In the last segment, we discussed the basic functions of mixers and why they are essential to a live sound setup and the everyday gigging musician. In this piece we will discuss the different types of mixers available and help you decide which one is best for your setup.
Although different types of mixers all serve the same general purpose, certain types are more suited to do the job than others. The mixer required for a band practice will be very different from one that is used in a professional arena rock show, for instance. Knowing the differences and choosing the correct one will help you spend less time twiddling knobs and more time playing music!
- Desktop Analog Mixers- Desktop analog mixers are generally a little bigger than there digital mixer counter parts, when it comes to the channel count to size ratio. Digital mixers usually have one full channel of knobs for gain and EQ settings, and typically they have a fader and button for each channel to access the individual channel settings (See more below). Analog mixers can be smaller as the channel count goes down, and they are quite intuitive to use. On an analog mixer, each channel’s controls and settings, such as EQ and levels, are readily visible at any time, making it easy to make changes and quickly evaluate current settings. If you need quick visual access and size for more channels is not an issue, an analog mixer can be a great choice. These units are easy to learn how to use and very flexible. Invest in a good one and you will be able to use it for a variety of applications, from recording your band to mixing live shows. The Carvin Audio C1648 is an incredibly easy to use, highly flexible analog mixer that’s perfect for churches and performance venues.
- Powered Mixers- Powered mixers are portable solutions that are perfect for bands or musicians that do not want to spend a lot of time setting up, and are looking to streamline their live sound setup. Powered mixers come with built-in power amps, so all you need to do is connect your speakers and turn it on to get the show started. If your main and monitor speakers are passive (or unpowered) this type of mixer is very useful. With a non-powered desktop mixer, you would have to bring a power amp or use powered speakers to use the mixer for a live show. In smaller setups, passive speakers with a powered mixer can be much easier, having only to run power to the mixer and speaker cables to the speakers. Some desktop mixers are also powered if you need more features and channels.
The Carvin Audio XP1000L is lightweight and powerful, offering 1200RMS from three power amplifiers and weighing in at only fifteen pounds!
- All-in-One Mixers/PA Systems: these systems are perfect for small venues, acoustic bands, and solo acts. In an all-in-one system, a mixer, power amp, and speaker are all combined into one unit for easy portability and quick setup. Many of these units’ built-in mixers come with many of the same features you would find in a standalone mixer, but with fewer channels. If you are planning to use a mixer for solo or smaller live performances and are looking to streamline, this is the way to go.
The Carvin Audio S600B is battery powered so you can take it on the go for outdoor gigs.
- Digital Mixers: Digital mixers are compact, powerful systems that have become quite popular in recent years. These units allow the user to adjust each channel’s settings instantly via digital processing technology. One of the main benefits of a digital mixer is its capability to save and recall settings, which can be useful in a touring band situation. Some even let you program settings on your laptop before the gig, letting you tweak the mix further at the venue once the band starts playing. However, digital mixers have quite a steep learning curve and require a lot of time and dedication to familiarize oneself with all their features and possibilities. If you have a lot of experience with mixers and pro audio this may be up your alley, but those without much experience may find a digital mixer to be intimidating.