Are you a folk musician shopping for audio mixers? If so, you’re in luck. In today’s market, there are some excellent choices available. Having one of these devices will help you find the sound you’re looking for, regardless of whether you’re recording your songs at home or playing them in front of an audience. Simply put, it’s something virtually every musician needs to have.
That said, shopping for audio mixers can be a confusing experience. The less technologically-minded among us might have trouble navigating all the different options and features out there. Still, finding the mixer that’s right for you doesn’t have to be so complicated. With a little bit of research, you can find something that will help bring your songs to life.
What Do You Need to Know About Audio Mixers?
There are a few things you need to be aware of when shopping for audio mixers. Here are a few of the most important things you should know.
What are audio mixers?
Also known as mixing consoles, mixing desks, or soundboards, audio mixers are one of the most important parts of a studio. These devices essentially allow you to take two or more instruments and make them blend well. You can increase the volume on one instrument or adjust the placement of another until they all meld together in the final mix.
Audio mixers also allow you to add effects to your instruments such as reverb, echo, delay, chorus, and more. All of these things come together to add life and color to your songs. Otherwise, you might have a situation where one instrument overpowers the others, or your vocals don’t shine quite as well as they could.
What should you look for in an audio mixer?
The first thing you need to think about is how many channels you’ll need. That will largely dictate how many instruments you can have in your mix. Audio mixers can have anywhere from 4 to 30 channels. You generally want to have more channels than you think you’ll need. For folk musicians, 12 to 16 channels should be more than enough.
If you want to record your songs at home, having a mixer with a digital output is also useful. That allows you to plug directly into your computer without needing a separate audio interface. Having a good selection of digital effects can also come in handy, regardless of whether you’re playing live or in the studio. This way, you’re free to experiment with how you want your instruments to sound.
What are the most important features of an audio mixer?
Nearly all audio mixers have a few different features in common with each other. One of these is a pan pot or pan knob. A pan pot allows you to adjust an audio signal to the left or the right. That ensures your instruments sit well with each other and aren’t getting muddled together.
Faders are another important part of audio mixers. These are sliders that allow you to adjust the presence of each audio signal. Put simply, the higher you adjust the fader, the louder the instrument will be. Audio mixers also have mute and solo buttons. The mute button mutes that particular signal. The solo button mutes all the other signals except that particular channel so you can hear it by itself.
How Much Does an Audio Mixer Cost?
The cost of audio mixers can vary quite a bit. A good one can cost anywhere from $100 to $3,000. The more expensive audio mixers tend to be more durable, which is something to keep in mind if you play a lot of live gigs. Their preamps will also have a stronger signal. It’s important to have good preamps when recording vocals and acoustic guitars, making them especially important for folk musicians. The number of channels can also affect the price.
How We Reviewed
For the following mixers, we used Amazon and the products’ official websites to research their basic features. We also used Guitar Center and Sweetwater on occasion. Our opinions were largely informed by customer reviews on Amazon, Guitar Center, and Sweetwater. When choosing these products, we tried to keep different budgets and experience levels in mind. We also tried to include audio mixers that could be used either for home recording or playing live music.
The Best Audio Mixers for Folk Musicians
Folk musicians have quite a few different audio mixers to choose from. Here are a few that you should know about.
- Be sure that the volume of the input is the same as it would be during normal use, or you may have to readjust the gain in the middle of a set
- 6 low-noise Mackie Vita mic preamps add life to any input. ReadyFX effects engine with 16 effects including reverbs, delays, and choruses
- 7-band graphic EQ for tuning mains or monitors. You can listen with headphones if you carefully turn up the channel fader and headphones level a little
- Aux output for monitor mixes, venue 70-volt systems, and more
- 3 band EQ 80 Hz, 2.5 kHz and 12 KHz on all channelsand 100 Hz low-cut filter on all channels
The Mackie PROFXV2 is among the best audio mixers for live musicians. It’s a staple at the legendary Cat & Fiddle Pub in Los Angeles, which regularly features singer/songwriters and acoustic performers. This mixer uses four Vita Preamps that are virtually noiseless. It also has a ReadyFX Engine with 16 different effects. These include reverb, delay, and chorus. You also get USB recording/playback which can be useful if you want to record your mix during a show. With this mixer, you can choose anywhere from 4 to 30 channels.
This board has received many rave reviews. Customers love how affordable it is. They also feel it is very simple to use and has an excellent number of effects to work with. It makes it a good choice for beginning musicians who are new to audio mixers. Unfortunately, there have been quite a few complaints about noise when using the USB input. Some people felt it was an acceptable amount of noise for this price range, but it’s still something of which you should be aware.
The price of this product can vary depending on how many channels you choose. The 12 channel version of this mixer can cost between $200 and $350. That should be more than enough channels for most folk musicians. With that in mind, the Mackie PROFXV2 is a very affordable option. And you get some serious quality for the price you’re paying — customers on Amazon gave it 4.3 out of 5 stars.
- 12 inputs: 8 mono and 4 stereo
- 6 inputs have built-in compression
- FCL (feedback channel locator)
- Two 500-watt power amplifiers with YSP
- Rugged console style design
The Yamaha EMX5014C is an excellent choice if you’re shopping for more high-end audio mixers. This mixer features 12 inputs, 6 of which have built-in compression. It also has a built-in SPX effect processor with 16 effect programs. Furthermore, this mixer has EMX power amplifiers which deliver an extraordinary amount of power while consuming relatively little energy. It has 14 channels in all.
Customers are very happy with this mixer as well. Like the Mackie PROFXV2, they find it to be very easy to set up and use. People with virtually no experience are able to use it without any problems. They also feel it has an impressive number of effects and a clear, powerful sound. The only real complaint is that you can’t separate the stereo EQ into separate signal paths. That was a minor complaint overall.
The more important issue is the price. This mixer will cost between $700 and $1,000. It’s one of the best audio mixers, and many people will say it’s worth the price. However, you’ll have to consider whether or not you can afford it seriously. Amazon gave it 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Behringer 12 XENYX
- Premium ultra-low noise, high headroom analog mixer
- 4 state-of-the-art XENYX Mic Preamps comparable to stand-alone boutique preamps
- Neo-classic "British" 3-band EQs for warm and musical sound
- Studio-grade stereo FX processor with 100 awesome presets including reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, pitch shifter and various multi-effects
- FX send control per channel for internal FX processor and/or as external send
The Behringer 12 XENYX is one of the most affordable audio mixers on the market today. It uses a 24-bit stereo FX processor with 100 effect presets. These include reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, and many others. It also features British 3-band EQs which replicate the warm sound of music from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Additionally, its XENYX preamps can easily hold their own against much more expensive mic preamps. This mixer has 12 channels, each with its own FX send control.
Customers appreciate how affordable this mixer is. It gets the job done with relatively no noise or hiss. And for such a small price, you get a very impressive number of effects. Unfortunately, none of the effects are in the instruction manual. Also, the mixer gets pretty hot, which could be a safety concern. Furthermore, it doesn’t have a dedicated on/off switch, meaning you have to unplug it to turn it off.
This mixer costs between $70 and $110. That makes it the most affordable product on this list. It’s certainly a good choice for musicians that are on a budget. However, you have to be concerned about how hot it gets. It might not last as long as some of the other audio mixers. This product has 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Peavey PV 20
- Compatable with Mac OSX, Win XP, ME and 2000
- Built-in DSP effects processor
- Sixteen RQ (reference quality) low noise microphone inputs with insert points
- Channels 17/18 and 19/20 with dual switchable stereo line inputs
- 3-band EQ on all channels
The Peavey PV 20 is a good audio mixer if you like to record at home. That’s because it has a USB port that connects directly to your computer. It also features a built-in DSP effects processor with multiple reverbs and delays. Other features include 16 RQ low noise microphone inputs, ultra-low noise microphone preamps, and 3-band EQ on every channel. This mixer has 20 channels in all.
Most customers have been very happy with this mixer. They said it sounded clear and quiet, it was easy to use, and it had an excellent number of effects. It’s also built tough, just like all Peavey products. The only major complaint was about its global phantom power. That means that phantom power is either being used on all the channels at the same time or none of them. That can be an issue if you have some mics that need phantom power and others that don’t.
The Peavey PV 20 will cost between $500 and $700. That makes it a good midrange product. It’s a very reliable mixer overall, and its USB port can be very convenient for people who like to record their songs at home. Unfortunately, its global phantom power can be a headache for folk musicians with complicated mic setups. This mixer has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX
- 4 in/4 out USB audio interface (24-bit/96kHz)
- Cubase LE software included; Cubasis LE app included
- 4 mic/line inputs with separate XLR and TRS jack sockets; 2 stereo inputs with TRS jack sockets
- 2 Guitar DI high impedance inputs, eliminating the need for DI boxes; internal FX Engine with Tap Tempo.48V Phantom Power for condenser mics
- Lo-cut filter for cleaning up unwanted low frequency noise; 3 band EQ for easy creative and corrective tonal shaping
The Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX has some unique features. One of these is its 4-in/4-out USB interface. It also comes equipped with Cubase LE software and the Cubasis LE app.
Additionally, it has two Guitar DI high-impedance jack inputs. It allows guitarists to plug straight in without needing a separate DI box. This mixer has 10 channels in all.
Customers feel this is a very high-quality mixer for the price. They love its warm sound and variety of features. Overall, it’s one of the most versatile audio mixers you can find in this price range. However, several customers also complain about hearing hums and hisses from this product. Noise tends to be a common issue with this mixer.
You can expect the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX to cost between $200 and $300. That is a very affordable price for a mixer of this quality. Its unique variety of features makes it a very attractive choice. Just be aware that you might have to deal with some noise issues. Amazon gave this product 4.0 out of 5 stars.
PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI
- 24 channels with Class A XMAX mic preamps, line inputs, analog inserts, and direct outputs for flexible connectivity
- Dual Fat Channel signal processing on all 24 input channels and all buses, with 4-band parametric EQ, compressor, gate with sidechainable Key Filter, limiter with variable threshold, and more—all with A/B comparison
- Tightly integrated software library includes PreSonus Studio One 3 Artist DAW, Capture 2.1 live-recording software with Virtual Soundcheck mode, and UC Surface multi-touch mixer-control software with Smaart Measurement Technology, plus free StudioLive Remote-AI iPad app and QMix-AI iPhone/iPod touch aux mix app for wireless remote control.
- 20 dedicated mix buses for easy configuration: 4 subgroups, 10 analog auxiliary buses, 4 internal FX buses, and stereo main mix with mono sum
- 40-in/26-out FireWire s800 audio interface (24-bit, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz)
The PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI is among the best audio mixers on the market. This mixer is equipped with high headroom Class A XMAX preamps. It also has a Fat Channel that provides compressor, limiter, parametric EQ, and expander/gate on every single channel. Furthermore, this product has its own PreSonus Studio One 3 Artist recording software. It has 24 channels in all. Keep in mind that this product was discontinued by the manufacturer, but it’s still available on Amazon and other online stores.
Customers absolutely love this mixer. In particular, they are all impressed with how easy it is to set up and use. It might look intimidating at first glance, but no one had any problems getting started. They also find it to be incredibly versatile, and there is no noise to speak of. In all of our research, there were no serious complaints about this product.
The only potential problem is the price. This mixer can cost anywhere from $1,400 to $3,000 — a pretty steep price. That said, it’s one of the best audio mixers you can find anywhere if you can afford it. It’s extremely easy to use, and you can do virtually anything you want with it. Amazon gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Which Audio Mixer Is the Best?
As you can tell, folk musicians have quite a few quality audio mixers available to them. Which one you choose will largely depend on your budget and how you plan to use them. If you can afford it, the Yamaha EMX5014C and PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI are the best audio mixers out there. On the other hand, the Mackie PROFXV2 and Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX are both great choices if you have less money to spend.
You also need to consider what you’ll do with your audio mixer. Will you use it to play your songs in front of an audience or use it to record them at home? The Mackie PROFXV2 is great for live musicians, while the Peavey PV 20 is good for home recording. The PreSonus StudioLive 24.4.2AI excels at both, but again, it’s much more expensive than the others.
As long as you follow these tips and consider your choices carefully, you won’t have any trouble finding the audio mixer for you.