There is an ongoing debate within the podcasting community whether one needs a mixer to create a podcast show. Of course, a lot of factors need to be considered, but a short answer is no you don’t. In this post, I’m going to show you why you may want one in your recording setup.
What Does a Mixer Do?
As the name suggests, an audio mixer mixes sound. It is the central hub where audio signals from all sources and fused and mixed. It can also add ambiance and effects if you want to add it.
A mixer is also where EQ and stereo imaging are balanced, and the output is transmitted to the speakers via the mixer.
The mixer is usually used in podcasting to change the quality and the levels of sound signals.
Sometimes it is called an audio mixer, a soundboard, or a mixing console. Using this device is perhaps the most effective way to mix or route different sound signals as well as change the dynamics and timbers of the audio.
Why Would you Need a Mixer to do a Podcast?
Although you don’t need an audio mixer for podcasts, getting one can go a long way to improve the quality of your sound. It can also save you time, and boost your flexibility.
With a decent soundboard, a new world of recording options opens up for you. You can do the recording of acoustic instruments, co-hosting with multiple guests, and balancing audio. You can also accentuate one sound over another or balance all sounds seamlessly.
The Difference Between Mixers and Digital Audio Interfaces?
At their simplest, both mixers and digital audio interfaces (DAIs) – take audio from your mic, which is in form of an analog electrical signal, and then transform it into a digital language that your computer can fathom.
That is where the similarity ends and the differences begin.
Digital audio interfaces (DAIs) are usually simple devices. They have:
- 2 to 4 XLR mic or instrument inputs
- Volume/level knobs
- A few other switches or buttons to control the available parameters
With that in mind, if you have an XLR mic, a digital audio interface is probably the easiest way to connect it to your laptop or any digital recorder.
However, DAI is quite limited in terms of the number of features compared to audio mixers. In terms of the benefits of DAI, it is quite comfortable for top-quality audio, it is extremely easy to learn and use, it is highly portable, and can hook up to your computer using USB.
But DAI has a restricted number of inputs and present limited options when it comes to living podcasting.
Mixers on the other hand are pretty complex compared to DAIs, thus if you compared the two against a similar price range, you will have a bunch of extra features in the audio mixer, albeit at the cost of sound quality.
Some mixers can let you add noise and hiss into your audio. Having this gives you plenty of versatility in the recording.
When Should I use a Mixer?
If you are just starting, a mixer is not necessary. However, it will reach a point when you will need this device.
You should be able to survive with 2-4 inputs for your live podcast recording. But there is a situation where you may want more than 4 inputs, and therefore you are going to need an audio mixer.
Sometimes a mixer is just necessary, especially when you want to record a live podcast, a radio-like show.
But in order to pull off a radio-style podcast, you better be comfortable with your mixer as well as the flow of your podcast, including how to add sound effects or music, setting levels properly, and much more.
The advantage of the live recording is that since you will be doing the bulk of work on the fly, you will use less time post-production.
When Should I Use a Digital Audio Interface?
To answer this question, you need to ask yourself how many in-location inputs do you need. In short, how many co-hosts do you have in the same recording studio?
Ideally, you are going to need enough in-person inputs to support one microphone per person. But this is not possible with a digital audio interface.
Most digital audio interfaces have 2 or 4 microphone inputs. While 4-input is enough to cover probably any recording scenario, the 2-input mic may not.
But if you are recording your podcast over Skype or any other videoconferencing platform where you only need a single input, a digital audio interface might be the best option.
The digital audio interface can be easier to learn. If you are a beginner I recommend to new podcasters to use this route.
Also, for the same price as a mixer, a digital audio interface can provide better sound quality. Sound quality is a key point of your podcast.
Do I Need a Mixer for Multiple In-Studio Cohosts?
Yes, if you have multiple in-studio cohosts you must have a mixer. The most effective way to get multiple mics to record simultaneously is to use an audio mixer. Just plug your mixer into your computer to input sound signals directly to your audio recording software.
Does a Mixer Help Connect High-Quality Microphones like XLR Plug?
XLR is known for being the standard for high-quality sound inputs such as mics. This is because they transmit a balanced signal that separates noise. An audio mixer or digital audio interface is important as it allows your computer to see the XLR plug.
Mixers to Use for Podcasting
Best Mixers for Solo or 2-Person Podcasts
Behringer Xenyx Q802USB
For a solo or 2-person podcast, the Behringer Xenyx Q802USB can be a great mixer for your recording studio. It has an integrated stereo USB despite being an analog mixer. The audio interface lets you plug it directly into your computer.
Its audio interface prowess makes it an ideal option for anyone looking for a blend of audio and mixer interface.
Overall, this mixer is great for entry-level audio interfaces. It provides many features for the cost.
Yamaha AG03 & Yamaha AG06
The AG03 and AG06 USB sound mixers are compact and extremely versatile for podcasts of all levels. Both these devices offer pretty much the same basic functionalities. They have high-quality mic preamps and you can plug a condenser mic to channel 1 and switch on +48V phantom power.
Both AG03 and AG06 support 3.5 mm sound devices and accommodate secondary stereo 3.5 mm input. They also provide two knobs for seamless audio processing on channel 1.
Best Mixers for Multi-Person Podcasts
Rode Rodecaster Pro
The Rode Rodecaster Pro is known for being a multi-purpose mixer. The unit is meant to be a complete portable podcasting studio because it brings together four XLR mic inputs.
- USB connections for smartphones
- Four monitoring headgear output
- Eight programmable pads for sound effects and jingles
The best part is, the Rode Rodecaster Pro does not need phantom power.
Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB
In general, the Xenyx Series is great for podcasting. It is a compact mixer that lets you achieve top-quality audio. It does this with 4 onboard studio-quality Xenyx microphone preamps as well as musical British channel EQs.
The easy-to-use button compressors offer full dynamic control for punch and clarity. This makes it so you will not be sacrificing the emotion and power you input into every note.