Audio Interface vs. Audio Mixer – Which is the Best for Streaming?

Audio Interface vs. Audio Mixer

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When recording sounds, one of the most common mistakes that amateurs make is directly linking their microphones and computers. This results in audio that’s somewhat distorted, even if they’re using an expensive mic. 

In professional recording studios, microphones are usually linked to the computer via an audio interface or audio mixer to create superb audio without distortion.

Even if you’re not a professional, you’d still benefit from the great sound quality that you’ll get if you’d purchase an audio mixer or audio interface. 

But which of the two should you get? 

In this post, I’ll be comparing audio interface vs. audio mixer, plus the factors to consider when buying them, so you can make an informed choice. Let’s get to it!

What is an Audio Interface?

An audio interface is an electrical device that can be linked to a computer to capture and playback sound. Through this device, you can connect multiple devices, mics, and other sound sources. 

Anyone who routinely records music knows the challenges of producing precise results. And yes, you can simply connect your guitar and amplifier and start playing, but your setup absolutely needs an audio interface if you’re serious about recording music.

Live performances also employ audio interfaces. You’d often see bands using this to combine all the devices and vocals and send them to other processing units.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Audio Interface
Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen Audio Interface | Focusrite

When to Use an Audio Interface

An audio interface is required if you want to record professional-sounding audio using your computer.

After recording the audio, you can use your computer to alter and combine the signals before playing them back through your speakers.

You can record and replay your live sound using an audio interface. It’s preferable to record over this rather than a USB connection, 3.5mm mic connector, or sound card.

Different sound input and output connections on audio interfaces are available to record sounds from various speakers, such as podcasts.

What is an Audio Mixer?

An audio mixer, also known as a mixing console, is a musical instrument featuring numerous microphone sources, line-level inputs, and audio inputs. 

You can use an audio mixer to regulate loudness, add compression, EQ, and other treatments like reverb and delays.

When recording using both a mixer and an audio interface, you can perform the same tasks in a DAW, but you’ll have fewer plug-in options. Remember that not all mixers are sound recording devices as well.

A mixer is an essential piece of equipment for mixing engineers who work with live musical performances. They can change the output frequently throughout the show without endangering the concert in a matter of seconds.

When to Use an Audio Mixer

An audio mixer can give you additional control with minimal delay. This is useful if you’re routing microphones to speakers for a live performance or if you need to route multiple audio streams to various destinations. 

Since you can’t modify the audio organically during a live concert, an audio mixer lets you choose effects and equalizers to enhance the output.

Additionally, if there are several performers during the live concert, an audio mixer lets you configure which voice or sound to highlight. 

If you buy an audio mixer, you won’t need an audio interface. The settings can be adjusted manually for a personalized result.

Yamaha MG10 10-Input Stereo Mixer
MG10 10-Input Stereo Mixer | Yamaha

Audio Interface vs. Audio Mixer: Understanding the Differences

In sound production, both audio interfaces and mixers are utilized. Both devices can accept analog inputs and emit analog signals.

Both devices also feature inputs for numerous sources, with an average of 4-6 channels. Premium models typically have 12–16 channels for different sources.

An audio interface can efficiently operate on a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), which records many sources concurrently. It’s mainly how an audio interface differs from a mixer. 

On the other hand, the output of an audio mixer can be combined to create a stereo track while recording one source at a time.

Before being transferred in analog mode to the output, sound waves passing through audio interfaces are first transformed to digital for processing in the PC. Since mixers don’t link to a computer or laptop, there’s no need to transform the input into a digital file.

Utilizing the mixer’s numerous settings, the input signal is treated before being streamed to the audience. Some mixers might include built-in audio interfaces, but it has a consequence.

Some mixers offer the highest quality assurance for live shows and studio recordings and come equipped with an audio interface.

Determining which one to use can be challenging, but your recording circumstance usually holds the key.

For instance, you won’t need a specialist mixer if you are recording with a group for their debut album. In this situation, you can record the music for your band using a mic, an audio interface, and the sound card built into your PC.

However, you will need an audio interface and a mixer if you want to create a more commercial album and capture other musicians.

Steinberg UR22C Audio Interface
UR22C Audio Interface | Steinberg

Audio Interface vs. Audio Mixer: 4 Factors to Consider

You can choose between an audio interface or an audio mixer based on the following key factors.

1. Application

An audio interface is your best option for recording audio from solitary, dual, or multiple sources or performers. 

On the other hand, an audio mixer is your best option if you want to stream your audio event live. With audio mixers, real-time audio mixing, equalizers, and effects are all possible.

Podcasting and personal studio need an audio interface. 

Meanwhile, live performances or recordings with multiple performers using different mics would need an audio mixer.

2. Connectivity

Typically, an audio interface contains 1 to 4 ports. As a result, you can attach a few musical instruments and your mic. 

Audio mixers, on the other hand, typically feature a multi-channel arrangement. Because of this, it’s appropriate for large audio projects using a multi-source sequence. A massive chorus of singers and musical instruments can be connected in many ways.

3. Effects and Equalizers

Audio interface devices don’t normally have special effects or offer an equalization option. 

When using an audio interface, you have to record the audio first and then edit or add some effects later. There are audio interfaces with high-pass filtering and dedicated preamps available.

On the other hand, mixers are known for having equalizers and effects. 

Before airing and streaming live, an audio mixer can process the audio signals as needed. You can choose from a variety of the impact for various audio inputs.

Allen & Heath QU-16C Rack Mountable Compact Digital Mixer
QU-16C Rack Mountable Compact Digital Mixer | Allen & Heath

4. Dimensions

When choosing between an audio mixer and an audio interface, you also have to consider the size of the room. 

An audio interface would be great for small spaces because there are portable models that don’t take up too much space. Meanwhile, audio mixers can be quite big and take up a lot of room.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, your needs will determine whether you need an audio mixer or an audio interface for your live broadcast or show.

Before deciding whether to get an audio mixer or an audio interface, evaluate your needs first and see which of these two devices you can get the most benefits from.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Just comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.

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