When it comes to music recording devices, you need to choose between an audio interface and an audio mixer.
Both are great for that purpose and offer a variety of features and options to record high-quality music in your home studio.
But there are some differences between them that will help you to choose the right one for you.
In this audio interface vs mixer article, I will try to explain each device, what they offer, what are differences, and which one is better for home recording.
What’s An Audio Interface
An audio interface acts as a bridge between the analog world of microphones, instruments, and speakers and the digital world of your computer. With an audio interface, you can record and playback high-quality audio with low latency, making it an essential tool for music producers, podcasters, and audio engineers.
Audio interfaces come in various shapes and sizes, from small portable units to large rack-mounted systems. They typically connect to your computer via USB, Thunderbolt, or PCIe and provide a variety of inputs and outputs to accommodate different types of audio equipment.
Audio Interface Features
Audio interfaces come with a variety of features, depending on your needs and budget. Here are some of the most common features you’ll find in an audio interface:
- I/O – All audio interfaces have different inputs and outputs for instruments, microphones, studio monitors, headphones, etc.
- Preamps – They also have different preamps to amplify signals from a mic or instrument.
- Phantom Power – Audio interface can have phantom power which is required for condenser microphones.
- Sample Rate and Bit Depth – Sample rate and bit depth determine the audio recording quality. Most audio interfaces support sample rates up to 192 kHz and bit depths up to 24-bit, but some high-end models can support even higher resolutions.
In a nutshell, an audio interface is crucial for anyone who wants to record music at home and you need to consider a couple of things when choosing an audio interface.
What’s A Mixer
An audio mixer is a device that allows you to blend and manipulate multiple audio signals together and it’s used in broadcasting, and recording studios. Audio mixers typically have multiple input channels, each with its own volume and tone controls, that can be mixed together and sent to one or more output channels.
Like audio interfaces, mixers also come in different configurations, from small portable units with a few channels to large console mixers with dozens of channels and advanced processing capabilities. They can be analog or digital and offer a wide range of features.
Audio Mixer Features
Audio mixers offer a variety of features that allow you to mix and manipulate audio signals and here are some of them:
- Channel Controls – Each input channel has its own set of controls, including volume, pan, and tone controls such as EQ and filters.
- Aux Sends – Aux sends allow you to send a copy of the audio signal to an external processor, such as a reverb or delay unit.
- Bus Outputs – Bus outputs allow you to route multiple channels to a single output channel.
- Master Controls – The master controls allow you to adjust the overall level and tone of the mix.
Overall, an audio mixer is an essential tool for anyone working with multiple audio sources. Whether you’re mixing live sound, recording music, or broadcasting, an audio mixer can help you achieve a professional-sounding mix.
Difference Between Audio Interface And Mixer
While both audio interfaces and audio mixers are used to process and manage audio signals, they serve different purposes and have distinct features.
- Functionality – An audio interface converts analog audio signals into digital signals that can be recorded or processed by a computer. It has a limited number of input channels and basic controls and is designed to be a simple and easy-to-use device for recording and playback. On the other hand, an audio mixer blends and manipulates multiple audio signals together, with more input channels and advanced controls such as EQ, compression, and effects processing.
- Connectivity – Audio interfaces typically connect to your computer via USB or Thunderbolt, allowing you to record and playback audio directly from your computer. Audio mixers, on the other hand, are designed to work with a range of analog and digital equipment, with analog inputs and outputs, and digital connectivity options such as USB, Ethernet, or FireWire, allowing you to connect the mixer to your computer and use it as an interface for recording and playback, as well as connect it to other digital equipment such as DAWs, effects processors, or other audio mixers.
- Portability – Audio interfaces are typically small and portable, designed to be used with a laptop or other portable device, making them ideal for home recording. Audio mixers, however, can range in size from small portable units to large console mixers that require a dedicated space and are less portable than audio interfaces, requiring more space to set up and operate.
- Pricing – The price of an audio interface or mixer can vary greatly based on its features and capabilities. In general, audio interfaces are less expensive than mixers, with models priced from under $100 to several thousand dollars for high-end options. Meanwhile, audio mixers can be more expensive due to their advanced features and processing capabilities, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars for basic models to tens of thousands of dollars for high-end console mixers with advanced processing and routing options.
Audio Interface vs Mixer: Home Recording
When it comes to building a home recording studio, the first thing to choose is the recording device, but which one is the best for that?
Well, if you want to know my opinion, I always prefer an audio interface over an audio mixer for home recording.
Of course, the audio mixer can be more feature-packed and it could be a better option for recording a whole band, but audio interfaces have one main advantage for me.
And this advantage is convenience. Audio interfaces are much more portable and convenient to use in a home recording environment.
Also, audio interfaces tend to cost much less than an audio mixer and you get every feature you need to record high-quality music at home.
I have used audio mixers in the past but as soon as I tried the audio interface, I fell in love with it and using it since then.
Both, the audio interface and audio mixer are great devices to record music in a home studio. They offer every feature you will need to record music with professional sound. But because of the convenience, portability, and price, I prefer the audio interface.