Who Makes The Best Audio Mixer Brands?
Many pastors over the years have asked me what the best audio mixer brands are. That is a question that is not always easy to answer because it really depends on their needs. Many brands manufacture some of the highest-rated audio mixers. You may have heard of some of these like Yamaha, Soundcraft, Midas, Allen & Heath, Tascam, Mackie, and Behringer.
These companies make mixing consoles of all varieties, from compact 4-channel analog mixers for podcasting to ultra-sophisticated 40-channel digital mixers for large churches and event centers. Some are plain Jane models with no bells and whistles to complete audio workstations with effects, equalizer settings, and more.
The Top Features of the Best Audio Mixers
When making a comparison of the brands of audio mixers, one of the most important things to do is look at the features available with each mixer. Things like the type of mixer (analog vs. digital), the number of mic channels and inputs, and of course, its effect on the quality of sound being reproduced.
The majority of audio mixers are either old-school analog mixers or the newest technological advance with digital mixers. There are a few that you might call hybrids, but we will stick basically with either the analog or the digital mixers.
Both types of mixers can produce great sound. Just because one has more advanced technology does not always mean it has better sound. Many analog mixers will rival digital mixers, and many audiophiles prefer analog mixers over digital. Yamaha and Mackie still make great analog mixers as well as digital mixers.
You can get both desktop-style mixers and rack mount mixers. Both have their places and use. You can use a desktop-style mixer in a studio or even a sound booth at a church. With a desktop-style, the controls are placed on the top of the soundboard, and with a rack mount mixer, many of the controls are on the front of the mixer or controlled by a separate laptop or control unit.
The next thing to look at is the number of channels a mixing board has. They range from ultra-small 4-channel podcasting mixers all the way up to 40-channel studio mixers. Within those channels are mic channels and other audio input channels. Many come with phantom power on some of the mic channels to provide power for condenser microphones.
The quality of the microphone preamps the mixer uses is important. Not all preamps are created equal. Midas and Soundcraft have the best reputation for using high-end preamps in their boards. Mackie also has a good preamp for their mixers. The better the preamp, the better the sound produced in the sound system. Good preamps lower the noise or reverb that might be picked up by the microphone and only reproduces the primary sound being captured.
Analog Versus Digital Audio Mixers
Most audio mixer manufacturers produce both analog and digital audio mixers. Although digital mixers have the most technological improvements over the last few years, a significant number of sound engineers and audiophiles stand by analog mixers. They prefer the simplicity of routing signals on an analog mixer over the process involved with digital mixers.
The beauty of analog mixers is their simplicity. Not only are they easier to use for beginners, but they are easier for non tech volunteers and church leaders. Not every church has a sound engineer that is willing to volunteer their time.
The layout of an analog mixer is easier to understand, and they have fewer steps needed to get set up and running. Most sound controls are adjusted by using physical knobs, faders, and buttons.
With a digital mixer, these are normally replaced with a GUI. (graphic user interface) You control all aspects of the mix, including volume, tone, effects, and where to send the signal with a computer screen and various menu options.
With a digital audio mixer, you will normally find more features and versatility than you would with an analog mixer. Some of these features may include expanded equalization settings, multiple FX (effects) settings, and even preprogrammed effects to mimic different types of venues. For instance, you can make the mix sound like it is in a concert hall or a coffee shop with one push of a button.
You can also store your settings and different mixes depending on who is mixed. Maybe you have a typical worship team on Sunday morning, but you also offer a traditional service in the afternoon with traditional hymns with different players. Once you have set the mix for both types of music, you can store the mix and switch between the mixes with a touch of a button, and you don’t have to adjust the mix every time there is a new musician or musical style.
One of the most beneficial features of digital mixers is the ability to control the mixer from anywhere in the venue via a mobile app or software for a tablet. This allows you to mix the sound from right where the people hear it. If you need to make an adjustment and bring up a vocalist or speaker, you can do so while sitting in the audience!
Durable Construction Is Needed for Touring
Most audio mixers are designed to be used either on the road or in a studio. However, not all mixers are constructed to withstand the rigors of setting up and tearing down every day as a band travels to different gigs. Touring is hard on equipment. The brand of mixer that has the best reputation for withstanding the rigors of life on the road is Mackie.
Behringer makes rack mountable equipment that is designed for road use, however, their use of plastic parts then makes them problematic when actually using them on the road. Plastic parts break easily.
Mackie’s reputation for being “built like a tank” is well deserved. Midas and Soundcraft also make durable mixers that have aluminum frames.
Audio mixers are expensive if you are buying a reputable mixer from a good company. The least expensive mixers will run thousands of dollars for a larger mixer. That is the starting point. Some choices can cost as much as $20,000.00. Before you invest that type of money in a mixer you should ensure that you get a quality product from a brand you can trust. For audio mixers the brands you can trust are…
- Allen and Heath
In my opinion, these brands make the best analog and digital mixers. I would go with a Mackie if you want a classic analog mixer that will last. I know churches that are still using 30-year-old Mackie mixers in their sanctuaries.
If you want one that is popular, Behringer has put out the X32, and it is the most reasonably priced digital mixer out there when considering all the effects and features it has.
And if you like something that will be backed by great customer service, I would choose a Yamaha.
I hope this has helped you with the information you need concerning the best audio mixer brands.