1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Mixer? Audio interface? Whats the difference and which is better?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by NewbieTechie, Apr 30, 2012.

  1. NewbieTechie

    NewbieTechie Active Member

    Hey, I know this quesion had probably been asked before but in just coming into music tech and was hoping someone could sort out my confusion.

    What is the difference between a mixer and an audio interface? Please could someone explain it very simply.
    Also what are the benifits/downsides of each (excluding price) and what is the advantage/disadvantage of using both? (and how does that work?)

    I'm really sorry if I seem very naive but I really need help on this one :)
    Thanks guys.
  2. Jenson

    Jenson Active Member

    A mixer mixes things like two mike signals into one channel, or a whole lot of inputs to "outs", buses and effects loops and sends and stuff like that. They can mix you up pretty good too! Think mixer, ... think routing.

    Audio interface usually refers to AD/DA converter hardware that gets signals into, and out of a computer. Think sound card.

    They can also be combined like the Mackie Onyx set-ups and others.


    David Jenson
  3. NewbieTechie

    NewbieTechie Active Member

    I'm still quite confused, I don't understand most of the technical jargon as I'm new to this. Could u possibly explain a little clearer? (sounds like a great explanation, but me not being very used to the technical language means i just don't understand)
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    A mixer mixes tracks. The tracks can consist of vocals, drums, guitars, keyboards etc . You adjust the volumes of those tracks so they sound clear and balanced.

    An interface is the electronic device that transfer the vocals, guitars, etc into a digital format for you can record it into your computer. If you do not have an interface, you cannot record music into your computer. This is a the basic. From here is starts to get complicated.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    this is an example of a mixing consol. This is an analog mixer. There are also digital mixers:

  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    6 things you need to know about home recording (3of 6) - YouTube


  7. Jenson

    Jenson Active Member

    There IS something else to consider. Recording involves more technicality than some musicians are comfortable with. Watch the videos and do some reading. See if it's really what you want to get into.
  8. Flagg Audio

    Flagg Audio Active Member

    An audio interface is an external sound card used to get microphone and instrument cables to connect with a computer. They generally have their own preamp and multiple outputs.

    A mixer is used to mix things for baking purposes. It's generally faster than doing it by hand.
  9. Jenson

    Jenson Active Member

    Great! Mixers are for mixing. I have to make some bread later today. I'm gonna try my old Mackie 1202. 'See what I can whip up with that.

    (I'm a little ashamed of my linguistic silliness, ... but ... only a little!) Being aware of signal paths is one of the fundamentals of home recording (or any recording for that matter). Moderator Remy advocated reading the equipment manuals in another post. Amen to that. Audio equipment is one place where it's hard to rely on intuition. READ!!!
  10. Toothgrinder

    Toothgrinder Active Member

    There are recording consoles (a set of inputs, pre-amps, buttons and knobs, faders, and outputs) and digital interfaces which take an analog signal (like from a mic or instrument, or a recording console) and turn it into a digital data stream for recording on a computer hard drive. Nowadays the two technologies are hybridizing and many interfaces are actually small consoles (mixers) with DA/AD converters and digital outputs (firewire, USB, etc.)

    A mixer is what I might call a small-medium recording console, which may be more applicable to a live situation such as a bar or coffee shop, or a home studio if the studio is designed like this:

    [Instrument / Voice] -> [Console / Mixer] -> [Interface] -> [Computer]

    Such a design gives you more flexibility and control, and the opportunity to upgrade by purchasing a higher quality interface, or substituting a high-end mic pre-amp for an input channel on the mixer. The disadvantage is complexity.

    What I've seen more often is something like this:

    [Instrument / Voice] -> [Mixer / Interface hybrid] -> [Computer]

    The advantage is simplicity and cost (generally cheaper).
    The disadvantage is a lack of flexibility and arguably quality (not necessarily, though.)

    It is confusing nowadays, though, because so many mixers offer digital outs, and so become interfaces of a sort, and many interfaces offer 2 or more channels with mic pres or other mixer-like features.

    It's best when learning to think about the traditional setup where the interface (sound card) "sees" line-level (not mic-level) analog signals coming from a recording console. Then you can make decisions based on your budget and needs as to what product is best for you.

    I find that many of the consumer-level products that offer 1-2 channels of Mic-in -> USB out are decent for mobile recording, especially if you're not multitracking (where latency, or processing delay, might be problematic). For a live recording, or capturing a front-porch acoustic jam? These products are wonderful.

    The best recording device is the ONE THAT'S THERE!

    I've taken some of my best photographs with my cell phone. Why? It was there. :)
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I could further chime in with this:

    The mixer, back in earlier times was the interface to the tape recorder. Which back then, was all analog.

    Then we got digital recorders to replace the analog recorders but we still had the analog mixers to not only get the sound into the recorders but from back off of the recorder and balanced into a stereo mix.

    Then computers became more capable. The computer required an audio interface to get the sound into and out of the computer. But even then, analog and digital mixers were still employed.

    Today, one only really needs a computer audio interface. The mixer is now the software in the computer. Though there are those folks and digital mixers that emulate the way we used to do it with analog mixers. And that's simply a personal preference along with a professional preference. It's like whether you choose to wear Jockey shorts or boxer shorts, panties or nothing at all. Some of us like to play with knobs and dials. Others like to play computer games. Some like to do both. And that's where selection becomes confusing for newcomers to this crazy world of audio. And this is not something that one can make a decision about for themselves immediately or through the recommendations of others. It's something you have to try on. You have to see how it fits. Whether you like the way you look or sound? I for one can make really great recordings but I still don't know how to match my clothing properly when I dress LOL. And that's pretty bad for a girl. We are not talented in everything in the world. We all have to find our way. The least expensive way for you to start is with a simple USB audio interface that will include some really great bundled software so you don't bungle in the jungle. You just want to jingle with the jangle. You want to roll with the punches and go with the flow. You don't want to miss the hit but it's all hit and miss. You want to hit a baseball with the bat which would kill the cricket if you do the same thing. In America cricket is a bug and you folks don't think there is anything wrong with playing with bugs. Or crickets? Now I'm confused?

    It's really easy, honest, it is.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

Share This Page