The Ultimate Digital Mixer Buying Guide

The Ultimate Digital Mixer Buying Guide featured imageHow to Find and Operate the Right Digital Mixer

My purpose in writing this article is to help you find and the right digital mixer for your style of music and price range with ease of operation. There are lots of things to consider. Some digital mixers require training in the form of classes or individual instruction in order to operate them successfully. The following information will help you greatly as you begin your relationship with the right digital mixer.

How much does a Digital Mixer Cost?

There are several low-cost digital mixers available on the market today and they appear to be a super bargain with lots of features at very budget-friendly prices. Beware though, in the assortment of digital mixtures it is true that the buyer gets what he/she pays for.

Digital mixers are highly sophisticated computer-based machines and the low-cost ones tend to have reliability issues. Budget models can actually be more difficult to learn to use. You can’t do mixing quickly; it requires time as you work with precision and many variables.

How Easy is It to Learn and Understand a Digital Mixer?

As mentioned early, learning and understanding your digital mixer may require classes or individualized instruction. That can work if you will be the only one using it, but you may have different people volunteering to mix at church or school. In that case, some of the newer digital mixers are easier to use and operate like analog mixers but with memory recall, built-in effects and some other digital benefits.

Who Will Be Mixing the Sound and Who will be Managing It?

You need to know the skill level of the person who will be using the digital mixer. Are they familiar with multiple fader channels or do they need a fader for each channel?  Would color coded faders or scribble strips help? Do they know how to use a fader-flip where they can push a button to change something other than the main mix on the faders?

As for the person managing the console, if any, they are responsible to reset the board to a default setup if needed. Perhaps certain, less-skilled users will need to have limited access using only the most basic features of only changing faders and mute switches.

How Many Inputs and Outputs Will I Need on My Digital Mixer?

Some models have 32, 48 or another amount of set inputs, while others have expansion capabilities. If they have expansion capabilities, you can add outboard rack units which have eight inputs each that can be remotely controlled.

As for outputs, you will need to figure out where your signals will go and how you want to feed their paths. You can always add matrix outputs, auxiliary outputs, monitor mix outputs, record outputs, overflow seating outputs and direct outputs.

What Size of Control Surface Does the Best Digital Mixer Have?

Digital mixers are smaller than analog ones and so they need a smaller dedicated space. If you have to put it in the seats of the venue, fewer seats will be required.

What is a Digital Snake and Do I Need One?

That depends. The digital snake can save money or cost more money, depending on your situation. You can use the copper wire snake that is in place on your analog mixer setup. Some digital mixers have the connectors on the mixer itself, as in the analog mixer. The 300-foot analog snake can probably handle anything without distortion.

Some digital mixers have a stage box or rack that houses the input connections, microphone preamps, and analog-to-digital converters. The digital snake requires good AC power as does the mixer itself.

What if I Want to Record?

In that case, you will need something to record onto and somewhere to store your recordings. This can be accomplished on a USB drive or a laptop, an iPad, or even a smartphone. You need to be sure that the mixer will be able to interface with other devices in order to record. With the right equipment, you can get a simple stereo recording or a full multi-track recording for later mixing or editing.

Is it Possible to Do a Virtual Sound Check?

There are some digital mixers that have the ability to play back multi-track recordings from a previous gig through their recording interface. This is a real time saver as it allows the mixer to be tuned and ready to go before the band ever arrives.

Does the Manufacturer and/or Dealer Offer Any Kind of Support?

It depends on the dealer or manufacturer; some offer 24/7 online support and there are others who offer little or no support. You need this so be sure to buy from a dealer that stands behind the products that it sells. Who knows when you will need them, a concert emergency, technical help or perhaps for a loaner if your situation requires one?

Conclusion:

Overwhelming? It may seem so, but help is available for you regarding your digital mixer. I have covered some vital points to help you when choosing the right one for yourself. There are lots of things to consider. Be aware that some digital mixers require training in the form of classes or individual instruction in order to operate them successfully.

The following are briefly summarized in this article:

  • The cost of a digital mixer: There are some problems with budget models.
  • The required learning curves: Will you need classes or individualized training?
  • Inputs and outputs: How many are there and where they are on the digital mixer?
  • Surface size: They are smaller and more convenient than their analog counterparts.
  • Digital snake: Is one necessary or not?
  • Recording possibilities: What is needed for recording?
  • Virtual Sound Check: It is a great help.
  • Product support: It is mandatory.

It is very important that you partner with a sound technician who has the expertise and experience to answer your questions and help you choose the perfect digital mixer. You will be glad that you took the time to conquer the learning curves presented in this article. So, go ahead, get the right digital mixer and make some beautiful music!

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Duke Taber has been a Senior Pastor of various churches since 1988. Prior to that, he was involved in the Christian rock scene opening for such notables as Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Rez Band, and once played briefly with Darrel Mansfield. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.Currently he is serving as a Technology Consultant for Living Waters Fellowship In Mesquite Nv.