A mixer is probably the first thing you have to look for if you intend to build a sound system for whatever purpose. There are many types of sound equipment out there, so it is highly recommended to choose the one that fits perfectly with your intended setting and audience. It is important that each piece of equipment complements the others perfectly to create the best sound for your music stints.
You may already know that mixers generally have two categories: powered and non-powered analog mixers. Nowadays, we now also have digital mixers which are apt for studio and live sound usage because of its added effects and mixing features. Each type has its own inherent advantages over the others, so make sure you choose the mixer that will be able to deliver the best sound for your needs. If you are planning to buy a mixer for the first time, here are some tips that can help you with the purchase process:
Types of Mixers
A powered mixer has a built-in amplifier and sound effects. These types are generally shaped like boxes although some can also be found in desk-style form. Compared to its unpowered counterpart, powered mixers are generally compact so it is much easier to move around.
Unpowered mixers, on the other hand, would need a separate amplifier. Although it may take up more space than its powered counterpart, it will be able to provide louder sounds because it will be connected to bigger speakers and amplifiers. Connecting your mixer to a set of passive speakers would require a power amp, but having a set of active speakers wouldn't need a power amp at all.
Digital mixers are equipped with features such as effects and dynamics processors, and they usually have specialized computers that you can use to customize the sounds. These are commonly used in recording studios, broadcast and television, and post-production of films.
The unpowered mixer is generally lighter than the powered version. However, because you would need to connect it to other equipment, unpowered set-ups are collectively bulkier and heavier. If you want something that is compact and easy to bring around with your gigs, powered mixers are probably the better choice. All you need to do is to plug in the speakers and the microphones and it's ready for performance.
Portability and Set-up
In terms of portability, powered mixers are much easier to move and relocate than the unpowered or analog mixer. If you are going to play in relatively small areas such as coffee houses or small bars without needing the full band set-up, then a powered mixer will suffice. However, if you have a typical band set-up which is comprised of 1-2 guitars, a bass guitar, keyboards, vocals, and drums, having an unpowered mixer is more advisable.
In terms of set-up, powered mixers are typically easier to set and adjust because all of the controls can be found in one board. With unpowered mixers, you still have to think about the speakers and the amplifiers. The good thing about this is that it will allow you to create fuller and more powerful sounds that can enhance the band’s show.
Sound quality is often the priority in creating unpowered mixers because it is intended for studio purposes rather than live performances. If you are going to purchase for studio use, the larger variants are more recommended, and portability won't be an issue because the equipment will hardly need to be moved unless you're changing locations.
In summary, choosing a mixer should be based on your intended purpose and intended audience. Knowing these things can certainly help you determine which will generate a fuller sound and a better experience to those who are listening.