Recently someone emailed me asking what the “best” mixer was for his home studio.

I replied back and asked him, “Are you sure you even NEED a mixer?”

People get hung up on the fact that a recording studio needs a mixer, or a console. Back in the analog days, of course this was true. You needed some way to play back all those tracks from the tape machine.

Nowadays, though, a lot of the big studios may still have a big console sitting in the control room, but there’s a good chance they’re mixing everything in the box and only using two channels on the entire console.

Here are a few thoughts on mixers in your home studio:

Mixers Can Be Redundant

Your DAW already has a mixer. You know those faders in the mix window? Yeah…that’s a mixer. All your volume adjustments can be done within the software…AND they can be saved with your session. You can’t do that with a mixer.

Your DAW also has EQ, and unless you bought a really nice mixer, the EQ in your DAW probably sounds better. Again…redundant.

Mixers Don’t Need a Computer

This is actually a good point. If you like to just play your instruments, drum machines, keyboards, guitar effects processors, but you DON’T want to have to fire up your computer to do it, you can just run ’em all into a mixer and go to town.

Even if you just want to listen to music from an iPod or CD player…or vinyl…you can run it through a mixer to give you level control and some basic EQ, etc. No computer needed.

Mixers vs Control Surface

Something can be said for having something you can feel and touch. Using a knob to EQ is certainly more intuitive than dragging a knob on a computer screen. Some people simply hate making fader moves with a mouse, and I can understand that.

For people like that, a mixer might be the perfect thing, but remember…you still need an audio interface. Perhaps a control surface would make more sense, something that’s physical, but still controls the software. That way you don’t have to “reset” the board every time you pull up a new session.

As you can tell, there are plenty of reasons to use a mixer…or not use a mixer. You’ve just got to decide for yourself what suits your personality and workflow. Do you like the idea of summing your signal on an analog board? Of turning knobs and using something physical? Then by all means go for it!

Just remember that a mixer is a necessity as much as it is a luxury.

Okay, so spill the beans…do you have a mixer in your studio?

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