Best Audio Mixers – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you imagine a recording studio? A giant audio mixer desk?

A good audio mixer, or mixing desk as they’re often known, is indispensable for music production. They can be large or small. Depending on the environment, you’ll see many different controls or hardly any.

Finding the best audio mixer for you isn’t as simple as just looking for the most expensive one you can afford. Money does equal quality. But it does tell you what you’re actually getting.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Audio Mixers On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to look for in a digital mixer

  • The number of input channels is your first and main concern. If you’ll only be using it for recording yourself and a friend on guitar, possibly with vocals - you’ll need far less channels than if you’re looking to hold live performances at your venue. An 8 channel audio mixer may mean 8 mono channels or 8 stereo channels, so this is another thing you’ll want to keep in mind.
  • Will you need 48V phantom power and a preamp for microphones? Not all audio mixers have these features, so it’s worth checking if you want to keep extra kit to a minimum.
  • Sound quality can be negatively impacted by a poor audio mixer, adding distortion or noise where there shouldn’t be any.
  • In-built effects (if any) may also be useful, so it’s worth looking into these if you’ll need them.


Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...

Reviews of our favourite mixers

1. Mackie Pro FX 12 (Editor's Choice)

Mackie PROFX12V2 12-Channel Compact Mixer with USB and Effects

Unless you’re looking to set up a professional recording studio with an industrial-grade audio mixer, the Mackie Pro FX 12 is the best you can get whilst still remaining small enough to be portable.

  • ​12 inputs, 4 stereo and 8 paired mono channels
  • 7-band graphic EQ for output and 3-band EQ for each channel
  • 16 effects, mute buttons, low cut, dedicated faders and panning controls allow for easy and comprehensive control over your sound

  • ​Installation of bundled software can be problematic
  • USB recording can introduce distortion, but is generally superior to all other mixers with USB output
  • No hard case available for shipping or transport

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2. Nady MM-242

Nady MM-242 4 Stereo / 8 Mono Channel Mini Mixer with mono/stereo mode, ¼” Inputs and outputs – battery powered, or use optional AC adapter

Worried about learning the ins and out of audio mixing? The Nady MM-242 is a great option for beginners due to the extremely low cost of getting started.

  • ​Very budget friendly
  • Battery (9V) or mains powered
  • Rugged design, built entirely from steel and has high quality pots

  • All inputs are mono, but can be switched into stereo mode
  • Has (relatively) low sound quality due to distortion and noise
  • No XLR inputs or preamp for microphones

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3. Behringer Xenyx 502

Behringer Xenyx 502 Premium 5-Input 2-Bus Mixer with XENYX Mic Preamp and British EQ

If you’re in the position of needing a portable audio mixer with the same standard you would expect from the Mackie Pro FX 12, but simply don’t need that many channels, this is the one for you.

  • ​No or very little noise interference
  • Easily portable compact design
  • Excellent quality mic preamp

  • ​Power cable doesn’t have the best connection and can come loose
  • EQ is only 2-band
  • Only has 5 input channels

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4. Peavey PV6 USB Compact Mixer

Peavey PV6 PV 6 Pro Audio Mixer w/ 2 Mic In, USB, Compressor/Effects+XLR Cables

A useful audio mixer for small scale work such as band practice, PA systems or DJ work. 

  • ​Clean sound with little distortion
  • Has phantom power for condenser mics
  • Can record with USB (outputs as one channel)

  • Pots are a little flimsy
  • Not a true six channel mixer, as four are actually stereo
  • USB recording doesn’t work with all softwares and has a lot of noise

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5. Yamaha MG10XU

Yamaha MG20XU 20-Input 6 Bus USB Mixer w/ 10 XLR Cables and 2 Microphones

The MG10XU comes in a lot of different forms, and is comparable (perhaps better) in terms of quality to the Mackie Pro FX 12. For this review of the best audio mixers, we’re covering the 20-channel version.

  • ​Built-in compressors and effects
  • Huge range of mono and stereo channels with combo inputs can take care of most small studio needs without difficulty
  • Class-A mic preamps
  • USB recording produces good results (24-bit / 192 kHz)

  • ​It’s not exactly a compact design, so it’s better to keep it in one place where it’ll be needed
  • Not all of the MG models have the same effects included


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Summary

Cheapest Unit

For the lowest price, the Nady MM-242 is a great entry level audio mixer, but in terms of quality it’s not the best - and you may find yourself wanting to upgrade sooner than you expected. Of course, if you only need something that can do the bare essentials and don’t need a huge number of channels (such as practicing on the road) it’s not a bad choice.

Most channels

The Yamaha MG20XU is a behemoth, and it’s got a lot of other great features as well such as high quality effects, compression and 3-band EQ. For a slightly smaller but versatile unit, the Mackie Pro FX 12 is an excellent choice.

Sound design

It’s hard to beat the Mackie Pro FX 12 in this area. You have lots of effects and a ton of EQ controls that let you tweak everything to fit your vision perfectly.


Image Credits: freestocks.org / CC BY-2.0

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.

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