Mixer vs Audio Interface: Which Is Right For You?

Have you ever wondered about the comparison of mixer vs audio interface? Check out the article and learn about the differences between these music gears.
by itsaboutmusic | Updated: April 8, 2021

Do you know the differences between the mixer vs audio interface?

You're in the right place. The article will let you know which music device is right for your purposes. If you’re looking for a unit for home recording, the audio interface is the option for you. Should you want to live stream a music program, the mixer can perform better.

What Are Elements To Separate These Devices?

  • Physical Space
  • Price 
  • Multi-Track Vs Stereo
  • Phantom Power
  • Power Supply
  • High-Quality Recordings
  • Record Purposes
  • Software Control
  • Stereo & Mono Channel

Scroll down section by section to learn more about these products!

Terms Break-down

Before going to the detailed comparison between the mixer and audio interface, you need to go through the definition of two music devices. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is A Mixer?

What Is A Mixer

A mixer is a music gear that can take audio sources through multiple input channels, adjust several sound attributes, and then combine them to outputs.

You can also use it as a summing device, either through the main 2-us output or the busses. Therefore, it’s easier to mix down your songs and capture the analog sound. Mixer sizes are various from 4 to over 48 channels.

What Is An Audio Interface?

Steinberg UR22C USB Type-C Audio Interface

An audio interface is a music device that converts an analog signal into a digital binary for recording and playback on the computer. Some common systems for capturing recorded audio are Logic Pro X, Pro Tools.

It has digital connectivity to connect to the computer via Firewire, Thunderbolt, or USB. Some models can have line inputs and built-in microphone preamps. These features allow you to connect a microphone directly and record easily.

Comparison: Mixer vs Audio Interface

Although mixers and audio interfaces are music devices, they provide different purposes, prices, features, and other things. The mixer is suitable for live streaming, while the audio interface performs well for home recording.

Beginners can use mixers with various sets of channels. Besides, the audio interfaces allow both professionals and solo musicians to use.

Here, you can get a detailed comparison between the mixer and audio interface.

Physical Space

The first thing to differ between mixers and audio interfaces is the physical space. Audio interfaces often take less space than mixers, including built-in interfaces.

Hence, you may find the standalone audio interfaces to be more portable than the mixers. You can put them on the desktop or in the equipment rack. These music devices become the best choices for the small studios and your on-the-go kits.

Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Audio Interface

Price

You can separate these devices depending on the price. If you’re new to the mixers and audio interfaces, a cost-effective product will be a good option. Thus, a good audio interface can provide high-quality solutions while saving you money.

Multi-Track Vs Stereo

Do you want to get the recordings on separate tracks? If yes, you should go for the audio interfaces rather than the multi-channel mixers.

The USB mixer would be the best for live streaming. It helps you easily stream the output to YouTube Live, Facebook, or anywhere else.

Some broadcast-style applications such as streaming and podcasting may need mixers to produce the best sounds.

Phantom Power

The phantom power in the mixer or interface lets you use any mic types such as active dynamic mics and condenser mics. Some interfaces feature only phantom power with a maximum of two inputs.

You should know your mic type before choosing the interfaces with phantom power to use.

Almost every modern interface owns a phantom power button to let a condenser microphone work. When you hit this button, the powder signal goes through the XLR cable and passes into the mic.

studio Multi-Track Vs Stereo

Power Supply 

The audio interface with bus power through USB can allow you to bring this device anywhere for a recording rig. As a result, you don’t need to connect it to wall power.

Some interface models supporting bus power can contain a power supply. Hence, you can use one providing the best solution in the specific scenario.

You should make sure a mixer is not USB-powered only when you use it as a standalone mixer.

High-Quality Recordings

You may consider high-quality recordings as the aspect to differ between two music devices.  If you’re looking to make recordings yourself, a good audio interface can help you post-process the sound via computer software.

In another case, you may prefer to have multiple hardware controls over the recording sounds. Now, the mixer fits your needs best. It’s easier for you to achieve your favorite sound without applying reverb, panning, and EQ.

Recording Purposes

You can separate the mix between the audio interfaces depending on your recording purposes. If you desire to record a raw “live” sound, the mixer is the best choice for you.

Otherwise, the multi-channel audio interface can help you apply a lot of post-processing to the individual track.

Software Control

The mixer usually does not control any software functions like controlling faders in the DAW. However, the built-in audio interface includes a control surface which will be an ideal option for people looking for the software control function.

Stereo & Mono Channel

This feature belongs to the mixer only. Manufacturers often provide a different number of mono and stereo inputs in the mixers.

You can see five stereo channels and two mono channels in a 12-channel mixer. These channels usually accept mics and line-level devices such as signal processors, preamps, or amplifiers.

studio Stereo & Mono Channel

FAQs

In the comparison section, you’ve known the features and functions of mixers and audio interfaces. This comparison can also be the basic buying guide for you as a newcomer to the music mixing gears.

In the following FAQs section, you can also have a chance to broaden your knowledge about these devices. Let’s jump right in!

1. Which Is The Right Gear For Home Recording?

A high-quality audio interface may suit you to record at home. You will need this device to record from the computer software using your instrument,  microphones, or keyboard.

Moreover, the audio interface also helps connect the computer to the speakers. You can also get a better sound when using it for home recording.

On the other hand, the mixer can satisfy the need to have more complicated hardware controls over the recording sounds.

2. What Is The Best Tool For Live Streaming?

The best tool for live streaming is an audio mixer. This device allows you to generate a live mix like the way you make a mix for a live performance.

Modern mixers provide several levels of audio recording to let your band rehearsal. Either an analog mixer or digital mixer, you can get a cost-effective solution to stream your sound.

3. Will I Need Both The Audio Interface And Mixer?

The answer is no, in case you have a mixer including a built-in USB audio interface. Otherwise, you will need the audio interface to tape on the computer if you get a standalone console without USB output.

Should you own a 2-channel audio interface, it's better to buy a small mixing console to produce more than two sources.

4. Can I Replace A Mixer With The Audio Interface?

To an extent, you can replace a mixer with the audio interface. However, the mixer should have stereo output and built-in USB ports.

5. Can A Mixer Improve Sound Quality?

Yes, a mixer can improve sound quality if you own the one applying good quality reverb, compression, and EQ. Besides, you can also enhance sound quality with a decent interface to record the signal.

6. What Is The Loopback Audio For Streaming?

The term “loopback” refers to routing from the computer's audio to the mixer or interface, combining it with the input sources. After that, you can reroute the mix back to the computer for the streaming software.

Streamers, who use Macs and Windows computers, usually apply this feature to set up loopback audio.

The audio interface like Yamaha AG06 features the built-in loopback capability to make the process easy. Moreover, you can try Focusrite Audio Interfaces to leverage their loopback feature through Focusrite Control software.

Wrapping Up

You now understand the comparison of the mixer vs audio interface. These devices share in common as music gears to adjust your computer software's sound to the desired output.

There are nine elements you should consider to make a difference between the mixer and audio interface. Physical space, price, multi-track vs stereo are the most important criteria that separate these devices.

Also, the mixer and audio interface differ depending on phantom power, power supply, high-quality recordings, and purposes.

Mixers provide the functions for channels, while audio interfaces feature software control over the recording sounds.

So, do you choose the right gear for your music production, either the audio interface or mixer? Let us know by commenting below!

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