Let’s look at the difference between a USB Audio Mixing Console and a USB Interface in terms of connecting audio equipment to your computer. We’ll explain what each device is used for and which audio solution will work best for you.
Quick Answer: Each device has strengths and weaknesses. USB audio mixers are great for processing, recording, and streaming live sound. USB audio interfaces are great for multi-track recording and allowing you to process and edit your audio in software after the fact.
USB Audio Interface
USB audio interfaces typically have somewhere between 1 and 8 inputs. These generally come in the form of XLR mic and 1/4” line and instrument level inputs. The PreSonus USB Audio interface in our video has two XLR / 1/4” combi inputs.
The interface will usually have a volume or gain control for each input, a volume control for your monitor, and an option to fade between monitoring real-time audio and processed audio returned from your computer with a slight delay.
Most USB audio interfaces have a headphone jack, left and right monitor outputs, a USB port for your computer, and occasionally they have a MIDI in and out too.
The main differentiator between a USB audio interface and a USB audio mixer is that the interface allows you to multi-track record. The interface will send your computer a clean, separate signal from every input, meaning your audio software will receive each channel individually.
Audio Mixing Console
A USB audio mixing console gives you more inputs, outputs, and on-device processing at a comparable price point. The Yamaha MG10XU audio mixer in our video has 4 XLR / 1/4” combi inputs as well as additional line level inputs.
Everything gets process on the device, sent down to the final mix, and kicked out to your computer via USB. Unlike an audio interface, a USB audio mixer sends a single stereo output to your computer. So, your computer and audio software will not receive each channel individually.
A USB audio mixer allows you to add compression, make EQ changes, pan your audio, and add effects. These are destructive changes, meaning you won’t be unable to undo them after the fact in your software. Your computer will receive the processed audio as it was sent from the mixer.
Audio Interface vs USB Audio Mixer
The strengths and weaknesses of each device should already be quite apparent. Here’s a quick recap and some guidance on the activities each piece of equipment is best suited to.
USB Audio Interface
USB audio interfaces are great for studio and multi-track recording. You’ll get better pre-amps for your money compared to a USB mixer, and you can do all of your audio editing and processing in your software.
USB Audio Mixer
USB audio mixers are great for managing and capturing live sound, allowing you to produce a recording to listen to after the event. USB mixers are also popular for live streams and video conferencing. If you don’t need to edit your mix after the fact, or you want to stream audio, a USB audio mixer is the way to go.
Audio Mixer vs Audio Interface Pricing
- PreSonus USB Audio Interface – https://currentprice.io/audiobox
- Yamaha MG10XU Audio Mixing Console – https://currentprice.io/mg10xu
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface – https://currentprice.io/scarlett_2i2
- SSL USB Audio Interface – https://currentprice.io/ssl2_plus
- Behringer Xenyx 1002B Audio Mixer – https://currentprice.io/qx1202usb
- Mackie ProFX6v3 Audio Mixer – https://currentprice.io/profx6v3