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Audio Interface VS Mixer (The Best for Your Home Studio)

In Guides for Musicians, Home Recording Studio by Jake LLeave a Comment

Nowadays, thanks to all of the information and guides on the internet, it’s easy for anyone to set up their own home recording studio. With experience and the willingness to learn, you could record and produce high-quality music without having to leave the house. However, in order for you to do all of this, you’ll need the right set of gear to get the job done. More importantly, the right set of hardware to record music from your instruments straight to your computer. For this, you’ll have two types of hardware to choose from. This leads us to the question at hand. Audio interface vs mixer, which one is best for your home recording studio? The short answer is, it depends on what you’re looking for. Let’s explain.

What is an Audio Interface?

Basically, an audio interface is a device that allows your computer to connect with microphones and musical instruments. There’s a variety of audio interfaces available, all at different price ranges and offering different features. They connect to your computer via USB or FireWire, making it quick and easy to set up. Every Audio interface has a built-in microphone preamp that amplifies your mic’s volume to a level that can be picked up on by your computer.

Like we’ve already mentioned, there’s a lot of audio interfaces to choose from. You’ll definitely get what you pay for. If you’re planning to only utilize one or two inputs, then you can get a smaller audio interface. This is perfect for artists/musicians who plan to record music on their own. But if you need to record an entire band, you’ll have to look at pricer options that come with more inputs to plug into.

You won’t be able to take advantage of equalizers, faders, and onboard effects with an audio interface alone. You’ll need to have Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to utilize these types of effects with your recordings. However, if you wanted to use these effects in a more hands-on type of way, you might want to consider looking at mixers. We’ll get more into that in the next section.

You’ll pretty much have everything you need to start recording your music with an audio interface.

What is an Audio Mixer?

If you’re looking for hardware that gives you more control over what is recorded onto your computer, audio mixers are the way to go. Mixers are often confused with audio interfaces, however, they do come with different features.

First of all, they have equalizers and volume faders dedicated to each input channel. This gives you the maximum amount of control over the sounds that are being recorded into your computer. They also come equipped with onboard effects, which include reverb, delay, and chorus. All of these effects can be applied to individual tracks.

You will find mixers especially useful for live performances and any type of situation where you need to modify the audio coming from multiple sources simultaneously. You’re really going to need them to create a clear and solid mix in these type of situations.

You can find mixers with built-in USB or FireWire, allowing you to hook it up straight to your computer without the need of a separate audio interface. There are DAW’s that give you virtual mixing features that you would get from a mixer. While they do a good job, they just can’t beat having the real thing. Mixing on the actual hardware allows you to make more accurate adjustments to whatever is being recorded.

As you can see, mixers are very useful and can even do more than what an audio interface is capable of. But does this mean everyone should buy a mixer? The answer is no because not everyone’s needs are the same.

Audio Interface VS Mixer (Which Should You Use?)

Now that you have a better understanding of what the difference is between audio interfaces and mixers, which one would be the best for you? To answer your question, it depends on what you really need at the time. In order to make the explanation easier for everyone, we’ll discuss the main deciding factors in separate sections.

Experience Levels

The first thing you need to consider is your own experience level. While mixers do give you more control overall, there is a steeper learning curve. In order to utilize a mixer to its full potential, you’re going to have to learn what each feature does to the sounds that are being recorded.

If you’re a beginner with a smaller recording studio set-up, you might not need some of the features that mixers have to offer. An audio interface will be much more appealing as they’re much easier to set up and use. It makes the entire recording process less complicated for you.

Like we’ve already mentioned, you can use your DAW to access mixing features if you really need them. They do an excellent job and are a great way for you to get experience mixing. It’ll be good for you so if you decide to buy a mixer in the future, you’ll already have an idea on how to use it to transform your sound.

Space Accommodation

Home Recording Studio. A smaller set-up with a microphone and desk.

Another factor you need to consider is how much space you actually have in your home recording studio. Mixers definitely take up more space than audio interfaces, something you should keep in mind. They’re also not as portable. Audio interfaces are smaller in comparison and are much more portable than mixers.

If space is limited in your home recording studio and portability is an important factor, get an audio interface. You’ll have everything needed to record vocals and musical instruments.

Needed Features

Of course, the most important thing to consider is the features that you’re looking for. Everyone has their own needs when it comes to recording music. If you’re a solo artist who plans to record all of their music on their own, an audio interface might be all that you need. Of course, you can also benefit from a mixer with more control, but again, it’ll take up space and there are virtual alternatives to mixing.

If you have a full band and need to record multiple vocals and instruments, mixers are going to be a live saver. When recording multiple vocals and instruments simultaneously, You’ll appreciate the full control you get from using a mixer. Being able to monitor and control each individual sound source ensures that you’re always recording the desired sound straight to your computer.

You should also consider buying a mixer if you do a lot of live performances. Like we’ve mentioned earlier, having a mixer will make it much easier to control every individual audio sound source. This is important when performing live, ensuring you get a clean and solid mix.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it, our answer to the audio Interface VS mixer debate. When putting together a home recording studio, it’s important that you’re getting the necessary hardware that will fulfill your needs for the time being. Really think about what you’re looking to do with your recording studio to ensure you’re not wasting any money or space.

You can always buy more gear in the future so don’t think that you’ll be stuck with what you decide on forever. Hopefully, our guide has helped you come to a decision on what would be best for you and your recording studio.

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