One of the first things you must purchase when setting up your home recording studio is something to record your microphone, guitar, drums, and any other instrument using your computer. The simplest way to do this is to use a mixer or audio interface. Both can record and deliver audio data to a digital audio workstation (DAW) or audio editor, although they do so in different ways. However, there has been a conflict going on for some time, with artists and audio engineers trying to figure out which equipment best matches their needs.
In this article, we’ll dive into each and every detail about audio interfaces and audio mixers including their purpose, features, differences, and pros and cons to help you determine which one is better suited for your needs.
Audio Interface and Audio Mixer: Overview
Most people hold the view that audio interfaces and mixers are similar. Although they share a few characteristics, mixers and audio interfaces are not the same thing.
Delve into the article to know more about audio interfaces and audio mixers.
What is an Audio Interface
An audio interface is a device used in music creation (or) audio engineering to record sounds from any audio sources and save them to your computer, where you can manipulate them using a DAW (or) audio editor. In simple terms, an audio interface transforms audio signals from digital to analog and vice versa.
- They actually deliver more professional sound quality than your PC, Mac, or tablet’s sound card, which is often inexpensive and of poor quality.
- These audio devices include multiple inputs to connect and record your guitars, synth, or keyboards, as well as Thunderbolt (or) USB outputs for connecting speakers, studio monitors, computers, or headphones to hear what you’re recording and edit sounds in your digital audio workstation.
- Moreover, they also have built-in preamps to boost your microphone’s audio signal for recording and mixing.
- In fact, they come in various forms and sizes, with wonderful studio-quality ones being significantly larger to accommodate more inputs.
Why You Should Get an Audio Interface?
Here are some reasons to get an audio interface.
|Audio Interface devices take up less room and can be carried easily. They can also be placed beneath your monitor, next to your desktop, or bring it with you if you need to record somewhere other than your studio.|
|You can just connect it to your PC via USB, plug in microphones and musical instruments to the device’s inputs, click record on your DAW, and start recording.|
|You can record as many instruments as you like according to the given inputs and listen to your input signal with almost zero latency.|
What is an Audio Mixer?
An audio mixer, often known as a mixing console, is a music device that has several microphone inputs, line level inputs, and various audio inputs from which you can control volume, apply EQ, compression, and other effects such as delays, chorus, and reverb. keep in your mind that, with a mixer, you can perform the same thing that you would do in a DAW while recording with an audio interface.
- Moreover, it is a basic device for mixing engineers who work with live music. They can change the output in seconds without disrupting the concert, and they can do it numerous times during the performance.
- Further, they are extremely preferred for live performances and other circumstances where the audio from several microphones and instruments has to be modified to create a clear, cohesive mix.
- Nowadays, most mixers come with built-in USB (or) Thunderbolt, eliminating the need for a separate audio interface. There are also additional music production programs that provide virtual mixing without the need for hardware.
- However, many professional music producers prefer to use standalone devices in order to have additional inputs, effects, higher-quality preamps, filters, and so on.
Why You Should Get an Audio Mixer?
Here are the reasons to use an audio mixer.
|You have immediate access to each input’s settings and effects. Some mixers still require the computer to bring VST from your DAW, but after that, you have complete control.|
|You can set up everything in advance and record everything in one session without spending too much time editing in post-production.|
|Audio mixers tend to have more inputs to record a full band with multiple mics and instruments.|
Audio Interface and Audio Mixer: Comparison
|Feature||Audio Interface||Audio Mixer|
|Purpose||Connects audio devices to a computer for input (or) output||Combines and processes multiple audio signals|
|Phantom Power||Includes phantom power to deliver direct current to microphones||Includes phantom power to deliver direct current to microphones|
|Power Supply||Offers different kinds of power connectivity options such as USB etc||Offers different kinds of power connectivity options such as USB etc|
|Audio Quality||Furnished with high-quality analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog for producing wonderful sound quality||The audio quality may vary depending on the model and built-in components|
|Input Channels||Usually, they contain 1 to 32+ input channels||Have multiple channels for connecting various audio sources|
|Output Channels||Stereo (or) 5.1/7.1 surround sound||Stereo (or) multichannel output options|
|EQ Controls||Contains basic EQ adjustments||Has extensive EQ controls for each input channel|
|Low latency Monitoring||It provides real-time input monitoring||Typically includes zero-latency monitoring|
|Preamps||Built-in microphone preamps are supplied for mic inputs||Equipped with integrated preamps for microphones and instruments|
|Digital Connectivity||Seamlessly connected via USB, Thunderbolt, FireWire, PCIe, Ethernet, etc||Can be connected through USB, FireWire, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi connectivity|
|Analog Connectivity||Supports XLR, TRS, RCA, MIDI, etc||Supports XLR, TRS, RCA, and other audio connectors|
|Compatibility||Compatible with various recording software and DAWs||Works with DAWs (or) as standalone units|
|Built-in Effects||Usually, all the models don’t have built-in effects while some models offer basic effects||Offers a wide range of onboard effects, including EQ and reverb|
|Mobile Recording||Portable options for on-the-go recording||Some mixers are portable, but larger models are stationary|
|Sound Reinforcement||Limited functionality for live sound mixing||Designed for live sound mixing and performance|
|Footprint||They are sleek and portable, occupy very little desktop space||They are big and take up more space|
|Cost||It is budget-friendly and more affordable||Its cost can vary widely based on channel count and features|
Audio Interface and Audio Mixer: Which is Better?
Answering this question is quite confusing and complicated too. But we recommend you go with an audio interface if you primarily focus on recording and want a user-friendly, budget-friendly solution. on the other hand, if you require real-time mixing and extensive control for live performances or more complex audio productions then choose an audio mixer.
However, before making a purchase, evaluate the unique features and capabilities of both audio interfaces and mixers of individual models and brands listed below.
|Audio Interface and Audio Mixer: Features Comparison|
|Low Latency Monitoring
Audio Interface and Audio Mixer: Major Differences
Here is a quick run down of some of the key difference in between audio interface and audio mixer.
- You can only add EQ after recording with the audio interface whereas you can adjust each input’s EQ, compression, and reverb before recording begins with a mixer.
- A mixer gives you quick access and control over the settings and effects of each instrument, but an audio interface relies on the computer for anything you wish to change during live shows.
- Generally, interfaces rely on DAWs for post-production, but audio mixers provide everything you need to process your audio.
- A digital mixer cannot replace a DAW in terms of effects, because DAWs have many more effects than a mixer.
Audio Interface Vs Mixer – FAQs
Ans: You don’t require an audio interface if you solely use your audio mixer to mix sounds without recording them. If you wish to record music but don’t have a USB mixer, you’ll need an audio interface to convert the analog signal to digital and save it to your DAW.
Ans: A mixer with an integrated audio interface combines the features of an audio mixer and an audio interface into a single device. It enables real-time audio mixing while also enabling high-quality audio conversion for recording straight into a computer.
Ans: Yes, you can. Usually, some mixers include built-in USB (or) digital interfaces that allow them to operate as audio interfaces for recording. However, not all mixers have this capacity, so verify the mixer’s specs to determine if it enables direct recording to a computer.
Ans: No, a digital mixer cannot match the sound quality of a DAW. Mixer effects are restricted, they are only suitable for use in live sound or broadcasting situations. Working with recorded audio in a DAW allows you to achieve much more. There, you have access to hundreds of third-party plugins that may be used to edit the sound in a variety of ways.
Ans: Yes, most audio interfaces have built-in headphone amplifiers, which allow for direct monitoring while also providing adequate headphone loudness.
Ans: Audio interfaces convert a digital audio stream to an analog audio signal and vice versa. USB mixers have a built-in audio interface, however, they cannot record multi-tracks into your DAW or recording program, unlike standalone audio interfaces. They carry out similar tasks in various ways.
Ans: A mixing console is an excellent choice for audio professionals and bands seeking professional line-level audio instruments that enable real-time audio monitoring and tuning. You’ll be able to record your live performances professionally and with the quickly available settings necessary in this type of circumstance thanks to the stereo line level inputs included in most USB mixers.
Ans: You won’t be able to accomplish much with just the audio interface; you’ll need recording software or a DAW, as well as knowledge on how to utilize it if you want to get the most out of your audio interface.
Ans: Think about your primary use case whether it’s for recording, live performances, or both, the amount of audio sources you need to handle, your budget, and the level of control and complexity that your audio setup requires. Analyzing these things help you make a better decision between an audio interface and a mixer.
Finally, before purchasing an audio interface or a digital mixer, consider what you will use them for. In a nutshell, if you need to add effects, equalization, compression, and mixing after recording, you should invest in an audio interface. If you’re working on something like a podcast and only want to perform one initial setup and don’t intend to change anything afterwards, a mixer is the ideal option. If you need to fine-tune your audio later, you can purchase a second audio interface.
I hope this article was informative and helped you understand the difference between an audio interface and a mixer. Now go make some music and have fun!