Home Recording Analog and Digital Mixers - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Sound recording mixers come in a variety of types, two of these types are analog and digital. If you’ve ever been to a recording studio and watched a great recording engineer create a mix, you’ve probably been entranced by the way that he or she interacted with the mixing board: a dance around the mixer, a twist of a knob here, a push of a slider there.

Analog sound mixer

The analog mixer, shown in the following figure, enables you to route the signals within the analog domain. Analog mixers tend to have many knobs, lights, and faders — a set for each channel. If you want to change from mixing inputs (your instruments) to mixing sounds recorded on the recorder, you need to plug and unplug cords, or you need to get a mixer with twice as many channels as your recorder.


Analog mixers are quickly becoming relics of the past for most home recordists. This is because digital mixers offer more functions for the price and generally sound just as good — if not better — than their analog counterparts.

That said, many commercial studios still use (and prefer) large analog desks for their mixing needs. This is because top-notch analog mixers ($100,000+ to over $1 million) have a sound that many pros prefer. They also look impressive, and many engineers are used to the workflow of an analog mixer.

Digital sound mixer

The digital mixer, shown in the following illustration, is a great option for home studio owners because it can perform the same functions as a conventional analog mixer in a lot less space. Routing — the process of sending your signals to various places within the mixer — becomes almost easy using one of these mixers. You can switch between input and track channels without having to change a single cord.


Digital mixers handle all the busing and routing tasks within the digital domain. With no cords to mess with, noise is less likely to enter the system. And if noise does enter the system, it’s easier to find and eliminate.

One of the great things about digital mixers is that you can automate your mix. You can set up complex fader and effects changes to run automatically. Some digital mixers even have motorized faders, which are really fun to watch!