The audio mixer or as it is sometimes referred to, the recording console, is a piece of equipment that operates in a number of environments. It is used in recording studios and at live concerts. But, also in the broadcast of audio through TV and or film.
Whatever its workplace its job is simple to receive an audio signal and process it and then monitor the output.
There are many mixers on the market, with some by well-known names. So, let’s take a look at some of the best audio mixers on the market…
Top 10 Best Audio Mixers In 2021 Reviews
1 Mackie Profx8v2 8-Channel Compact Mixer
Mackie is well-known for producing quality but sensibly priced recording and home studio gear. They’re great at making multi-functioning pieces of kit that are easy to work with. This 8-channel mixer is a good example.
Mackie has combined many of the features you will find on larger consoles into this desk to give you a lot of control over the sound produced.
Specially designed preamps…
You get four Mackie Vita preamps to boost the sound for a microphone, guitar, keyboard and anything else you fancy putting through it. Preamps that are specially designed to cater for the live show.
Each of the 8 channels has a 100Hz low cut filter and its own 3-band EQ. There is a further 7-band graphic EQ that can be used for the main output or the auxiliary.
Let’s get effected…
As well as, these sound options, Mackie has added on some interesting effects. These give you a wealth of control over the overall sound. And, include varieties of reverb, delay, and chorus.
And, to ensure a good balance 48-volt Phantom power is added for your condenser microphones.
There are inputs for your mp3 or laptop, including a USB port in case you are using externally recorded sound. Other facilities have also been added like the footswitch FX mute. And, there is a single headphone socket with its own volume control.
Take a closer look…
There are so many features included in this desk, that it’s impossible to go through them all here. It really does need a closer look to check out all the options.
While it is going to work well in a live environment, it will also be a great studio mixer and will even be comfortable for conferences and other audio duties.
Mackie has included a lot of features in this desk. These make it one of the best digital mixers for live sound there is and therefore a very good option for those looking for an eight channel mixer.
2 Allen & Heath Zed-12fx 12-Channel Mixer
Where digital mixing desks are concerned, Allen Heath has set the bar quite high in terms of performance and value.
This piece of kit packs a lot of tech into a small frame and is suitable for concerts or working in the studio. Weighing just 22 pounds and with a size of 22 inches by 18, it is easy to carry around.
Connect it all up…
It is a 12 channel mixer with six microphone or line inputs and features four auxiliary sends. Six of the channels have preamps allowing you to connect line inputs or direct input boxes. The preamps boast a huge +69dB of gain.
There is a three-band EQ on the six main channels and added to this are three stereo channels with volume control and two-band EQ for each. There is a USB for sending audio straight to a computer if required.
Smooth action faders…
The faders are smooth action at 100mm and two headphone sockets, one with 1⁄4” and one with 1⁄8”.
Although this is first and foremost a mixing desk, it has an impressive array of 24-bit effects. Delays, reverbs, chorus and flangers are all included allowing options for getting the sound just right.
Produces a clean sound…
Allen and Heath have a reputation for producing real quality and included in this machine is all you require to work at the level it allows. One thing that is immediately apparent is the quality of the preamps. They are exceptional and produce a clean sound.
The effects add a lot of options and allow some tone production if required.
While this is a mid-range mixer, it is going to take some work to get to grips with all the onboard facilities. So, be prepared for some serious internet time as the manual is not so hot.
Not a cheap option of a mixer, just about mid-range price wise but a powerful tool that will not disappoint.
3 Yamaha Emx5014c 14-Input Powered Mixer
This is a Yamaha digital mixer packed with excellent facilities and options. In this field of operation, the company has grown to excel, and this mixing desk is a good example.
14 channels are available, ten mono and four stereos with single knob compressors on six inputs. There are highpass filters at 80Hz for getting rid of any unwanted bottom end noise and Pre-Fader listener switches to let you monitor individual channels.
Correct any overload problems…
There are feedback indicators in LED format so you can monitor and correct any overload problems and all channels have indicators to monitor signal peaks.
Further sound assessment and control facilities exist with Aux 1 and 2 and return monitor switches. Eight mic preamps are onboard in XLR input, two in stereo and eight channels have Phantom Power.
Sixteen effects to choose from…
The EQ is a 3-band mid-channel, sweepable EQ and a stereo over 3 bands and a 9 band graphic. Yamaha has a popular range of effects processors, the SPX series, and sixteen of those effects are included.
It boasts two 500 watt power amplifiers with YSP, which is Yamaha Signal Processing. These are switchable to allow various sound options. And, more than enough to handle monitors and mains.
Rack it up…
This Yamaha is a rugged machine capable of doing some traveling being contained in a steel chassis. It is also designed to be rack mounted if you choose to do so.
All this and so much more make this a powerful mixing console. And, more than suitable for live work or in a small studio. Nice clean sound, great effects and a lot of options.
It is sturdy, well-built and reasonably priced given the amount of activity that is included. All this makes it outstanding value for money from a company that manufactures quality gear.
4 Yamaha Ag03 3-Channel Mixer / 1 Microphone
Sometimes you come across something that is new and innovative. A product that has grasped the requirements of the modern world of music and broadcasting and makes a difference. This could be one of those products – a small Yamaha mixer with USB.
It actually extends far beyond pure music production and can include gaming and webcasting as well as being a solution for musicians on the move.
It operates primarily as a 24bit three-channel mixer and a two-track recording and audio interface. It carries studio type effects with EQ, Reverb and even compression. And, each is adjustable to suit the environment in which you are working and operate.
Do you want to live stream?
Not a problem via a loopback function that will combine all your tracks for recording to your streaming software. It will even plug into your iPad ( second generation and later) and is class compliant.
You can plug in a vocal, guitar or keyboard and if you use a condenser microphone, there is an onboard preamp.
The USB will work with Mac and PC…
As a piece of kit, it is quite astounding how much has been put into this little machine. The sound is crisp and clear, and the effects are excellent.
If you are looking for a small mixer/interface, then this is well worth a visit.
We were looking for something it didn’t do, and the only thing we found was that it didn’t make the tea.
A fantastic piece of kit for those wanting a multi-purpose small mixer/interface.
5 Presonus Studiolive 24.4.2AI Active Integration Digital Mixer
PreSonus, well known for manufacturing excellent digital audio mixers, have produced with this product something that is exceptional that will work in many environments.
Twenty-four to four to two, a classic setup on a mixing desk. This carries that weight and power but then a lot more.
There will not be enough space here to describe in detail all the facilities packed into this desk so we will highlight the important ones.
So, here we go…
Twenty-four channels all come with XMAX preamps for microphones which will give any boost necessary for live or studio recordings. More about those soon. Four subgroups and ten auxiliary buses give you plenty of control
There are more than ninety signal processors. Compressors, limiters, and expanders – a high pass filter and four band EQ are available on all channels. And, LED monitors, allow you to see what’s going on all the time.
Store and recall your settings…
Channels can be preset as commencement points for instruments and voice and can be called up when needed. And, there is an Auto store facility saving current settings in case of malfunction.
So many functions, that there are too many to describe. Perhaps the most critical though, and what sets this desk apart from others are the preamps.
Studio quality preamps…
Twenty four channels all with a studio quality preamp will give you twenty-four great sounding channels.
No matter what you run through them be they vocals, guitars, drums, keyboards or just about anything else you can imagine. You have the control to produce a great balanced sound.
With that many, you can put a microphone on anything that moves and even stuff that doesn’t.
And, there’s more…
We won’t go into the sound libraries or the Virtual StudioLive software that can be downloaded or controlled from a Mac or PC.
This desk is pushing the boundaries of what has become possible. It isn’t cheap, but it is for what you are getting.
6 Peavey Pvi 6500 400-Watt 5-Channel Powered Mixer
Peavey makes some quality gear and has done so for fifty years. They do tend to make things that are very durable and make some good noise, and this is a good example.
This is a powerful 400 watt 5 channel mixer designed for use in a live environment.
Ideal for mixing multiple vocal tracks…
It has six combination XLR, and 1⁄4” inputs and each channel uses Peavey’s powerful Silencer preamp making it ideal for mixing multiple vocal tracks. It also has Phantom power, but only for microphones.
There is a feedback detecting system that identifies potential overload and with the 8-band graphic equalizer is able to remove it. Lighting up an LED at the first signs of feedback allows you to address the problem early.
Bring life to your sound…
Peavey has patented its Kosmos-C sound enhancement module to allow you to bring life to your sound. Both low and high controls adjust the frequency ranges to give you the sound you are looking for.
Onboard are 24-bit digital effects that add further control over the sounds. A variety of reverbs and delays are also available. These can be operated by a footswitch.
It will operate using a number of external sources including Bluetooth, SD card and USB mp3 player.
Old-school PA Amp…
One thing that ought to be said for this mixer is that in the old days it would probably have been called a ‘PA Amp.’ It is designed principally to handle vocals although of course, it will take guitars and keyboards.
It is therefore geared up for that process and performs very well.
The effects may be less than other mixers have onboard, but they are adequate for producing a simple, clear sound.
It is tough and sturdy and is built to travel and take a few knocks, and is set at a reasonable price.
7 Zoom Livetrak L-12
If you are looking for a mixer that will allow you a lot of additional options, then this is certainly worth taking a look at. It really does perform above what you might consider is above its punching weight.
If what you are really wanting to do is to mix and record your concert or rehearsal then this is possibly the best audio mixer for you.
Recording and mixing up to twelve channels at a time the possibilities this desk gives for an easily transportable machine are endless. Especially as you can use the onboard studio-quality effects it offers.
You can actually finish the whole thing using the L-12 or if you prefer or send the results to your DAW for editing and mixing.
Let’s get to some specs…
Each channel has a three-band EQ with the sixteen effects provided. Inputs are both XLR and 1⁄4” jacks. And, mic preamps and compressors are included for each channel.
A special facility has been included for guitar and bass with channels 1 and 2 offering hi-Z inputs. These allow for the best possible signal to go into the desk if you connect a guitar or bass directly into it.
Keyboards and other devices can be put through channels 9 to 12 which have TRS and RCA connections.
Have they thought of everything?
Nearly. Creating custom headphone mixes for up to five users is also a great facility.
We really could wax lyrical about this piece of kit and what it offers but there isn’t space here, and it would really be easier to list what it doesn’t do, which isn’t much!
So much more…
Phantom power, metronome, USB connections – all included. It just goes on and on… And, we haven’t even looked at the technical stuff that really makes this desk a cut above its opposition.
Not at all for what you are getting. You will be hard pushed to find a better desk than this, with all the facility it provides for less. Could this make it the best audio mixer in this rundown? Wait till the end to find out…
8 Mackie 1604vlz4 16-Channel Compact 4-Bus Mixer
A big machine from Mackie providing state of the art capability, and improved functions. This means that it could be considered to be one of the best live sound mixers around. But is it?
The one thing you can say about Mackie is they make great analog mixing desks, they pack them full of power and effects, and build them in such a way that they survive being run over by a tank.
Tough as old boots…
This 1604VLZ4 with work anywhere but it is prepared to be taken on the road and used live if it is needed. The VLZ series of mixers are designed to be robust and sturdy, and this is no exception. Built with a wrap-around steel casing, it is likely to survive most things.
It has 16 channels all of which have Onyx microphone preamps with a 60Db gain range, and the channels have a three-band EQ. And the ultra-low noise performance gives you a crisp and clear sound.
A clever idea has been to seal all the rotary controls. You never quite know what to expect from any venue, but with sealed units, the desk is protected against some of the worst that can occur.
It also operates well in a studio environment and can be rack mounted if you wish (mounting sold separately).
Powerful and clean sound reproduction…
With the 16 channels though it is big enough to handle most input requirements and generate a powerful and clean sound reproduction. It is finished in black, but the control knobs are coated with high color tops to assist in darkened venues.
This mixer looks like it means business and it does. It carries no non-essential bells and whistles it just gets on with its job and does it very well. It is priced at the top end, but you get a lot for your cash.
Mackie is a proven name, and this mixer adds to the company’s reputation.
9 Behringer X Air X18
Behringer has produced what may be one of the best digital mixers around at the moment. It certainly has an up-to-date feel about its design with its futuristic looks.
There is something a little different about this mixer though…
They have designed it to work with your tablet, iPad or Android and even your smartphone. This takes the idea of linked communications in music to a new level.
It might not be the first time this has been possible, but it could be the first time this technology is so affordable. But then that is what Behringer is all about.
Work the mixer from anywhere…
With this desk, you can plug in your instruments and microphones and work on them from anywhere at the concert, or in the studio via the free downloadable app.
This is not a four-track wonder either. It has eighteen channel, twelve bus mixer with sixteen programmable microphone preamps by Midas. Onboard is Behringer’s X32 studio quality effects rack, and 18 x 18 USB interface and integrated wifi.
Everything is at your fingertips to be able to mix and change sounds and balances from wherever you are in the venue or studio.
You can even wander around a live show and hear what the audience is hearing from various vantage points and make the changes if necessary.
It is even possible to let the musicians and performers adjust their own mixes in the live situation through the ultranet connection, though certain conditions apply to that option.
This is undoubtedly a very impressive mixer. It looks good and performs just as well as it looks giving you the freedom to work in new ways.
No, It’s German designed, but built under Behringer’s strict quality controls in the Far East, which means it’s excellent value for money.
Certainly, one for the let’s have a closer look at this list.
10 Mackie Profx12v2 12-Channel Compact Mixer
This Mackie desk is primarily designed for the smaller live show and provides you with a host of features to enable you to get the best sound from your mixer. It offers a number of features that usually only exist on larger desks that cost a lot more.
To start with there is a three-band EQ and low cut filter on each channel and a seven-band graphic EQ can be used for fine tuning the sound to the PA.
As with all things Mackie produce, everything is included to make the sound as good as it can get and they include some great features.
Add life to your sound…
The Vita preamp was designed specifically with the live performance in mind, and six channels have this preamp for microphones which add boost where necessary and life to the sound.
It also boasts a ReadyFX effects engine that includes 16 effects including the usual delays and reverbs. They also included a chorus option for guitar if required.
So many options…
Some smaller mixers do not offer such high-quality options. But, they are all included on this desk, including a hi-Z input for guitar or other instrument input and Phantom power.
A USB is included for input from a laptop or mp3 player which will allow you to stream backing tracks or other sounds from a PC or Mac. And, there is a headphone output that has its own volume control to allow direct monitoring from the stage.
Compact and portable…
With a weight of just nine pounds and a size of fourteen square inches, it is compact and very portable. The fact that the size is so modest shouldn’t detract from the number of effects and quality mixing options that exist on this desk.
It is a quality piece of kit for the smaller performance at an excellent price.
Choosing Your Audio Mixer
With the constant improvements in technologies, there may never have been a better time to buy a piece of high-tech wizardry. That’s one way of describing the constant advances that make equipment like mixers at times awe-inspiring in what they are able to do.
We have been able to cast our eye over these ten in an effort to identify the best audio mixer available.
In doing so, it became very clear that they had all been designed to not only do all that was required. But, also to cross over and be suitable for other tasks. And, some have special facilities that make them exceptional at certain areas of operation.
The first question you must, therefore, ask yourself to narrow down the options is simple and obvious…
What Are You Going To Use The Best Audio Mixer For?
The answer to that question will fall into one of three categories.
- To use solely at home or in a studio.
- To use for live concerts.
- A combination of both.
So, let’s go through them…
Home Or Studio Only
If you are going to use your mixer in a studio environment, you will be concentrating on a different set of requirements that you may need. One thing you may wish to consider is the number of channels on your mixer? But, its ability to withstand knocks while being transported will not be on the ‘Things I need’ list.
Live Concerts Only
Using at live concerts for whatever reason, e.g., recording, pure mixing, etc., will require your best audio mixer to be sturdy and quite rugged. It will need some onboard effects and enough inputs to take all that is required.
Will you be using backing tracks or external sources? If so, a USB port may be required as will an adequate headphone system with its own gain.
Using both at home, in a studio or at a venue will require a different set of requirements. These are essentially a mixture of both of the first two.
We’ve featured mixers that utilized the power of the internet via USB ports to allow you more options. And, even a desk whose specialty was actually recording what was being played through it.
Some of the best audio mixers were as you would expect, more expensive than others. They carry a lot more of a package, so the cost obviously goes up. So, it might be a good idea to set a budget, give or take a small percentage, and then see what fits.
The choice of what is on offer is wide, but they are all quality mixers.
So, What’s The Best Audio Mixer?
We would go for a mixer for live work. And, would need at least 12 channels, some with a good preamp and some basic effect options, compressors, reverb, delay, etc. We have, therefore, decided that the best audio mixer is the…
A great piece of kit that gives us the chance to record and edit live concerts and rehearsals. That is too good a chance to turn down. In our opinion, it is easily the best Audio Mixer, currently available on the market.