Using a USB Mixer as an Audio Interface


Mixing console with cables plugged in for recording

At some point in your recording journey, you’ll want to consider an audio interface or a mixer as the core hardware for your digital recording setup. Many mixers now have a USB connection so you can record directly into your computer.

What is the difference between a mixer and a recording interface?

If you’re solely focused on recording, then a dedicated recording interface will generally give you better audio quality, but have less features. All of the audio processing like EQ, compression, and adding effects will be done in the post-production and mixing stage from within your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

A dedicated recording interface is generally smaller as it doesn’t have a full strip of controls for each channel like a mixer does. I’ve written a detailed article on the best 2 channel audio interfaces which you should definitely check out.

A mixer by contrast offers many more features for ah… mixing your different audio inputs. These can include EQ, panning, effects (like delay and reverb) and sometimes even gating and compression. A mixer’s primary use is for mixing live performances – but these days there are some excellent mixers available with multi-channel digital outputs that enable you to connect to your DAW for recording also.

Should I get a mixer or an audio interface?

The answer depends on what sort of projects you’ll be working on, the number of instruments you need to record – and to some degree, your available budget. If you’re just recording acoustic guitars and vocals at home, a standard USB recording interface with just a couple of inputs is probably all you need.

If you’re recording a full band you could consider either a multitrack recording interface or a mixer with multitrack digital outputs.

If you plan on performing or recording live then a mixer provides more flexibility. These days there are some great mixers available that also have digital connectivity via USB so they double as a recording interface. In this article we’ll talk about some of the things to consider so you can choose a mixer that suits your needs and look at a few of the good ones available on the market.

Can I use a USB mixer as an audio interface?

Yes you can absolutely use a USB mixer as an audio interface to record directly to your computer. There are now many excellent mixers that have USB connectivity and can record a stereo mix from your mixer, or in some cases record multiple tracks directly into your DAW / recording software.

In this article we’ll review a few of them and provide you with some key things to consider so you can choose one that’s best for you.

Things to consider when choosing a mixer for recording

1. Number of Inputs

The first thing to consider is the number of inputs. Think about how many instruments you could possibly want to use at the same time – then add a couple extra just to be safe! 

If you’re a solo artist for example, you might need a channel for an acoustic guitar, a channel for a vocal microphone and perhaps a stereo channel for a backing track or keyboard. So you could consider a 4 channel mixer. If you can afford it, it’s usually a good idea to go slightly bigger than what you need right now – maybe you’ll do a duo with someone and want to add another microphone input or instrument track.

If you’re planning on recording a full band, the channels you need could look like the following

  1. Kick
  2. Snare Top
  3. Hi hat
  4. Tom 1
  5. Tom 2
  6. Tom 3
  7. Overhead 1
  8. Overhead 2
  9. Bass Guitar
  10. Guitar 1
  11. Guitar 2
  12. Keyboard L
  13. Keyboard R
  14. Vocal 1
  15. Vocal 2

So in this case, a 16 channel mixer would probably be about the right size for your needs.

2. Number of channels for multitrack recording

As well as the actual number of channels that the mixer has, you should also consider how many individual tracks of audio the mixer can record simultaneously. Some mixers only record a stereo mix of the master output from the mixer, while others allow you to record a track for each channel individually. If you’re planning on doing lots of post-production editing and mixing, then you should select a unit that has multiple outputs for multitrack recording, not just a stereo mix.

3. Physical Size

Some mixers are more compact than others. If you’re on the road a lot and want a quick compact setup, then you may want a smaller footprint for easy portability. This may come at the expense of some functionality, so if portability isn’t so important, then a physically bigger mixer will probably have more features.

4. Price

Your available budget is an important consideration. Mixers with digital recording capability start at under $100 for a basic 2 channel USB mixer, to around the $500 for an 8 to 12 channel mixer, around $900 for a good 16 channel mixer and the sky’s the limit at the top end for adding more channels and features!

5. Digital vs Analog

In recent years, digital mixers have become more common. The difference between a digital mixer and an analog mixer is that in a digital mixer, all of the audio is processed using digital circuitry, while in an analog mixer, the audio is processed and routed using analog circuitry. Digital mixers can include many other features like the ability to save presets and settings for a quick recall and certain processing tools that can only be provided via digital like feedback suppression.

8. Other built in features like effects, audio processing

Some mixers also have built in effects like delay and reverb as well as processing tools like equalization, gating and compression. 

7. SD or USB flash recording

The ability to record multiple tracks direct to an SD card or USB stick is useful for recording live performances if you don’t want to carry a dedicated recording computer around to live gigs.

The Selection

We’ve chosen a number of mixers to review that are made by reputable manufactures, they are well-built and offer a good range of features in their range.

Let’s get into the reviews!


Alesis Multimix 4 USB FX Review

The Alesis Multimix 4 USB is a compact little 4 channel mixer that is perfect for getting started. You can use it as a stand alone live mixer, or you can record the stereo output from the built-in USB port directly to a computer.

It has two XLR mic preamps so you can run up to two microphones simultaneously. Channel 1 and 2 also provide line level inputs so you can plug in other instruments if you need. Channel 2 has a dedicated high impedance input switch so you can plug a guitar or bass directly in. Channel 3 and 4 are blended together as a stereo channel – perfect for keyboards or backing tracks.

Each channel features a 2 channel EQ (high and low), a pad knob and an FX send. Channel 1 and 2 also have a dedicated gain control knob.

There’s a built in FX processor with 15 built in DSP effects including reverb, delay, chorus and a flanger.

The stereo master outputs are ¼” jack line level and there is also a stereo headphone ¼” jack output.

A standard USB type B socket on the back provides the digital interface for connecting to your computer. The Multimix 4 USB can also connect and record to iPad’s using Apple’s Camera Connection Kit.

Alesis Multimix 4 USB FX Features

  • 4-channel mixer with stereo (2) 1/4″ inputs and 
  • Master Stereo 1/4″ outputs
  • 16-bit, 44.1/48 kHz signal stereo in / stereo out via USB for easy recording and playback
  • (2) XLR inputs with gain trim, switchable high-pass filters, and 48V phantom power
  • (4) 1/4″ line-level inputs for instruments 
  • (1) Switchable high-impedance guitar input
  • Dual-band EQ on XLR inputs
  • 15 DSP effects with footswitch bypass control and aux bus for external processing
  • Multicolor LED metering for real-time, visual level feedback
  • Stereo ¼” jack headphone output with dedicated level control
  • USB connection and plug-and-play support on both Mac and PC
  • Record directly to your iPad via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit (sold separately)

Check current price on Amazon for the Alesis MultiMix 4 USB FX


Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX Review

Next on our list is the Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX which has two extra XLR microphone inputs, an extra stereo line input channel and a stereo auxiliary return. This is still very affordable at only around the $150 mark at the time of writing this review.

The MultiMix 8 also provides a 3 band EQ on channels 1-4 (sweepable mids on channels 1-2). Like the MultiMix 4 USB FX there’s a built in DSP effects module. The MultiMix also provides a dedicated auxiliary send with a stereo aux return if you want to run audio through an external processor or effects unit.

Although the MultiMix 8 offers the USB interface, you can still only record a 2 channel stereo mix, not an individual recording for each channel.

If you need a few more inputs over and above what the Alesis MultiMix 4 provides, this is a great option. In fact, the MultiMix 8 has significantly more options than the Behringer Xenyx Q802USB – and in my opinion offers better value for money.

Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX Features

  • 4 XLR microphone inputs with dedicated gain control , 48V phantom power and switchable 80hz high pass filter
  • High-impedance input switch on channel 2 for connecting a guitar or bass
  • 8 ¼” jack line level inputs
  • Dedicated auxiliary send and stereo return (or 2 extra channels if you prefer)
  • Stereo RCA input and output (great for DJ’s)
  • 3 band EQ on channels 1-4
  • Multicolour LED metering for visual level feedback; 
  • Main and headphone outputs with independent level controls
  • Built in DSP effects unit with basic reverb, delay, chorus and flanger.
  • Stereo USB recording and playback to and from your computer
  • Plug and Play USB connection with both Mac and PC
  • Compatible with iPad’s via Apple’s USB adapter (sold separately)
  • Comes bundled with Cubase LE

Check current price on Amazon for the Alesis MultiMix 8 USB


Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX Review

The final mixer in the 4-8 channel range we looked at is the Allen & Heath Zedi-10FX. Allen & Heath are a British manufacturer of pro-audio equipment. They’ve been around for decades now and they are known for designing and building excellent analog mixing consoles with quiet preamps – used in many professional studios around the world.

In more recent years they have entered the consumer audio space and introduced digital technology to their range – bringing us to the ZEDi-10FX. This attractively designed unit provides a 4 input/4 output 24-bit/96kHz USB audio interface as well as functioning as a very useful standalone analog mixer for live performances.

There are 4 XLR mic inputs, which run through Allen & Heath’s GSPre boutique preamps, providing a very nice sound for the price point of this unit. 2 of these preamp channels also offer high impedance switches for plugging in a guitar or bass. The other 2 offer a pad switch for quietening a hot input if you need to!

All 4 channels provide a dedicated gain knob, lo-cut switch, 3 band EQ, FX send, auxiliary send, Pan and a mix/volume knob. 

There are 2 additional stereo channels, providing a total of 8 analog inputs to this unit. Each channel also provides a headphone cue switch so you can monitor the input of an individual channel or the overall mix through headphones.

There is an impressive range of options for audio routing with this unit. Firstly, you can select which channels you want to send out via USB – options are; channels 1-4, channels 1-2 + the LR mix, channels 1-2 + the Aux and FX sends. There are also multiple options for sending different mixes to the main outputs, monitor outputs and the headphone mix.

The built in DSP FX engine has some very useful reverbs and delays that actually sound good! There’s also a handy tap tempo control and a footswitch for engaging or disengaging the FX.

It’s a bit larger than some of the other mixers with this channel count, but the feature set more than makes up for this. Also, the auto-switching 100V-240V power supply is built into the unit, so one less wall-wart to carry around!

Overall, this is a fantastic unit – with a comprehensive set of features.

Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX Features

  • 4 dedicated boutique GSPre mic preamps with XLR inputs
  • 48V phantom power for condenser microphones
  • 2 additional stereo line-level input channels
  • Built in DSP effect processor with tap tempo and footswitch control
  • An impressive range of options for audio routing and monitoring
  • 3 band EQ for shaping the tone of your inputs
  • 2 high-impedance guitar inputs, so no DI boxes needed
  • 8 LED VU metering
  • Built in power supply 
  • 4 in/4 out 24bit/96kHz USB audio interface
  • Plug and Play with both Mac and PC for easy setup
  • Also works with Apple iPad’s using the USB adapter (sold separately)
  • Comes with Cubase LE DAW software

Check current price on the Allen & Heath ZEDi-10FX


Yamaha MG10XU 10-channel Mixer Review

Yamaha have been making musical instruments and pro audio equipment for over 100 years now and they have an impressive range of mixing consoles for both professional applications and for the solo musician gigging and recording at home.

The Yamaha MG10XU provides a total of 10 input channels with 4 mic preamps and 3 additional stereo channels. Channels 1-4 provide combination XLR/1/4” jack inputs with dedicated gain controls, 3 band EQ, and 48V phantom power. Channels 1 and 2 also provide a basic compression knob, to smooth out dynamics and help your tracks punch through the mix.

The preamps are discrete Class A/D providing warm low end response and crisp high frequency response.

There’s a built in DSP effects processor with a bank of 24 presets which can be activated with a footswitch.

One thing missing from the MG10XU is a high-impedance switch, so if you want to plug in a guitar or bass you may get a better sound with a DI box.

The MG series is ruggedly built in a powder-coated metal chassis.

On the output side, there are stereo balanced ¼” jack and XLR outputs. 

Yamaha MG10XU 10-channel Mixer Features

  • A total of 10 Channel inputs
  • 4 XLR inputs with Studio grade discrete class A D PRE amps  
  • Channels 5/6 and 7/8 also provide stereo RCA inputs (great for DJs)
  • Plug and play connection to Mac and PC
  • +48V Phantom power on channels 1-4
  • Premium Op-amp design produces excellent audio quality
  • SPX digital effects with 24 presents including 
  • 3 band EQ and high pass filters
  • 1 Knob compressors on channel 1 and 2
  • 2 in/2 out USB recording and playback interface
  • Robust chassis construction

Check current price on Amazon for the Yamaha MG10XU


Zoom LiveTrack Series Mixer Review

Next on the list is the Zoom LiveTrack series – these compact mixers have an impressive set of features for their small footprint – making them a good choice for musicians needing portability without sacrificing functionality.

Zoom has two models within this range – the LiveTrack L-8 with 8 analog inputs and the LiveTrak L-12 with 12. The LiveTrack L-8 has a unique feature in that it can be completely powered by 4 x AA batteries or via a USB powerbank – making it an excellent choice for a mobile recording or podcasting setup.

The LiveTrak L-8 allows you to record up to 10 tracks of 24-bit/96kHz audio simultaneously directly to an SD card, or to your computer via USB, while the LiveTrack L-12 offers up to 14 tracks of simultaneous audio recording.

Both the L-8 and the L-12 provide 4 tracks of USB digital playback for monitoring or backing tracks.

Each channel has a selector control which activates the channel strip with the EFX send a lo-cut switch and EQ. On the L-8 there’s a simple 3 band EQ, while the L-12 provides sweepable mids.

There are 3 individual headphone mixes on the L-8 and 4 on the L-12 plus a master headphone output on each unit. This means you can set up monitor mixes for in-ear monitoring or foldbacks for multiple musicians. 

It really is incredible that Zoom are able to fit all of this into these compact little mixers! Both the units currently have many positive reviews on Amazon and an average star rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Zoom LiveTrak L-8 Mixer Features 

  • 6 dedicated mic preamps with XLR/1/4” jack combo inputs
  • 2 channels with high-impedance switches for guitar or bass direct input
  • 1 additional stereo channel
  • 3 band EQ and lo-cut switch on each channel via the digital channel strip
  • Built in DSP effects processing
  • 4 headphone outputs with 3 individual monitor mixes and a master stereo mix
  • Up to 10 tracks of 24-bit/96kHz audio recording to an onboard SDcard or via USB to a computer or iPad.
  • 4 tracks of digital audio playback via USB for monitoring or backing tracks
  • Recording direct to on-board SDcard
  • Powered with 4 x AA batteries or via USB

Check current price on the Zoom LiveTrak L-8

Zoom LiveTrak L-12 Mixer Features

  • 8 dedicated mic preamps with XLR inputs
  • 2 high-impedance switches for guitar or bass direct input
  • 1 additional stereo channel
  • 3 band EQ and lo-cut switch on each channel via the digital channel strip
  • Built in DSP effects processing
  • 4 headphone outputs with 3 individual monitor mixes and a master stereo mix
  • Up to 14 tracks of 24-bit/96kHz audio recording to an onboard SDcard or via USB to a computer or iPad.
  • 4 digital outputs via USB for playback or monitoring
  • Recording direct to on-board SDcard.

Check current price at Amazon.com for the Zoom LiveTrak L-12


Soundcraft Signature 12MTK Multitrack USB Mixer Review

Soundcraft is another well respected British professional audio company. They started in the early 1970’s and have produced many great sounding mixing consoles that have been the industry standard for recording and live sound for many years.

Their new Signature MTK series combines their experience designing excellent mixing consoles with the latest USB digital multitrack recording technology.

The Soundcraft Signature 12MTK provides 12 inputs using Soundcraft’s legendary circuitry and also doubles as a 14in/12out USB recording interface.

Channels 1-8 offer 8 XLR inputs with Soundcraft’s renowned ultra-quiet Ghost preamps which are clear and accurate with plenty of headroom. Each channel has its own dedicated gain control, high pass filter, a legendary ‘British’ 3 band EQ with sweepable mids. as well as the ability to flip to multitrack USB playback for monitoring. 

There are also pan and mute controls and a peak level LED on every channel.

Channels 1-2 offer DBX powered broadband limiting (great for kick and snare) and channels 5-6 both offer a HI-Z (high impedance) switch, allowing you to a guitar or bass directly in without a DI box.

Channel 11/12 offers RCA line inputs – great for DJ’s plugging in from their DJ mixers.

There are 3 auxiliary sends on every channel with Aux 3 doubling as an FX send going to the onboard Lexicon DSP effects processor.

The Signature 12MTK provides an impressive set of routing options with a PFL listen on every channel, two group outputs, headphone mix, as well as the stereo master output. You would normally only expect some of these features on a much bigger desk.

Overall, the Signature 12MTK is an incredibly versatile mixer for live mixing and with the added bonus of the 14 input / 12 output multitrack USB interface it’s a great choice.

If you need a few more channels, the Soundcraft Signature 22MTK provides 22 input channels (with 16 mic preamps) and doubles as a 24in/22out low latency recording interface.

Soundcraft Signature 12MTK / 22MTK Multitrack USB Mixer Features

  • 8 legendary Soundcraft Ghost preamps
  • A total of 12 input channels on the 12MTK and 22 on the 22MTK
  • 3 band ‘British’ EQ with sweepable mids
  • DBX Broadband limiter on channel 1 and 2
  • High impedance (HI-Z) input switch on channels 5 and 6
  • 3 auxiliary sends
  • High-pass filter and +48V phantom power on all channels
  • Built in studio-grade Lexicon DSP Effects processing 
  • PFL on every channel
  • 2 Sub-group outputs assignable from each channel
  • 10 Segment LED VU Meter
  • 14 input / 12 output multitrack USB recording 
  • Heavy duty metal chassis

Check current price on Amazon for the Signature 12MTK

Check current price on Amazon for the Signature 22MTK


Presonus StudioLive AR16 Digital Mixer and Multitrack Recorder

Presonus is an audio manufacturing company founded in the 1990’s by engineers Brian Smith and Jim Odom (the guitarist for the epic Southern Rock band LeRoux – famous for their groovy ‘Take a ride on a riverboat’) They have an impressive range of products – and are particularly well known for their innovative mixing consoles which are well-designed and surprisingly affordable.

The Presonus StudioLive AR16 is a 16 channel hybrid digital/analog mixer, also doubling as a 24-bit/96kHz 18-in/4-out USB audio interface – or a stand-alone 18 track digital recorder with the onboard SDcard reader. 

There are 12 mic preamps in the StudioLive AR16 – and these preamps are quiet, crisp and accurate. Each channel strip features a 3 band Eq with sweepable mids, a Low cut switch (high pass filter), 2 aux sends and an FX send which you can assign to the onboard DSP effects processing unit. There are also Pan, mute, PFL controls and a peak LED on every channel.

Channel 1 and 2 have a Hi-z (high impedance) switch providing plenty of flexibility for plugging in high impedance instruments like guitar or bass. There are also inserts on channel 1 and 2 allowing you to patch in additional processing like compression or gating.

There is +48V Phantom Power on all mic preamps so you can power your favorite condenser microphones too.

Unique to the Presonus is the ‘Super Channel’ that allows you to connect using a whole lot of different interfaces including 2 x stereo RCA line inputs, a 3.5mm jack, USB playback from your computer and even Bluetooth.

There are two balanced XLR main outputs and a separate control room mix stereo output. On the master channel there is a 10-segment LED VU meter that switches to monitoring a specific channel when you select the PFL or the AFL on the aux returns.

The StudioLive AR16 can record up to 18 individual tracks direct to a PC or Mac via USB. (In case you’re wondering where the 18 come from, there are 16 inputs, plus a master stereo mix.) You can also monitor up to 4 channels of USB playback from your computer. An impressive software pack comes with the unit including Presonus Studio One Artist DAW and a great selection of plugins and virtual instruments. Pretty much everything you need to get started with recording to a Mac or PC.

In addition to the USB recording function, the AR16 also has a built in digital recorder – which writes your stereo mix directly to an SD card (it supports SD cards up to 32gb). There’s a dedicated transport section for recording and playback using the SD card function.

The StudioLive AR16 is a versatile, lightweight mixer with a full set of analog mixing functions as well as the useful set of digital connectivity for recording. If you’re looking for an affordable compact mixer to take on the road that also doubles as a complete multitrack recording interface, The StudioLive AR16 by Presonus is an excellent choice.

Presonus StudioLive AR16 Features

  • 12 onboard microphone preamps with +48V Phantom power
  • A total of 16 input channels with a HPF on channels 1-8
  • Input pads on the 4 stereo input channels 
  • 3 band EQ with sweepable mids
  • High impedance (HI-Z) input switch on channels 1 and 2 allowing you to directly plug in high impedance instruments like guitar and bass 
  • TRS Inserts on channel 1 and 2
  • 2 auxiliary sends and a dedicated FX send
  • Built in Stereo Digital Effects unit with 16 presents
  • One Stereo ‘Super Channel’ with multiple input options and Bluetooth support
  • 10 Segment LED VU Meter
  • 18 input / 4 output multitrack USB recording at 24bit/96kHz
  • Build in SD card stereo digital recorder for easily capturing live performances.
  • Lightweight, compact and very portable

Check current price on Amazon.com

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