Skip to main content

Audio mixer

What is an audio mixer?

An audio mixer is a hardware device that combines and manipulates audio signals in real time. It controls the incoming signals from multiple audio sources such as microphones, musical instruments and playback devices. With an audio mixer, you can control volume, tone, balance and effects of your audio sources to produce a cohesive, high-quality sound.

Primary functions of an audio mixer

Functions and features differ by model, but most audio mixers generally have the following:

  • Channels: One channel = one audio source. Can include mics, instruments, line-level devices and auxiliary inputs for playback devices.
  • Faders: Also known as sliders, they help control the volume of each channel.
  • Equalization (EQ): Boosting or cutting frequency ranges like bass, midrange and treble.
  • Pan controls: Moving a channel to the left, right or center of the stereo field to create spatial effects and balance.
  • Auxiliary sends: Routing a portion of the channel’s signal to external effects processors or speakers to add reverb, delay or other special effects.
  • Effects: Built-in effects processors for adding reverb, chorus or to compress individual channels.
  • Subgroups: Grouping multiple channels together to control them collectively.
  • Main outputs: Outputs that deliver the mixed audio from the mixer to audio equipment like speakers, amplifiers or recording devices.
  • Monitor outputs: Creating separate mixes for performers or sound engineers to monitor.

Audio mixer vs. audio interface

Audio mixers and interfaces have some overlapping functions but ultimately serve different purposes. Audio mixers enable real-time mixing and manipulation of multiple audio channels, making them well-suited to live events.

Audio interfaces don’t have much audio mixing functionality and are primarily used to convert audio signals for computer use or playback through audio equipment.

As a rule, audio interfaces are typically more compact and streamlined compared to audio mixers, which can take up substantially more space.

Do streamers use audio mixers?

If your live stream involves multiple audio sources, such as musical instruments, more than one microphone, or gameplay, you might want to use an audio mixer to control your sound. If you’re broadcasting a live event featuring multiple speakers or performers, such as a worship service, an audio mixer is a must.

For more details about audio mixers, how they work, and the best ones to buy for live streaming, you can read our full guide to audio mixers for live streaming.