To obtain the perfect mix, as much as it requires experience and creativity, you also need a good mixing console.
I’d suggest spending a little more and going for the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX. It gives lots of options at an affordable price with 4 mic/line inputs with XLR, and even 2 separate high-impedance DI guitar inputs. You’ll have enough to get you through the most challenging recording sessions.
I’ve looked at a lot of consoles over the years and decided to write this current guide with the best mixing consoles for any budget and what you need to look for when buying one.
Below, I’ve picked the best consoles for a recording studio, noting their pros and cons. And finally, I’ve come up with the best console existing in the market.
Let’s quickly take a look at the top ones and then dive straight into it:
|Best mixing console for the money: Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX||(view more images)|
|Best cheap budget mixing console: Mackie ProFX 6v3|
(view more images)
|Best iPad & tablet controlled mixing console: Behringer X AIR X 18||(view more images)|
|Best versatile mixer: Soundcraft Signature 22MTK|
|Best professional mixing console: Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2||(view more images)|
What makes a great mixing console: Buyer’s guide for beginners
Before we get into our selections, it’s essential to know some tidbits about mixers to ensure you make the right choice.
Here’s a short guide that will give you a rough idea of what sort of mixer will suit your needs and the key features you should keep as a priority when picking a model.
Let’s have a look:
Types of mixing consoles
In principle, you can choose from 4 different types of mixers. The options you have include the following:
An analog mixer is the most straightforward and affordable mixing console available.
On analog mixers, each channel and processor has its own component present, whether a preamp, volume fader, compressor, or anything else.
Moreover, all the controllable parameters of the mixer are laid out physically on the mixer in the form of buttons and faders, with very easy access.
Although bulkier and non-portable, analog mixers are an excellent choice for studios and live recordings. Their easy interface also makes them a great choice for beginners.
Digital mixers have much more functionality and power built inside than analog mixers while staying compact simultaneously.
The signals within the digital mixer are processed by more advanced processes, and the audio degradation is negligible to none.
Another advantage of digital mixers is the number of faders and channels they can facilitate.
More advanced digital mixing consoles can have 4 times the number of channels in analog mixers.
The preset recall feature is just the cherry on top. It makes a digital mixer an ideal choice if you want to use it for something more than just your studio.
However, keep in mind that it requires a little more technical to understand.
Just make sure you are ready to stretch your budget- digital mixers are expensive. ;)
USB (Universal Serial Bus) mixer is not a completely different type on its own. Instead, it is a name given to mixing consoles that allow USB connectivity.
It can either be a digital or analog mixer. A USB mixer is generally considered an excellent choice for multi-track recording since it allows you to play and record audio directly into your computer.
Although USB mixing consoles are generally a little more expensive than regular ones, they are very much worth the price. You will find both analog and digital USB mixers.
A powered mixer is just what the name says; it has a built-in amplifier that you can use to power the speakers, making it great for rehearsal spaces.
Although pretty limited in features, powered mixers are pretty portable and very easy to carry around. The easy-using mechanism is just another thing I admire about this.
All you need to do is to connect the mixing console to your mic and speakers, and voila! You are all set to begin jamming without an external amp.
What to look for in a mixer
Once you have selected which type of mixer suits your needs the best, you next need to choose the suitable model with the right features.
That said, the following are 3 main things based on which you should decide which model’s the right choice for you:
Inputs and outputs
The number of inputs and outputs will play a pivotal role in deciding which mixing console you need and how much you can expect to spend on it.
To give you a general idea, the more the input and outputs, the higher the price.
Mixing consoles that only have a line-level input will require you to pass the sound signal through a preamp before it reaches the mixer.
However, if your mixer has separate inputs for the instrument level and mic level with a built-in preamp, you won’t need an external preamp for the signal to match the line level.
Just the same, there are situations where you would need to route your audio to multiple devices than just the speakers, which will require your mixer to have multiple outputs.
Let’s take live performances, for example. In those situations, you will need to route the audio to the stage monitors as well as the speakers, where the need for multiple outputs is inevitable.
The same concepts apply to applying effects, mixing a multi-track recording, and many other things you will be doing with your mixing console.
Having maximum inputs and outputs is simply a necessity in modern mixing.
Some advanced mixers offer digital inputs and outputs, allowing you to route the signals to hundreds of channels over a single cable.
However, those mixers come at a cost, and quite a big one, I must mention.
Onboard effects and processing
Though not much relevant for studio recordings where you can do all your processing in DAWs, onboard effects can be pretty handy in a live recording.
You can also use EQs, reverbs, dynamics, compression, and delays through a computer in real time. Still, the high latency makes it pretty much useless in a live recording.
In other words, If you plan to use your mixing console outside your studio, you better ensure it has all the essential effects onboard. Anything less won’t be sufficient.
Again, proper control is critical when it comes to a live recording. However, it is also essential in studio recording- even more when you are inexperienced.
Now both analog and digital faders have reasonable control in their own right. But still, I would personally recommend a digital mixer for this purpose.
Rather than reaching myriad faders across the whole console, you will control everything with a much smaller interface.
Yes! It will take some time to dig through a couple of screens to find what you are looking for, but once you are familiar with how it works, you will love it.
Not to mention all the presets and scenes you can create with a digital mixer. There’s nothing more convenient for someone who wants to take a maximum from his console.
Reviews of best mixing consoles for a recording studio
Now, lets dive into my mixing console recommendations.
Best mixing console for the money: Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX
This is one of the best mixing consoles and has an easy setup process. With this model, it’s priceless to be able to start your mixing process immediately after you set up the device.
It comes in a compact design that’s highly attractive. With this product, you’ll never have to worry about where to place the device.
This product is much more affordable and still gives you the best experience, the same as expensive models do.
This makes it the best mixing console, especially for guitar lovers. It comes with 2 excellent channels that have guitar modes, which makes it much more fun and enjoyable to use the mixer with the guitar.
Here, you can see it on AllThingsGear’s channel:
The EQs ensure that you get high-quality live performances with clean and clear sounds.
The USB interface makes the mixing process much easier. The manufacturer of this product designed it in such a way that its left side is used to hold the channels.
It allows you to secure your microphones with 3 stereo inputs, which you actually need for your mixing experience.
Its controls are designed to make it easier for you to change their settings in order to come up with the perfect sounds.
- Super quality sound
- Excellent analog mixing with digital power
- Compact design
- Has a loud hum on the microphone input
Best cheap budget mixing console: Mackie ProFX 6v3
This is one of the best mixing consoles on the market today and does an excellent job in ensuring that you’ll get the best sounds ever.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to feel like you’re the best in the whole world when it comes to producing the best mixes in the music industry?
With this mixing console, you’ll get many buttons and slides to use throughout your mixing adventure. This is sufficient for you to get the best output from your music.
If you’re looking for a device that you can easily carry around, then this would be the most suitable one for you. Its weight and size makes the device more portable, so you can use it everywhere you go for a comprehensive experience.
However, you’ll love it not only for its portability but also for the high-quality performance you’ll get from it.
Check out idjn ow with his take:
The Mackie ProFX comes with a various number of effects that’ll help you get high-quality audio for your music.
With 16 excellent effects, what else would you expect from it, other than the best experience?
It comes with an FX effects engine, which is specifically designed to produce high-quality audio. You’ll certainly impress your audience.
It also comes with easy-to-use controls. With this model, mixing will be easier, thanks to the USB port that’ll help you connect the mixer directly to your computer to start the process.
It also includes traction software, which is easy to use. It allows you to record your mixes faster.
- Compact in construction
- Highly affordable
- Produces high-quality audio
- Excellent sound effects
- Inbuilt USB interface for easy recording
- Able to run with 12-volt batteries
- Channels appear to be fuzzy
Best iPad & tablet controlled mixing console: Behringer X AIR X18
This is one of the best multi-functional models on the market. It comes with newly designed features that’ll have you purchasing it, all without considering the price!
It’s accompanied by 18 channels with a USB interface that’ll make your recording and mixing process both fast and professional at the same time.
Another feature that makes it purchase-worthy is its inbuilt Wi-Fi system that gives you good connectivity with other devices to give you a better performance.
It also features programmable preamps that ensure you get high-quality audio. You’ll get the best performance you’ve always dreamed of.
For those who prefer to go for something that’s much more durable, then this device is what to go for.
Sweetwater has a great video on it:
It’s built solidly, so you’ll be able to use the device for a long time without needing to replace it. This is important for those people who buy items as investments.
Apart from the above features of this model, it’s also personalized to help with monitoring. With the tablet touchscreen, it becomes easy to monitor and control the process.
This is the best device for musicians who want to emulate technology in mixing.
- Its solid construction makes it durable
- Amazing audio quality
- Integrated with excellent technology
- The touchscreen might be unresponsive at times
Best versatile mixer: Soundcraft Signature 22MTK
Soundcraft has been a household name in the world of mixers.
Their stellar quality and affordable prices set them in the run for the world’s leading console makers, and the Signature 22MTK easily lives up to their reputation.
The first incredible thing about this mixer is its 24-in/22-out USB channel connectivity, which makes multi-track recording super convenient.
The next thing is Soundcraft’s iconic preamp, which gives you enough headroom with exceptional dynamic range and an outstanding noise-to-sound ratio for maximum clarity.
Soundcraft signature 22MTK is also equipped with different effects, making it a studio-grade mixer at a super affordable price.
Those effects include pristine quality reverb, chorus, modulation, delay, and many more, which come in handy in both studios, and live recording.
With premium quality faders and flexible routing, the Soundcraft Signature 22MTK is undoubtedly a powerhouse that will suffice for most, if not all, of your professional and home-studio mixing needs.
We highly recommend it to individuals who want full features on a minimum budget and a relatively compact size.
- Top-of-the-line preamps
- Studio-grade effects
- Premium quality
- Not for beginners
Best professional mixing console: Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2
PreSonus StudioLive models turn your music mixing into a very easy process. With this one, you’ll be able to combine analog with digital, and you’ll get the best out of it!
It has an analog-like surface that combines with digital power to ensure that you get great sound when you integrate it with the required mixing software.
PreSonus StudioLive is one of the best if you’re looking for an excellent and creative production environment.
It offers wireless connectivity to any available network and has a multi-touch control surface, which is good for personalized monitoring.
It has signal capabilities that help you to receive high-quality sounds from the channels you choose.
With its wide range of knobs and sliders and 24 input channels, you’ll get nothing but the best from this device.
It comes with 20 mix buses that have an easy configuration. This model is totally worth investing in!
- Great sound quality
- Memory recall capability for various channels
- Excellent channel processing
- Disturbing fan noise
- Expensive to purchase
Which one’s better, analog or digital mixer?
This comes down to your needs. If you are a beginner, you will like an analog mixer as it is simple to use and comes at a good budget.
As for more professional use, where quality and customization are of more importance, you will like to go for a digital mixer. They are complicated to use and are also much more expensive.
Should I get a digital or analog mixer for live recording?
If you are going to use your mixing console in live recording as well, I would recommend going for an analog mixer, as they are pretty straightforward and ideal for a fast workflow.
Though digital mixers have more features in comparison, accessing them isn’t as fast and hence, unsuitable for live performances.
Do people still use analog mixers?
Due to easy controls and a very intuitive interface, analog mixers are still in trend and are a top choice for studio and live recording.
With no complex menus or secret functions, you simply use what’s in front of you.
Get a fantastic mixing console
To select the best mixing console for a recording studio, there are various factors that you need to take into consideration.
You need to check your budget because they come at different prices, from the highest to the lowest. The features are another thing to look at because they each have very different ones.
Hopefully, this article has given you a good starting point, so you know which mixing consoles are good for you.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.
Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:Subscribe