Track and Produce Audio on the Best Mixing Board
The mixing board is the engineer’s map, helping him or her navigate through a session and deliver a hands-on approach to mixing, broadcasting, tracking, and producing audio. There are many different types of mixing boards that exist and they all have different purposes, but the general commonalities that they share are the inputs, outputs, and faders that correspond to either analog or digital audio sources. Mixing boards can also be used to add and send effects, tweak EQs, and more. There are many mixing boards available for those looking for their “map” in both the recording studio and in a live environment, and while many of them have a price tag that easily puts them into a price point of six figures, there are also some that are a bit more attainable to the normal individual. We've chosen these picks as the best mixing boards in 2021 available today, with each one listed here featuring sends that allow you to route your audio with ease, no fewer than 10 tracks to give you a wide range of control to work with, and pan/EQ settings to give you plenty of options to manipulate sound that runs through the board.
Slate Digital RAVEN Audio Mixer
Soundcraft EPM6 High-Performance 6-channel Audio Mixer
Allen & Heath Dual Function Live Sound Mixing Board
Peavey Powered Mixer Mixing Board
Allen & Heath XB-14-2
Best Mixing Boards of 2021 Reviewed in Detail
Slate Digital’s RAVEN MTi2 mixing board is vastly different from the boards you’ve seen in the past. A 27” multi-touch display allows users to truly get hands-on with their mixes and instantly integrates with most major digital audio workstations. Those DAW parameters are then easily able to be controlled with your literal fingertips. Tweak plug-ins, pull faders, and navigate through tracks while interfacing with a 1920x1080 HD resolution display. Included Raven Batch Commander software executes macro controls that will help save you time for processes that you’ll utilize for every single session.
Whether you’re a live sound man who is ready for something a bit more modern to mix live music or you’re in a band and want to have a firmer control over the sounds that your audiences will hear, the Soundcraft Ui16 digital mixing board takes an old process and brings it into the future with ease and efficiency. The device connects via WiFi to up to 10 devices, including computers, phones, tablets, and more. Each of the 16 channels provided in the Ui16 have their own 4-band EQ, compressor, and de-esser. Add in the incorporated Lexicon effects, dbx signal processing, and DigiTech amp/stompbox modeling, and you really start to get a feeling for why this may be the last mixing board you’ll ever need to use to mix live sound. And because feedback is the worst enemy of the sound man, the Ui16 also is equipped with a dbx AFS2 feedback suppressor that anticipates problematic frequencies before the feedback even begins and nips them in the bud.
Allen & Heath Dual Function Live Sound Mixing Board - Honorable Mention
Mixing just got a whole lot easier with the Allen & Heath GL2400-32 mixing board. Offering up 32 channels to work with, this unit also features four separate audio groups with pan control, six aux sends with pre/post fader switching per channel, as well as dedicated channel, master, and stereo monitor meters. The design of this device has been carefully planned out to give engineers everything they need at their fingertips without being too overwhelming. The GL2400-32 also sports an ultra low-noise mix head amp design, which is important for keeping your audio from creeping into the red. Though the digital revolution is upon us, there are still situations where analog is the way to go, and mixing boards like this one certainly prove that they can hold their own with whatever new technology is thrown in their face.
Peavey’s XR 1212 powered mixing board may have some of the attributes of a traditional mixing console, but its inner workings are anything but. For instance, the unit’s new Class D power amplifier technology have made it so that the 1212 weighs in at only 22 pounds, without leaving out any component that one might find in a traditionally heavier box. You’ve got 12 channels to work with here, and you can enhance them all with a 4-band EQ, two monitor sends, and an effects send on each input channel. A pair of 9-band graphic EQs are here to help sweeten your sound even further. Five power amp modes allow you to set up your system to fit the room or environment that you’re in, giving this mixing board more versatility than its appearance might convey.
Allen & Heath XB-14-2 - Best Mixing Board
While it’s great to have a dedicated engineer onboard for all projects, sessions, and broadcasts, the truth of the matter is that sometimes that role falls to someone who is already doing something else – sometimes even talking on air. But there’s no reason to fret when you have compact, versatile mixing boards available that are easy enough for even audio novices to operate. The Allen & Heath XB-14-2 mixing board is ideal for broadcasters running a single-operator radio show. Using the 10 channels included here, you can mix in host, guest, and remote caller audio all from the convenience of your own desk. Each channel has its own simplified equalizers, making it easy to dial in the sound you need. The device can connect and send out to computers via a USB connection, making it a great tool for recording direct to digital or to stream signal online.
Choosing the Best Mixing Board for Your Jam in 2021
Picking out the best mixer can be a slightly daunting experience. There are multiple things you need to keep in mind, because you don’t want to end up with equipment that does not do everything you want it to.
The best mixing board will allow you to connect all your instruments, devices, sound card, listening system, and computer together to give you the possibility to create effects. This guide includes key information to get the best mixer that will suit your home studio configuration.
There are a number of mixers to choose from. Therefore, it is important to compare all your options and learn about the different types of mixing consoles to get your hands on the one you need. Here’s everything you need to know:
The type of sources you connect to your mixer is just as important as the number of sources. You might only need to connect microphones, or you could feel the need for line-level sources, in which case you would need more line inputs so that direct box usage can be reduced. Just check out the connection types to decide what feature you specifically want.
Analog or Digital
Depending on what you plan to use the mixing board for, you can pick either analog or digital. They both have their pros and cons. Analog mixers are simpler, more basic, and easier to use. Digital mixers, on the other hand, are complex but with many more features as compared to analog mixers.
A channel count is the frame size or the number of sources connected to your mixing board. This means that if you get a 24-channel mixer, you will have the option of connecting 20 audio sources simultaneously. Keep in mind that different kinds of mixers give different options. Some provide stereo channels, along with mono channels. Stereo channels are considered to have two inputs, even if they are using the same single channel. Therefore, you will have to keep your own needs in mind to determine what channel count will work best for your mixing board.
Most of the modern mixers come with the option to record. How advanced the recording option is would depend on how complex your mixer is. Some mixing boards let you record simple two-track recordings, while others give a more detailed recording option. Many of the mixers allow 24-bit recording at either 44.1 kHz or more.
Onboard Signal Processing
Mixers mostly have onboard signal processing in every channel, bus, or both. Having better onboard signal processing means that you will have to spend less money on the outboard gear. One thing that you must check is if the onboard effects have their own specific aux bus. If not, you would have to remove one monitor mix to add more features to your mixing effects.
Things to Look Out for When Getting a Mixing Board
- Check out the durability of the buttons, sliders, and knobs. Mixing boards face a lot of pressure and immense work, which means they are prone to wear and tear. Hence the reason you must opt for a mixing board that is of good quality and solid make.
- Think about what you want to use the mixing board for. Is it for live music mixing or recording? Or maybe both? Once you know what your usage will be, you can pick a device that works best to cater to your needs.
- Do you need the mixer for better sound-shaping capability? Then you would want to invest in a mixer that has multi-band parametric EQ. The high and low shelving would give you more access to the kind of sounds you are able to produce.
- Pay attention to the aux buses as they create a signal path to the main audio path of your mixing board.
Best Mixing Boards FAQs
Still unclear about some of the things that you need to know about the best mixing board in the year 2021? Here are some frequently asked questions for your help.
Q: What is the life of a mixing board?
A: A mixer lasts from about 3 to 5 years. This would, of course, also depend on the kind of usage you have of the mixing board. The more you take care of it, the longer it will last.
Q: Is it a mixer or an audio interface that I need?
A: A mixer and audio interface are two different things. A mixer is created to mix multiple audio sounds into one stream. On the other hand, an audio interface is manufactured to record clean signals on your source/computer in different tracks.
Q: Would leaving the mixing board on damage it?
A: There are many ways a mixer can get damaged. Power surge while the mixer is on is one of those things. However, if you leave the mixer on for a very long time, it will start failing. A mixing board can also get damaged due to operating jacks, faulty switches, mechanical wear and tear, as well as sliders.
Q: Is a mic preamp needed for a mixer?
A: Most experts agree that with a mixing board, a preamp mic is not needed. All mixing desks come with some kind of built-in preamp that helps in boosting a low-level microphone.
Q: What’s the best method to clean a mixing board without damaging it?
A: The best way to clean a mixing board is by using a vacuum. A handheld one, with a tiny nozzle is the ideal vacuum to help get in the corners and crevices. Make sure to use the vacuum for cleaning daily, as this would ensure that no dust is stuck to the board. If there is an accumulation of dust, you can also need a paintbrush to dust off the fine particles that refuse to come out easily.
Dust thoroughly so that the fine particles do not go inside the component but move away from it. A 25 mm brush will work wonders. Never spray any kind of liquid on the board when it is plugged into a socket, as that could lead to short-circuiting, ruining your mixer for good.