Finding the best budget audio mixer for your live sound rig is an important decision to make as they can get expensive fast. To avoid spending more money than you intend to on your mixer, we need to figure out what it is you are looking for in one. From there, we can narrow it down so you can get the best budget audio mixer. Let's take a look at some of the factors that you need to consider before buying a live sound mixer.
Tips To Find The Best Budget Audio Mixer For Your Needs
- Channels: This refers to the amount of microphone inputs that your mixer has. In other words for every microphone that you need to run through the speakers needs a specific channel for it. For example, however many vocalists need a microphone. How many guitarists? Are you miking drums?
- EQ: Do you want your mixer to have an EQ on it, or do you think you might run a separate EQ in the future? It might not be that important to you at this point, but depending on what you are wanting to do with live sound, this is a factor. If you are just wanting a mixer for your band to play small shows, an on-board EQ might be reasonable.
- Compression: This is a major price tag difference for mixers. If the mixer contains a one knob compression option, you can make the instruments sound better, but if you are planning to get a few compressors, this may be a silly addition.
Now that you know what you are looking for in a live sound mixer, we can look at the live sound mixers that are available. (The following products contain affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase)
The Best Budget Audio Mixer Options
Mackie makes affordable, durable mixers that also have great quality. The ProFXv2 has a 7 band graphic EQ for mains and monitors. The Ready FX has 16 effects built into the mixer. It has a USB playback so you can record your mixes if you would like to. This mixer has an Aux output for monitor mixes.
Yamaha makes great speakers, pianos, and... well, anything. Their mixers are no difference. The Yamaha MGP audio mixer features D-PRE discrete Class A preamps, one knob compression, and also has built in effects on the board.
PreSonus StudioLive AR
The PreSonus StudioLive AR has Class A mic preamps. It also has the ability to record your mix with the mixer, as well as it has 16 ready to go effects built into the mixer. The unique feature on the StudioLive is that it also has a Bluetooth 4.1 aux channel.
Allen & Heath ZED FX
As we stated earlier in this article, Mackie makes durable audio mixers. These has the Mackie Onyx preamps which are awesome and a big selling point. The "VLZ" in the name stands for "Very Low Noise."
The Soundcraft Signature series mixers feature Ghost preamps. There are two other major features that we think make this an awesome mixers: It has some legendary Lexicon effects built into it, and it also has limiter channels. Both of these make this a really cool audio mixer.
The Yamaha MG series has D-PRE discrete Class A mic preamps. What we like about this mixer is that it has the one knob compression on several channels and has built in SPX-digital effects.
The Parts Of An Audio Mixer
When searching for the best budget audio mixer for your needs, you will want to understand the parts of a mixer that are found in a channel strip and the mixer itself.
The Channel Strip Parts
- Master Fader: Each channel will have its own fader, which is most often a slider, found at the bottom of the mixer. This controls the signal level in that of volume of the microphone plugged into that channel.
- Pan: This knob controls how much of the signal is in the left or the right side of your FOH speakers.
- Aux: This will be either one or two knobs that send the signal to a different source such as your stage monitors
- EQ: Each channel will have its own EQ section that typically consists of highs, mids, and lows (the mixer should also have an EQ section for the overall signal of the entire mix). For more on EQing and audio frequencies, check out our article here.
- Gain: As assumed, this knob effects the amount of gain that the signal receives on the given channel.
- Plug Inserts: The channel will have either a XLR input or a 1/4" input on the channel. This is what your microphone or DI box will plug into.
Additional Features That The Mixer Might Include
- FX: Some mixers have built in effects to the mixer. If it does, the mixer will have this knob to control how much of the effect is allowed on the channel.
- Compression: Some mixers have a one knob compression option that will allow you to use compression on the channel. This will bypass an early need for a compressor.
The Mixer Parts
- Main Fader: This is the overall volume of the mix in the front of house speakers. You may also see it called "master fader."
- Mon Fader: This is the overall volume of the monitor mix.
- Graphic EQ: Most mixers will have this on the board which gives you more control over the frequencies being fed to the mix.
- Phones: Most mixers will also have a 1/4" input for headphones, as well as a knob to control the volume of the headphones. This is great to give a variable for you as the producer to hear the mix in a different environment.
- Meters: This will show you how much of the the mix is being pushed on the preamps, and will give a visual representation for you to see when the mix is clipping.
- Mon Send: This 1/4" jack is what you plug your stage monitors into.