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While many programs have integrated mixers that can entail hours of clicking away to make the perfect mix, there are physical mixers that can be used to make the process easier and leave the power of perfection at your fingertips! Since the downturn of the economy, producers are now moving their studios into their personal homes, and musicians are attempting to find more cost effective ways to record and speed up the pre-production process. This has paved the way for a surge in the use of home mixing consoles.
Shopping for a mixing console can be confusing. The last thing any musician wants is to get to their home studio and find out that the connections from the mixer to the computer do not match. FireWire or USB? Maybe the software is not compatible and now another trip to the music store is required. Want to avoid the headaches and get to recording? Here are five popular models that stand out among the rest.
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Mackie Onyx 820i
With over 20 years in the making, the Onyx 820i is a small mixer with powerful capabilities. Take note this is a FireWire device. This makes it limited to some laptops in the market, therefore not making it very portable. As an 8-channel analog mixer, most 5-piece drum kits can be tracked with ease. Not to mention that The Onyx is compatible with most software including Pro Tools 9, Sonar, Cubase, Ableton, and more. After tracking a drum session, assign your line to vocals, guitars, or any other instrument. Mix with ease by rerouting auxiliary sends to the computer software of choice and implementing into the mix favorite plug-ins and settings. There is no breaking the bank when it comes to this product. The mixer is equipped with three powerful mic preamps, an EQ for every need, including built-in DIs on channel 1 and 2 for recording and mixing bass or guitar. If there is a need to communicate with band members being recorded live or in-studio, the handy talk back button is easily accessible. This product is made to take abuse. If anyone has had a Mackie mixer in the past, they most likely still have it. Take it on tour; use it in the studio or for practice anywhere in the world. With phantom power for mics, a power switching supply for international use, and an optional rack, this is an outstanding product in its price range for producers and musicians alike.
Yamaha N12 12-Channel Mixer
As the priciest mixer in this list, what makes the Yamaha N12 stand above the competition? Aside from the fact that it comes with a special version of Cubase, is plug and play ready out of the box, this digital analogue-like mixer has 12 channels, phantom power on all XLR mono jacks, various compressor presets, digital reverb on all channels, and much more. Need to track guitar or bass? Nothing to worry about, there is a Hi-Z connection for direct input of a guitar, bass, or any other line instrument. Three monitor connections are also available, with 5.1 surround sound option if a computer is attached. Although it integrates better with Cubase, because of its affiliation with Steinberg through Yamaha, other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) will place nice with the N12. The built in Morph Compressor has been highly praised by consumers for helping to deliver crisp and clear sound. The EQ settings also provide clear, high quality stereo mixes.
This is perfect for the musician without a FireWire connection in their computer. From Germany, Behringer introduces the X224USB mixer. It is not too large, which is perfect for portability. With 24 inputs, a live musician can input a click track; synths, keys, and a full drum set if desired. For the producer, a large library of plug-ins comes bundled with the unit. The 24-bit engine FX processor comes with 16 editable presets including reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, pitch shifter and multi-effects. Need a different tempo? Just use the tap tempo button available on the mixer. Even better – remember that great warm tone of the British rock era? With the musical British EQ, any artist can attain that warm, clear sound envied by engineers around the world in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The perks definitely outweigh the price in terms of this console.
Allen & Heath ZED-24
Boasting more controls than the competition, 129 to be exact, Allen & Heath present the ZED-24. One look at the mixer would make anyone think that the price must be through the roof, when in fact it’s quite affordable. What is so great about this mixer? Like the competitors it can be used for live and recording purposes. Through USB software, plug-ins can easily be utilized and the console comes with its own DAW, Cakewalk’s Sonar LE. The mixer also comes equipped with pre-amps like the competitors along with DI connections. For the price, it has a very rugged and professional look. As gain can be an issue with many mixers, this unit compensates by having a -69db of range. No snap, crackle, pop or peaking when it comes to cranking up the noise. The line inputs also provide a clean sound without any hissing due to the second stage of pre-amp being utilized. Overall, this is a great product for any traveling musician or one that simply does not have a FireWire connection. Beware, as latency may be an issue as well as configuring with any other DAW program. Professionals may want to upgrade to a FireWire mixer as latency issues are reduced to a minimum.
Peavey PV 20 USB
Peavey missed the mark when it comes to effects processors with this unit. While this is a very affordable mixing console, as well as portable, it is very basic. Effect processors can only be run one at a time. This is a bit frustrating considering that the unit has been highly rated as having great reverbs, compressions, etc. The unit has 20 channels and includes Tape to Control Room as well as Mix Assigns. What does this mean? Musicians can monitor the stereo signals without using any channels. The Control Room setting comes in handy for live purposes as well as studio when it comes to listening to an all out mix on an external source. For example, vocalists that wish to hear a complete mix live can do so. As far as this mixer goes, it is better for live as opposed to professional recording. Being a USB mixing console makes the product very simple to transport, plug and go. Ideas on the road can now be placed into a computer as easy as 1,2,3.
Overall, all these mixing consoles serve a similar purpose, but achieve it at different quality levels. Mackie and Yamaha are prime when it comes to quality and stability with a product. The Mackie console can be used for quick ideas, or recording on the go with a FireWire enabled laptop. It is a perfectly sized product to keep at a desk so you can start tracking when an idea springs to mind. The Yamaha is excellent for those musicians that want to start professionally recording their own projects at home. It is extensive in its capabilities. It also comes with great software that can be integrated with most DAW systems.
The Behringer appears to be the console that is preferred by rock musicians. The warm British EQ settings are sure to create the type of sound that will please any musician’s ears. The build quality is pretty impressive and can also be used live, which is a major perk for live acts and sound engineers. The ZED-24 and The Peavey console are both good products, but appear to be more useful for live purposes.