Do I Need a Mixer for Home Recording?

Do-I-need-a-Mixer-for-Home-Recording

Do I need a Mixer for Home Recording?

I have often been asked, "Do I need a mixer for home recording?" The simple answer to this question is "no you don't, but you may want one." I'd like to take a moment and address my theory behind that response.

There are a few factors to consider when it comes to a home music studio setup. I've stated in an earlier post that there are many stand alone recording units. However, my personal preference is to use a computer in home music studio recording.

This type of setup requires an audio interface and some type of recording software. In the studio world we would call this a digital audio workstation or DAW for short. You can reference my post on the best software for home recording and several recommendations here.

All that said, the software is only as good as its audio interface counterpart. If you are going to record your guitar then you need some way to plug your guitar into your DAW. This is where we get back to our question, "Do I need a mixer for home recording?" Lets first explain the simple response of no.

You may not need a mixer but you do need an audio interface that can convert your audio signal into a digital format. Take a vocal recording for instance. You can't just fire up your computer, run a program like Reaper, and start talking into thin air. There must be some way to plug your mic into the computer. This is where an audio interface comes in.

The simplest way to recording your voice might be to use an interface like the Mxl 990 Usb Powered Condenser Microphone. This mic plugs directly into your computer, via a free USB port, and interfaces directly with your recording software of choice. The mic itself is an audio interface as well as the device for capturing  your voice.

In this case, no mixer is needed at all. You simply plug-in the mic, run your software, hit record, and start talking. The down side is you can only record what you can put your mic in front of and only one thing at a time. You can however, record as many takes as your computer can play back. Your mixer then is not a physical outboard unit but the recording software itself.

 

A few more things to consider. What if you need to record more than one instrument or voice at a time? In this situation you may actually want a mixer for your home music studio. I personally use an Allen & Heath Zed-14 Usb Mixing Console. The great benefit in this mixer is the amount of inputs it has.

If I wanted to record a vocal who was also playing a guitar and had a piano accompaniment, I have all the channels to do so. The mixer has a USB output and acts as the audio interface to my DAW. The nice thing about a high quality audio interface is that is also does much of the processing when it comes to recording. This allows for more tracks to be processed and play back simultaneously from the computer.

Once draw back from the ZED 14 is that is can only output a stereo mix to the computer via the USB out. This means each channel on the mixer does not get recorded as one file into my software but all the channels come in as one stereo file. I overcome this by doing multiple takes. This can take much longer in the end to record a project.

If you find yourself needing to record multiple channels at one time I would recommend checking in the Presonus Audiobox 1818Vsl 18-Channel Usb Interface. I've not used this specific unit myself but I've heard great stuff about it. Presonus does make some very high quality products. This audio interface will allow you to record a full 8 output at one time as long as your computer is fast enough.

So, "Do I need a mixer for home recording?" Maybe ;), depending on your needs. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Have you used the Presonus Audiobox? What did you think? Please add your feedback to the comments section below.

About The Author

David

David is a 20 year veteran of live and recorded audio. Today he is a consultant in this field and conducts technical, musical, and creative arts conferences for volunteer organizations. He is also the author of the podcast and blog http://www.homemusicstudio1.com where his passion is to teach people how to create professional audio on any size budget. David has been a singer/songwriter and musician for more than 20 years now. His passion for recording started in the early 90's when he was asked to manage a small studio for the local non profit group, ACM. Today David has logged thousands of hours in recording sessions for both his own projects and those of others. He has developed a simple yet effective mindset for building a professional mix called the 4-3 Framework. Here is what one community member says about the 4-3. “Just shared your great video on 4-3 framework on my FB page. Dave.. this is a brilliant, well thought out structure. You should make a poster of it... I'd hang it in my studio for sure!” - HomeTracks David's desire and ability to produce professional audio, even on a small budget, has lead him to create the podcast and blog, Home Music Studio 1 Through this resource he has been able to help thousands of people create professional audio projects in their own home studios.

56 Comments

  • Rod

    Reply Reply August 17, 2016

    Hi,just building my system and looking at 2i4,6i6 And Kompact6 (which sits in between the first 2 price-wise)
    The only down sides I can see is the 6i6 needs a power cable and both Focusrites have been criticised for their monitoring software being a drag. Kompact6 an option? Hope you enjoyed your holidays!
    R

    • Mike

      Reply Reply August 24, 2016

      I have a 2i4 I use with reaper and Yamaha monitors, 2i4 is good, ableton is a good program it comes with I just think its generic looking and I don’t like the look to it, so in my opinion reaper is better

  • Andrew Robson

    Reply Reply August 2, 2016

    Hi Dave,

    I have a couple of synths and digital piano, Alto ZMX122 8 channel mixer, Focusrite 2i4 and PreSonus Active monitors.
    At the moment, I’m not using the mixer but am unsure how to set it up so I can use all my keyboards at once (for playing live jams) and be able to record this in Ableton. In a live jam, I would like to have control over my individual channels for each keyboard and also still use music from Ableton. I’m not sure how to set this up with regards to how the mixer and 2i4 work together (as well as the others).
    Maybe this is a basic setup and it’s just a case of plugging the keyboards into the mixer – then the mixer into the 2i4 – and keep the 2i4 connected to my Mac as usual (I’m guessing the keyboards going into the mixer will all be on the same track in Ableton?)
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Andy

    • David

      Reply Reply August 3, 2016

      Hi Andrew, so unless you have separate outputs from each keyboard going into Ableton, a mix will not give you separate tracks for each. You could potentially use MIDI to track the midi data and then use virtual instruments inside your daw but this would not be an audio recording. You’d have to go midi in/out/through each set of keys then into your 2i4, each keyboard would need set on its on midi channel and configured to a separate track. This can get complicated real quick.

      • Andrew Robson

        Reply Reply August 3, 2016

        Thanks for your reply..wow!! A few cables then eh….ok…I get that now…
        What if I was happy to play a live jam from 3 keyboards and have this going into my 2i4 on one channel (therefore 1 audio channel in Ableton?)
        Would this be a case of outputs of keys into the mixer and output of mixer into 2i4, which is connected to computer as usual…
        If I did want to record separate tracks, then I could just create a new audio track in Ableton and play whatever keyboard I wanted..and so on..??
        Thanks for reading 😀

        • David

          Reply Reply August 4, 2016

          Exactly,… what you’ve described would work just fine. Be careful on gain staging is all. You just want to make sure you signal is well below clipping at each stage including the input gain of the 2i4. You’ll likely need to use the pad input of the 2-4 to gain down the signal as well coming out of the mixer. I also recommend balanced cables, the XLR output from mixer to the XLR input on the interface would work best.

  • Juan A.

    Reply Reply June 2, 2016

    Hey! I don’t know if this has been answered yet but there are lots of comments and I don’t have time at the moment to read them all.

    I’m a drummer and I want to record my drums in different tracks, will I be able to do it with a mixer?

    I’ve heard and read that you only get 1 track while recording on your computer while if you actually use an audio interface you get as many as mics you have plugged in. Is this right or I’ve misunderstood my readings?

    Thanks a lot and sorry if this has been asked before.

    • David

      Reply Reply June 2, 2016

      So unless you’re using a digital mixer that supports multi track recording than no. To be able to record multiple tracks to your computer at one time you would need a mixer that has an internal audio interface that can connect to a computer and allows more than just a single stereo tracking to record at once. Or you need an audio interface that has as many inputs as as you need for the amount of mics you want to record at one time.

      • Juan A.

        Reply Reply June 2, 2016

        Cool, I’m going to contact Behringer in their official page to ask if their Xenyx X2222 can get the job done. Thanks ;)

  • KEN B.

    Reply Reply April 4, 2016

    DAVE, DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHT ON THIS I HAVE A FOCUS 2I4, HAD INITIAL PROBLEMS WITH IT. MY PUTER WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE IT AT ANY OF THE USB PORTS. CALLED SWEETWATER WHO CALLED FOCUS AND THEY SAID MY CPU WAS ONE OF A FEW WHICH HAD INCOMPATABLE VOLTAGE. ORDERED A USB HUB (AMAZON BASICS 5 VOLT/4.0 AMP) AND IT WOULD CONNECT BUT ONLY TO THE SUPER HIGH SPEED PORT. ANYWAY I INPUT BACKGROUND MUSIC INTO REAPER (STEREO) WITH TRS, THEN I PLAY BACK AND RECORD VOX ON ANOTHER TRACK. ALL’S WELL FOR ABOUT 2 OR 3 LINES INTO A SONG AND I GET SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY VOICE IS A ROBOT, NOT LIKE OVERLOAD DISTORTION. TRIED IT ON 44100 AND 48000, SAME EITHER WAY. I THINK BLOCK SIZE IS 256. I THINK BUFFERING IS 2000. I’M NEW AT THIS RECORDING THING, ANY IDEAS? THANKS IN ADVANCE. P.S. I HAVE 4 GIGS MEMORY BUT IT’S ONLY 2 TRACKS, ALL OTHER PROGRAMS IN PUTER CLOSED.

    • David

      Reply Reply April 5, 2016

      This sounds like a buffering or flat out low computer performance issue. Could be a slower hard drive. My first check would be to increase the buffer size and see if the problem resolves. For starters, uncheck the “Request block size” function in Reaper and use the ASIO drivers to set your buffer size a bit higher. Make sure your recording you music and the same sample/bit rate as your vocal track so there’s no need for any up/down conversion in your project. Also, I never recommend using a USB hub for an audio interface. This is never best for performance reasons. I’ve also never heard of an incompatible voltage for a USB device? That to me sounds like rubbish ;). I do know that some newer machines have a voltage setting for the USB charging function that can be set to on/off in the system bios. These are typically for new USB 3.0 ports though. If your using a desktop, I’d recommend installing a separate UBS card for your audio interface. The 2i4 is only a USB 2.0 device and gains little benefit from a USB 3.0 port.

  • Ray

    Reply Reply December 26, 2015

    Hey David. Your instructions are just what I am in need of.
    I have been using a TASCOM 8 track recorder ( DPFX01) It has died on me.
    I an starting from scratch on the PC route to home recording. I am slow and not very computer savvy. Here’s what I’ll be doing and what I have learned from you already. I will mic my guitar amp with my Shure which will be plugged into a USB Interface ( Scarlet 2i2 ) into my pc with the Reaper recording software installed.( hopefully that is an easy to understand program)
    Now you have said on more than one occasion “…… provided your computer is fast enuff…..” What speed do I need on my PC in order to run this stuff so far ? And what about a sound card? Do I need a specialized sound card in order to operate.?
    Self powered studio monitors I have already hooked up to my PC although I think they are not running in stereo.
    Thank you.
    Ray
    p.s. The first thing I’ll need to record is a drum track which I will need to hear in order to keep the beat while recording guitar. The simplest / easiest / drum tracks for dummies that you would recommend please, for my purposes.

    • David

      Reply Reply December 28, 2015

      So on computer speed, any modern machine is plenty fast for the largest productions out there in my experience. I’ve running an older gately with 8 Gigs of Ram and a single Terabyte 7200RPM hard drive. It is a quad core (AMD) and runs at 2.60Ghz each core. Now all that said, I often build projects with 60 plus tracks and 70 plus FX using Reaper. You might not need to create projects this large. I’d suggest recording several test tracks and then in Reaper goto the “View” menu and click “Performance Meter” This will tell you how well your system is handling what you need it to do.

      Your internal sound card is become irrelevant when your using a great interface like the 2i2. This replaces anything internally you’d need and it is designed for audio performance.

      On drums, the highest quality for price that I’d recommend for a Drum VSTi is Addictive Drums. https://shop.homemusicstudio1.com/product/addictive-drums-2/ All depends on your budget though.

  • Brandon

    Reply Reply November 3, 2015

    Greetings, I am in the process of setting up my first home recording studio for the purposes of recording hip hop vocals over instrumentals created by my friend, and also would like the ability to start being able to create my own beats. I am the type of person who prefers to physically feel what i am creating, so I am leaning towards getting things like beat pads, a multi-track looping recorder, a vocoder, a keyboard, and a nice mixer. I would prefer to avoid using most on screen digital equipment to create beats, but am I correct in thinking that a mixer with a built in audio interface would not only replace the need for an external audio interface, but allow my beat creation process to be more fluid considering i can control all the faders and other features with my hands instead of my mouse? Also, will a nice mixer give me more versatility with what I can do with my beats and vocals in terms of altering sound effects. Sorry I am a little green with all of this, but i have all my pc parts on the way to build a pc that can handle a quality studio.

    Also, what brands/products would you recommend that would be affordable, yet also produce professional quality results (especially with the mixer/recording software). I was told to get Ableton for my recording software. Would you recommend that, or a different program for someone who is new to audio recording and beat making programs?

    Thank you for your assistance on this matter. Looking forward to your suggestions.

    • David

      Reply Reply November 4, 2015

      Thanks for the question Brandon. So your partially correct. A mixer with an internal audio interface would eliminate the need for an additional audio interface yes. However, not all digital mixer can be used as control surfaces. Some digital mixers have an internal interface for recording but then connect via midi for control. Others simply just provide the recording side but don’t allow for controlling of the DAW at all. You just need to research the mixer your looking for and find one that does both. I’m a fan of Allen and Heath Qu Series as well as the Presonus Studio Live controls. However, I’m not aware of anything that I could consider “affordable” to do what your asking. Your budget matters most in this case.

      On making beats and the best software. I’m more focused on the playing and recording of instruments/voice and building some drums tracks yes, but the looping and more of a DJ style in the box sound used slightly different tools that I typically do. For what your talking about Ableton is a very popular option yes. Also, Mixcraft has some great sampling and live performance functionality. Best,

      • Brandon

        Reply Reply November 8, 2015

        Thank you for your advise. After more research I have decided i will not buy a mixer for now. With that being said, I have a few more questions. I want my home studio to be mostly geared towards recording quality vocals, with the ability to create beats. So I am going to need a good interface with 2 or 4 channels, and a good compressor (was hoping you could recommend one keeping in mind I am recording hip-hop). I would like a compressor that I can tune that will sort of “pre-master” the vocals so I don’t have to do it manually in the software. I am also looking to get a nice midi-keyboard with faders on it, along with a condenser mic and headphones. My budget is to try and keep this project under or at $1000, but might be able to throw another couple hundred in if needed. Do you think this is possible and what products can you recommend for this budget. I have just built a pc for the studio, separate expense.

        Also, is Sweetwater.com the best value web-sight for purchasing recording studio equipment? And do the headphones I buy have to be noise canceling? What is the min headphones requirements for recording vocals. Also, how can i ensure that every piece of equipment i buy will be compatible with that next? I was thinking of using fire wire and and USB throughout the system. I need there to be zero latency when recording vocals. Thanks again for all your help.

        I will eventually add a beat pad into this system later down the road.

        • Brandon

          Reply Reply November 9, 2015

          So i got a list of gear i am seriously considering for this project, the only aspect I can’t seem to figure out is which audio interface to go with. It must have at least 2 channels, have audio inserts on the channels, fire wire (i am assuming is faster than usb), must be phantom powered, a 64-bit driver as to be compatible with windows 7 (also confirmed it has been successfully used by others), and the best possible sample rate. Since this is mostly for recording vocals and using a midi keyboard, it should be geared mostly for that. Can you recommend a good interface that meets all of these requirements.

          This is the list of the other items I will possibly be purchasing:
          Art Pro VLA 2 compressor
          M-Audio Oxygen 49 midi keyboard
          Presonus Eris E 4:5 monitor speakers
          AKG P-420 HPLD condenser mic
          Direct sound EX29 Professional Headphones

          Are all of these products reliable, and compatible with each other? Any recommendations for interfaces that meet all the above requirements and will also function with the rest of this system properly? An interface that comes with good DAW software would be nice, but I already have Ableton, and am considering getting Reaper. Thanks again.

          • David

            November 9, 2015

            So given your goals I’d look at a slightly different setup. Let me say first that I don’t think using heavy processing on the record side of your setup will give you the results your after as this is not a professional way to record. That said, you can add a light amount of compression and even some gateing to improve your input tracking in that’s your goal. Finding an audio interface that is higher quality with inserts can be a challenge. The reason I believe your looking for the inserts is for the compressor. Here’s is what I’d use in your situation. (Sidenote, sweetwater is not always the best price on a lot of items that I find, often Amazon can be.)

            First, take a look at the DBX 286s here http://amzn.to/1PkuUyB This is a mic pre with compression, gateing/expansion, de-essing, and a HF/LF detaler. It has phantom power so any mic can be plugged directly into it via an XLR cable. From there you simply take the output and go into an audio interface. This eliminates the need for a channel insert and will give you much higher quality audio.

            Second, if you must have an audio interface with inserts there is one that comes to mind which is still decent, that’s the m-audio m-track quad http://amzn.to/20GBtzl If your going to go this route and still want compression, I’m not a fan of the Art Pro line, take a look at the DBX266xs http://amzn.to/1GSI2Iw

            Firewire is not needed for the audio interface at your level honestly. USB is plenty adequate. I use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 which is only 2 input channels and I can easily run projects with 74 tracks and 160+ FX just fine. Since you’ll never be capturing more channels than your interface has inputs, USB will save you money and work perfect for anything you need to do.

            Here are a few other thoughts than. The Focusrite 2i4 http://amzn.to/1GSIkz9, or even the 6i6 http://amzn.to/1GSI2Iw

            The Oxygen 49 is a great choice http://amzn.to/20GCqaN
            The Eris Studio monitors are all an excellent buy. http://amzn.to/1GSItTp
            The P-420 is also a great mic but there are a lot of other options as well. I’d look at the AT2035 kit here http://amzn.to/1Pkw9Oo If your going to be spittin bars into any mic you must have a pop guard.
            On headphones, you don’t need noise canceling but just a decent pair of over the ears. I have used these guys for years and highly recommend them. http://amzn.to/1PkwjoZ

            On the DAW, for live performance and making beats, Ableton may still be a great choice for you. I personally use Reaper for everything I do but understand that I don’t create loops and beats in the same way you do. If it were me, I go with the 2i4, the DBX 286s, the HD-280 pro headphones, along with your Oxygen controler and E4.5 monitors. Hope this helps you some.

            Best,

        • Brandon

          Reply Reply November 10, 2015

          Yea i am def going to get the DBX mic pre-amp processor. That is perfect for what I need, and since you said getting this will eliminate the need for inserts, I am still having trouble with deciding which audio interface to go with. Since I don’t need the inserts, can you please recommend a couple more interfaces that might work well for me. I just need to make sure there is no latency, and i will able to hear myself in the headphones as i am speaking in the mic while recording. Also, are there any USB 3 interfaces I should consider? The reason I wanted fire wire was bc I assumed it would be faster than USB 2.

          As far as the headphones, I like the ones you reccomended, as the brand is quite reputable, and they seem to have superior sound capabilities. It seems the model i suggested (Direct Sound EX29 Professional Headphones), are much more durable, but how would you compare the two sets of headphones against each other in terms of sound quality for recording?

          So here is the updated list

          DBX 286s mic pre-amp processor
          M-Audio Oxygen 49 midi keyboard
          Presonus Eris E 4:5 monitors
          Either the Sennheiser or Direct Sound headphones
          AKG P-420 HPLD Condenser mic (I am going to buy the pop filter and stand seperately)
          Suggested Interface???

          Thank you again so much for you time and suggestions.

          • Brandon

            November 10, 2015

            Also, what are your thoughts on the PreSonus FireStudio Mobile Audio Interface? Just another one i am considering.

          • David

            November 10, 2015

            So presonus also makes great interfaces for sure. The FireStudio I have used in the past and it worked well for me. Keep in mind though that USB vs Firewire is not necessarily going to give you zero latency monitoring with FX. The ability to transfer more data is irrelevant when what your doing will not even come close to pushing the data transfer max of even a USB 2.0 device. I am not aware of any affordable USB 3.0 devices as of yet. There is nothing at all wrong with Firewire but to explain. You’ll get zero latency monitoring with any USB/Firewire interface that has a input/output mix. The kicker here is monitoring the recording input and not the passthrough output of a track. The input will be a dry signal and zero latency on any USB or Firewire device that I’ve suggested. If you want to here FX’s while you record a given track (different from playback mixing) than you’ll need an interface that offers DSP processing for real time monitoring of input FX.

            If your using the USB to connect the Oxygen controller to your system than your interface will likely not need USB. If you want and interface to process real time FX so you can hear Reverbs/Delays ect while you record than your budget is going to get more real quick. Universal Audio Makes some of the best interfaces along this lines. Check those out here. http://amzn.to/1M3Vfx4

            Another excellent unit in this range is the Focusrite Safire Pro 40 http://amzn.to/1GV5qoY I’d actually prefer this one of the Firestudio but thats just me.

            On headphones, in all honestly the Direct Sound brand is just not as popular in the industry in my experience which is why I’d prefer the Sennheiser products.

            Best,

          • Brandon

            November 10, 2015

            So I am planing on having the beat done first, and then recording vocals on top of that pre-recorded beat. I assume that is what you mean by playback mixing. If that is the case will the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 or 6i6 work for this? Also, I absolutely must be able to hear my own voice being played back through the headphones in real time when i am speaking on the mic , so if I say “mic check” into the mic, i must be able to hear myself saying it through the headphones as it is said through the mic, so i can monitor my own vocals better. And ultimately must have no delay in the timing of the vocals recording over the beat in the software. That is the main goal here. Is DBX processing required for that, or am i misinterpreting? I apologize for the lack of education on this as i have been a songwriter for a long time, however the technical side of recording is quite new to me and I would like to make sure that if I am going to invest all of this money, that the equipment will do what i need it to.

            So considering everything i mentioned above, will the 2i4 or 6i6 work for me, or will i have to get something more like the Saffire Pro 40? Or possibly something different. Thanks again brother, you have been a great help in educating me on what to do. Please break it down into the simplest laymen terms as you can.

            p.s. When you say “hear fxs in real time while recording”, and “If you want and interface to process real time FX so you can hear Reverbs/Delays ect while you record”, do you mean having a beat being created while simultaneously recording vocals, while having live fxs (delays, etc.) added to my voice in real time as i am recording? If so i do not need that, the beat will be made first, then vocals recorded as the beat is being played back through the headphones, and then the fx will be added post recording via DAW software/midi. Thanks again. Much love.

          • David

            November 10, 2015

            So without a doubt any of the audio interfaces I’ve mentioned, as well as the 2i4/6i6 can easily playback your beat while you then record your voice. I own the 2i4 and can play back more than 60 tracks at one time and still record another.

            Hearing your voice in real time with zero lag is also not a problem. Both of the interfaces have mix controls which allow you to blend the volume of your recording input (in your case your voice) with the volume of the track your playing back (your beats) so you can easily hear just what you need to record.

            The key here though is a professional quality vocal track be it rap or rock, has post processing FX like, reverbs, delays, width, compression, noise reduction, pitch correction, and any number of other things. You would only get a lag in hearing yourself if you tried to process these FX in real time and not after you’ve recorded your track.

            That’s the real difference. We call a track (like your voice) with not FX, dry. You can easily hear your dry voice through the headphones and mix the volume of your track with it to then record.

            So on the interface, both are excellent, and especially paired with the DBX preamp. So if you want to record more than 2 things plus midi at one time and if you’d like to power 2 pairs of headphones at once, than go with the 6i6. Otherwise the 2i4 is still a great interface for this price range and will easily do what you need it to do.

          • Brandon

            November 11, 2015

            Thanks you very much, that really clears things up for me. So the only difference between the 2i4 and the 6i6, is that the 6i6 gives me the ability to have someone else listening in and doing editing on the pc while i am using the other headphones to record, where as the 2i4 only allows one headphones for me to record without the second headphones for my buddy at the pc, correct? In this case i would prefer the 6i6.

  • Spirco

    Reply Reply July 19, 2015

    Hy,

    First of all, I’ve just bough: Allen&Heath Db4, xone k2 with kontrol X1, a software Ableton with push control and a digital piano yamaha dgx 650. For voice recording and editing what should I buy?

  • Ted

    Reply Reply June 29, 2015

    Hi David, thanks for the article. I was hoping that you may be able to help me make a decision with my current/planned and soon to be setup.

    I am fairly new to the world of creating electronic music. I have a Roland Gaia SH-01 synth. I am looking to expand upon this and add more layers to my composition. I have recently purchased a Korg Volca drum machine. In the near future I also plan to purchase a Roland VT-3 voice processor/vocoder, which will also cause me to buy a Mic. I realize that much if not all of this can be done purely on a DAW, but I love the analog interface/separate component feel and want to build on that, and use a DAW for editing and recording, mainly.

    All that being said, I am looking for the best way to combine these components and be able to produce music with all, on the fly. It is also a desire of mine to record and later be able to edit within a DAW, which will also be a future purchase for me.

    Question 1: Would a mixer be a good idea for me as a way of being able to combine and expand upon the use of these instruments all together, without interference between them?
    Question 2: Can you provide any insight on recording? I am guessing the only way to record fully editable music is to have a multi-track recorder console? Korg D3200 Digital Recording Studio, as an example. Are there different ways of recording multi-track, directly to PC?

    Sorry if the questions are loaded. Any insight for a newb would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • David

      Reply Reply June 30, 2015

      Hi Ted, thanks for your question. So the thing to keep in mind is that your live/performance setup should be distinct from your setup to record as you approach each a bit differently. The idea of using a mixer would be to build a live mixing setup to perform while also providing separate outputs for your instruments that can be sent to a recording setup.

      So there are a few ways to accomplish what your asking. There are several multiple channel audio interfaces (8+ inputs) that can pull an audio signal from a mixers additional outputs and record directly to a DAW (look at the focusrite audio interface line). There are also digital mixers which may be the best option if you can swing budget wise. These mixers like the Presonus Studio live, can be used for live/performance and also record to hard disk, 24+ channels on the board at the same time. These tracks can then be pulled into a DAW for mixing later. Much of this comes down to budget really.

  • Gustav Bjarnason

    Reply Reply December 24, 2014

    Hi Dave! Thanks for the (as usual) well put and very understandable text! I am currently thinking about whether I need a mixing console -at all- or if I need one to optimize my setup, or maybe I “need” one to make my workflow better, and maybe I “need” one just to make my studio appeal nicer, and to have the physics aspect of sliding faders and so on…Now, I have a Zoom R16 as audio interface, which I have 8 XLR’s into where I have put my keyboards,my guitar POD 2.0 as my guitar effect and my other instruments. One of the inputs I have a Studio Projects VTB1 Preamp before in the signal chain. I just can’t make up my mind as if I just need a Presonus Faderport to mix in Reaper (which is my DAW of choice hehe =) channel per channel OR if I am to go ahead and buy one of those nice looking Allen & Heatsh Zed 14 as you mention above…Probably the main reason for my confusion is that the Zoom R16 has 8 inputs already, and the foremost benefit of a mixer might be the many inputs…but maybe it’s also the built in preamps in the mixer? Please help me sort out the details in this…Puuh…A lot of text sorry but I would be grateful for any hints! Yours thankfully Gustav Bjarnason

    • David

      Reply Reply January 5, 2015

      Hi Gustav, sorry I missed this comment. Took some time off over the holidays. In looking at what you’ve described I personally think a mixer would add more confusion ;-). However, there are legitimate reasons for adding a mixer to any setup. A mixer with great preamps and a signature sound can be a great benefit to studios (thus most high end studios use mixer in their setups). However what you’ve described above does not foot the bill for this benefit (not even the Zed 14).

      Another reason to use a mixer in the Home Studio environment is for a better more robust monitoring setup. This only works well when you have the ability to separate your monitor feed per track from your recording feed per track. Many studio mixers have direct outputs per channel for this reason. The recorder basical gets a dry output patched directly after the preamp of the mixer. Everything on down the chain is just for monitoring purposes. This give the talent the ability to hear FX’s while recording but not actually record FX so they can be processed in post production.

      Another reason for a mixer in the home studio setup would be if that mixer is a digital version with a high quality audio interface build in. This basically gives all that I’ve described above in one unit. Something like the Presonus Studio live boards are great for this purpose.

      As far as getting a FaderPort? This is more personal preference than anything as it will have zero effect on the quality of your sound.

      If you add, say a Zed 14 to your setup, you will actually lose the ability to get separate tracks from each channel like you can with your Zoom R16, most small format mixer with USB only output 1 stereo signal to your computer not each channel separately. This is true of the ZED 14.

      Best,

  • K

    Reply Reply October 27, 2014

    I compose in Digital Performer and also compose and mix in ProTools. I have a Mackie 24/8 analog mixing board which I used when I had more outboard sound gear. Now mostly all of my sounds are software based i.e. Vienna Strings library etc. I would like to downgrade the Mackie mixing board since I now only have one outboard gear. Any suggestions? Do I even need the mixing board at all?

    • David

      Reply Reply October 28, 2014

      Unless you’re recording with several live musicians where you need a mixer for monitoring purposes than you most likely won’t benefit from using one. In fact, with the Mackie board, compared to a good quality audio interface you’ll actually gain quality not using a mixer but recording directly to your interface or preamps.

  • elena

    Reply Reply July 19, 2014

    Hey. I just got a gold diaphragm condenser mic …can I use a normal acer laptop with no mixer ?? and what editor software can I use to rec??? thank you

    • David

      Reply Reply July 22, 2014

      Yes you can but you’ll need at least an audio interface to plug the mic into than the unit into your computer. Here is one I recommend. http://amzn.to/1rHFPnA

      On software, for the most affordable and full featured professional option, I use and recommend http://reaper.fm

  • lushaigne

    Reply Reply July 15, 2014

    I would just like to take this moment to thank you for this amazing sight made my life so much easier

    • David

      Reply Reply July 15, 2014

      Glad to have helped! Thanks for the comment.

  • Tiso

    Reply Reply April 1, 2014

    Ok, I get so messed up on what I actually want to achieve while I record, but seeing if you could clear things up. Ideally, here’s what I want to record/my setup to be: 2 USB or XLR mics, Macbook for an output source of audio to be recorded (Music beds, effects, etc), and control the levels of all three. This is where I get confused, would I be able to use the Macbook for music, effects and such, along with capturing/recording all the audio/channels that is being sent to it? I know I need a good audio interface, but would I go the mixer route (Suggestions?) or what? Thanks for the write-ups and great youtube channel!

    • David

      Reply Reply April 4, 2014

      Thanks for the question Tiso. If I understand you right than I would recommend a 4 channel interface like the
      Focusrite Scarlett 6I6
      . In this case you could use the internal sound card from your Mac to play your music, effects and such. Take this stereo signal from the internal sound card output and input it into the 6i6’s rear 1/4″ inputs. From there you would be able to use a DAW like http://Reaper.fm or similar to record that stereo input as well as the 2 XLR inputs all on separate tracks. As long as your computer is fast enough you can play from it, go into the 6i6, and back into the recording DAW with no problems. It could get complicated really quick though so just depends on what type of music and processing your trying to do live. It would be much better to have 2 computers to do what your trying to do in the long run. But as long as your playing your effects from different software/sound card from your audio interface it should work. There are a few other ways to set things up but if you want to be able to edit your 2 mic inputs from the stereo music and FX’s than this is one way to do it. Let me know if this makes sense? If you need to have live EQ, compression ect, on your XLR mic inputs than you may want to consider a mixer with USB output. Be careful though as most low end mixer with USB outs only record 1 stereo output and not each channel as separate into a DAW (recording software).

  • aga

    Reply Reply February 26, 2014

    hi..i just want to ask if i’m using a mixer with usb output (MACKIE PROFX-16) to computer,can i get a good sound quality or do i still need audio interface?thanks….

    • David

      Reply Reply February 27, 2014

      Good question, in reality your mixer with a USB output has an build in audio interface. So yes, you can still get a great sound. Your only limitation is the quality of the internal interface and the mixer itself. The ProFX-16 can only record up to 16bit/48kHz audio (a touch higher than CD quality). Another interface like the Scarlet 2i4 can record up to 24bit/96k (I typically record at 24bit/48kHz). Also another interface may have better mic pre’s compared to your mixer with quieter signal to noise ratios. All that said, with practice and good technique you can still make great recordings with a USB mixer like yours. Thanks for the question.

  • Kate W.

    Reply Reply January 19, 2014

    I’m a newbie here, but I want to ask if my mic itself is a a/d converter and I’m only recording one vocal/one instrument at a time, would I need an audio interface or a mixer?

    • David

      Reply Reply January 19, 2014

      Hey Kate, If your using a USB mic, than essentially your mic is also an audio interface. In the long run its better to have a separate interface as you can then also upgrade your mic. The need for a mixer is all dependent on the things I’ve listed in this post. All that said, since your only recording 1 voice/instrument at a time. You don’t necessarily need to have the others unless you need midi or a greater quality mic. What mic are you currently using?

  • darene salazar

    Reply Reply November 15, 2013

    Hey sir ive bought a trident mixer… and im using a takstar 10mb mic, ive plug it into my laptop then when i heard the vocals.. kinda shitty, so when i buy a soundcard, is it possible to conncet the mixer—>soundcard—->laptop?

    • David

      Reply Reply November 17, 2013

      Hey Darene, for reasons mentioned in this post, you may or may not have a need for a mixer, but yes, you can easily hook up a mixer to your audio interface, which would then plug into your laptop.

  • David

    Reply Reply October 21, 2013

    Hi, David. I believe that ,most of the big studios have mixing boards. Still, though, every senerio you’ve painted why someone would need a board, I believe I could still accomplish the same thing with my DAW and my 8-input audio interface. Maybe I’m missing something. Can you elaborate a little bit?

    • David

      Reply Reply October 22, 2013

      Thanks for the comment and question David. In the next podcast episode I’m going to dive into this subject a bit more than I can here. The bottom line with your situation? You may not need a mixer.

      If you don’t need to do mixing for a live monitor setup (if you were recording a full band), where you need the physical routing (ins/outs) of an outboard mixer, then you might be just fine with your multiple input audio interface.

      Other situations for the use of a mixer would be wanting to provide live effects when tracking that don’t get recorded to your DAW. You could use a mixers channel direct outs to send to your DAW (which are typically pre-everything else like eq, faders, etc.), then you could setup FX’s like reverb/delay and so on through and aux send/return on the mixer. This would be a setup that would be useful for having a preview of the final product for your musicians, without recording the FX’s (this gives you the most control in post production).

      There are several other reasons that a mixer might be useful and I’ll cover these in the next episode of the show. So back to this post: So, “Do I need a mixer for home recording?” Maybe ;) , depending on your needs. In your case, you may not need one and that’s just fine for your setup.

      Hope this helps.

  • Edward

    Reply Reply August 23, 2013

    Hello, i would like to know if it’s possible to record one instrument at a time with an audio interface and then put it all together in the DAW and mix/master it. If so, i would not need a mix, right? Why would somebody record more than one musician at a time? Teh only reason i can think of is time, you know? No time to record one by one, so do it all at once. And in a home studio, that’s probably not usual.

    • David

      Reply Reply August 23, 2013

      Hi Edward, yes it is possible to do exactly what you’ve asked. However, don’t think of each instrument as being only 1 track. A keyboard for example may need to 2 track record and that would be 2 channels on a smaller audio interface. I can think of many times when, even in a home studio, it would be nice to record a keyboard with 2 tracks and a voice as a 3rd using 3 tracks at once. Also many home studio’s do have full drums kits. In this case they would need sever mics/tracks at one time even with just 1 instrument. Hope this helps.

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply August 19, 2013

    Hi Mark, don’t know if you can help. Is it possible to sing live by connecting a hi-fi to a audio interface and connecting a microphone. Would that work like a PA, would the sound of the microphone come out through the Hi-fi speakers or not please?
    Any help would be appreciated. I have a Saffire Pro 14, hi-fi and SM58.
    Write my songs and have my first gig coming up and really need a way of using my Microphone to amplify my voice.
    Many thanks.
    Cameron

    • David

      Reply Reply August 19, 2013

      Hey Cameron, The only way for this to work depends on your hi-fi (or stereo as we call it in the US). If your hi-fi unit has a line input then you could take 1 or the stereo outputs from your Safire Pro and go into the input of your hi-fi, this would then send the feed to your speakers. By doing this you could use your Safire as a small mixer without an eq (basically it just a pre amp). You’d then plug your mic into the Safire and set the gain to where it does not clip. Then use the monitor output to adjust how much signal is going into your hi-fi. Use the output volume of your hi-fi to then set a max volume to your speakers. Be careful though as live audio peaks can be hard on a speaker system that was not created to be used for public adress (PA). If you could give me the brand and model number of your hi-fi I can tell you if this setup will work or not.

      Thanks for your question,

      David

  • BRYLAN JACOBS

    Reply Reply June 15, 2013

    I have a simple question, what if I want to use a simple interface (not a mixer) and I would like to sing and a capella with more than one voice, can I add layers of my voice on the original or does that depend on the program?

    • David

      Reply Reply June 15, 2013

      Great question Brylan, Using the simplest and most affordable interface that I recommend, the Scarlet 2i2, you can do exactly that. Most any recording software (digital audio workstation or DAW for short) will allow you to create multiple tracks (what you’ve refereed to as layers). You can record 1 voice on a single stereo track, then play it back while adding another to it. You can add as many tracks as your computer/interface will play back. The 2i2 comes with software to accomplish this. Thanks for your question.

  • Mark Stevens

    Reply Reply July 20, 2012

    Yes sir, plan on getting one(mixer), as soon as I can afford one. Right now, though, like you said, it would be overkill for me, since I am only recording guitars and bass, some vocals. All which can be done with just my interface, but hopefully if things ever get bigger, will definitely need the mixer!
    Thanks for the reply, and for Home Music Studio 1, I know it has helped me, and many others. Keep up the good work!

    • David Maxey

      Reply Reply July 20, 2012

      Thanks A bunch Mark. Do keep me posted on your progress. Have an awesome day!

  • Mark Stevens

    Reply Reply July 19, 2012

    I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, so here goes,lol. If you have an audio interface with multiple outs, then couldn’t you do without the mixer, since most decent DAWS, have built in mixers. Would that be a suitable move for someone, maybe on a budget, who can’t afford a mixer just yet?

    • David Maxey

      Reply Reply July 19, 2012

      Good question Mark. Simple answer, sure you can do without a mixer. With or without an out board mixer, using the mixing capabilities of a DAW will be the end result anyways. The real benefits to using a mixer may not be something you need in your situation.

      An outboard mixer with a USB/FireWire is great for monitoring multiple sources while recording. In my case with the Zed14, I can mix a full acoustic drum setup with several mics at one time and record the stereo output to my DAW. The same applies to recording multiple musicians. I can have them all play together but only send one instrument to my DAW by using an aux mix on the mixer.

      That said, if you only record and monitor 1 or 2 things at onece you may find an outboard mixer to be overkill.

      Hope that help!

      Dave

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