It’s getting easier and easier to build your own audio studio at home, and we’re often asked, “Should I buy an audio interface or an audio mixer?”.

Quick Answer: An audio interface takes multiple audio signals, and your computer can process each signal separately. An audio mixer takes multiple audio signals and combines them to create one or more output mixes.

Audio Interface vs Audio Mixer

This article will show the similarities and differences between a stand-alone audio interface and an audio mixer with a built-in audio interface (audio interface vs mixer). We need to compare prices, sizes, and features to find out what solution is best for your home studio.

Audio Interface VS Mixer Pricing

When comparing the price between an audio interface and an audio mixer, there isn’t a clear winner in terms of which is more affordable. Many factors make up the price, including:

  • Quality of preamps
  • Build quality
  • Bundled software
  • Warranty
  • etc.

The pricing of audio interfaces and audio mixers is very brand/model specific, and both categories contain options that are inexpensive and very expensive. Below we have some examples of options for both categories.

Under $100

Under $300

Under $500

Under $1000

Audio Interface VS Mixer Size

Generally speaking, you will find that audio interfaces are more compact and portable when compared to an audio mixer.

Audio mixers have many more onboard controls that need to be displayed, increasing the amount of desk space they require.

Audio Interface vs Mixer Features

When you compare an audio interface to an audio mixer, the differences in features are quite obvious.

An audio interface is built for multi-track recording. Generally speaking, they do an amazing job of recording multiple sources simultaneously so you can edit everything on your computer. Once you have the recording on your computer, you can apply compression, effects, noise gates, equalization, etc.

An audio mixer is built for “mixing” multiple sources into a single mix. This means you have more control over the device itself (compression, effects, equalization, etc.), but this final mix is often locked-in and cannot be edited after the recording, live stream, or event is finished.

USB Audio Interface

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface

An audio interface takes multiple audio signals and your computer can process each signal separately.

Pros of an Audio Interface

  • Portability: They’re generally quite small and portable.
  • Quality: They have great preamps and audio quality
  • Power: Generally, they are USB powered, which makes them very easy to use.

Cons of an Audio Interface

  • Software is required for any effects or audio processing (compression, eq, gate, etc.)
  • Not built for live events/performances

USB Audio Mixer

Yamaha MG10XU Audio Mixer

A USB audio mixing console is a great tool that will allow you to connect various inputs, mix them, and send the final mix to your computer. 

Audio mixing consoles are especially useful for live performances and other situations where the sound needs to get processed and mixed without a computer’s help. 

The easy access to gain, compression, EQ, panning, and effects make this desirable for quickly changing a live environment.

Pros of an Audio Mixer

  • Versatility: Can be used for live events or home recording.
  • Inputs: Lots of inputs for whatever you may need.
  • Built-in Compression (on some mixers)
  • Built-in EQ
  • Effects (on some mixers)
  • Ability to Pan

Cons of an Audio Mixer

  • Large size: Takes up a lot of desk space
  • Not great for multi-track recording

Audio Interface Vs Audio Mixer, What Should You Buy?

Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface

Generally speaking, we have the following rules:

Audio Interfaces Are Better For:

  • Multi-Track Recording
  • Podcast Recording (not live)
  • Voiceover Recording
  • Instrument Recording
  • Mobile Recording

The small size and ability to multi-track make an audio interface perfect for any non-live recording.

Yamaha MG10XU Audio Mixer

An Audio Mixer Is Better For:

  • Live Events
  • Live Streaming
  • Video Conferencing
  • Video Meetings
  • Hybrid Events

The easy access to controls make an audio mixer better for anything that is happening live, in real time.

Digital Audio Mixers, Best Of Both?

Yes, combining the best elements of an audio interface with an audio mixer’s best elements is possible. With a digital audio console, you can multitrack and record 16-64 channels with quick access to level, gain, EQ, compression, etc.

The downside of a digital audio consoles is that they are expensive and can take up precious desk space.

Topics Covered In This Video

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 0:45 – Audio Equipment In This Video
  • 1:20 – Pricing
  • 2:12 – USB Input / Output
  • 4:33 – Size
  • 5:28 – Inputs (Microphone, Line, Instrument)
  • 6:25 – Input Gain
  • 6:52 – Monitoring (Blend Knob)
  • 8:11 – Compression
  • 9:00 – EQ / Equalization
  • 10:00 – Aux & FX
  • 10:53 – Pan (Left & Right)
  • 11:24 – Mute Buttons
  • 11:40 – Level Adjustment
  • 12:23 – Multi-Track Recording
  • 12:58 – Live Events
  • 13:27 – Video & Audio Streaming
  • 14:18 – Video & Audio Conferencing
  • 14:40 – Hybrid Events
  • 14:56 – All Types Of Events
  • 16:00 – What Sounds Better?
  • 16:35 – What’s The Best For Vocals?
  • 17:13 – What Is More Popular?
  • 18:22 – What If You Want The Best Of Both? (Digital Audio Console)
  • 19:55 – Summary
  • 20:22 – Final Thoughts

We also have an older article if you want to learn more about the differences between an audio mixer and an audio interface.