Audio interface vs mixer, which one should I use?
Everyone in their podcasting journey faces this question at some point of time. Almost all the podcasters start with a simple USB mic or the mic available with their laptop and start recording their podcast.
Sooner or later when they want to record a better quality of audio or have more than one person featuring in the podcast, the question comes.
Audio interface is a simple device which connects your microphones (generally 2 microphones) to your computer. It records , processes , converts the audio to digital format and send it to your computer. Podcast Mixer as the name suggests, can mix the audio coming from large number of inputs on the fly. It can process , adjust individual gains and record the sound natively. Audio interface is cheaper compared to podcast mixer.
Though audio interface and podcast mixer are interchangeably used by many, they serve different purposes. Both have their way working and use cases.
There are a lot of people out there who recommend mixers, but it is rare that you would hear someone talk about an audio interface. Could an audio interface actually be the better option for you? Audio interface vs mixer?
Let’s take a look at what both of them have to offer and how they differ from each other.
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What is a Podcast Audio Interface?
Podcast Audio interface is basically a device which connects your microphones to your computer.
It is a simpler device and it does not have all the knobs and sliders and things on the front. You do have a gain option so you can turn your gain up and down but that’s about it.
And so, what the audio interface does is it takes your analog input, so in the same example, 2 microphones go into the audio interface. The podcast audio interface acts as a great sound card and it processes that sound, converts it to digital format, and then sends it to your computer usually via USB or Thunderbolt or Firewire.
It then comes up on your computer as 2 different tracks and you can then do adjustments in post-production so you can adjust the sound levels of each person’s microphone.
Unlike the 3.5 mm jack going into your computer, podcast audio interfaces preserve the quality of audio and provide a far more professional sounding audio. Some of the audio interfaces also have pre-amps which can used to amplify certain inputs for recording purpose.
Podcast audio interface is generally smaller in size and has 2 inputs in most standard devices. More inputs are also available though commonly now.
What is a podcast Mixer?
A mixer or a podcast mixer is a device that you put all of your different inputs in so let us say you have multiple microphones; for this example, we are just going to go simple. Let us say you are recording a podcast with a friend and you have 2 microphone inputs.
What would happen is, you put those 2 microphone inputs into the mixer, and you would then use the knobs and the sliders and things on the podcast mixer mixer to adjust the sound of each of those microphones to get them level, to get them sounding good.
You will then send them from the mixer to the computer which will go as one track to the computer, and you would then have, ideally, a great sounding podcast.
This is also known as usb microphone mixer where you can connect the mixer to a PC via a usb cable.
Mixers offer more control over what gets sent to your computer. It’s built with a set of knobs and sliders, which serve as equalizers and volume adjusters. They also have some filters and effects which can be used while recording.
Some of the podcast mixers also have a built in SD card to record the audio directly into the hardware apart from passing it on to the computer.
Though Mixers are more professional and expensive devices they have certain disadvantages:
- In a podcast mixer is you do all of the adjustments of the sound on that mixing board and when you send it through the computer, you have one track that has the 2 sides of the conversation on there and editing becomes a lot harder after that.
- Mixers are generally big and bulky, carrying them around and the space that they occupy can be an issue.
- Mixers have a steep learning curve, if you are just starting out then it might be overwhelming to adjust so many knobs and setting on the fly while recording. It may distract you from your core work i.e podcasting
Whereas an audio interface, it actually delivers 2 tracks to your computer. You cannot do as much editing to the sound in the moment but once it is on your computer, you can then go ahead, and you can do post-production and you can edit the sound.
USB audio interface and podcast mixer
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Which is better for podcasting? Audio interface vs Mixer.
To answer that question, you need to take into account what exactly you are you using this for?
If you are recording a podcast and you are doing a live broadcast then you may want a mixer because it allows you that flexibility to adjust things on the fly really easy; whereas if you are just recording a podcast and you are going to edit it and put it up at a later date, then an audio interface is probably going to be fine for your needs.
Number of inputs:
Audio interface tend to be better when number of inputs are less. If you are a beginner or are early in your podcast journey you will generally require 2 inputs one for you and one for a co-host or for interview. Using up-to 2 or 4 inputs, we would recommend audio interface as the simplicity of the setup is far better.
If you have a more professional setup with many inputs and also want the protection of the hardware recording features rather than depending on the USB connection only for recording, then mixer is a better choice for you.
Mixers tend to be more expensive than audio interfaces. Audio interfaces start from as little as $100 for 1 or 2 mic inputs and then they go up from there. Some of the more expensive audio interfaces are around $600 or $700 for really high-quality ones.
It is only when you have a lot of different inputs, so you are recording drums or microphones, or you have 4 or 8 different inputs that you really need to go more expensive than $600 or $700 for an audio interface.
However, podcast mixers can get quite expensive really quickly.
Audio interface vs mixer : Pros and cons
- Audio interfaces tend to be cheaper compared to podcast mixer and are more than adequate for beginner podcast makers with 2 mic inputs.
- Podcast mixers are better for live podcasts where you have many people interacting with each other and you want to adjust things on the fly
- Podcast mixers are more expensive compared to audio interfaces
- Podcast mixer is more bulky compared to audio interface but has many more functions and input options
Audio interface vs sound card
Despite having a large computational power, the computers are not capable of understanding sound signals and hence they require dedicated sound card. Sound cards are internal expansion devices, which have inputs and outputs allowing you to send audio into the computer or send it out into speakers and headphones.
An audio interface is basically an external soundcard with additional capabilities.
Many people are confused trying to distinguish the two. Both serve the same basic function but they are not identical. Audio interfaces can be more versatile than sound card.
You may be asking, “Why would I need an interface for audio?” All computers and laptops already have sound cards onboard.
This question has many answers. First, Sound cards can play audio from the computer but lack the recording and playback options offered by audio interfaces.
Audio interfaces, for example, include at least one input to record instruments or microphones. Preamps are used to prepare audio for recording software.
Auxiliary inputs and outs are common on sound cards. While this allows for recording, it is not as efficient as an audio interface’s balanced input.
It is practically impossible to connect a condenser microphone to a sound card, simply because they require a balanced XLR connection. The small auxiliary input featured on most sound cards isn’t suitable for these microphones.
Other benefits of Audio Interface:
Using Audio Interface as an output for your computer audio:
Audio interfaces are also good for when the audio comes out of your computer. If you send it out of your computer through the audio interface and then into your speakers or into your headphones, that way you are going to get better quality sound coming out of your computer than if you were just to use the headphone jack.
Using Audio Interface for live mixing:
So, if you have 4 microphones going into a mixer, then you have to mix it all there and then. It is going to send one track to your computer, whereas if you have an audio interface, it is going to send 4 tracks to your computer. You can edit everyone’s voice individually and adjust things there.
And as well, there used to be what is called latency with all the audio interfaces. So, when you are recording it, it will take maybe half a second or something like that to playback on your computer and so it would get really confusing and would be really hard to edit live, using an audio interface.
However lately, as computers have gotten so good and these devices have gotten so good, the latency is so small that it is basically not noticeable on these things.
And you have devices and plugins and things where you can actually edit the audio on your computer straightaway and you get instant results. So, it acts just like a mixer but rather than having a board that you adjust, you have items on your computer that you can adjust using the software.
So basically, an audio interface is going to do everything that a mixer does. It is going to be less overwhelming for the majority of podcasters especially if you are new to audio equipment, you have not used the mixer before.
Can I connect a mixer to an audio interface ?
Yes you can connect a mixer to an audio interface. here is the simple way to do so.
How can you connect a sound mixer with an audio interface? Connect the audio output of the sound mixer to the audio input on your audio interface. You can also use the following: quarter-inch cable ,RCA cable , or XLR cable.
The chain has four links that are required ….
- Input from microphones or instruments : The equipment determines the connection between the inputs and the mixer board. Most microphones use XLR cables. The 1/4-inch cable is used for electric guitars and basses. MIDI cables are used for synthesizers and other digital instruments.
- Mixer board : You can connect the mixer board to the audio interface using 1/4 inch, RCA, or XLR cables.
- Audio interface : An audio interface connects to your computer via USB cables or firewire.
- Computer : The computer is the last link in the chain. The digital signals can be saved and mixed on the computer. Your final product is an audio file that you can share on the internet or listen to at home.
Our overall recommendation is to go for audio interface if you are starting out, have less money to spend and have less inputs to take care of.
So, using a simple audio interface, one that you can get for $100 or $200, is going to give you a great improvement in sound quality.
It is not going to break the bank and it is also not going to overwhelm you in terms of all the knobs and the things that you have to do.
If you love mixers, need to do live mixing and you know a lot about sound, maybe a mixer is going to be best for you.
But if you are like most ordinary pod-casters and just want better sound quality for your podcast, well then, an audio interface is going to do the job for you.
Some Popular Audio Interfaces :
Some Popular Mixers for Podcasting
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If you are new to podcasting and want to know about podcasting basics then read it here.
Welcome to your podcasting journey with quickstartpodcast team.
Below paragraphs have links to all our posts in a logical manner starting from being a podcast listener to being a podcast creator.
The podcast Listener phase :
The podcasting journey generally begins with various questions such as what is a podcast , what a podcast is used for ? how to listen to a podcast , what are the best android and iOS apps to listen to podcast .
Depending upon the things that you like you will search for fiction podcasts , educational podcasts etc. Most of the people restrict their journey in podcasting to this level. They just end up being listeners to podcasts. Some of then take the next leap of faith and decide to start their own podcast.
Podcast creator Phase :
How to start your podcast ? is the main question they are faced with . Once that you have decided to start a podcast , what should be the name of the podcast , what should be the podcast format , which podcasting niche should you chose , what should be episode titles , what are popular podcast formats and what should be mine and so on ..
What is the right equipment for creating a podcast , what are the best XLR , USB , Condenser and dynamic microphones available. Can I record my podcast in an iPHONE , What should be the polar pattern , should I use an audio interface or a mixer , do I need a POP filter . There are so many question . How much podcasting will cost me , what are different setups based on my budget.
Once you in the journey of podcasting you will need to decide how should be a great podcast intro , how to record the podcast , how to record podcast online , how to test the mic , what should be length and frequency of my podcast , how to make great sounding podcasts and finally how to make money from podcasting ? ..
The journey starts from being a podcast listener going all the way to being a great podcast creator and quickstartpodcast is there with you in all this journey.