The problem with having an ever-growing selection of instruments, tools and sound sources in your studio is that it can be hard to keep everything active and ready to use. Particularly if you employ a standard USB audio interface, where you may only have a couple of inputs to record your tracks. The constant changing out of jack leads is enough to harsh any buzz in a home studio. Fear not, because the best home studio mixers here may be just the thing you need to keep your creative flow intact.
Here we will run through a selection of analogue and digital mixers and mixing desks to ensure you can record multiple sources at once. Some favour traditional simplicity, while others incorporate ingenious tricks to unlock the full potential of your gear. Let’s take a look in our round-up of the best home studio mixers around today.
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The best home studio mixers right now?
Choosing the best home studio mixer or mixing desk is a challenge, not least because they come in all different shapes and sizes. What works for a solo artist looking to record a microphone and electric guitar will likely not fit the bill for more expansive setups. That being said, quality rises to the top and in the Allen & Heath ZEDi 10FX there is a mixer which hits a nice balance between classic mixing capabilities and modern ways of working. The mic preamps sound great for the price, and the USB connectivity means it will have a good few years in it yet.
Special mention must also go to the Rode RodeCaster Pro; while podcasting itself is still relatively niche, in the RodeCaster Pro there is a specialist mixing desk which offers up a few neat tricks specifically for those users.
Best home studio mixers: buying advice
It’s not uncommon, when you think of mixers and mixing desks, to picture those breath-taking analogue desks you see in pro studios. An avalanche of faders, knobs and dials, all ready and waiting to take your audio and do magical things with it. Unfortunately, as we know, when you add the words ‘vintage’ and ‘audio gear’ together you can sometimes end up with ‘expensive and sometimes unreliable’. That said, there are desks and mixers which try to emulate some of the features seen in high-end studio spaces.
When you’re looking for a mixer or mixing desk for a home studio, it’s likely because you face a fairly common musical predicament; too many audio sources, not enough places to send them. This could be because you’re a solo producer, with loads in the way of instruments, samplers, microphones and otherwise, or because you’re a band looking to record multiple things at the same time. If you’re the former, it’s possible you’re looking for a way to ensure all your gear is plugged in, and ready to go, at any given moment. In an ideal world, you want to push a fader up and be ready to record. If you’re the latter, then you potentially have multiple band members all looking to perform at the same time.
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A home studio mixer will facilitate this, providing you choose the right one for your needs. Think about how many inputs you are likely to require, and exactly how much control you want to have over the audio before it reaches your digital audio workstation (DAW). More complex setups may require bus channels or higher sample rates, while a decent set of mic pre-amps can be the difference between good and great-sounding recordings.
Commonly, you’ll find USB connectivity included in modern mixers, removing a step from the process; without the need to go from the mixer into a separate audio interface, you’re lessening the chances of audio artefacts appearing in your recordings.
At the high end, you might favour motorized faders – which recall channel strip settings instantly – or high-quality built-in effects. Whatever you’re looking for, we can help. Our list of the best home studio mixers and mixing desks will highlight the options available to you today, whatever your budget or requirements.
The best home studio mixers available today
The latest update to A&H’s long running analogue ZED series bundles 4x4 USB interface alongside GSPre boutique preamps and onboard effects for a powerful studio ready solution. You get four mono mic/line channels (with phantom power) plus three stereo inputs. The first two channels include a high impedance DI mode, while the four mono channels feature separate balanced/unbalanced TRS and XLR inputs, with the stereo inputs on TRS jacks.
The GSPre preamps are super quiet and have bags of headroom, and all mic inputs include a 100Hz low cut filter alongside 3 band fixed frequency EQ. USB operation is also sensible, with 3 routing configurations. Finally, an onboard FX send and processor rounds things off. The ZEDi 10FX is well designed, well built, well equipped and is great value for money.
Read the full Allen & Heath ZEDi 10FX review
The ‘pro’ version of Roland’s smartphone-friendly mixer can handle up to 3 mono and 3 stereo inputs and includes one XLR combi input with switchable phantom power, one HiZ ¼” instrument jack and one mini jack mic input for lapel mics. Further inputs are two stereo line inputs on a pair of minijacks, and two mono line inputs on ¼” jacks. There are five level knobs (four input and one output) and the physical output is on a single mini jack.
The four input knobs blend the 9 input sources to one stereo mix. Go Mixer Pro is also a 2 in 2 out USB interface (iOS, Android, Windows and OS X compatible) and can be bus or battery powered. You can even prop up your tablet or phone in the groove. Overall it provides a great miniature option for the mobile producer.
Art’s 5 channel mini mixer includes 2 mic, 2 line and 1 Hi-Z instrument input with optional amp simulator effect. The mixer’s tube credentials are via an assignable 12AX7 tube stage, which can serve either the pair of mic inputs, or the single instrument input. There are 4 mixer strips (3 mono and 1 stereo) and all include 3 band EQ, 2 auxiliary sends and pan.
USB connectivity is 2 in / 2 out with a dedicated USB Return level. Meanwhile either the USB output or main mix can be switched to the rather nice VU meters. Finishing off this very retro styled mixer are wooden end panels. All told it’s a stylish desk and an ideal all-in-one solution for small studio set ups.
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A slight detour away from traditional ‘home’ studios brings us to rehearsal spaces. We’ve included this because garages count, right? Regardless, it’s likely bands will require something more substantial for recording full performances, demos or jam sessions. We’ve all done the classic ‘one mic in the middle of the room’ recordings at some point, and dreamt of being able to exercise more control. In the Zoom LiveTrak L-12, there is a solution.
This 12-input digital mixer combines the best of both worlds. As a pure mixer, you can record up to 12 sources at the same time with complete control over levels, panning, effects and routing. This can then be output either as one summary source, or as individual tracks to a computer over USB for editing and post-production.
Alternatively, the LiveTrak L-12 also acts as a self-contained multitrack recorder, with the ability to record, mix and master full tracks which can be exported via SD card. For bands on a budget, the Zoom LiveTrak L-12 is a pretty compelling proposition.
This mid-range configuration from Mackie’s well established analogue range, includes 10 Onyx mic pres, 2 stereo group buses, 4 auxes with dedicated stereo returns and a host of rear panel connectivity, all at an amazing price. You get 16 inputs in total arranged as 8 mono and 4 stereo channel strips. The mono channels get 3-band EQ with swept mid, while the stereo channels have 4-band fixed frequency EQ.
All channel strips can route to the 2 stereo group buses (the pan pot allows you to blend between them) as well as main the stereo mix bus, and the first 8 channels also include a post fader direct out, which is available on the back panel. Further options include selectable pre and after fade solo, two headphone outputs and a stereo in/out tape loop on phono connectors. The 1642 VLZ4 is a traditional analogue desk with no DAW interfacing, but delivers a clean signal path, solid Mackie build quality and is ideal for recording small groups.
The X32 Producer is the cheapest of Behringer’s three X32 digital mixers, but it still packs a serious spec. With 16 Midas designed mic pres, 17 100mm motorised faders, 32 channel USB DAW I/O and onboard effects, you’re getting lots for your money and in a pretty compact footprint. What’s more, despite its potential complexity, the X32 Producer’s simple layout incorporating global physical controls for channel strip gain, dynamics and EQ make it easy to use.
Channel LED metering complements the screen driven parameter visuals, and rounding things off are 8 effects slots, 8 DCA groups, input expandability via the two AES50 connectors and flexible routing via the physical outputs and monitoring. All told the X32 Producer is a supremely powerful tool at an excellent price.
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Quality analogue design, Soundcraft heritage EQ and familiar layout form the basis of this surprisingly affordable recording desk. Add in multitrack USB interfacing on the MTK version (24 in 22 out) and things step up quite considerably. You get 22 inputs arranged as 14 mono and 4 stereo channel strips. These incorporate 16 Ghost preamps, Soundcraft’s 4-band Sapphyre EQ and dbx limiters on the first 8 channel strips.
Four of the inputs can also handle Hi-Z instruments. There are 5 auxiliaries and dual engine Lexicon effects hardwired to Auxes 4 and 5. Meanwhile channel routing incorporates 2 stereo buses plus the stereo mix output. All channel strip outputs are sent to the USB interface and USB DAW outputs can be selected on each channel strip using the USB return button. Long throw 100mm faders help if feel like a professional desk, and overall the Signature 22 MTK is ideal for tracking multiple mic set ups such as bands.
Yamaha’s long established 01V96i digital mixer offers familiarity and flexibility alongside versatile onboard processing and 16 channels of USB I/O. You get 16 analogue inputs arranged as 12 mic/line and 4 line level, with the 12 mic/line inputs also including inserts. The mixer surface features 16 100mm motorised faders and Yamaha’s established 3 layer workflow, so the faders control inputs 1-16, 17-32 and auxiliaries/subgroups.
The desk has a potential 40 inputs and there’s flexible software input patching which incorporates the 16 DAW USB returns. Output routing is handled in a similar way. The Remote Layer allows you to control external DAWs using the console as a remote surface, and you can also use your computer to control many of the 01V96i's features once you've installed the included Studio Manager software. Clean, great-sounding audio capability, flexible routing and high-quality internal effects mean the 01V96i remains a great performer.
Read the full Yamaha 01V96i review
Professional mixing desks can be seriously expensive, but the ASP4816 offers professional level analogue mixing plus big console workflow in a compact and more affordable format. Each of the 16 inline channel strips includes a Class-A Audient mic pre and dedicated monitor/DAW return. This is via a traditional large and small fader configuration which can be flipped if required. You also get 6 auxiliary sends, 2 cue sends, 4-band EQ, 16 group busses (including routing to multiple busses and left/right panning) and input and return metering.
The centre section includes facility for 4 loudspeaker outputs, 2 cue sends, 1 studio foldback send, 4 stereo inputs, oscillator, talkback alongside various output trim pots. There are also subgroup faders for the first 8 routing groups, and a traditional VCA mix bus compressor. All told the ASP4816 is an extremely elegant analogue desk that is ideal for recording.
To show that not every home studio recording setup involves music, we present to you the Rode RodeCaster Pro. Podcasting is, as we know, an ever-growing area of creativity, yet its technical needs often overlap with the needs of music and audio production. In a real sign of the times, we have in the RodeCaster Pro a dedicated podcast mixing desk with plenty of tricks of its own.
We particularly loved the eight programmable pads, which can be used to instantly fire off sound effects or jingles, while the visual interface on top shows clearly how the audio input levels are performing. It’s perhaps not going to find its place in many music studios, but the Rode RodeCaster Pro is a quality choice for podcasters.