plug in your inputs and be able to record pretty much easily.
On the other hand if you’re handling live performances such as; stage performances, radio, or podcasting then you could consider using a mixer because they are specifically meant to deal with live audio whilst having effects and other sound enhancement ready for use when you might need them.
Mixers will also work just fine if you just plan on recording into your digital audio workstation, they also can serve the same purpose that an audio interface serves.
Therefore it all comes to down to what kind of studio you wish to set up, the kind of budget you’re working with and your overall preference in studio gear.
I hope you found this post helpful.