Audio Interface vs Mixer

Audio Interface vs Mixer

So you’d like to have your own home studio? Who wouldn’t! Just imagine – you’d be able to record original music or cover songs, all from the comfort of your bedroom. And the best part – it’s possible to make it all sound good.

However, contrary to what some might think, it’s actually not that hard to make one. Sure, it won’t be as good as a professional studio, but it’s far from an impossible task to make your home setup.

But before you set out on doing so, there are a few things that you should get informed about first. One of the first things you’d need to get is an audio interface for your computer and an ergonomic chair.

However, many beginners are having a hard time differentiating audio interfaces from mixers. This is why we decided to settle this once and for all and explain the differences between these two devices.

Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated, but you still need to do a bit of research to fully understand the difference between an audio interface vs a mixer.

Jump ahead to:

What is an Audio Interface?

You know how your computer has a sound card? Technically, this device is a built-in audio interface. It takes digital information and then turns it into an analog signal, which then goes into speakers or headphones.

At the same time, you can use your computer’s input or a microphone. In this case, it converts an analog signal from the source and converts it into a digital one. An audio interface for home recording and music production does this same thing.

However, it offers a few important advantages compared to an integrated sound card.

Firstly, an audio interface allows you to play and record your instrument (or vocals) in real-time without any noticeable latency. Also, it preserves the audio quality and lets you record without any unwanted “clicky” noises.

In addition to all this, an audio interface allows you to record in a complex multi-track project with a bunch of plugins and effects added in DAW (short for “digital audio workstation”).

In most cases, audio interfaces have multiple input channels. This allows you to record two or more instruments or microphones at the same time. And all of these individual inputs will be recorded in real-time as separate audio files on your computer.

Audio interfaces also have additional controls on them. For instance, you can find input gain knobs, output volume controls, LED clipping indicators, and some additional tone-shaping controls.

In most cases, they feature instrument and microphone inputs. Many of the modern audio interfaces have combo XLR and line inputs that save up on a lot of space. Almost all of the audio interfaces also have +48-volt phantom power for condenser microphones.

You should also note that speakers, headphones, or studio monitors should be connected to an audio interface and not your computer’s integrated sound card.

To put it simply – an audio interface provides fast and precise analog to digital and digital to analog conversion. We also have better sound quality and more functionality and features.

Audio Interface Examples

Almost all of the audio interfaces today are connected via USB. Other types used to be more popular some years ago, including firewire devices and even PCI format sound cards. We’ll share a few simple examples of simpler audio interfaces for home recording.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Sale
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface with Pro Tools |…
  • Two of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable air Mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound. Two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass. Two balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources.
  • High-performance converters enable you to record and mix at up to 24-bit/ 192kHz.
  • Quick start tool to get up and running easier than ever.

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a fairly popular one, both for instrumentalists and vocalists. It features two channels with two combo XLR/line inputs. Some of the additional tone-shaping controls on it can help you enhance your tone.

Check out our 2i2 vs 2i4 comparison here.

With great analog to digital conversion and its metal casing, it’s more than a great choice for any recording enthusiast.

Pros

  • Great deal for the price
  • Plenty of features
  • Well-built
  • Provides great audio quality

Cons

  • Nothing for this price range

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo

IK Multimedia iRig Pro Duo I/O
  • 2 combo instrument/mic inputs with Class A mic preamps and phantom power
  • TRS balanced outputs and headphone out with switchable direct / processed monitoring
  • Includes USB-C, Lightning and USB cables for iPhone, iPad, Android & Mac/PC

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

And you can even record multi-track projects on your phone or a tablet! For this, you’ll need a specialized audio interface, and IK Multimedia’s Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 provides some great options here. It works with both Android and iOS devices.

Again, we have a dual-channel setup. What’s quite surprising is that we have combo inputs on it. It’s fairly easy to use.

Pros

  • Very compact
  • Functional
  • Has all the features of regular audio interfaces for computers

Cons

  • Works only with tablets and phones
  • It might not work well on some phone models

Behringer U-Phoria UMC204HD

BEHRINGER (UMC204HD)
  • 2×4 USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface for recording microphones and instruments
  • Audiophile 24-Bit/192 kHz resolution for professional audio quality
  • Compatible with popular recording software including Avid Pro Tools*, Ableton Live*, Steinberg Cubase*, etc.

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Behringer is a company very well-known for its great budget products. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 comes as a great example for home recording purposes. It takes no more than a glance to realize that there are plenty of controls on it. What’s more, it has four channels and can handle 24-bits and 192 kHz resolutions. Rather surprising for its price level.

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • 4 input channels
  • MIDI input and output
  • A lot of functionalities and features

Cons

  • Might not be reliable in the long run

Can I Record Music On My Computer Without an Audio Interface?

Technically, you can record your instrument or a microphone in real-time by utilizing your computer’s built-in sound card. However, you won’t be able to record over a multi-track project without experiencing severe lags and loss of audio quality.

It’s a good solution for anyone who wants to record just one track without adding any effects or other tracks over it.

What is an Audio Mixer?

Although similar at a first glance, mixers are completely different devices. A simple explanation is that they take multiple inputs, both instruments and microphones, mix them together, and send them through one mono or stereo output.

They are mostly used for live shows or any other events where you need multiple channels to be heard through a PA system. Each channel has its level control, along with a simple EQ and other controls. A lot of mixers today also come with an integrated effects processor.

Mixers give you full control over input and output. You can connect multiple microphones and instruments, adjust their levels, and then determine the overall output volume. Any local bar or venue where bands perform regularly has one.

They’re divided into two main categories – active and passive. Active mixers come with a built-in power amp, meaning that you can connect it directly to passive speakers. Meanwhile, passive mixers require either an additional power amp or active speakers to work.

Audio Mixer Examples

There are so many different categories of mixers, so it’s hard to choose just a few as good examples. But we’ll focus on some simpler examples that might be interesting for beginners or intermediate musicians.

Behringer XENYX 1202FX

Sale
BEHRINGER, 12 XENYX 1202FX, 3-pin XLR, Black
  • Premium ultra-low noise, high headroom analog mixer
  • 4 state-of-the-art XENYX Mic Preamps comparable to stand-alone boutique preamps
  • Neo-classic “British” 3-band EQs for warm and musical sound

Last update on 2020-10-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Once again we have a Behringer product on our hands. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a simple audio mixer with four channels with mic inputs and built-in preamps. There are also additional line inputs, summing up a total of 12 channels.

This is a very potent little mixer with additional outputs and controls. It comes as a great choice for smaller bands doing live gigs.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Very versatile and functional
  • Has a built-in effects processor
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Nothing for this price level

Alto Zephyr ZMX52

Alto Professional, 5, 5-Channel / 2-Bus (ZMX52)
  • A Mixer For Any Occasion – Six total inputs with a phantom powered XLR input on channel 1 – perfect for musicians looking for a compact, capable mixing console for studio, podcast or live sound use
  • Superior Sound Quality – High headroom circuitry offering extra dynamic range and ultra-low-noise for the best performance from your studio microphones
  • Tweak Your Sound – Warm, natural two-band EQ on the mono channel for adding studio grade processing to your dynamic, ribbon and condenser microphone signals

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

But if you need something small and functional, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great choice. It has five channels in total and offers some essential tone-shaping controls. It’s as simple as that!

Pros

  • Compact
  • Has all the necessary controls
  • Additional outputs

Cons

  • No effects

Yamaha EMX512SC

Yamaha EMX5 12-input Stereo Powered Mixer w/ DSP Effects
  • The EMX5 is both a mixer and a power amplifier
  • Lightweight and portable design make it very easy to carry and particularly useful for various events
  • First-time users can easily configure their own sound reinforcement system

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Yamaha’s Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an active mixer. It’s not a fully professional one, but it can be very effective for smaller venues and some outdoor events. It has 12 channels with 8 XLR and 8 line inputs.

It also comes with 2×500 watts of output power, an effects processor, separate monitor output, and detailed equalizer controls.

Pros

  • Very detailed controls
  • Active mixer with 2×500 watts of power
  • Effects

Cons

  • Not the best sound quality

Check out our list of best digital mixers for recording studios here.

Mixers vs Audio Interfaces: How Are They Different?

There’s one simple way to explain it. Audio interfaces give you an option to record multi-channel projects in real-time using your computer. Using a recording software, it’s possible to “map out” channels and record them as individual audio files.

While mixers have multiple inputs, they only have one stereo audio output. They mix all the instruments and microphones and send them out as one unified audio signal.

Audio interfaces are for creating multi-track studio recordings. If you were to connect a mixer to any computer’s sound card, it would recognize it as only one channel.

However, there are USB audio mixers. In a way, we could say that these are mixing boards that also work as audio interfaces. By connecting it to a computer, you’re able to record multiple different channels at the same time. And each of those channels would be recorded as an individual audio file.

How to connect an Audio Interface?

You know how your computer has a sound card? Technically, this device is a built-in audio interface. It takes digital information and then turns it into an analog signal, which then goes into speakers or headphones.

At the same time, you can use your computer’s input or a microphone. In this case, it converts an analog signal from the source and converts it into a digital one. An audio interface for home recording and music production does this same thing.

However, it offers a few important advantages compared to an integrated sound card.

Firstly, an audio interface allows you to play and record your instrument (or vocals) in real-time without any noticeable latency. Also, it preserves the audio quality and lets you record without any unwanted “clicky” noises.

In addition to all this, an audio interface allows you to record in a complex multi-track project with a bunch of plugins and effects added in DAW (short for “digital audio workstation”).

In most cases, audio interfaces have multiple input channels. This allows you to record two or more instruments or microphones at the same time. And all of these individual inputs will be recorded in real-time as separate audio files on your computer.

Audio interfaces also have additional controls on them. For instance, you can find input gain knobs, output volume controls, LED clipping indicators, and some additional tone-shaping controls.

In most cases, they feature instrument and microphone inputs. Many of the modern audio interfaces have combo XLR and line inputs that save up on a lot of space. Almost all of the audio interfaces also have +48-volt phantom power for condenser microphones.

You should also note that speakers, headphones, or studio monitors should be connected to an audio interface and not your computer’s integrated sound card.

To put it simply – an audio interface provides fast and precise analog to digital and digital to analog conversion. We also have better sound quality and more functionality and features.

 

Can I Record Music On My Computer Without an Audio Interface?

Technically, you can record your instrument or a microphone in real-time by utilizing your computer’s built-in sound card. However, you won’t be able to record over a multi-track project without experiencing severe lags and loss of audio quality.

It’s a good solution for anyone who wants to record just one track without adding any effects or other tracks over it.

What is an Audio Mixer?

Although similar at a first glance, mixers are completely different devices. A simple explanation is that they take multiple inputs, both instruments and microphones, mix them together, and send them through one mono or stereo output.

They are mostly used for live shows or any other events where you need multiple channels to be heard through a PA system. Each channel has its level control, along with a simple EQ and other controls. A lot of mixers today also come with an integrated effects processor.

Mixers give you full control over input and output. You can connect multiple microphones and instruments, adjust their levels, and then determine the overall output volume. Any local bar or venue where bands perform regularly has one.

They’re divided into two main categories – active and passive. Active mixers come with a built-in power amp, meaning that you can connect it directly to passive speakers. Meanwhile, passive mixers require either an additional power amp or active speakers to work.

Audio Mixer Examples

There are so many different categories of mixers, so it’s hard to choose just a few as good examples. But we’ll focus on some simpler examples that might be interesting for beginners or intermediate musicians.

Behringer XENYX 1202FX

Last update on 2020-10-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

price=”none”

Once again we have a Behringer product on our hands. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a simple audio mixer with four channels with mic inputs and built-in preamps. There are also additional line inputs, summing up a total of 12 channels.

This is a very potent little mixer with additional outputs and controls. It comes as a great choice for smaller bands doing live gigs.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Very versatile and functional
  • Has a built-in effects processor
  • Cheap

Cons

  • Nothing for this price level

Alto Zephyr ZMX52

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

price=”none

But if you need something small and functional, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great choice. It has five channels in total and offers some essential tone-shaping controls. It’s as simple as that!

Pros

  • Compact
  • Has all the necessary controls
  • Additional outputs

Cons

  • No effects

Yamaha EMX512SC

Last update on 2020-10-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Yamaha’s Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is an active mixer. It’s not a fully professional one, but it can be very effective for smaller venues and some outdoor events. It has 12 channels with 8 XLR and 8 line inputs.

It also comes with 2×500 watts of output power, an effects processor, separate monitor output, and detailed equalizer controls.

Pros

  • Very detailed controls
  • Active mixer with 2×500 watts of power
  • Effects

Cons

  • Not the best sound quality

Check out our list of best digital mixers for recording studios here.