Have you ever wished you could take your PC’s audio to the next level?
Adding an audio mixer is a great way to unlock more advanced audio capabilities for gaming, music production, podcasting and more.
In this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about audio mixers for PCs.
What is an Audio Mixer?
An audio mixer is a device that lets you control and mix multiple audio signals and route them to various outputs. With an audio mixer, you can:
- Combine multiple audio inputs like microphones, instruments and PC sound.
- Adjust the levels, add effects and EQ to each input.
- Route the mixed audio to outputs like speakers, headphones or recording devices.
This gives you much more flexibility and control compared to just using your PC or laptop’s built-in audio.
Why Add an Audio Mixer to Your PC?
Here are some of the key benefits of adding an external audio mixer to your computer setup:
- More inputs – Most computers only have a single mic input. A mixer lets you connect multiple mics, instruments, etc.
- Better sound quality – Mixers offer cleaner audio quality, lower noise and better control compared to basic PC sound cards.
- More advanced features – Mixers give you control options like compression, EQ, effects that you don’t get on a basic PC.
- Flexible routing – You can route mixed audio to different outputs easily, which is handy for recording or streaming.
- Built for mixing – Mixers are designed specifically for live mixing and give you hands-on control you can’t get in software.
Types of Audio Mixers for Computers
There are a few different types of audio mixers you can use with a computer:
- These mixers connect via analog inputs/outputs to your PC’s audio interface.
- Offer hands-on control with physical knobs and faders.
- Come in a range of sizes from compact 4-channel mixers up to large mixing consoles.
- Give you great sound quality and low latency.
- Offer all the controls of an analog mixer but route audio digitally via USB.
- Let you connect to a PC and use mixing software for effects and recording.
- Range from small DJ-style units to advanced digital consoles.
- These mixers work as software that runs on your computer.
- Give you mixing capabilities without external hardware.
- Great for basic home recording and podcasting.
- Limited I/O and effects compared to physical mixers.
How to Connect an Audio Mixer to Your PC
Connecting an audio mixer to your PC is a straightforward process. Here are the steps:
- Connect inputs – Use XLR, 1/4″ TRS or RCA cables to connect mics, instruments and other audio sources to the mixer’s inputs.
- Connect to audio interface – Use either XLR or 1/4″ TRS cables to connect the mixer’s main outputs to your PC’s audio interface inputs.
- Set input levels – Set the gain/trim levels on the mixer’s channels to get a good signal level from each input.
- Mix audio – Use the mixer’s faders, panning, EQ and effects to mix the input audio signals.
- Route to outputs – On the mixer, assign the main mix to the outputs connected to your audio interface.
- Listen via PC – Set the audio interface as the default playback device in your PC sound settings. The mixed audio will now play through your PC.
- Record audio (optional) – To record the mixed audio, use recording software like Audacity and select the audio interface as the recording device.
Top Audio Mixers for PC Gaming & Live Streaming
A good audio mixer can help you create much better sound for both gaming and live streaming from your PC. Here are some top choices:
- 10-channel analog mixer with great sound quality.
- Built-in effects like reverb and compression.
- USB connectivity for streaming and recording.
- Compact 8-channel mixer ideal for gamers.
- USB out plus FX send for live streaming.
- decent mic preamps and British EQ for great vocal sound.
- Feature-packed digital mixer made specifically for gaming & streaming.
- Intuitive controls and one-touch voice FX.
- Built-in audio interface connects to PC via USB.
- All-in-one digital mixer for podcasters.
- 4 x XLR inputs with processing for mics and instruments.
- Records directly to SD card; no computer required.
Mixer Features for Podcasting
Podcasters have some specific needs from a mixer. Here are some key features to look for if you want to use a mixer for podcast recording:
- Multiple XLR mic inputs – For connecting professional mics and instruments. Avoid basic “USB mixers”.
- Phantom power – Provides power to condenser mics which most podcasters use.
- Compressors/limiters – Helps control vocal levels and adds polish.
- Sound pads – For adding sound effects like applause, music etc.
- USB out – Allows you to record straight to your computer.
- Multitrack recording – Records each mic input separately for better editing.
- Low-noise preamps – Reduces unwanted hiss and white noise in your recordings.
Some good podcast mixers models to look at include the Rodecaster Pro, Zoom Podtrak P4 and the behringer 1204USB.
Audio Mixer Features for Music Production
Here are some key features to consider if you want to use an audio mixer for music recording and production on your PC:
- Lots of inputs – Look for a mixer with 8, 12, 16+ channels so you can connect multiple mics, instruments, synths.
- XLR inputs – Balanced XLR inputs provide the best sound quality for mics and instruments.
- +48V Phantom Power – For using professional condenser microphones.
- Good quality preamps – Low-noise, high-headroom preamps are important for getting clean audio.
- EQ on each channel – Per-channel EQ gives you tone shaping for each input.
- Aux sends – Allows you to route audio to external effects from each channel.
- Direct outputs – For multitracking audio into your DAW.
- USB connectivity – Allows you to easily record the mixer’s output into your audio software.
Some examples of great audio mixers for home music production are the PreSonus StudioLive 16, Mackie PROFX12v2, and Behringer X18.
Audio Mixer Buyer’s Guide
Here are the key things to consider when choosing an audio mixer for your PC setup:
- Inputs – Consider what audio sources you need to connect – mics, instruments, synths, gaming consoles etc.
- Outputs – Do you need a mixer with USB out to record on a computer? Or analog/digital outs to connect studio monitors?
- Size – Smaller mixers are more desktop friendly. Larger mixers offer more control and inputs.
- Budget – Audio mixers range from under $100 to thousands. Set a budget that matches your needs.
- Sound Quality – Mixers with good quality preamps, EQs and converters will sound much better.
- Ease of Use – If you’re new to mixing, look for an intuitive mixer with a straightforward signal flow.
- Features – Determine what’s crucial like phantom power, aux sends, multi-track recording etc.
- Brands – Stick to reputable brands like Behringer, Yamaha, Mackie, PreSonus for proven quality.
Recommended Entry-Level Audio Mixers
If you’re new to audio mixers, here are some good entry-level models to consider for using with a computer:
Behringer Q802USB – Compact 8-channel mixer with USB out, FX send and decent mic preamps. Great for gaming/podcasting.
Yamaha MG10XU – 10-channel analog mixer with built-in compression and effects. Quality Yamaha preamps.
Mackie ProFX6v3 – Affordable compact 6-channel analog mixer from a top pro audio brand. Great for music and podcasting.
PreSonus Studio 24c – Feature-packed USB interface with mixing capabilities. Ideal for studio recording and streaming.
Allen & Heath ZEDi-10 – 10 channel analog mixer with USB connectivity. Intuitive layout perfect for beginners.
Roland GO:MIXER Pro – Portable digital mixer with Bluetooth connectivity and effects for easy streaming.
Adding an audio mixer can take your PC gaming, music and content creation to the next level. With the ability to connect and mix multiple audio sources, add effects and EQ, and route sound precisely, a hardware mixer provides a level of polish and professionalism software alone can’t match.
There’s a mixer available for every application and budget – from basic podcasting and game streaming to advanced music production and remixing. Taking the time to evaluate your needs and choose the right mixer will give you the best audio quality and a highly flexible setup.
So unlock the true potential of your PC’s audio capabilities with a dedicated external mixer! Just connect it to your PC, plug in your mics, instruments and other gear, twist some knobs and you’ll be mixing audio like a pro.