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USB Mixer vs Audio Interface: pros and cons?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by ishouldbeking, Jan 26, 2012.


  1. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Hola! I'm looking to do some home recording via Macbook Pro and Garageband (maybe some other software down the road). I've been exploring my options as far as ins and outs, and I'm finding myself torn between getting a dedicated audio interface, and getting one of the newer USB capable mixers for a similar amount of money. What would be the advantages or disadvantages of each setup? From what I can tell the main thing most mixers wouldn't have would be midi I/O, though the mixers seem to be much more useful otherwise. Anything I'm missing?

    As an example here are two pieces of gear I'm considering, the mixer is priced higher but seems to offer more functionality as well.

    Akai EIE I/O Pro:
    Akai Professional EIE | Sweetwater.com

    Allen & Heath ZED-10FX:
    Allen & Heath ZED-10FX | Sweetwater.com
     
  2. Usually mixers with intergrated USB are a simple 2 channel interface for recording the main out.
    Simple interfaces come often with more inputs, but no onboard EQ or aux routing.

    If you ask me in the price range I would go with an interface that may seem to have less features, but it probably has better mic pres and DA converters.
     
  3. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Ah, I see. So essentially a basic audio interface with 4 inputs would be perfectly capable of recording 4 individual elements at once, while the mixer would basically be sending everything through as two channels (stereo) of a summed main track. So theoretically I could use the mixer to record two things at once and keep them separate (by sending one to left and the other to right), but no more than that? Seems to make sense.
     
  4. jay loren

    jay loren Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    PA/NJ
    I have the same dilemma.
    Are there any affordable mixers out there that can also function as an interface (usb/firewire) with more that just a stereo out?
    The main thing is that I want to be able to record at least 4 channels simultaneously. A good interface is an option but I'm considering a third possibility: A stand-alone recorder like the Zoom R16 or R24, a recorder, mixer, and interface all in one.
    Any thoughts?
     
  5. That's Pretty much it.

    It Depends on your Budget and tha amount of features you want. Mackie Onyx 1640i and Presonus Studio Live are a couple of good options with Firewire. (not cheap though)
     
  6. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    Hmm, I'm a few days behind but this thread answered my questions

    I was looking into the new for NAAM 2012 Behringer QX2442usb

    BEHRINGER: QX2442USB

    Nice mixer I want to use for live... but again the recording interface looks to be only stereo

    What surprised me is we aren't going USB 3.0 yet... maybe it would be able to transmit the tracks separately since it carries more info? NAMM 2013?

    Until then... still no 1 unit for all in the "affordable" category

    Thats cool though as interfaces aren't that much... I just wonder how many years away we are from getting this to the masses...

    Mackie Onyx 1640i
    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/mackie-onyx-1640i-firewire-mixer
     
  7. seamonkey

    seamonkey

    Aug 6, 2004
    Behringer (and others) announced new mixers with 16x separate recording channels, USB or Firewire, or direct to memory card.
    Here's one
    BEHRINGER: UFX1604

    It's USB2. I've seen from other manufacturers 16x4 on USB2.

    From what I read, USB3 is a non-starter for new audio interfaces. It has no massive benefits over USB2. Looks like firewire is still good. Thunderbolt will be the next interface.
     
  8. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    Thanks monkey...

    You're right... Hmm maybe the 1604 would be a better bet than the 2442, I don't think theres too much live sound downgrade (2 less XLR inputs) but looks like its much better recording wise.
     
  9. Tupac

    Tupac

    May 5, 2011
    Noob question... but can anyone tell me the difference between an external audio interface and a mixer?
     
  10. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    The audio interface is what you are using to get your instruments to the computer while the mixer is just the EQ board for vocals, instruments for the P.A
     
  11. amos

    amos

    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    I was in this dilemma, although I think the firewire mixers are better than the usb mixers. I've decided on a mackie 1220i, understand the limitations versus the 1640i (16x2 firewire instead of 16x16, which means it can only return 2 channels back to the mixer from the computer via firewire instead of 16). But my needs are very specific, I needed aux routing to external effects, and I also needed a mixer for live use anyway, so it just made sense. Yes you can do aux routing with an interface, but its a lot more complicated in my mind, plus this way my studio setup and live setup will be streamlined.

    On top of that, I don't currently own a mac, and am on a budget, so motu ultralite and RME interfaces are out of the question. Makes a lot more sense for me to go with the mackie now, and an RME or motu ultralite down the road when I get more serious about recording and actually own a macbook pro. Right now I just want to record jams, essentially rehearsals for live sets.

    Also my setup is hardware-based electronic instruments and bass guitar. If I used my computer or software as an instrument, obviously I would need an interface.

    Mackie 820i: $450
    Mackie 1220i: $600
    Mackie 1620i: $1000
    Mackie 1640i: $1600

    Only the 1640i allows for analog mixing and summing because it can return 16 channels from the computer.

    I understand how nice the Presonus StudioLive boards are, but if we're strictly talking recording, I would still take the Mackie 1640i over the StudioLive 16.4.2, and the A&H Zed R16 over the SL 24.4.2, simply because analog summing makes a huge difference to my ears.

    Hope this helped.

    Edit: Also, the Mackie 1640i is not that much more than the PreSonus 16.0.2, and is rock solid on a Mac, I have some friends who run a studio/venue hybrid out of their basement with that setup. I can also tell you from reading the PreSonus boards that the 16.0.2 has been giving Mac users huge headaches when it comes to recording via firewire. Multiple users experiencing the same issues with recording, with no solution in sight. It seems mostly to do with OS X Lion. So to the dude looking at the SL 16.0.2: Spring for the Mackie 1640i, especially if you have a Mac.
     
  12. BrBss

    BrBss Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2010
    Albuquerque NM
    Other than being 10 times faster?
     
  13. amos

    amos

    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    he means for audio.
     
  14. BrBss

    BrBss Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2010
    Albuquerque NM
    Higher bit rate means more channels... :bag:

    Plus, higher bit rate combined two way communication should reduce latency. Haven't read up on the protocols or anything too specific, so I can't comment on the latency for sure.

    EDIT: Not saying it will be better or worse than firewire, just that it does have advantages over 2.0 for some audio applications.
     
  15. fender_mod

    fender_mod

    Jun 23, 2005
    I use a behringer ub-2442 fx pro mixer which has direct outs for 8 channels which I feed into a m-audio 1814 that has 8 line inputs. Best of both worlds considering the 1814 also has two great mic preamps on the front. I got the mixer for $100 used on eBay and the interface for about $230.
     
  16. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    Thanks fender mod... I'm actually going to get the same mixer (xenxy vs ub) & grab an interface. Thanks.

    The all in 1 package is way to damn much right now & the new 2442usb is still recording stereo. USB3 with each track individual? Then I'll go new
     
  17. amos

    amos

    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    Did you read my post about firewire mixers? they track every channel individually...
     
  18. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    The $1600 Mackie? Yeah I went with the $150 used 2442fx, ha ha!
    The more research I do the more I conclude that the tech is close but its not there yet. Eventually USB3, Firewire or Light Peak will be standard on computers & interfaces making multitracking MUCH better than it is now.

    Just not there yet without laying out BIG bones
     
  19. amos

    amos

    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    no, all the mackie onyx boards do want you are talking about, the 820i is $450 new
     
  20. amos

    amos

    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    I was going to get a $300 board (soundcraft epm8) and a $300 interface (focusrite pro 24dsp) and decided on a mackie 1220i for $600 instead. that was my only major point. the only thing I'm missing is a dedicated midi interface and adat/spdif, neither of which I need at this point.
     

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