Audio Interface vs Mixer | What’s The Difference?

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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 me give you the pros and cons to let you decide which will work best for you.

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 that pops up on Google.

While audio interfaces and mixers are similar in that they’re 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 that is used by music producers to connect microphones and instruments to your DAW. It is 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 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 audio signal of your microphone to be powerful enough to record and mix.

An audio interface can come in a variety of sizes, from just a few input/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.

Best Thunderbolt Audio Interface – Buyers Guide 

Audio Mixer

Audio mixers are perhaps 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, as well as many different dials and sliders that allow you to have control over volume faders, reverb, delay, equalizers, and more. Mixers are used when you need to have more precise control over the sounds that are being transmitted as they are doing so.

If you need to make sure that multiple devices, instruments or synthesizers aren’t overpowering one another, then that’s where an audio mixer comes in. 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?

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 the advantage differences.

Audio Interface Saves on Space

If you’re working out of a home studio, as 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 that audio interfaces have over mixers is the compact size they come in.

Along with more desk space, the smaller size of an audio interface means that you’re going to have an easier time transferring it when you’re composing on the go.

Mixers 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 set up in order to fit them.

Audio Mixers Allow for 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.

Higher-Quality Converters With the Audio Interface

The whole purpose of an audio converter is to be able 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, as well.

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 need when you’re on the road or mixing your beats for a live audience, then an audio mixer is exactly what you need.

Audio interfaces are used exclusively to get quality audio recordings. With an audio mixer, you’re going to have more variety for what you can do.

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.

Best Audio Interfaces

Universal Audio Apollo Twin

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)

Buy on Amazon

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
  • Quality sound

Cons 

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

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.

Focusrite SCARLETT 2i2

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen 2x2 USB Audio Interface Bundled with Headphones and 2 XLR Cables (4 Items)

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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

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

The Focusrite SCARLETT is no exception. This system is 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 device, and you’ll be recording your beats within a few minutes of getting it out of the box. It has all the connections you’ll need if you’re working right from home with few devices.

Complete Review – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Best Audio Mixers

Behringer Xenyx X1222 USB

Behringer Xenyx X1222USB Premium 16-Input 2/2-Bus Mixer with USB/Audio Interface

Buy on Amazon

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

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

This audio mixer has state-of-the-art tools that will 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 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.

Mackie B-Box PROFX12V2

Mackie, B Box, 12-channel (PROFX12V2)

Buy on Amazon

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.

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.

It’s also smaller and more portable than most mixers, which will give those who prefer the control of a mixer an option of having one right there on their home studio desk.

Conclusion

Now that you have all the information you need let’s talk about what is 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 choose Digital Audio Workshop.

After looking at the pros and cons of both audio interfaces and audio, 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

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo (APLTWDII)
  • Desktop 2x6 Thunderbolt audio interface for Mac and Windows with world-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion, uncompromising analog design, superior components, and premium build quality
  • Real-time UAD processing for tracking through vintage compressor, EQs, tape machines, mic preamps, and guitar amp plug-ins with near-zero (sub-2ms) latency*
  • 2 premium mic/line preamps; 2 line outputs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output, 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs, 8 channels of digital input via Optical connection. Apollo Thunderbolt System Requirements MAC- Apple Mac computer with available Thunderbolt port.macOS 10.11 El Capitan, 10.12 Sierra, 10.13 High Sierra, or 10.14 Mojave. WINDOWS- PC computer with built-in Thunderbolt 3 port. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (64-Bit Edition). Qualified Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter (sold separately)
  • Real-time analog Classics UAD- plug-in bundle: Legacy versions of the LA-2A, 1176LN, Pultec EQP-1A, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, Raw Distortion, 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, and more
  • Console 2.0 software features channel strip presets, drag & drop functionality, dynamically resizable Windows, Runs UAD powered plug-ins via VST, RTAS, & AAX 64 in all major DAWs

It’s not something used for live performances, but for home studio recording it’s just right. It has access to its own software as well as free demo plug-ins, which is invaluable to any new hip hop artist just starting out. It saves on space and delivers the quality converters that beats 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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About the author

Daniel Douglas

Daniel Douglas

After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Daniel 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.