First, we need to talk about your need for a podcast mixer.
Do you need a podcast mixer?
A mixer does a number of things to the sound, but in general, if you are a one-person podcast, who records at home, you probably don’t need a mixer. Yes, your sound is going to be nicer, but if you have an ok microphone, you are all set.
Some of you, of course, need a mixer, and here are the reasons why you would need a mixer for your podcast:
You are using professional equipment
If you are using microphones that are using XLR cabling, you need to have a mixer, so that you are able to plug them into the computer. There are microphones that have both, an XLR output and a USB output, or just such that have only a USB output. You need to decide what kind of microphone you need, and then see if you need a mixer for them. If you need help deciding read my article on podcast microphones.
This is probably the most important thing that a mixer allows you to do. Without one, you record everything on one channel. This means that it is much harder for you to edit separate people separately. With a mixer, every person becomes his/her own track, so it is much easier to control them.
Most importantly, you can control the sound level of every person. Every person that you talk to has a differentÂ level of sound when they speak. So if you have four people on your podcast, one will be lauder, the other one even louder and the third one will be very timid and quiet. If you record all that on a single track, you have no way to level them all so that it becomes comfortable for your listeners. Well, you can, but it takes an incredible amount of work. If you record them separately, as you can do that with a mixer, you can easily set their volume more or less with one click.
The same goes for other post-production actions you normally do. If you need to use a filter, do equalization, you can do that separately on every track. With that, you can just do it automatically, as you normallyÂ do that with one person. But if you don’t have a mixer, you need to do it manually.
And, you can now use multiple microphones or multiple computers with different Skype accounts and record everything separately. Now the power of post-production can be seen.
Well, this is now a live radio level production style. but, if you wanna do it well, do it this way. Live production means that everything that you do in your podcast will be recorded live. So you start talking and add music while talking. You would allow a caller to call in and would record him/her directly while he talks to you, and then you add jingles and music.
Is this more complicated? Yes, of course, it is, because you need to control all that at once, but on the other hand, it makes everything better and post-production easier. It makes recording your podcast more fun because you have all the sounds and everything while you produce. Also, you need to think about all the sounds you will need while recording in advance. But it makes the post-production much easier because you don’t really need to do anything, a couple of filters will do. Because you did everything while recording. So that is a big plus.
Alright, now we have established if you need a mixer. If you answer yes, then continue reading.
Steady recording volume
This is something that I’ve been struggling when I’ve started podcasting. My computer was always self-adjusting the recording volume. This meant, that sometimes my voice was really quiet, and sometimes it got too loud. With a mixer, you can have it set and you can see the levels. I always used Zencastr for interview recording and it was a hassle to see the levels of the recording. So a mixer helps with that.
What to look for when buying an audio mixer
Number of channels
This one is the most important. The question is, how many microphones can you plug into the mixer. What you need to do is think about your average podcast, and how many different microphones you need. ThenÂ add other sound sources that you use, like the music you play via your iPhone or other sounds you play via a different device. You also plug in a Skype input, so that will also be important and another plug. Then add 3. This means that you will be able to add a couple of new sources when you grow.
Also, the question is not only how many channels but also how many inputs. And what kind of inputs. XLR or USB? The cheaper mixers will have only 1 or 2 XLR inputs. If you need more, look for them.
Faders of Knobs?
Knobs are the tall buttons and faders are the sliding “buttons”. They each have their own place on a mixer. In general, faders are used for things that you don’t need to adjust all the time, or during the show. You adjust them minimally and leave them be while you record. On the other side, faders are used for the level of every channel.
Do you really need them? Well, generally mixers that are on the low end of the pricing don’t have them. Is it a bit easier if you can use faders? I think it is. But, you can do everything the same way with knobs, so if the budget is an issue, go with knobs, having a mixer is much more important than the mixer having faders.
Aux out or FX Send
You will need this to send audio back to your co-host, where you can send the audio without the co-host, a thing we call Mix-minus Setup. You need to look for an output socket that is called “Aux Out” or “FX Send” or “FX Out“, and it will also have a knob that will be labeled the same way. That is all. most mixers have that.
Here is a short list of all the mixers for podcasting that I recommend in this article:
Cheap podcast mixers
Cheap podcast mixers are a problematic thing. We are looking at an audio equipment thing, that should make your audio better. Better audio requires quality materials that are used in transporting the sound. And cheap mixers usually don’t have that, they can produce weird sounds and have cheap parts that can break or stop working pretty quickly. So you need to budget at least $100 for a mixer, and if possible a bit more.
If you still want something from me, then I would advise you to buy the Yamaha MG10. It is one of the cheaper mixers, but it still works good enough. It is a small mixer that has a great quiet noise floor and it has a couple of features that you usually don’t find at other cheap mixers, like built-in compression, and Aux Out for the mix-minus setup.
And as said, this is a small unit, that you can take out when you need to record on the go. Not really while walking, but you can use it to record at events. If you don’t need more than 4 channels, then this is the right mixer for your podcast.
Mid-range priced mixers for podcasting
This is the mixer that gets the job done, no matter how big is your podcast. The mixer has 6 channels, every one of them is controlled by a fader, 4 of those are phantom powered XLR channels, so 4 of your guests can have an XLR microphone, and you can still record them. It also has all the features that you need, and USB so that you can bring your audio straight into the computer and it also has 2 multi-functional stereo aux returns.
Check out the video (in the video they show the USB version) from the manufacturer Behringer
This is probably what you should go for, you can find the best deal here.
Best pro level podcast mixer
You get XLR inputs with 3-band EQ, AUX/FX, Panning and compression control, all with faders, a 100Hz low-cut filter. And, every channel has a 60 mm fader.Â Mackie is a brand that we can all step behind, we know their products are great and the whole range of products that they have will allow you to equip your studio with high-quality products.
Should you get the big or the small one? I don’t know the question is how many guests or inputs do you need. Well, 12 is a lot, but no judgment, right 😀 This is really a professional podcast mixer and if you want to have a professional podcast, you probably do need that, right 😀
Now go and record better 😀