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Audio Interface vs Mixer: What’s the Difference?

Audio Interface vs Mixer

So, you’ve got big ideas for some amazing electronic beats, and now all you’ve got to do is get the right equipment.

You’ve got everything else you need, but suddenly you’re stuck trying to decide whether to purchase an audio interface or a mixer.

Sound like you? Take a break from worrying, and let us give you the pros and cons to let you decide which will work best for you.

Table of Contents

Differences Between an Audio Interface and Mixer

Differences Between An Audio Interface And Mixer

When deciding on what to use for your at-home studio setup, you don’t want to just grab the first thing you see.

While audio interfaces and mixers are similar in that they’re both used to help you produce the best quality sound for your beats, these devices serve entirely different purposes.

Audio Interface vs. Mixer

An audio interface is a device music producers use to connect microphones and instruments to your DAW

It’s specifically designed to preserve the integrity and quality of the sound from your microphone, unlike just using a regular USB microphone that hooks up to your computer.

Audio interface devices also typically have FireWire or USB outputs that enable you to connect directly to your laptop or desktop.

They even have preamps installed so you can amplify the analog audio signals of your microphone to be powerful enough to mix and record audio.

In my experience, an audio interface can come in a variety of sizes, from just a few mono and stereo inputs and output connections to devices that have hundreds of different connections. 

It all depends on what you’re using it for and how many connections you need or how much you think you’ll need in the future.

READ MORE: Best Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces for Mac Users 

Audio Mixer

I think audio mixers are a bit more complicated to use than audio interfaces.

An audio mixer offers artists more control over the audio that gets transmitted to the computer.

These little boxes have a variety of input/output connections and many different dials and sliders that allow you to control volume faders, reverb, delay, equalizers, and more.

Mixers are used when you need more precise control over the sounds that are being transmitted as they are doing so.

If you need to ensure that multiple devices, instruments, or synthesizers aren’t overpowering one another, then that’s when you’ll need an audio mixer.

Audio mixers can produce clear audio without drowning out individual instruments or sounds.

Nowadays, audio mixers also come with built-in FireWire or USB capability. These devices make precise audio editing possible on the fly.

The Advantages of Audio Interfaces vs. Mixers

The Advantages Of Audio Interfaces Vs Mixers-

So, now you know the difference. The next question is: Which is going to work best?

Audio interfaces and audio mixers have a fair few different advantages. It all depends on what you need your audio device to do.

Let’s take a look at where each device has the ADVANTAGE.

Audio Interface Saves Space

If you’re working out of a home studio, (like most of us peddling electronic beats tend to be), space is going to be one of your top concerns.

You need to factor desk space into your choice.

One of the main advantages of an audio interface over mixers is their compact size.

The smaller size of an audio interface means that it won’t take up too much desk space, and you’re going to have an easier time transferring it when you’re composing on the go.

Meanwhile, the mixers I’ve seen generally take up quite a lot of space.

You won’t be able to pack up and go quickly, and you may even need to rearrange your whole setup in order to fit them.

Audio Mixers Allow More Control

You can get an audio interface with plenty of available input/output connectivity for more devices and instruments.

But an audio mixer was made to deal with all those sources in the most efficient and precise manner.

When deciding what audio device you need for your studio, quality is just as important as quantity.

That isn’t to say that you won’t get quality with an audio interface. It’s just a different type of control.

Having access to volume faders, equalizers, and reverb as the audio is being transmitted is an advantage that you just don’t get with audio mixers.

Learn more about the differences between analog and digital mixers.

Higher-Quality Converters With the Audio Interface

The whole purpose of an audio converter is to convert analog symbols into digital information.

This means that the audio converters that you get when you purchase an audio interface are going to be incredibly high-quality.

Using an audio interface means that you’re going to have a better range of quality when you’re working in your digital audio workshop.

Use Audio Mixers for Live Performances

Use Audio Mixers for Live Performances

Something that you’re not going to get with an audio interface that you will with an audio mixer is the ability to use it during a live performance.

If this is something that you think you’ll need when you’re on the road or mixing your beats for a live audience, I’d suggest getting an audio mixer.

An audio interface is used exclusively to get quality audio recordings. With an audio mixer, you’re going to have more variety in what you can do.

Best Audio Interfaces: Quick Product Reviews

Now that you know what these two devices are, how they differ, and what advantages each one has, it’s time to look at some actual real-world examples.

Take a look at the pros and cons of each of these audio devices that I highly recommend.

1. Universal Audio Apollo Twin

Universal Audio Apollo Twin

This audio interface from Apollo Twin allows you to record and mix in near-zero latency through the complete range of UAD-powered plug-ins, including older EQs, tape machines, reverbs, compressors and more.

You can experience total control regardless of your buffer size for audio software.

You also don’t have to worry about having the right plug-ins or converters, as the Apollo Twin comes equipped to handle Thunderbolt connections to a Mac.

Universal Audio also sells an Apollo Twin unit for PC/Windows.

Pros 

  • It comes with software and free access to demo plug-ins
  • Integration with most systems
  • The compact device allows for more desk space
  • Low latency
  • High sound quality

Cons

  • Thunderbolt cable not included
  • The higher price range for new producers
  • Separate units for Windows / Mac
  • Cannot use the same unit across OS

2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite has been producing some of the best audio interfaces on the market for some time now.

The Focusrite Scarlett audio interface is NO exception.

I recommend this system because it’s easy to set up and won’t leave you struggling with drivers for hours on end.

It’s pretty much a “pick up and go” type of audio interface, and you’ll be recording your beats practically out of the box.

It has all the connections you’ll need if you’re working from home with few devices.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Perfect interface tool for beginners
  • Low cost for new producers
  • Quality sound
  • Great customer service

Cons

  • Signal dropping issues
  • USB ports have static issues
  • No digital input/output

READ MORE: A Complete Review on the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Best Audio Mixers: Quick Product Reviews

1. Behringer Xenyx X1222 USB

Behringer Xenyx X1222 USB

If you’re looking for something that can handle both studio recording and live performances, then I suggest one of the best: the Behringer Xenyx.

This audio mixer has state-of-the-art tools that’ll help you bring the most out of your audio.

The Behringer Xenyx has built-in audio/USB interfaces and comes with all the recording and editing software you’ll need.

Behringer Xenyx comes with high-headroom mics that help you make the most of your vocals, studio-quality compressors, and built-in multi-FX processors.

Pros

  • Low noise, high-headroom analog mixer
  • Low-to-mid range price point for new artists
  • Four studio-grade compressors
  • Voice cancellation function
  • One-knob compression

Cons

  • Main outs are only XLR
  • No Monitor/Speaker bypass
  • Too much noise during mixing

2. Mackie B-Box PROFX12V2

Mackie B-Box PROFX12V2

The Mackie B-Box PROFX12V2 mixer offers an extensive live sound solution, with a broad variety of models, each one providing unparalleled sonic output.

The PROFX12V2 features preamps that are designed for live performances.

This particular device also has an incredibly flexible input/output arrangement that will give you quality and professional control over your devices.

Did I also mention that it’s smaller and more portable than most mixer?

You’ll love this if you want the fine-control of a mixer, and something that can fit your home studio desk.

Pros

  • Built-in USB recording interface
  • Compatible with Mac or PC
  • Live recording and home studio
  • User-friendly recording software

Cons

  • Does not include an audio interface
  • USB Connection has a tinny sound
  • The varying quality between devices, some work longer than others with the same amount of use.

Conclusion

Now that you have all the information you need, let’s talk about what’s going to work best for hip-hop and electronic beats producers.

What an electronic artist needs out of an audio device is clear, precise sound, a sturdy product, easy mobility, and compatibility with your computer and Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

After looking at the pros and cons of both audio interfaces and audio mixers, it’s clear that there’s one that works best for producers looking to make the best electronic beats.

The Universal Audio Apollo Twin is the winner.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t recommend it for live performances, but for home studio recording, it’s just right.

It has access to its own software plus free demo plug-ins, which are invaluable to any new hip-hop artist.

It saves on space and delivers the quality converters that beat artists need in an audio device.

Audio mixers are valid audio devices, but just NOT for hip-hop artists.

I’m sure there are beats artists who swear by them, but they work better for more traditional musicians, like bands and artists who do live performances.

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Changelog:

May 12, 2021 – updated title and meta description, updated publish date, added table of contents, updated product images and buttons, updated affiliated links, fixed and updated article formatting and content, updated links

April 21, 2022 – minor content edits

December 12, 2022 – minor formatting edits

About the author

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After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Nick became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.