5 of the Best Digital Mixers for Your Recording Studio

  • Time to read: 10 min.

Audio mixers can spell the difference between an outstanding live performance or studio recording and an auditory fiasco. So, it’s essential to take a minute and consider your options before coughing up the money to buy a digital mixer for your recording studio, mainly because you can’t consider digital mixers as cheap trinkets.

The Value King

Zoom LiveTrak L-8

If you’re not looking to spend a massive chunk of your studio budget on a mixer, the Zoom LiveTrak L-8 is a safe bet. It doesn’t just have all the mixer basics covered; it also has a built-in audio interface with a 12-Track simultaneous recording capability.

For the iPad Music Producer

Mackie DL1608

Combining the convenience and mobility of an iPad with your audio mixer is such a stroke of genius. Mackie even lets you unmount the iPad easily so you can take your faders and other functions with you. While the Mackie DL1608 and Zoom LiveTrak L-8 are both excellent and reasonably-priced options, a few out there also have some great value propositions.

In this piece we’ll make sure to consider:

  • Digital mixers that can produce high-quality sound reproduction.
  • Examine the value of various technologies being introduced in the mixer market.
  • Explore the why digital mixers are the best value for money whether you’re building a home studio or a dedicated studio.

Zoom LiveTrak L-8

When it comes to bang for your buck mixers, the Zoom LiveTrak L-8 comes highly recommended by industry experts.

It’s got everything you’ll need in a mixer, such as an adequate and versatile amount of inputs, battery power, and even some extras such as a USB interface for recording music that I didn’t think was possible to fit in its price range.

It also has a smartphone input that you can’t find in more expensive mixers for recording studios.

Pros of the Zoom LiveTrak L-8

  • Inexpensive for an 8-channel mixer which makes it a great piece to design your studio around.
  • Built-in audio interface so you have multi-track recording functionalities.
  • Since it can be operated via batteries, the LiveTrack can be a great portable mixer to bring to gigs and events as well as a suitable recording studio.
  • Mobile tablet compatibility is a plus if you want to change up your settings while you’re playing live or inside a recording booth.

Cons of the Zoom LiveTrak L-8

  • Lack of compressor isn’t ideal for dynamic speakers who like to change up their volume.
  • Plastic build means that it could easily crack if dropped from a table.

Mackie DL1608

If you’re looking to stay mobile as you mix or record your music, then there’s nothing more appropriate than the Mackie DL1608. It’s optimized for use with an iPad.

You don’t even have to have the tablet physically connected to the mixer because it has wireless technology built-in. This means you can take the paired iPad with you inside the recording booth and interact with your faders and equalizers from there.

On the other hand, if you want to keep the iPad on the mixer, there’s a dedicated rack for it on the hardware itself.

Because the faders are all controlled via the Master Fader Control app, the only physical controls you have are the gain knobs. Just plug the iPad into the dedicated dock and hit the record button to record the central stereo mix.

Pros of the Mackie DL1608

  • Wireless fader and EQ controls help a lot in giving control to your band members.
  • The controls are surprisingly intuitive and easy to use.
  • 16 Onyx mic preamps give a high-end sound.
  • The DSP makes sure that you won’t experience latency even with all the effects turned on.
  • Customizable channel labels even let you use your own pictures.
  • Inputs are at the back so there is no strain on the cords.

Cons of the Mackie DL1608

  • Can be difficult to interact with the touch screen especially if you have calloused hands or big fingers.
  • Unlike hardware faders, you can’t see all your settings at a glance which might result in delays in finding the right channel.
  • Does not have multi-track recording capabilities.
  • Since the iPad is sold separately, you’re going to have to factor in the cost of one as well if you don’t have one already on hand.

Allen & Heath Qu-SB Mixer

The idea of using an iPad as a control center for the mixer has become a sought-after feature for some music professionals. Even Allen & Heath has jumped on this bandwagon with their Qu-SB Mixer.

The ability to change up your EQ settings to levels that are perfect for your particular taste as you’re playing is just too good a feature to pass up.

One of the main differences between the Qu-SB and the Mackie DL1608 is no iPad mount for the tablet with the Allen & Heath product. Other than that, it’s just as fully featured as Mackie’s iPad-oriented mixer.

The snake port is also an excellent addition for more inputs without having to use up space for them permanently. If you find yourself working on a more significant project than usual, hook up some more inputs, and you should be golden.

Pros of the Allen & Heath Qu-SB Mixer

  • If inputs aren’t enough you can easily extend it via the dSnake port.
  • You can have up to seven monitor mixes via iPhone app so every band member can have one.
  • Allen & Heath got together with a lot of microphone companies to make presets for each one. This eliminates the need to change up the settings if you’re using a mixture of different brands.
  • Built-in interface allows for multi-track recording.
  • Different types of compressors such as Manual Peak Manual RMS.
  • AnalogiQ preamps sound clean and warm with a low noise floor and minimum distortion.
  • All the inputs are in front so you can easily access each one if you need to.

Cons of the Allen & Heath Qu-SB Mixer

  • The app is a bit more complicated than the Mackie.
  • Absence of physical faders can be a challenge if you have calloused fingers or sweaty hands.
  • If you’re going to use this mixer at all, you’re going have to buy a separate iPad which can be a bit expensive.

QSC TouchMix 16

If you want the versatility of a touchscreen fader control system but don’t want to invest in a separate tablet, then the QSC TouchMix 16 is your best bet.

It’s got a built-in touchscreen that can change its functions depending on what instrument cluster you’re trying to access.

Because of the versatile touchscreen, the Touch Mix doesn’t need much room on your studio table, making room for essential peripherals.

You can also pair a couple of iPads so you can change the settings while you’re in the recording booth or on stage.

Pros of the QSC TouchMix 16

  • The versatile touchscreen’s intuitive design makes it a joy to use.
  • The software on the touchscreen interface shows all the faders so you can monitor your settings at any given time.
  • Slim aesthetics and back-facing inputs make your work desk feel less cluttered.
  • Talkback feature is a great feature for studio settings when giving pointers to musicians.
  • Simple Mode makes it easier to use even for beginners. For a mixer with complicated-looking dials and faders, this mode can be a great way to help producers get introduced to this mixer.
  • There’s a multi-user function that saves the settings of each user. With a simple press of a button, you can bring up all of your preferred settings saving you a ton of time in the process.
  • You can also use an iPad with this so you can make changes to your EQs and other settings while you’re playing.

Cons of the QSC TouchMix 16

  • A little too expensive for some home studio builders.

Behringer X Air XR 18

Behringer has carved out a niche for itself as a brand that offers a lot of value for a minimal price. It does this again with its digital mixer line in especially with its Behringer XR 18.

It’s another one of those compact mixers that make use of tablets or mobile devices you have lying around. As such, if you’re thinking of buying one, you should think about the cost of a new tablet as well. Luckily, tablet prices, even the iPads, have gone down recently and shouldn’t be too big of an investment.

The XR 18 is shaped like a boom box that seems just as solidly built as those 80s staples. But more than the build quality, it’s the quality of the MIDAS preamps that truly shine with this particular mixer.

For its price, it offers a lot of sound quality and some excellent recording abilities that you might expect from dedicated audio interfaces.

Speaking of Behringer, have you checked out our Midas M32 vs. Behringer X32 comparison?

Pros of the Behringer X Air XR 18

  • The built-in router makes it a lot easier to connect to wirelessly than other mixers that have to use an external router. The antenna is also a huge plus for stabilizing the connection.
  • USB input makes this function just like a USB audio interface too complete with multi-track recording.
  • Compact and portable but can easily be rack-mounted as well makes it a versatile mixer. Weight distribution is also excellent so whether you mount it or put it on your desk, it’s going to remain stable.
  • Behringers proprietary Ultranet connection is a great way to give EQ access to the entire band.

Cons of the Behringer X Air XR 18

  • X-Air app isn’t the best designed as you can’t see all your settings at a glance like the Allen & Heath mixer.

Final Verdict

I think the Zoom LiveTrak digital mixer is the best for a small-scale home recording studio.

The multi-track recording capabilities, iPad compatibility, and the ability to power it via batteries are just too good to pass up. It’s got everything that you could need and more for a reasonable price. However, if the price isn’t an object, there’s no reason not to go with the QSC TouchMix line.

Besides the ability to use battery power, it can do everything that the Zoom LiveTrak can, but with other nice-to-have features such as a Talkback mic, excellent built-in touchscreen fader control system, a wealth of I/O, and a slim aesthetic that would look great on your home studio.

You May Also Like