WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE TOP 10 BEST AUDIO MIXERS INCLUDING 5 OF THE BEST DIGITAL MIXERS AND 5 BEST ANALOGUE MIXERS THAT YOU REALLY NEED TO CONSIDER WHEN ADDING TO YOUR LIVE OR STUDIO SET UP
When you’re on the hunt for the best mixing console on the market, or best audio mixers for your set up, there’s a lot to consider. Do you need a 16-channel mixer with plenty of effects or do you need a no-fuss mixing console that you just want to capture live sound with? Do you need a digital mixing console or are you after the best analogue audio mixer money can buy? There’s a world of choice at your fingertips so choosing the right one for your set up can be a little difficult if you’re trying to filter out the options. So today we’re going to look at the top 10 best audio mixers and split them up in to two groups – the 5 best digital mixers and the 5 best analogue audio mixers to make your decision that little bit easier.
5 BEST ANALOGUE AUDIO MIXERS MONEY CAN BUY
Ok before we start, we’re going to have to make a caveat here, that these are the 5 best analogue mixers that us mere mortals can afford, so of course we’re not going to include a Neve console, or anything that requires you to sell your house to afford! Here are our best audio mixers that utilise analogue technology first and foremost.
1. SOUNDCRAFT SIGNATURE 22 ANALOGUE MIXER
The Soundcraft Signature 22 Analogue Mixer is easily one of the best analogue audio mixers available today thanks to its high-performance power, iconic Soundcraft Ghost mic preamps and tour grade construction. The fact that its under £500 is also a really great feature meaning sound engineers and live performers can get the best sound possible without breaking the bank.
Straight out of the box you have 22-input small format analogue mixers with onboard effects to sculpt your sound with. You have smooth and sensitive faders that respond beautifully to your touch as well as the flexible pre/post switching you need.
The addition of Soundcraft Ghost mic preamps allow you to make beautiful recordings at any time. The fact you have 2-in/2-out USB audio playback and recording capabilities as well as a host of effects makes it a great option for touring bands that want to record their live sets, small venues with smaller set ups and rehearsal rooms that want to double as a demo studio.
This is one of the best audio mixers for those on a budget, but still stands up to the rigours of touring and constant use, too – a great option.
Practice rooms/Rehearsal rooms
2. YAMAHA MG20XU MIXING DESK
The Yamaha MG20XU Mixing Desk is not only one of the best audio mixers available, but its easily one of the best portable analogue mixers money can buy thanks to the addition of amazing D-Pre mic pre-amps, effects, 2 mic channels with phantom power and per channel Compression. This 20 channel audio mixer features 16 Mic / 20 Line Inputs (12 mono + 4 stereo) so you’ll have more than enough for complete band set ups, live shows and even theatre productions.
However, it’s the D-Pre mic pre-amps that really set this mixer up as one of the best around.
Yamaha have described these pre amps as "inverted Darlington circuit technology" and they're not merely just a rehash of existing preamps, but custom designed Mic Pres that are a result of a collaboration with a semiconductor manufacturer. This mixer along with the other ‘XU’ models in the range provide both USB audio interfacing and SPX FX processing which sound engineers will appreciate as it makes it easier than ever to plug-in, play, record and then listen to your recordings. High grade effects, 24-bit/192kHz 2in/2out USB audio functions and iPad compatibility makes it a great option for those who need greater flexibility when mixing sound. And the fact it’s only 7kgs makes it ideal for those who need to record on the move!
3. ALTO LIVE 1604 PROFESSIONAL 16-CHANNEL USB MIXER
Next up in our best audio mixers list we have the very popular Alto Live 1604 Professional 16-Channel USB Mixer which features a versatile EQ section, lush mic preamps and an extremely handy dynamic compression. The 10 XLR inputs with DNA microphone preamps within the Alto Live 1604 Professional 16-Channel USB Mixer make this an absolute no brainer for those who value high-quality vocal and guitar sounds. This, when coupled with the Dynamic compression on channels 1-6, makes this one of the best audio mixers on the market specifically for radio and broadcast applications as both spoken word and singing vocals sound lush, full of life and provide a warm and accurate representation of what’s going on.
The 256 Alesis-powered DSP effects on-board make it ideal for music venues and live recording applications as they benefit instruments and vocals, something which sets this 16-channel mixing desk apart from others within this £300 price range. The USB Output with routable recording switch options means you can record live sessions direct to your computer and mix in real-time. You also have phantom power for condenser microphones, which makes it perfect for recordings sessions too! This is one of the best mixers for churches who need high-quality vocal mics, broadcasting applications and those who value high-quality recordings too. For just under £300, you’re still within the budget-friendly bracket too!
Smaller sized venues
4. PRESONUS STUDIOLIVE AR16C 16-CHANNEL DIGITAL MIXER
The PreSonus StudioLive AR16c 16-Channel Digital Mixer is one of the best analogue audio mixers as it combines analogue connections with digital tools to give you wider control over your sound. You have all the connections you need at your disposal including mono and stereo channels, each with level knob, pan, mute, PFL solo, highpass filter, and 3-band semi-parametric EQ.
There's also XLR mic inputs complete with a Class A preamp as well as two monitor mix outputs for stage wedges, headphone amp for your in-ear system and control room outputs for when you’re using the unit to record in the studio – which incidentally records at an industry-standard sound quality to the onboard SD stereo recorder. Smartphone and tablet connectivity options, direct to DAW recordings, high-quality audio effects and more make this a fantastic option for the live sound engineer that wants to record in high-quality analogue but mix with digital convenience.
5. YAMAHA MGP32X 32 CHANNEL MIXING CONSOLE
Ok, so we’re now in the realms of professional level audio mixers here, and this Yamaha MGP32X 32 Channel Mixing Console is one of the best you can get your hands on. There are a few major key features that make this a stand out option for venues, producers and live sound engineers, such as the two Hybrid Stereo channels packed full of powerful effects like priority ducker, leveller and stereo imager, iOS compatibility and dual digital effects processors. But there’s so much more! This is a monster 32 channel audio mixer designed for those who take their sound seriously, and an ideal option for larger studios, churches, schools, theatres and sound engineers or PA companies that cater to larger events.
When it comes to studio use, both engineers and musicians will appreciate the fact the Yamaha MGP32X come built with studio-grade discrete Class A “D-PRE” mic preamps with 48V phantom power and HPF per channel. This ensures all the character and depth of your original signal comes through flawlessly with a fat, natural sounding bass and smooth highs. This allows your favourite microphones to take on a new life! We think this is one of the best audio mixers due to the fact sound engineers aren’t stuck in one spot thanks to the iOS compatibility.
With a single connection, you can take control of your MGP console and make changes on the fly. Yamaha's high-end REV-X reverb effects have been included, as well as a separate SPX digital multi-effects processor so you can sculpt your sound to your liking and the impact resistant construction with internal power supply for world wide use means you’re all set if you need to take this mixer on the road with you. One of the best audio mixers for professional set ups that won’t cost you a fortune.
First up on our list of best digital audio mixers is the SoundCraft Ui16 Digital Mixer. Considering the number of features, quality of mic pre amps and channels on offer, it’s surprising how budget friendly this is. At just over £300, this would definitely qualify as a cheap yet professional level digital mixer for smaller set ups such as churches, cafes and smaller venues that have live music.
However, it also makes a great option for bands and rehearsal rooms too as you can use up to 10 control devices such as phones, tablets and PC’s simultaneously. This means you can provide custom headphone mixes to your musicians, podcasters or vocalists. The Show/Snapshot recall with channel safes and security lockout makes this a powerful option for live sound engineers who need to set up quickly and ensure only certain people have control – which reduces accidental changes in sound. Overall, this is a fantastic option or those who need the option of recording live shows, rehearsal sessions, choirs, speaking events etc. and editing in high-quality recordings. It’s also fantastic for making changes on your tablet or smartphone whilst not being chained to one place.
2. RCF M18 DIGITAL MIXER
Time and time again, the RCF M18 Digital Mixer appears in best audio mixer lists all over the world due to its innovative design which allows musicians to enjoy a complete sound solution that they can manage themselves on stage via an iOS device. If you’re a solo performer or perform at events and weddings etc and you don’t want to rely on a sound engineer, or simply want to ensure you get the sound just how you like it without relying on someone else, the RCF M18 Digital Mixer is your answer.
As you can see, there are no controls on the unit, however, you get 8 Mic Preamp Inputs,10 Line inputs, 1 Stereo Main Outs and 6 balanced Aux outputs. All this is controlled via your iPad and specially designed MixRemote app, which instantly puts all control into your hands. That means you have the option of plugging up to 18 channels of audio into your mixer and controlling everything yourself including levels, effects, presets and even amp modelling! Best of all, there’s an integrated Wi-Fi access point and internal power supply so you can simply turn up to the venue, plug in load your saved settings and you’re good to go! The guitar geeks out there like us will love the fact you have a host of amp modelling features which can be activated via the dual footswitch connector, meaning you can effectively turn up to a gig without an amp and play through a world class amplifier pre-installed within the RCF M18!
Hotel sound systems
School Sound systems
We could go on about how great this digital audio mixer is, but we’d rather let Sam show you!
3. QSC TOUCHMIX-30 PRO 32-CHANNEL DIGITAL MIXER
Another mainstay in the live sound and studio world is the world renowned QSC TouchMix-30 Pro 32-Channel Digital Mixer. This is not only one of the best digital audio mixers, but still widely regarded as one of the best audio mixers for live sound available today thanks to its intuitive presets, anti-feedback and room tuning wizards and its ability to support both Windows and Mac DAW recordings. This is a professional rig, designed to be as easy to use as a beginner option. We’ve covered just how handy this digital mixer is many times in our blog, as we are absolutely blown away by how useful the QSC TouchMix-30 Pro really is.
It's one of the best mixers for schools, college PA systems, venues and churches too! You have a large 10” multi-touch touchscreen providing you with all the information you need to make changes to the 32 mixing channels (24 Mic/Line, 6 Line, Stereo USB) and 16 outputs, so you’re never going to get lost in the mix. The intuitive room tuning wizard will automatically make equalization and finely tuned changes to your sound based on the acoustical space and the anti-feedback wizard constantly monitors your sound, effectively eradicating any unwanted frequencies that can sometimes creep in.
Best of all, QSC TouchMix-30 Pro 32-Channel Digital Mixer is not only capable of recording 32 tracks of audio directly via class-A microphone preamps to an external USB hard drive, but users can then play back and mix down directly on the unit or import tracks into most DAW software for over-dubs and post production. All inputs are created in a 32-bit Broadcast Wave format so they sound amazing. This is essentially a complete studio mixer, in a portable package!
All applications large or small
Church sound systems
School PA systems
Courtroom PA systems
It’s so easy to use that we asked the team at QSC to show us how to mix a band in 5 minutes with the TouchMix 30 Pro –
4. YAMAHA TOUCHFLOW TF1 16 CHANNEL DIGITAL MIXER
The Yamaha TouchFlow TF1 16 Channel Digital Mixer is one of the best 16 channel mixers available today for bands, studio owners and live sound engineers operating small to mid-size rigs. This is an intuitive audio mixer that can act as an audio interface that will allow you to track directly to your DAW and above all, provide you with high-quality sound as well as superior control over your entire workflow.
The core of the TF mixer utilises the same TouchFlow Operation that has put the higher-end Yamaha mixers on the map, so you’re getting the same core concepts and quality control. You have D-Pre mic preamp technology built-in so all your vocals and live sound, whether it’s a guitar, choir, public speaker or any mic’d up instrument will sound great and the fact that the Yamaha TouchFlow TF1 is packed with studio standard SPX effects engines will really appeal to studio and live sound engineers who want to add a bit of flair to their sound.
The touch panel control makes changes a breeze, allowing everyone from beginners to seasoned pros to enjoy quick parameter changes and the seamless operation with high-performance I/O racks makes it a great option for pro set ups. However, there’s still the option to make changes via the physical Touch & Turn Knob and users can also make use of the User Defined Knobs below the panel which can be assigned to EQ, Compression or effects for quick changes.
The fact you can control the mixer via dedicated StageMix™ and MonitorMix™ Apps is a great feature as the sound engineer can mix anywhere in the room via an iPad, walk into the audience to make changes or even allow the band to mix the sound themselves – perfect for wedding bands. If you need to go bigger, you have the Yamaha TouchFlow TF3 24 Channel and the Yamaha TouchFlow TF5 32 Channel Digital mixer to choose from should you need to expand.
Bands who want to make live recordings
Small to mid-size venues
Small to mid-size studios
5. RCF M 20X DESKTOP DIGITAL MIXER
The RCF M 20X Desktop Digital Mixer finishes up the best digital audio mixers section, but easily slots in as one of the best audio mixers available today thanks to its user-friendly operation, 20 analogue input channels and 16 onboard Mic preamps, making it a formidable ally in the studio and in the live environment. The main reason we feel this is one of the best audio mixers is that it has user-friendly touchscreen interface and wifi control features along with a vast amount of channels and pre-amps. This makes it the ideal companion for mixing live bands with ease and offers great workflow.
Given the number of channels and pre-amps on offer here, the RCF M 20X Desktop Digital Mixer is especially great value considering its durable and portable nature. While this mixer will make a perfect addition to the live sound set up for festivals, live venues, corporate events, church sound systems and schools, we also think this is one of the best audio mixers for professional sound engineers who travel with bands as it's been designed with the road in mind. This is largely down to the touring grade metal and professional-grade electronics, which offer great durability when being moved around a lot. We also love the RCF M 20 X Desktop Digital Mixer because it allows you to record all 20 inputs straight to an SD card and playback recordings straight back through the mixer. This can be especially handy if you're using this mixer in the studio or want to record and save your live recordings. Likewise, you can also utilise the USB drive stereo recorder in various file formats.
This means you can record straight onto a USB drive. Again, the addition of a 5" touchscreen interface allows you to see every aspect of your sound and take quick control should you need to make changes on the fly, offering intuitive navigation through all features. The touchscreen can even be paired with your tablet device which expands control options and enables you to control the sound from anywhere in the venue. Check out a full range of RCF mixers here.
PA Hire Companies
Shop a full range of audio mixers over at PMT Online today or call into your local PMT store for the best advice from our dedicated PA experts.
Choosing the right mixer for your PA system, studio or venue may seem a little daunting at first, so let our team of PA experts help you get the right option for your needs. At your local PMT store, our team are on-hand to help talk you through your options. Simply call in today for free, no-obligation advice and let us find the right mixer to suit the needs of your congregation.
Here at Professional Music Technology, we supply complete, installed live sound solutions for, schools, halls, venues, churches, studios and performing artists and will ensure you make the right choice for your set up, budget and specific needs. Whether you need a complete sound system setup, would like some advice on the best PA audio mixers, sound systems or just need further information on the best mixer for your needs, we’ll help you get the right gear!
Find your local PMT store or call our expert PA team on 0151 448 2089 and let us help you get the best out of your sound system – we’re here to help!