Classic Analog Mixers --page 4
Guitar | Bass | Keyboard | Microphones | Mixers | Audio Interfaces | Monitors | Sequencers | Soft Synths | Live Sound | Drums | Club  | Accessories | Blowouts
 SameDay Music   shop at zzounds!


Guide | Rigs | Forums | Reviews | Bookstore | Jukebox | BlogsSearch  |  Mobile  

Page  1   2   3   4 

The Classic Analog Mixers

choosing a mixer   Page 4

by Tweak

Allen and Heath ZED428 28-Channel Mixer with USB Interface  Tweak: This mixer is bound to make many home studio operators very happy.  Note the model number (428).  Here that means 4 bus, 28 channels. 

Don't think that because the board is "analog" that it is "old" and not as good.  People love the dedicated faders knobs, the warm sound, and the immediate response of the sound to the twist of a tweak.  There's no menus, no abstracted multi-function controls, the knobs and faders actually control the audio voltage going down the wire.

Who needs an Analog Mixer?

  • Those who  simply want to add mics and guitars to their stereo soundcard
  • Those who want to mix down groups of tracks (called stems) coming from an audio interface in the analog domain
  • Those with lots of synths and outboard gear
  • Those who want to monitor their multi-timbral midi synths during the tracking stage without recording to audio until the final mix
  • People who want to combine voltages to produce sound rather than having a digital data algorithm crunch numbers

 

Analog mixers can be classed meaningfully by 2 variables.  1) The number of channels and 2) the number of busses.  That's why you see most mixer have numbers in the model name, like a Mackie 32-8.  That means 32 channels, 8 busses.  Sometimes they add another 3rd number.  Lets take a Behringer 2442 for example.  That means 24 channels, 4 busses, 2 master outs. Unfortunately manufacturers don't always follow rigid definitions here and the numbers can be deceiving. Some "4 bus" mixers count the master outs as a bus, so its really a 2 bus+2 master outs.  I will call those 2+2 bus mixers. 

Before you buy, check the specs and make sure the mixer is a "true" 4 bus if that is what you want. For the number of channels, some manufacturers count the effects returns as a channel and some don't.  So a 16 channel mixer might only have 12 channels and two stereo effects returns. 

To add to the complexity, manufacturers are now adding USB and Firewire audio interfaces to their analog mixers.  Remember what we said about "redundancy" a while back.  You only need one audio interface in your rig and some of these may be very basic.  Normally you connect an analog mixer to your existing audio interface. 

Confusing?  Yes. That's why you need me.  I will get your through this.  In all cases, read specs and find out how many channels the board really has not counting the aux returns. Also find out how many busses the board has not counting of the Master outs. If it has an audio interface make sure you know exactly how many channels it can send and return from your DAW. 

To get information to make this page I went to manufacturers websites and dug the info out of product manuals. I suggest you do the same when you are ready to buy.

 

Types of Analog Mixers for a
Computer Recording Setup

The Main question: How many tracks need to be recorded simultaneously (i.e., at the same time)? You need as many inputs on your soundcard or audio interface to cover that first off.  Then you need that many independent outputs (sub outs) on your mixer to mate with these inputs.  These independent outputs are called "sub outs"  or the "alt 3-4 bus". These are different terms for the same thing. You can also use direct outs if the mixer has them, if you don't mind re-patching the gear you want to record into it's path.

Types of Analog Mixers

  1. 8 Bus  (ideally for 8x8 audio interfaces, standalone multitrack recorders)
  2. Analog Mixer with built in audio interface
  3. 4 Bus (ideally for 4x4 audio interfaces)
  4. 2+2 Bus (Ideally for  2x2 stereo soundcards)
  5. Stereo Only  (Ideal for those only connecting mics and guitars for tracking though workarounds are possible)
  6. Rack Mixers
  7. Preamp only (for those going mixerless on a budget)

We'll talk about each one with examples to help you decide.

 

1. "8-bus" Mixers

If you intend to record a full band in your studio, you need a board that can handle lots of mics and instruments simultaneously and let you listen to tracks already recorded.  Remember the drum kit might take 4-5 mics itself.  You'll probably need to send a monitor mix out one of the busses, have inserts on every channel for patching stuff in during mixdown, generous sends and returns.  8 bus mixers are a great way to go.  Take a look at the Behringer SX4882  or the budget Behringer SX3282 Mackie 24-8 and 32-8 mixers. More upscale is the Soundcraft Ghost.  If you are using a computer to record, pair that to an 8x8 audio interface, like a delta 1010, or a MOTU828mk2. You are also able to mix all 8 outputs coming from the audio interface on mixer faders.

Example of an 8-bus Mixers

Behringer SX4882 Eurodesk 48-Channel Mixer

Tweak:  The SX4882 is a full 8 bus studio console with In-Line Monitoring (also called "Mix B").  In this sense it is a true recording mixer.  You can patch 24 channels coming from your DAW and at the same time have 24 mics going to the DAW--and hear both simultaneously.  For mixers without this feature you have to press a switch to choose between hearing the DAW or your Mic, or jack around with patchbays, or worse, get behind the desk and pull cables.  The 4882 also has a built in Meter bridge.  On the Mackie, below, its an option. The SX4882 is a repackaging of the older MX9000.

 

Allen And Heath GL2800-48 48-Channel Mixer
Top end monitor mix capability is now accessible to the budget conscious sound provider. The popular GL Series has grown with the addition of the GL2800M, a dedicated monitor console offering an easy to use, innovative tool set for simultaneously mixing large numbers of wedges and in-ears. With the benefits of personal freedom, a tailored mix for each musician and a quiet stage, IEM monitor systems have become increasingly popular with performers and engineer's alike. Although IEM has become a lot more affordable, the console required to run them properly is typically too large, complex or expensive for all but the biggest budgets. Meet the GL2800M... affordable, capable and easy to use - without compromise, exactly right for the job.

Tweak:  The Allen and Heath GL 2800 series cones in 24 to 48 channel frame sizes. 

Yamaha MG2414FX 24-Channel, 14-Bus Mixer with Dual EFX
 If your application is live sound reinforcement, you'll want all the channel capacity you can get - just in case. Vocal mics, instrument mics, stereo keyboards, direct-injection feeds, drum mics, and the rest can add up very quickly. With 24 and 32 input channels, respectively, the MG24/14FX and MG32/14FX are ready to handle all but the most ambitious sound-reinforcement setups. And with dual SPX digital effect systems on-board, you won't need racks of outboard gear to get the sound you need. There's also a comprehensive range of group and auxiliary busses to make even complex mixes easy. Tweak:  14 busses?  Yes, if you count them the way Yamaha does.  There are 4 stereo busses (that is 4 faders controlling 8 busses)  and 6 sends which Yamaha adds up to 14.  Using their definition, the MX9000 above and the Mackie 24-8 are also 14 bus mixers.  Yet the Yamahas are powerful boards for home studios with a lot of gear.  Has onboard FX too.

 

Behringer SX3282 Eurodesk 32-Channel Mixer

If you're looking for old-school analog handling in a package armed to the teeth with modern reliability, the search is over. This mixer's British EQ, 24 mic inputs (each with its own built-in studio-grade XENYX preamp), 8 stereo inputs and 8 buses give you enough leeway to craft the recording of your dreams or create the perfect mix for a live show.
Tweak: 32 inputs, 8 busses.  Though designed for live use, it could be made to work in a studio as well, particularly one that has lots of hardware to connect. 

large product image


2. Analog Mixers with built in or optional Audio interface

This type of mixer is a full fledged analog mixer but also has either a firewire or USB digital bus to and from the DAW.  Keep in mind the nature of this connection to the DAW may vary widely from simple 2 channels back and forth to elaborate multi-channel assignable i/o.  Never assume this kind of mixer can return more than 2 channels from the DAW to the mixer unless it explicitly says it can.  I tell you this because though it is true, it defies common sense.  You "think" that you can mix 8 DAW tracks on 8 faders, right?  In reality you cannot.  The exceptions are typically expensive.  With simple USB interfaces on mixers, you only get two channels returned to the mixer from the DAW.  With the firewire or USB 2.0 interfaces on mixers you often get several outputs to the daw, but still only 2 inputs (typically) from the DAW. 

There are two analog mixer with firewire interfaces that do allow you to mixdown several DAW tracks on the mixer.  They are the Zed R-16 by Allen & Heath and the Mackie Onyx 1640i, both shown below. 

Also keep in mind that if you use these built-in interfaces you probably will not be able to use you audio interface or soundcard if you have one in your sequencer application.  Most sequencers only allow one audio driver.  You need to ask yourself before you plunge:  Is this interface really better than my audio interface?  Still some of these mixers, like the Zed14 and the Onyx, are worth having for their analog features.  Others make good all-in-one solutions for those on a budget or starting out.

Does this mean you can't mix on the mixer using those interfaces?  Yes!  If you want to mix on your 32 channel console that has a 2x2 audio interface you simply don't use that interface.   Instead you use an audio interface that does have the ins and outs (i/o) you need. 

 

Examples of mixers with built in audio interfaces

Mackie Onyx 1620i 16-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
The 16-channel Mackie Onyx 1620i FireWire Recording Mixer combines the benefits of a powerful computer interface with the hands-on control of premium analog features like eight Onyx mic preamps and Perkins EQ. Qualified by Mackie for use will all major DAWs, including Pro Tools M-Powered 8 (upgrade required*), the 1620i is the perfect front-end to any home studio.

Allen and Heath ZED14 Mixer with USB Interface
Tweak: Uses USB as the recording bus.  Has no other busses per se, but does have inserts and 4 sends.  Gotta love the 100mm faders--rare at this price.

Allen and Heath ZED420 20-Channel Mixer with USB Interface
The ZED 4-Bus series takes inspiration from different product lines within the A&H range, combining them with fresh new ideas to give stunning results in a neat and easy to use package. The padless DuoPre mic/line pre-amplifier is the new design first implemented on the ZED14 and delivers a high-headroom, low-noise signal. The 4 band, 2 sweep EQ, along with the low noise summing amps, is borrowed from the acclaimed GL2400, while the bus architecture is a simplified, but equally comprehensive, version of that employed in the successful GL series.
Mackie Onyx 820i 8-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
The ultra-compact Mackie Onyx 820i FireWire Recording Mixer combines the benefits of a powerful interface with the hands-on control of premium analog features like three Onyx mic preamps and Perkins EQ. Qualified by Mackie for use will all major DAWs, including Pro Tools M-Powered 8 (upgrade required*), the 820i is the perfect front-end to any home studio.

Mackie Onyx 1620i 16-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
The 16-channel Mackie Onyx 1620i FireWire Recording Mixer combines the benefits of a powerful computer interface with the hands-on control of premium analog features like eight Onyx mic preamps and Perkins EQ. Qualified by Mackie for use will all major DAWs, including Pro Tools M-Powered 8 (upgrade required*), the 1620i is the perfect front-end to any home studio.

Allen and Heath ZEDR16 16-Channel FireWire Recording Mixer
The Allen & Heath ZE ZEDR16 combines an analogue recording mixer with a FireWire soundcard, MIDI controls and ingenious 'home-studio' routing so you can build tracks in the studio, record live gigs, mix-down, remix... all through warm analogue circuitry, 4 band fully parametric classic British EQ and out to crisp, precise digital format.
Mackie Onyx 1640i 16-Channel Premium Analog Mixer with FireWire Interface
The 16-channel Mackie Onyx 1640i FireWire Recording Mixer combines the benefits of a powerful 16X16 FireWire interface with the hands-on control of premium analog features like 16 Onyx mic preamps and Perkins EQ. Plus, it's qualified by Mackie for use with all major DAWs, including Pro Tools M-Powered 8 (upgrade required*).
 

 

3. "4-Bus" Mixers

 

A true 4 bus mixer means that the mixer has 4 "sub outs" or "group outs" in addition to its "Main Outs or "Control room outs"  Busses are perfect for routing to audio interfaces.  But you can also use direct outs, inserts, or sends to do that.  Recall the warning that manufacturers' often tell you 2 busses+main outs equals 4 busses.  Yes, technically, but they are muddying the water.  That is why I have to draw the distinction between a "true" 4 bus and others.  So you don't get hoodwinked into thinking you are getting more mixer than you are really getting.  

If you are planning to record 3-4 musicians into the computer simultaneously, make sure you have at least that many audio interface inputs and preamps going to your computer.   

Mixers that do have 4 sub outs are the Behringer UB2442, MX2642a, Alesis Studio32, Mackie 1604 VLZ Pro, ZED436, ZED420, ZED428,  Onyx 1640,  Onyx 24 and 32, Behringer SL2442, Mackie CFX16MKII Of course there are more.  You have to read the specs carefully.  Again, don't go by the digits of the model number.  These extra outputs can be switched on for channels you are recording, and can be removed from the main mix while doing so, which prevents feedback.  A mixer with sub outs lets you record to and play from your soundcard at the same time and have the mixer control all of it. If you have a 4x4 audio interface, like a Delta 44 or Delta 66, a mixer with 4 sub outs is fine.  You can also use an 8x8 audio interface (like the MOTU828mk2) if the mixer has direct outs in addition to the busses, or you could just use 4 busses (which is all that most home studios need) and use the other 4 inputs of the audio interface for something else.

In the case of 4 musicians, each musician gets there own mono channel, assigned to a  separate bus out to a separate channel on the audio interface. That way, in the sequencer, each will have their own isolated track.

 

Examples of LARGE 4 bus Mixers

This class of mixer has traditionally been used for live shows, but they would be useful in the studio as well, particularly for those having a lot of hardware, synths and effects.  They are also good for mixing feeds to and from multi track recorders.

 

Allen and Heath ZED436 36-Channel Mixer with USB Interface
The ZED 4-Bus series takes inspiration from different product lines within the A&H range, combining them with fresh new ideas to give stunning results in a neat and easy to use package. The padless DuoPreTM mic/line pre-amplifier is the new design first implemented on the ZED-14 and delivers a high-headroom, low-noise signal. The 4 band, 2 sweep EQ, along with the low noise summing amps, is borrowed from the acclaimed GL2400, while the bus architecture is a simplified, but equally comprehensive, version of that employed in the successful GL series.

 
Tweak:  While technically only a 4 bus, the Zed4-36 has direct outs on every channel as well as inserts.  6 sends too.  That gives it tremendous flexibility in both recording studios and live. 

 

large product image

Behringer XENYX XL2400 24-Channel Mixer  also see the XL1600 and XL3200

 
Allen and Heath GL2400-24 24-Channel Mixer
Engineered for modern engineering techniques, every detail in this mixer has been carefully thought out to provide the very best mixing experience. For example, the mono output can be configured as LR sum, wedge, or aux-fed sub or centre master. In Monitor mode, all six auxes are available on faders with mutes, inserts, meters and XLR drive. The new 7x4 matrix with ambient mic capability opens up a huge number of mixing applications, including stereo recording, zone feeds, delay fill speakers and stereo in-ear monitor mixes.

 

Behringer SX3242FX Eurodesk 32-Channel Mixer
The Behringer SX3242FX is designed to meet the needs of studio and live mixing applications with a comprehensive set of features & sound modification tools.


 

4. "2+2 Bus" Mixers

If you do all the recording yourself, one or two tracks at a time, or with one other person, you each having a separate mono track, a mixer with only 2 sub outs is fine.  The UB1832FX,  MX1604a, the UB1204FX all are in this class, as is the  Behringer 1604 and 2004.  So are the Mackie 1202, 1402, and many others.  A suitable 2x2 soundcard for these is all you need, like an m-audio audiophile 2496, Emu 1212m.  Of course you could use a 4x4 or 8x8 interface with these too.  In the case of a 4x4, you could route all 4 outs back to the mixer and play with your mix there.

TweakHeadz Lab | Studio-Central | Audio-Pro-Central  Master INDEX  | Store Affiliations | Site Map | Support the Lab | Privacy Policy | 2010 TweakHeadz.com