Which is Better a Digital Mixer or An Audio Interface?

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Which is Better a Digital Mixer or An Audio Interface? featured imageDigital Mixers Vs. Audio Interfaces

To create and record quality music digitally can be simple, and it can be very rewarding for you. There are many options available so that you can turn a traditional studio into a state-of-the-art recording workplace.

To produce quality professional work, you need the right recording equipment.

There are so many audio interfaces and digital mixers to choose from that the most difficult part of making a choice is in deciding which type of equipment is best for your musical and creative needs.

Audio Interfaces

An audio interface is a device that connects your computer (Mac or PC) to a microphone and/or other sound devices. It is the most affordable type of recording equipment.

Most computers have a basic built-in interface single output port for a microphone, about 35mm. However, the quality of the built-in interface on your computer is not recommended for music recording if you are wanting sound quality that is sufficient for publishing.

An audio interface prepares the sound coming from your computer and upgrades its output. It ensures quality and high-resolution sound as it is being recorded and allows recordings to be made from multiple sources.

If you are producing audio from your computer, it is an essential element that you will need. Thinking of sound quality, do invest in a separate audio interface because the built-in on your computer is not up to par.

There are several sizes of audio interfaces on the market and they are portable and easy to carry with you. They connect to your computer by means of USB, FireWire, PCMCIA/ExpressCard and PCI.

If you are using one or two microphones to record, USB connections work well, but if you are recording multiple sounds at the same time, you should use the high-speed FireWire connection.

They also have built-in microphone preamps that magnify the microphone signal and making it easier to level out.

The type of audio interface that will be best for you depends on what type of music you will be recording. For a simple, 2-input recording (say a singer and 1 guitar), an interface with a single, although separate, input and output are all you will need.

If you are recording a band with lots of different inputs (say two microphones, a guitar, and piano) you will need to use an interface with plenty of input and output channels.

Digital Mixers

If you are trying to use sound effects, equalizers, and faders along with musical recordings, a mixer with a built-in audio interface is best.

A digital mixer receives multiple audio signals and combines them creating one or more output signals. It adjusts levels and enhances the sound with effects, it brings all the sounds together harmoniously.

Mixers employ equalizers and volume faders for each channel, thus giving more control over each sound that goes into the computer.

The mixer has several components:

  • The Board is the main component. It has two different layouts and is the main layout for the numerous controls. In-line consoles have the input and monitoring sections contained within the same channel strip. Split-mixing consoles have the inputs located on different shares of the board.
  • The inputs are the access points for the sound sources that come into the mixer.
  • Channel equalization gives the ability to adjust and control high and low frequencies for each channel.
  • Auxiliary channel components allow the mixer to send sound to a secondary feed and to another device.
  • The assign and pan permit the direction of channels to one of the two stereo outputs.
  • The most important component of the mixer are the faders. They are sliders that raise or lower the presence of each individual channel as it goes into its final output.
  • There are also added components that can be added to an audio interface which make it portable.

The mixer has so many components and so many capabilities that it is usually pretty large and therefore it is not portable. It is also more expensive. If you will be using it in a single location or if you will be doing large technical sound recording projects, the digital audio mixer is the best choice.

Big projects, like movie soundtracks, albums or operating a PA system can’t be completed professionally without a mixer.

For total control and every sound component, a mixer with a built-in audio interface offers the best of both worlds.

A digital mixer can record multiple tracks at once using its multiple faders, and you will not need any extra drivers as it is a one-click source with a built-in metronome. It is simple and convenient.

It also has its own effects and compression control which combines everything you will need to produce and record. Yes, it’s big and more costly than a single mixer or audio interface, but it’s got all of the necessary tools that you will need to create expert studio recording with one efficient unit.

If you want to record from a digital mixer, you will still most likely need some kind of audio interface although some mixers have an interface built into them.

Conclusion

Here you have the facts about which is best for you: a digital mixer or an audio interface. To recap:

An audio interface:

  • Connects your computer (Mac or PC) to a microphone and/or other sound devices.
  • It is the most affordable type of recording equipment.
  • It can be connected with a USB, FireWire, PCMCIA/ExpressCard, and PCI.
  • It is small and easily portable.
  • It is not suitable for high-quality, professional recording.

A digital mixer

  • Receives multiple audio signals and combines them creating one or more output signals.
  • It adjusts levels and enhances the sound with effects, bringing all of the sounds together from multiple sources.
  • It is more expensive than an audio interface.
  • It brings all the sounds together.
  • It is larger and heavier, not portable.
  • It is necessary for high-quality, professional recording.

With many options available for you to turn a traditional studio into a state-of-the-art recording workplace and to produce quality professional work, you need the right recording equipment. There are many audio interfaces and digital mixers to choose from that the most difficult part of making a choice is in deciding which type of equipment is best for your musical and creative needs.  The information presented in this article will narrow your choice to the perfect alternative for you personally.

So what is better? It honestly depends on the size of the project you are working on.

Duke Taber

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. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.