Do You Need a Mixer to Record Music at Home?

Do You Need a Mixer to Record Music at Home

Enjoying music shouldn’t always be some passive way to spend time.  It’s more fun to actually create your own music.  And it’s even better to record the music for other people to enjoy too.

So, if you’re reading this article, you will want our opinion on whether you need a mixer to record music at home.  Well, we’re not going to make you scroll all the way to the bottom to find out.

You don’t necessarily need to have a mixer to record your music at home, but if you can get one, then perhaps you should consider it.  No need to rush straight out and get one though.  If you already have an audio interface, then that will have come with it’s own software.  You can try mixing on that at first, and then decide later if you want to upgrade to a mixer.

In this article we’re going to talk first of all about what exactly you do need to record music at home.  Then we’re going to look at using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that you get with your audio interface, and seeing how that compares to using a mixer.  By the end of the article, you should have a clearer idea of whether or not you want to get yourself a mixer just yet.

What you do need to record music at home

Ok, so here’s the bare minimum of what you need to start recording music right at home:

  • A Computer
  • DAW/Audio Interface Combo
  • One or Two Microphones
  • Headphones
  • A Few Cables
  • Studio Monitors
  • A Pop Filter

Honestly, that’s all you need to get started.  You could also throw in some ear training software as well.  That would be a great boost.  And if you don’t have a local music shop near you, don’t worry, you get all these from online retailers such as Amazon.

Next, we’re going to look at DAWs and mixers, and to keep things streamlined, we’re going to compare one of each from the same brand, PreSonus.

Using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)

PreSonus’s latest DAW is called Studio One 5.  That’s the edition available when you buy their latest audio interfaces.  It’s super straightforward to use, and through it you can do all your recording, mixing and mastering.

We love the dashboard - it shows all your songs and projects, and you can create a personalized user profile that allows you to add custom metadata to everything you create.

When you open the Song Page, you’ve got everything you need laid out in front of you.  You can compose, edit, mix and record. 

There’s even a set of virtual instruments and effects you can use.  Then you can move on to the Project Page, where you can work on your art and link your projects and songs to form albums.

But where Studio One 5 really stands out is how you can bring it when you want to hit the stage!  You just open the Show Page, and there’s an easy to use Setlist.  Real end-to-end production.

Here’s the link for a quick video which shows just how straightforward the PreSonus mixing software is to use, and shows you what you can do with it:  Studio One 5: Workflow Essentials Overview

Benefits of using a mixer

Of course, with an audio interface, you can often be quite limited in the number of inputs you can use at any given time.  But you wouldn’t need to worry about this with a mixer, because you can record multiple channels at once.  

But that’s not all, compared with an audio interface, a mixer gives you more control over the signal going in.

Let’s take a look at the PreSonus StudioLive Mixer.

First off, while the product page describes this mixer as affordable, we have seen some much more affordable alternatives available from the same retailer.

It’s easy to use interface keeps all your main controls easily visible and accessible, and not buried in menus or layers.  That is one of the more clear advantages that a mixer has over an audio interface.

Everything on the mixer is color-coded and clearly labeled.  And while it may have a more analog feel with it’s sliders and dials, it comes with all the power of modern digital mixing, and multitrack recording - and even wireless remote control.

And though it looks so compact, it actually allows a whopping 16 different channels.  Each channel can independently access its analog input or alternatively, its dedicated digital return from your computer.

It also offers superior detail and clarity, with a resolution coming in at 48 kHz.  And with their special mic preamps, you get a really rich sound, smooth highs and deep lows.  And, you’ll never run out of signal processors.

And, keeping up with modern times, there’s multiplatform software included.  You can do your mixing on Mac, Windows, Android, iPad, and iPhone.

Conclusion

Good quality studio equipment can be expensive, and a mixer in particular can be expensive.  Although you can get really basic ones for under $100, you can often see mixers selling for as much as $500 to $1000.

So, if you’re a beginner, just starting off, then, as good as mixers can be, you might want to work on developing your skills before eventually deciding to invest in a mixer. 

It’s also worth noting at this point that a mixer can in fact replace your audio interface, provided it has one built in.  So that’s something to think about if you haven’t got your own audio interface just yet.

But if you’re starting to put a home recording studio together from scratch, then you can get some great bundle deals, and buy all your equipment in one go, for a really great price.  Here’s an example: Presonus AudioBox iTwo Recording Bundle with Interface, Headphones, Microphone and Studio One software.

If you do eventually get yourself a mixer, you’ll want to check it will work well with your audio interface.

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