9 Best Band Mixers for Live Sound That Pops

Once your band comes out of the garage, you start needing a way to consolidate all your signals, so you have a quality sound. And when playing larger venues or even recording, you need to control the inputs from every instrument and voice.

 
  TOP PICKS AT A GLANCE  
Mackie Mix Series 8-Channel Compact Mixer
  • 2 XLR mic inputs
  • Phantom power
  • Super portable
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G-MARK Professional Audio Mixer Sound Board
  • Bluetooth streaming allows for cable-free input
  • The high-pass filter works well on woofy signals
  • 3-band EQ on every channel
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TC-Helicon Vocal Effects Processor
  • Voice FX preset library
  • Greatly simplifies your streaming setup
  • 72 dB of (really clean) gain
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That’s where the band mixer comes in, giving one person (usually the sound tech) the ability to regulate volume and individual signals and apply effects and equalization where those are needed.

Our Top Picks—Band Mixers

Some top picks for various applications follow, and we’ve rated them using a five-star system. You’re sure to find one that fits your needs, whether you’re playing cover songs in a bar, streaming your online gaming, or podcasting.

Mackie Mix Series, 8-Channel Compact Mixer

Best Band Mixer: Mackie Mix Series 8-Channel Compact Mixer

Star rating: 5

Value: 5

Sound Quality: 5

Features: No-frills construction, three-band EQ

Performance: Portable and rugged with great sound output

Few names bring more credibility to the mixer game than Mackie. The company has made quality gear for decades, and the products from the Mix Series live up to that reputation.

As an all-around piece of gear, this one will withstand road life with its durable metal chassis, and its eight channels should be more than enough for most gigs, even if you’re running backing tracks.

Pros:

  • 2 XLR mic inputs
  • Phantom power
  • RCA inputs and outputs for recording and playback
  • Super portable

Cons:

  • If you need more than two microphones, this isn’t the board for you
  • Smaller size means fewer sound shaping options

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G-MARK Professional Audio Mixer Sound Board Console System Interface

Best Bang for the Buck: G-MARK Professional Audio Mixer Sound Board

Star rating: 3

Value: 3

Sound Quality: 3

Features: Bluetooth and USB input options add versatility to your studio work

Performance: Can be noisy; software issues complicate things

Larger live acts need a good hunk of channels, and this G-Mark brings 16 of them to the table. This board isn’t for amateur sound techs. They’ll be able to run the board, but there will be a lot of features that may go unused by a neophyte. 

It feels nice and solid, but. Its 

Pros:

  • Bluetooth streaming allows for cable-free input
  • The high-pass filter works well on woofy signals
  • 3-band EQ on every channel

Cons:

  • The USB input is noisy
  • Software designed to run with Windows 7, which started end of life in January of 2020

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TC-Helicon Vocal Effects Processor

Best for Streaming: TC-Helicon Vocal Effects Processor

Star rating: 4

Value: 3

Sound Quality: 4

Features: On-the-fly sampling; four channels send clean signals to your streaming device

Performance: With a PC, all is well, but this does not work with Macs

TC-Helicon has given us that rare unit that people new to sound mixing can use effectively and that old pros can use and enjoy. Effects include pitch shift, HardTune, reverb, and the like and real-time control of all audio sources. 

Four channels allow sending signals from your mic, gaming console, headphones, and a line input out to your streaming mechanism. It’s a sleek product.

Pros:

  • Voice FX preset library
  • Greatly simplifies your streaming setup
  • 72 dB of (really clean) gain

Cons:

  • Incompatible with Mac OS
  • Customer support can be iffy

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Crown 135MA Three-input, 35-Watt Mixer

Best for Commercial Audio: Crown 135MA 35-Watt Mixer/Amplifier

Star rating: 4

Value: 4

Sound Quality: 2

Features: Volume controls allow for independent control of paging, hold music, and background music

Performance: Thirty-five watts aren’t a whole lot of watts, so if you’re looking for volume, this isn’t for you

When you hear someone get paged at your local department store, or when your call gets put on hold and you hear that groovy music, you probably don’t think about the fact that those things need equipment to make them happen— equipment like an audio mixer-amplifier.

Pros:

  • Balanced inputs and output
  • Priority muting available

Cons:

  • Niche product— this is for offices, and that’s about it

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Pyle Professional Audio Mixer Sound Board

Best Budget Mixer: Pyle Audio Mixer Sound Board

Star rating: 3

Value: 4

Sound Quality: 3

Features: Cable-free streaming (Bluetooth and USB) and outstanding sound quality for vocal and instrumental inputs

Performance: This needs an amp, but it’s quite a versatile board

“Budget” doesn’t mean “cheap imitation of something good.” Pyle has built a reputation for itself as a quality sound equipment manufacturer. In terms of versatility, this is surely a candidate for Best Digital Mixer for Live Sound 2022, as it fits the bill for live shows, studio work, even that monthly karaoke gig you have on the side.

Pros:

  • Bluetooth Streaming
  • USB input
  • Direct-to-computer connection and recording ability

Cons:

  • Limited effects available
  • Not a powered board, so you’ll need a separate amp

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Fineshine 8:12:16 Channel Audio Mixer

Best for Churches: Fineshine 12-Channel Audio Mixing Console

Star rating: 3

Value: 3

Sound Quality: 4

Features: Built-in MP3 player and six “Music Modes”– EQ presets tweaked for rock, classical, and country music, among others

Performance: Phantom power contributes to great sound from mics, though this is a basic board

The church sound system is unusual because it works pretty hard each week, but it doesn’t need to be portable in most cases. That’s good for the Fineshine, as it honestly doesn’t feel like the sturdiest piece of equipment. That said, it is a good mixer with a few bells and whistles (not too many) that does its job. 

Pros:

  • USB input
  • Built-in reverb on each channel, not just for mics
  • Three-stage EQ on each channel

Cons:

  • A fairly basic sound mixer board
  • It’s not rugged at all, so don’t take this one on the road

YAMAHA MG10XU 10-Input Stereo Mixer

Best for Limited Space: Yamaha MG10XU 10-Input Stereo Mixer

Star rating: 4

Value: 3

Sound Quality: 4

Features: One-knob compressors; mic channels have preamps to go with their balanced XLR inputs for nice, clean, professional sound

Performance: Packs a lot into a tiny footprint

This board is for studio work, allowing for up to four mics and stereo and mono line inputs. You also get 24 effects programs, saving you time and upgrading your sound output. It’s hard to go wrong with anything from Yamaha. 

Pros:

  • Compatible with iPads via Lightning
  • Per-channel compressors
  • On-board effects are SPX-quality (Sound Production Experience)

Cons:

  • Master level gain doesn’t attenuate the output to a computer
  • Some software issues have come up with Windows 10

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Rockville 12 Channel 4800w Powered Mixer

Best Rack Mount: Rockville 12 Channel 4800w Powered Mixer

Star rating: 4

Value: 3

Sound Quality: 4

Features: Built-in Bluetooth and USB inputs allow versatility (like playing music between your sets); 16 effects presets

Performance: As sturdy as sensible shoes; also has a serious output

The wood cabinet this thing is built into just screams, “Let’s hit the road,” and it’s rugged enough to keep up its end of the deal. The 4800w rating means you can send your mix to the speakers and then get some serious volume from them— and it’s a clean sound, too. Surprisingly clean, actually. 

Pros:

  • Three stereo channels
  • Three-band, per-channel EQ
  • Dual RCA outs for recording and playback

Cons:

  • Weighs more than 30 pounds
  • The cooling fan is surprisingly loud

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Audio Interface with DJ Mixer

Best for Podcasting: Maonocaster Lite Podcast Production Studio

Star rating: 4

Value: 5

Sound Quality: 4

Features: Allows mixing voices, music, and other inputs into one clean signal for your podcast 

Performance: On-board sound effects work well if that’s something you’re after (for podcasts with a more serious subject matter, canned laughter and a slapping sound might be superfluous)

Not everyone associates podcasting with a mixing console, but if you want a professional vibe to your podcast, you’ve got to do more than simply plug mics into your computer and start talking. 

Pros:

  • Three smartphone outputs
  • Battery power makes for greater portability

Cons:

  • No separate volume control for each mic input

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The Role of a Mixer in Music Production

Without the mixer, the bass player will be free to be as loud as he wants, and nobody wants that.

A mixer allows all signals to consolidate in one spot, at which point the sound tech can create the mix— the final sound that reaches the audience. When you hear a live act and think, “I can’t hear the guitar player at all,” the sound tech isn’t doing his job very well.

With the right mixing board, a sound tech can create a cohesive, coherent sound from a band and create one product instead of five different things getting played by five different musicians.

How to Choose the Right Mixer for Your Needs

At the very least, you need to know how many channels you need. If your band is a three-piece, you do not need a 32-channel mixing board.

man setting up band mixer

On the other hand, if you play in a soul band complete with backup singers and three horn players, not to mention a guitar, bass, and drums, a little four-channel board will cause you more problems than it will solve.

Consider your power needs and options, as some boards aren’t powered and require a separate amp. Also, the number of outputs on a mixing board determines your monitor options, so you want to know if each band member expects a custom monitor mix. Some boards can do that, and some can’t.

Choosing the Best Mixer for Live Sound

Again, this is about knowing things before you buy. Do you need a powered mixer? That would allow for portability and a small footprint from your gear.

Do you need a digital mixer? Most live mixes rely heavily on analog, so you may not want to pay for a digital mixer whose features in that area might go unused.

Final Thoughts

Your mixer can make or break your sound, even if all you’re doing is running two microphones for a podcast. You’ve got so many choices, and your individual needs will dictate at least the size of mixer you should start looking at. 

A good mixer will craft all the inputs into one pleasing output without noise, and it will do so with controls that the sound tech can manage.

Don’t think that having more knobs means a better mixer because that’s not always the case. The best mixer is the one that performs the way you need it to.

Writer

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.

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