Building the Best Podcasting Setup: The 5 Best Podcasting Mixers
The process of starting a podcast requires a great deal of planning and work. Despite being enjoyable, it can sometimes become stressful, and it’s not hard to understand why. Assembling your team, developing your podcast's brand identity, choosing the right episode topics, and building your setup are among the many things you need to consider.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, we'll discuss the basics of audio mixers for live podcasting and how to choose one that meets your needs, preferences, and budget.
Today, we’ll share:
- What is an audio mixer?
- The difference between an audio mixer and an audio interface
- Is an audio mixer necessary?
- How to choose the best audio mixer for you
- The 5 best podcasting mixers
Ready? Let’s go!
What’s an Audio Mixer?
An audio mixer is an interface that centralizes audio inputs (for instance, sound captured by two microphones) and converts them into a format that your computer can understand. Basically, it's a mediator between your microphones and your PC/Mac.
In most cases, you'll need a mixer to record or stream audio (we'll discuss some exceptions later in this article). They allow you to set up the gain (initial volume), equalization, and sometimes even effects of your individual inputs. It also allows you to monitor the overall audio output in real-time.
They easily connect to your computer, tablet, or cellphone through a TRRS cable, which goes in the same port where you would usually connect your headphones to listen to music. Some mixers also include a USB port to connect it to the computer, but that isn't always the case.
Here's an infographic from audio retailer Sweetwater, showing you an audio mixer's general structure:
The difference between an audio mixer and an audio interface
Audio mixers are often confused with audio interfaces, especially by podcasting beginners. But you must know they have different purposes.
As we said before, an audio mixer centralizes audio inputs, which means that they convert sound coming from different inputs into one stereo audio signal. This system allows you to record or stream the audio as coming from a single source, it doesn't record the signal from each microphone separately.
An audio interface, on the other hand, can also have many audio inputs but does allow you to record each signal individually (with the right software). This function is called multi-track recording and it's the reason why audio interfaces are often chosen by teams of podcasters or hosts that have multiple guests and want to edit and mix their audio tracks in postproduction.
When it comes to live podcasting, an audio mixer is probably your best choice. If, for example, you need to mute a microphone or slowly fade in a different audio source (such as a Sampler) in real-time, you can get it done simply by moving a slider.
Is an Audio Mixer Necessary?
According to a 2019 survey by The Podcast Host, 48% of podcasters do not use an audio mixer. But, how is that possible?
A good percentage of content creators use USB condenser microphones. These extremely cost-efficient and reliable microphones do not require an audio interface to function. The reason is simple: USB microphones don't need an intermediary to provide your computer with material that it can understand. You can connect the mic, open your favorite recording software, and you're good to go.
If you need some guidance before buying your next podcasting microphone, check out our starter's guide.
So, in short: An audio mixer is not always necessary. But there are some cases where it's absolutely vital.
How to Choose the Best Podcasting Mixer for You
There’s a wide variety of factors to consider when choosing a mixer. But, to make things simple, in this section we’ll only discuss those that are most relevant to your use case as a live podcaster.
- Number of audio inputs
- Auxiliary output
- Control type
We’ve excluded some very technical considerations (for instance, advanced inline processing features). We assume that, at a point in your podcasting journey where that becomes relevant, you’ll probably be working with an audio specialist.
We’ve also considered that almost all mixers have the top three features all podcast streamer need:
- Equalization functionality
- Gain control
- Low-cut filters
In most cases, those three features are more than enough to bring a professionally-sounding podcast to life.
Number of Inputs
You’ll want your audio mixer to have at least as many inputs as the number of microphones you’re working with. For instance, if your show has 5 hosts, you’ll probably need a mixer with 5 inputs.
When doing your research, take note that the number of channels isn’t equal to the number of inputs.
The “Aux out” (or “auxiliary output”) allows you to listen to your audio mixer's “raw” output. It’s there to help you monitor how everything sounds
An Aux out is also very useful for troubleshooting technical problems. For instance, if a microphone isn’t working properly, you can check if it’s disconnected from the mixer or if the mixer’s receiving the right signal and the problem comes from elsewhere.
It’s highly uncommon for an audio mixer not to have an auxiliary output. But, if you’re looking to buy your first mixer, it’s worth mentioning it as a must-have.
Generally, lower-priced mixers have knobs everywhere. In contrast, more expensive ones will offer you more faders to work with. Now, how do they compare?
Knobs are good for adjustments that aren't likely to change during a recording, like:
On the other hand, faders look like sliders and give you finer control over your recordings.
Nevertheless, knobs can also do a good job, but if you're willing to spend more, faders are a better option.
The 5 Best Podcasting Mixers
Now that we've covered the basics, let’s take a look at our 5 favorite podcasting mixers for beginners.
- Mackie ProFX12v3
- Yamaha AG06
- Behringer Flow8
- Rode's RODEcaster Pro
- TX-6 by Teenage Engineering
Let’s dive in.
TX-6 by Teenage Engineering
The TX-6 is a portable, hand-held mixer designed and manufactured by award-winning company Teenage Engineering. It’s a small powerhouse, but it may not be the most cost-efficient option for you.
The TX-6 is ideal for traveling podcasters who have very little space to store/assemble their set-up.
- Lightweight (160 grams)
- 6 channels with 3 parameter knobs each
- USB-C port (adapter included)
- 6.35 & 3.5mm jack adapters, allowing you to connect the mixer to your smartphone
- 8 hours of battery life
- DJ Mode with incorporated cross-faders
- 8 built-in effects
- Aux out included
The TX-6 retails at $1,200.
RØDE’s RØDECaster Pro is an outstanding option for both podcasting experts and newcomers. If you can only choose 2 pieces of equipment for your studio, we recommend this mixer and a high-quality microphone.
- 4 XLR microphone inputs
- Smartphone, USB, and Bluetooth™ channels
- 8 programmable sound pads (ideal for storing your intro music, pre-recorded ads, or sound bites)
- Live broadcasting features, such as previewing pre-recorded audio files (this is great if you receive audio notes from listeners) and communicating with callers on the line off-air (great if you receive calls and want to avoid the “can you hear me?” talk on air)
- USB connection and 3.5mm TRS jack, each with its own level-control fader, solo button, and mute button
- 512MB of internal storage, paired with a microSD™ card slot
- It’s sturdy, weighing approximately 1980 grams
The RØDEcaster Pro retails in the $500 range.
The Behringer Flow8 is an affordable and reliable option for beginners. It has a relatively quick learning curve, and it’s packed with features that make the experience of starting a podcast as smooth as possible.
- 8 channels
- 6 faders (channels 5&6 and 7&8 are combined)
- Automatic channel gain adjustment
- 48 volts of phantom power for channels 1&2
- You can control the mixer remotely through its Android/iOS App
The Behringer FLOW-8 retails in the $200 -$299 range.
The Yamaha AG06 is a reliable option for beginners. This micromixer may be more limited than other options. For instance, it won’t work for shows with more than 2 speakers. But it’s a good choice for those getting started on a small budget.
- 6 channels
- 2 microphone inputs
- 3 monitoring outputs
- Can be charged through USB
- Cubasis LE included
- 48 volts of phantom power
- iPad compatibility
The Yamaha AG06 retails in the $150-$250 range, making it one of the most affordable options on this list.
The MackieProFX12v3 is for pros. At first sight, it may be confusing and overwhelming for beginners. But those with the expertise (or the curiosity) to get beyond first impressions will find a sturdy and dependable mixer.
- Optimized for USB recording
- Available for 6, 10, 12, 22, and 30 channels
- Powered with 7 award-winning preamps
- Professional FX engine, with programmable presets
- 48 volts of phantom power
- Auxiliary output with independent volume control and no latency
- Waveform OEM (Mackie’s audio workstation software) included
The 6-channel Mackie ProFX12v3 starts at $189.99, while the 30-channel version usually retails in the $900 range.
In this post, we shared some key considerations you should have in mind before buying a podcasting audio mixer. We also shared 5 amazing options in the $150-$1200 price range.
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