A number of individuals recommend mixers to newbies who would like to record a podcast. However, people rarely discuss the benefits of an audio interface. Below we will explore the difference between using a mixer vs an audio interface for podcasting:
What Are These Devices?
A mixer is basically a device into which all your various inputs are plugged. For example, if you have two microphones, you are recording with another person and there are 2 microphone inputs, those 2 inputs would be connected to the mixer. The knobs, sliders and other controls would then be used to adjust the sound of each microphone. This will ensure that the sounds of the microphones are good so they will go through the mixer. After which, they will be sent from the mixer to the computer as one track. Then, ideally, you would have a remarkable sounding podcast.
Audio interfaces work a little differently as they are simpler devices. They do not have all the controls on the front of the equipment. There is a gain option which requires you to adjust the gain up and down; however that is pretty much all you need to do with an audio interface. The audio interface works by taking the analog input, and using the previous example, plugging 2 microphones into the audio interface.
This allows it to act as a remarkable sound card. It does this by processing that sound, converting it into digital format and then sending it to the computer. This is typically done by way of USB, Firewire or Thunderbolt. This then appears on the computer as 2 separate tracks and then all adjustments can be done in post-production. This includes adjusting the sound levels of the microphone used by each person.
What Is The Major Difference Between The Two?
The major difference between the two is that, with a mixer, all the alterations of the sound are done on the mixing board. When it is sent through to the computer, there is only one track with both sides of the conversation. This makes the editing process much more challenging. An audio interface delivers 2 different tracks to the computer but much editing cannot be done to the sound while recording. However, once it is on the computer, you will be able to edit the sound and make all the necessary post-production adjustments.
Which Option Is Best For You?
To determine whether the audio interface or mixer is better, you have to consider the purpose for each one. If you are doing a live broadcast of you podcast, a mixer will allow you the flexibility to easily make adjustments on the fly. However, if you will be editing the podcast to put up at a later time, an audio interface can properly satisfy your needs.
Furthermore, mixers send a single track to your computer, while an audio interface sends 4 tracks. This allows you to individually edit the different voices and make any necessary adjustment. There used to be a feature known as ‘latency’ on all audio interfaces. While you are recording, playback on your computer would take about half a second or so. When using an audio interface on a live broadcast, this would become extremely confusing and would be tremendously challenging to adjust.
However, advances in technology have made major improvements in both computers and audio interfaces. These new developments have rendered latency as a minor feature that is no longer noticeable on these devices. There are currently more sophisticated devices and plugins that allow you to immediately edit the audio on your computer to get instantaneous results. As such, the audio interface works similarly to a mixer; however, instead of having to master how to adjust a mixing board, you can use the software to adjust items on your computer.
An audio interface is basically going to do all that a mixer does. For most podcasters, it is not going to be as overwhelming. This is particularly true for those who are new to using audio equipment and have not previously used a mixer.
What About Your Budget?
Typically, mixers are more costly than audio interfaces. The cost of audio interfaces starts from as low as $100 for a device with 1 or 2 microphone inputs. Some of the more high-quality audio interfaces cost between $600 and $700. Only those who have 4 or 8 different inputs and are recording microphones or drums would actually need to buy an audio interface for more than $600 or $700.
Mixers can get quite costly real quickly. Additionally, audio interfaces are great for audio that comes out of the computer. If audio is sent out of your computer via the audio interface into your headphones or your speakers, you will get better sound quality than if you were using only the headphone jack.
Other Options To Consider
Mixers are best for podcasters who intend to do live broadcasting or those who want to be able adjust the sound on the fly. Apart from that, an audio interface would be ideal, especially for beginners, as it is basically a much simpler device. In addition, they tend to be less costly and they send out multiple tracks. If you have multiple microphones plugged into a mixer, all of them have to be mixed for optimal sound quality.
Mixers can get tremendously confusing. Using an audio interface will provide a remarkable enhancement in sound quality. Additionally, it will not bust your budget and it will not overwhelm you as it relates to all the knobs and everything else the mixer requires you to master.
If you have in depth knowledge of sound and love mixers, perhaps a mixer will be ideal for you. However, if you simply love podcasting and would like better sound quality, an audio interface will deliver the best outcome. If you prefer not to play with knobs and constantly make adjustments, an audio interface would be ideal for you.
Those are the primary differences between using a mixer vs an audio interface for podcasting. Essentially, what you want is totally up to you.