Mixers and audio interfaces

Since I’ve been accumulating gear recently and I am moving out of the box I would love to understand more about affordable but solid Audio Interfaces with 6 or more inputs and mixers.

In particular, why and when do you need a mixer?

I’ve been using an M-Audio audio interface with 2 inputs and now that is not enough, since my setup consists of:

  • A moog mother-32
  • A moog DFAM
  • A Make Noise 0 coast
  • A moog theremini
  • Another mother-32 (in the near future)

Since I am used to record in Ableton I would love to get an affordable 6 inputs audio interface (any suggestions?), but I am also wondering if I need a mixer (having 0 experience with mixers).

Your suggestions are really precious for me and will help me a lot!

Thanks in advance,
White Noise from Electronic Toys (AKA Elephant Kid)

so just to be clear - It is ALL mixing - the question is - where do you mix

your choices are :-

mix prior to the DAW - you put your hardware instruments into a mixer , mix them down and record the output

mix in the DAW - you get an interface with more inputs and record each instrument separately and then mix the output of these in the DAW

so the question then is - where suits you to mix? do you mess about a lot post recording - is it going to frustrate you that you mixed all your instruments and then want to add eq, compression, effects on only one of them ?

or do you basically record live and once it is in the can it is done ? (or is mixing the levels, eq etc part of the performance)

Personally I prefer the option of separating everything out so I went with a multi input interface - I’ve got a PRO 40 with a Behringer ADAT expander for loads of inputs - seemed the most cost effective for me - I suspect you might find a mixer a cheaper option if money is tight.

As ever - there is no single right way to do stuff - it really is what suits your music, your workflow and your bank account that helps make the choice. Also remember that in the 60’s/70s top musicians/producers would have given their right arms for some of the ease of use we currently enjoy in gear :slight_smile:

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My suggestion when this question comes up is always the MOTU ultralite… loads of inputs & outputs, built like a tank, and can be found second-hand for relatively little.

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+1 Motu Ultralite. I’ve had one for over a decade and it’s served me very well. Also it’s a midi interface if you want to send midi from ableton to any of your hardware.

Mixers can be useful for a number of reasons:

You’ll need one for performing live, if you don’t want to bring along your laptop and interface.

If you plan on getting any outboard FX, you can hook them up to the aux send on your mixer, that way you can easily send any instrument to your FX without plugging and unplugging cables all the time.

Performing the mix (as @junklight mentioned) can also be a lot of fun. Playing with levels, sending things to FX and muting and un-muting things in real-time can add a nice “live” element to electronic music. Of course you could also do this with Ableton and a midi controller if you wanted.

Also, overdriving the inputs on your mixer can be a nice way to get some analog distortion. This is common in techno.

Overall, if you’re fine mixing “in the box” and don’t care about performing live so much, you probably don’t need a mixer.

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I see the behringer adat is relatively cheap…but I am not sure how you use it? If it is an expander could I just use it with my audio interface to have more inputs?

I’m on the look out for a new compact mixer for my setup and would like a number of inputs feeding Ableton so that I can record 2, 4, 6 or 8 tracks. Then use Ableton to mix down to a final stereo. I’m looking at the Soundcraft Signature 12 MTK - I’ve seen it online for under £300 - it’s a lot mixer for a decent price imho - https://www.soundcraft.com/en/products/signature-12-mtk

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Which one woudl you suggest? Anything cheaper but good?

First of all thanks for your detailed reply.

I see myself playing with volumes and fx directly from my synths, so I just need more inputs in my audio interface (6 are enough). I don’t mind bringing my laptop around, in fact I see myself using ableton live for pads and ambient sounds in the background.

My problem here is just that I have acquiring gear but I only have a 2 inputs audio interface, so I am looking for an affordable expansion

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I’ll double the recommendation for MOTU. Best price/performance in my opinion.

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I’ve not got one, but have heard good reports about them.

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What do you have? :wink:

yes you need an audio interface with an ADAT connector & yes it just adds another 8 ins and outs which I find really useful

TBH I don’t think the audio interface market really has thought too much about us electronic musicians who need a ton of line inputs and not many pre-amps - it’s still all geared to the “miking up a band” kind of world…

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Man this is wonderful, I’m buying that!

Thank you so very much!

An ES8 in the modular and a barely clinging-on MBox (due to OS versions).

I’m actually looking for a cheapish interface with lots of outs for multichannel stuff, and think it might be the Focusrite 18i20: https://focusrite.com/usb-audio-interface/scarlett/scarlett-18i20. I used the smaller one and it seemed pretty good for the money. Opinions welcome while we’re here!

Motu has an amazing 16 channel line level interface.

This one?
http://motu.com/products/avb/16a

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That looks nice! Although quite happy with my current rig. I”vex now got 16 line in and out. Will do for the moment :wink:

Another MOTU Ultralite recommendation here. I have a mk3 on an old system and a mk4 on my newer system. Bulletproof, flexible, modular-friendly, great sound quality, even a multi-touch web-based remote that almost gives you a full on virtual console as an interface to it.

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Also recommending the MOTU ultralite. I’ve got an old mk1 used last year and never regretted it. Outputs are DC coupled, so you can send CV from your DAW to your (semi-)modular.

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Ok, we all agree that Motu audio interfaces are the best at this point…but which models would you recommend and why?

Thanks again