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Complete Guide to Buying a Digital Mixer [A MUST Read!]

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In the world of audio, a mixer (soundboard) is one piece of gear that we often cannot do without—mostly, in live sound reinforcement. Just like the name suggests, a mixer or soundboard is a processor or central hub where different audio signals are combined and mixed.

Although we have both digital and analogue mixing consoles, digital mixers are gradually gaining ground over their analogue counterparts. This is because of its many features.

What a digital mixer does is it takes the analogue signal from audio sources like microphones, synthesizers, line instruments and other audio sources and then converts those signals to digital signals.

Buying a programmable soundboard/mixer can be one of the toughest audio gear purchases you will ever make. This is not just because of the price but also because of the technicalities involved.

There are many things you will need to know in order to make the right purchase. In this article, we will provide you with guidelines for buying the best available programmable soundboard you can afford. Just read on to find out!

All About Digital Mixers (Programmable Soundboards) – Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever seen or heard about the SSL mixer? See a picture of this ‘monster’ below, and here’s a little bit about its history.

This is one of the most used analogue sound mixers used in studios. It has an amazing reputation and has been used across the whole world. 

With its 48 channels, each with a preamp and a parametric EQ, it has been the leader in the Studio-mixing space for many years, since the 80s. 

Why are we talking about ‘the SSL’ in a Digital Mixers article? Well, first of all, it is a legendary piece of equipment, an icon, and secondly, because in the digital era, with ‘Studios’ handing over the microphone to ‘Home Studios’ (no pun intended), it is obvious that gear this size and this complex will see a dip in its popularity and use.

As we mentioned in the introduction, Digital Mixers convert the electrical signal that the cable brings from the instrument/microphone into a digital signal (binary code). 

This allows creating of a virtual environment that emulates the capabilities of a large analogue mixer like the SSL, needing far less space and reducing the complexity of use, as well as gaining efficiency and lowering the cost in terms of components and electrical pieces.

Furthermore, one of the key features that set digital mixers apart is their easy-to-program automated mix recall capabilities and savable mix templates. 

This means that every knob, fader, button, and switch position can be “recalled” in an instant. This feature is especially favoured in live sound environments where quick adjustments are often necessary.

Another unique feature of digital mixers is their extensive input and output capabilities. For instance, the Midas M32 LIVE digital mixer features 40 channels, 32 Midas preamps, 25 mix buses, 25 Midas Pro motorized faders, and over 50 built-in effects. 

It also includes a 7″ TFT display and a 32-channel, 48kHz USB 2.0 audio interface. At around USD 4000, it is definitely not the cheapest nor the most expensive one out there, but it’s a good example.

The Behringer X32 Producer digital mixer, another popular model, offers similar features with 40 input channels, 16 mix buses, a main LCR, 6 matrix buses, and 16 programmable Midas-designed mic preamps. 

It also boasts a highly configurable interface with 17 motorized faders (if you have never seen this live, check it out, it looks so cool!).

In terms of advantages over other types of mixers, digital mixers offer:

  • Superior flexibility, precision, and convenience
  • Precise control over audio signals
  • Automated recall functionality, making them highly efficient for live sound environments
  • Extensive input and output capabilities
  • Built-in effects and interfaces

Key Features of A Digital Mixer

  • Multi-Channel Input and Output: Digital mixers can handle a large number of input and output channels, allowing for complex audio setups with multiple microphones, instruments, and speakers.
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP): This feature allows for real-time manipulation of audio signals, including equalization, compression, reverb, and other effects.
  • Automation: Digital mixers can store and recall settings, allowing for precise control over every aspect of the mix. This can be particularly useful in live performance settings.
  • Integrated Audio Interface: Many digital mixers include a built-in audio interface, allowing for direct connection to a computer for recording and playback.
  • Compact Size: Despite their advanced features, digital mixers are often more compact than their analogue counterparts, making them ideal for use in home studios and on-the-go setups.
  • Visual Feedback: Digital mixers often include LCD screens or other visual displays, providing detailed feedback about the audio signal.
  • Networking Capabilities: Some digital mixers can be connected to a network, allowing for remote control and collaboration.
  • Compatibility with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs): Digital mixers can often integrate seamlessly with DAW software, allowing for a streamlined workflow in recording and post-production.

Things to Consider Before Choosing A Particular Mixer

There is a wide variety of Digital Mixers with different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to do a little bit of research before acquiring one, so here goes our insight on this. 

We will discuss considerations for four specific scenarios: project studios, churches, live sound environments, and podcasts.

Project Studios

When choosing a soundboard for a project studio, the first thing to consider is the size of your studio and the complexity of your recording needs. 

A compact digital mixer with multiple inputs and outputs, an integrated audio interface, and digital signal processing capabilities would be ideal. 

Look for a mixer that can handle the number of instruments and microphones you plan to use, and that can integrate seamlessly with your digital audio workstation (DAW) software. 

In my experience, the home studio workflow and recording experience are more focused on recording separate instruments, one at a time. For example, first the acoustic guitar, then the piano, then maybe some percussion and then the vocals. 

Since the recording is fragmented by 1 instrument at a time, technically, you only need 1 input channel most of the time. This is only to give you an idea of the general scenario in home studios, which tend to be smaller and more individual, so you won’t need 64 channels!


For churches, the soundboard needs to handle a wide range of audio sources, from spoken word to music, and often in large, acoustically challenging spaces. 

In this case, a digital mixer with a high number of inputs and outputs, advanced DSP capabilities, and automation features would be beneficial. 

Additionally, consider a mixer with networking capabilities for remote control, allowing adjustments to be made from anywhere in the church. 

Sometimes the mixer can’t be in the middle of the church, for respect or even for aesthetic reasons (couldn’t help imagining a wedding photograph with the sound engineer in the background of the married couple lol), so having remote control capabilities comes in incredibly handy. 

Also, churches must be one of the most difficult and aggressive environments in terms of room reverberance, so you want to be able to walk around the space and test levels and EQ from different spots in the place, to ensure optimal audio.

Live Sound

In live sound scenarios, the ability to quickly and easily adjust settings is crucial, it can save you a lot of stress and worries. A digital mixer with a large number of inputs and outputs, robust DSP features, and visual feedback (like LCD screens) would be key. 

Automation features can also be beneficial for recalling settings between different acts or scenes. Durability and portability are also important factors to consider for on-the-go setups. 

Despite being meticulous in handling equipment during transportation, the simple act of moving items can gradually cause wear and tear, even if it’s minimal. Remote functions also become very useful in this scenario (probably not in a home studio).


For podcasting, the sound mixer needs to handle fewer inputs, but the quality of the sound is paramount. A compact digital mixer with a built-in audio interface would be ideal, allowing for direct connection to a computer for recording and editing. 

Look for a mixer with high-quality preamps and DSP features like compression and equalization to ensure clear, professional-sounding audio. 

Podcasts are frequently recorded live, in a small studio, a random room, or even at hotels; it’s key to have an all-in-one mixer, more important than having numerous channels. 

I would say ease of use is also a big one here, because many times podcasts are recorded by the podcast creators themselves, and they might not be educated sound engineers. This is why having fewer and easier-to-understand controls is very important.

Important Features to Look for in a Digital Mixer

Even though we already went through some of the key features of a Digital Mixer, let’s review them here:

Multiple Inputs and Outputs

A programmable soundboard should have a sufficient number of inputs and outputs to accommodate your specific audio setup. This could include multiple microphones, instruments, speakers, and other audio sources. 

The more inputs and outputs a soundboard has, the more flexibility you have in managing and routing your audio signals.

Digital Signal Processing

Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is a crucial feature in a programmable soundboard. It allows for real-time manipulation of audio signals, including equalization, compression, reverb, and other effects. 

This can greatly enhance the quality of your audio output and provide a wide range of creative possibilities.


Automation features allow you to store and recall specific settings on your soundboard. This can be particularly useful in live performance or recording situations where you need to quickly switch between different audio configurations. 

Automation can save you time and ensure consistency in your audio output.

Integrated Audio Interface

An integrated audio interface allows your soundboard to connect directly to a computer for recording and playback. This can simplify your audio setup and provide a seamless workflow for recording, editing, and producing audio.

Networking Capabilities

Networking capabilities allow your soundboard to connect to a network for remote control and collaboration. This can be particularly useful in large venues or complex audio setups where the soundboard may not be easily accessible. 

With network connectivity, you can control your soundboard from a computer, tablet, or even a smartphone.

Pros and Cons of A Digital Mixer (Programmable Soundboard)


  • Versatility: Digital mixers offer a wide range of features such as equalization, compression, and reverb, which can be applied to each channel independently. This allows for a high level of control and customisation.
  • Compact Size: Despite their advanced capabilities, digital mixers are often more compact than their analogue counterparts. This makes them ideal for situations where space is limited.
  • Preset Storage: Digital mixers allow you to save and recall settings. This is particularly useful in live situations where you need to quickly switch between different setups.
  • Integration with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs): Many digital mixers can integrate seamlessly with DAW software, allowing for a streamlined workflow in recording and post-production.
  • Visual Feedback: Digital mixers often include LCD screens or other visual displays, providing detailed feedback about the audio signal.


  • Learning Curve: Digital mixers can be complex and may require some time to learn how to use them effectively. This can be a drawback for beginners or those used to analogue mixers.
  • Dependence on Electricity: Unlike analogue mixers, digital mixers require a power source to operate. This can be a problem in situations where power is unreliable or unavailable.
  • Potential for Latency: Digital processing can introduce a small amount of latency (delay) into the audio signal. While this is usually negligible, it can be a problem in some situations.
  • Cost: Digital mixers can be more expensive than their analogue counterparts, particularly for models with advanced features.
  • Sound Quality: While digital mixers offer excellent sound quality, some audio professionals prefer the “warmth” of analogue mixers. This is largely a matter of personal preference.

Best Programmable Mixer Brands

As we have seen, the world of digital mixers is vast and varied, with numerous brands in the market. Here are some of the best brands in the industry, each with their unique strengths and standout models.


Behringer is a brand that offers a wide range of audio equipment, including digital mixers. They are known for their affordability and reliability.

Recommended Model: The Behringer X32 is one of the best choices out there, for its comprehensive features, 40-input channel, 25-bus digital mixing console with 32 Gain-Programmable Mic Preamps, 25 Motorized Faders (again, fun!) and iPad/Android remote control. It’s a beast and you can see that the reviews reflect its quality.


Yamaha is a well-known brand in the music industry—they literally do everything—and their digital mixers are no exception. They offer a range of mixers suitable for both live and studio applications.

Recommended Model: The Yamaha TF series, such as the TF5, is renowned for its intuitive touch-panel operation, smooth workflow, and high-quality sound.


Zoom is also a well-known brand in the audio space, and if the previous models don’t fit your budget this might be a great choice. In this case, the model we recommend has had excellent feedback.

Recommended model: the LiveTrak L-12, has 12 channels with XLR or 1/4-inch connectivity, 12-track simultaneous recording capability plus the stereo master track, 12-track playback, 5 powered headphone outputs, each with a customisable and savable mix, 14 -in/4-out USB audio interface connectivity, scene saving function (up to 9 scenes saved at a time), and another highlight is the friendly, easy-to-use interface.


Rode has many years as an excellent producer in a wide spectrum of audio equipment. Their digital mixers are used in professional settings worldwide, from concert halls to broadcast studios. 

In this case, we bring you a very special model, not precisely thought for professional studios, nevertheless with impressive features.

Recommended Model: The RODECaster Pro II is an ‘All-in-One Production Solution for Podcasting, Streaming, Music Production and Content Creation.’ 

Some of the most impressive features are that it comes with an integrated Podcast Production Studio with 4 Revolution Mic Preamps, Bluetooth connectivity, 2 USB-C Interfaces and 8 Customizable Pads. 

Inside you will find the Onboard APHEX DSP. This digital signal processing technology includes the legendary APHEX Aural Exciter and Big Bottom effects, which are designed to enhance audio quality. 

These effects are accessible at the touch of a button and offer complete control over every parameter, similar to the capabilities found in the world’s best studios. Their goal is to provide broadcast-quality audio, ensuring your podcasts sound professional and polished.


PreSonus is a brand that has made a name for itself in the world of digital mixers. They offer a range of mixers that are known for their sound quality, ease of use, and innovative features.

Recommended Model: The PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 features 16 channel inputs (8 mono and 4 stereo channel inputs with 12 faders, 12 Class A XMAX solid-state mic preamplifiers, 12 channels and talkback.

Also, 4 auxiliary buses (pre/post-fader send) and 2 internal FX buses, 2 stereo 32-bit digital effects processors, fat channel signal processing on all channels and buses (a high-pass filter, compressor, limiter, gate, 4-band parametric equaliser, and delay on every input and output.). 

Additionally, a 31-band graphic EQ on the main bus, 18-in/16-out USB 2.0 audio interface (24-bit/44.1 kHz and 48 kHz) records all channels and main L/R mix, scene and individual settings store and recall, MIDI I/O: control main and effects output levels, recall effects preset and Scenes, and serve as a MIDI interface.

It also comes with a Software library that includes PreSonus Studio One Artist DAW and Capture live-recording software for Mac and Windows, UC Surface mixer-control software for Mac, Windows, and iPad. QMix-UC touch wireless aux-control software for iPhone, iPod touch, and Android are also available for free.

These brands represent some of the best in the industry, offering a range of digital mixers to suit different needs and budgets. Of course, there are other models, feel free to explore and investigate different brands and options!


Mixers are a pretty essential part of studio recording and live music scenes, so choosing the right one for you is important. In this case, we went through the specifics of Digital Mixers and why you would want to buy one. 

Take your time to do some research on your own, watching Youtube videos of the models that we mentioned and the ones that interest you is always a great idea, and of course, you’re always encouraged to go to your favourite shop and ask to see what models are available there. 

One of the key advantages of digital mixers is their flexibility and precision. With digital signal processing capabilities, users can manipulate audio signals in real-time, applying various effects and adjustments to each channel independently. This level of control allows for a high degree of customisation and ensures a professional and polished sound output.

Moreover, the automation features of digital mixers are particularly advantageous, especially in live sound environments. The ability to store and recall specific settings with a simple button press enables quick adjustments, making live performances smoother and stress-free.

Additionally, digital mixers often come equipped with extensive input and output capabilities, allowing for complex audio setups with multiple instruments, microphones, and speakers. 

Integrated audio interfaces further streamline the recording and editing process, providing a seamless workflow for musicians and audio engineers alike.

While digital mixers offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to consider a few factors before making a purchase. 

Understanding the specific requirements of your setup, whether it’s a project studio, church, live sound environment, or podcasting, will help you choose the right mixer for your needs.

Key features to look for in a programmable soundboard or digital mixer include multiple inputs and outputs, digital signal processing, automation, integrated audio interface, networking capabilities, and compatibility with digital audio workstations (DAWs).

It’s important to note that digital mixers may have a learning curve, and users should be prepared to invest some time in understanding and utilizing their full potential. 

However, the advantages they offer in terms of versatility, compact size, and precise control make them a worthwhile investment for audio enthusiasts and professionals alike.

In the market for digital mixers, several reputable brands stand out, each with its unique strengths and standout models. Brands such as Behringer, Yamaha, Zoom, RODE, and PreSonus offer a wide range of options suitable for various budgets and applications.

A programmable soundboard is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance your audio production and performance capabilities. 

By considering your specific needs, researching available options, and trying out different models, you can make an informed decision and find the best digital mixer that perfectly complements your audio setup and workflow.