Audio interface vs mixer. What is the difference between an audio interface and a mixer and which is the best option for podcasting?
Audio interface versus mixer? What is the difference and which is better for podcasting?
Hey! I am Ryan from PodcastFast.com and recently I created an article on The 10 Best Audio Interfaces For Podcasting, which brought out a whole bunch of different questions that I thought would be helpful to answer for you guys online. So this question came up a lot as I was researching. Is it better to get an audio interface when recording your podcast or is it better to get a mixer?
Now 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. Why is that? What is the difference? And could an audio interface actually be the better option for you? So let us look at the difference of them.
A 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 really 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 mixer to adjust the sound of each of those microphones to get them level, to get them sounding good so the microphones will go through the mixer.
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.
An audio interface on the other hand works a little bit different. It is a simpler device and it does not have all of 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 is 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 2 microphones go into the audio interface and the 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.
So the difference is a 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. 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.
So which is better?. 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. 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, mixers can get quite expensive really quickly. And so 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.
So when it comes to audio interface versus mixer, what is going to be best for you? I would only recommend a mixer for people who are looking to do live broadcasting and who need to adjust their sound on the fly. Otherwise I would recommend an audio interface because they are just much simpler devices. They tend to be cheaper devices and it sends you multiple tracks. So if you have 4 microphones going into a mixer, 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.
They can get highly, highly confusing. 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. But 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. I get very confused with mixers whereas audio interfaces are just very simple.
So the difference is there. What you want is up to you. If you love mixers, you know a lot about sound, maybe a mixer is going to be best for you. But if you are like me and you just love podcasting and just want better sound quality from your microphone, well then an audio interface is going to do the job for you. And if you do not like playing with the knobs and things like that and adjusting things then audio interface is going to be fine.
So you can go ahead and check out my Top 10 Audio Interfaces For Podcasting. Go to PodcastFast.com/25 to see the article over there and to see the ones that I recommend. These things are cheap at $100 which are great audio interfaces. Or you can go towards my recommended one which is the Apogee Duet 2, which is around $600 price range, which is going to give you better quality sound to really, really great device.
So there are so many devices in between that range and depending on how many different mic inputs you need and depending on what you want and what your budget is, you can choose the best one for you.
So again that is PodcastFast.com/25 and until next time guys, do not just podcast, podcast fast!