The Best Analog Mixer for Live Sound

The Best Analog Mixer for Live Sound

Although audio equipment evolved considerably for a few past decades, there are certain things that we could not get past even if we wanted to.

These days, many musicians perform without any bulky equipment, at times, using only a tiny laptop where everything is emulated. But one thing that to this day could not be properly recreated by digital means is a mixing console for live gigs.

And although most audio engineers typically choose fully digital mixers, in this article, we will try to establish the best analog mixer for live sound.

Top 6 Best Analog Mixer for Live Sound

  1. Yamaha MG20
  2. Mackie Mix8
  3. Behringer Xenyx X1222USB
  4. Soundcraft Signature 16
  5. Allen & Heath ZED-10FX
  6. Alto Professional Live 802

Analog Mixer for Live Sound Buying Guide

A bit of history

There’s no clear consensus as to what exactly was the first mixing desk. Opinions are divided between EMI’s REDD console that was installed in the famous Abbey Road Studios in 1958 and mixing desks produced by legendary Rupert Neve during the same time. All we know is that the first audio mixers were obviously analog and extremely bulky to the point of being completely unmovable. Today those consoles are collectible items that sometimes cost a fortune. But lucky for us, things did not stand still, and today we have a lot of reasonably priced and extremely portable options.

Digital vs Analog Mixers

We all know that there’s an endless debate about the advantages and disadvantages of analog over digital gear, but let us reassure you that this doesn’t apply to the mixing desks, at least to conventional ones. The thing is, there’s a huge difference between a vintage REDD console and a modern analog mixer.

If vintage consoles are valued first and foremost for their coloration, modern analog mixers, on the contrary, tend to sound extremely transparent and clean. So when it comes to the difference between digital and analog mixers, especially when it comes to live sound, we are clearly talking about functionality because they usually tend to sound very identical.

So it is safe to say that these days, digital mixers provide you with greater functionality but at a higher price, and analog mixers have comparatively limited functions but tend to cost less.

Important features

While compiling this list, we tried to maintain a perfect equilibrium between a reasonable price and the number of functions provided. So each and every mixer in this article could be easily considered budget-friendly and, at the same time, can provide you with an extended number of features.

For obvious reasons, connectivity is really important these days, so with a few exceptions, our picks feature USB ports and various routing options. Of course, not every audio engineer hosts large heavy metal parties and quite a few would be happy with only a pair of inputs, so we have tried to balance between a reasonable amount of inputs and a consideration for the specific needs of different audio engineers.

After all, choosing the best analog mixer for live sound is a very personal and, therefore, subjective process, so the very least we could do is to ease it up for you as best as we could.

Best Analog Mixer for Live Sound Reviews

Yamaha MG20

Yamaha MG20

Pros
  • Exceptional quality
  • Highly durable
  • 20 channels
Cons
  • Requires to read the user manual before usage
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Yamaha MG20 is a 20-channel analog mixer with exceptionally clean and transparent preamps. It features a 3 band EQ on every mono channel, low pass filters, and one-knob-operated compressors. It also features 12 TRS/XLR Combo inputs, 4 separate XLR inputs, global phantom power, 4 AUX sends, 4 buses, and a rack mount. It’s a highly durable console, and despite the fact that it’s fairly large, due to its 20 channels, it’s still reasonably portable, which makes it perfect for any live gigging occasion.

User impressions

Users are quite impressed with Yamaha MG20 as it’s versatile, offers lots of useful features and sound transparency. Users note that this analog mixer has exceptional quality in every aspect, including sound quality, when compared with other mixers. Also, the build quality is highly praised by users as this mixer is made from metal and is said to withstand extensive indoor and outdoor usage allowing even to operate in the temperature range from 32°F to 104°F. Not only that, but this mixer is made with the ability to withstand power fluctuations which most of the users find useful.

What we think

Where Yamaha MG20 stands out the most is the transparency of its sound. With a proper PA system, you can achieve the purest and the most natural sound possible. The only downside to that is that the rest of your gear should also be of high quality because everything that is wrong about your equipment will be heard immediately simply because there’s absolutely nothing to mask it with. But this really shouldn’t be a problem because audio engineers who are very particular about choosing their mixing consoles wouldn’t really cheap out on the other equipment.

Bottomline

Yamaha MG20 is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for an analog mixer with a very transparent and clean sound and a large number of inputs. It might not be the most portable mixer, but it’s easily compensated by its functionality and the ability to host larger ensembles. And considering the sheer amount of inputs, the price might surprise you in a good way.

Mackie Mix8

Mackie Mix8

Pros
  • Extreme portability
  • Very reasonably priced
Cons
  • No balanced XLR main outs
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Mackie Mix8 is a very compact and extremely portable analog mixer that features 6 inputs with 3-band EQs, and AUX sends on every channel. Furthermore, Mackie Mix8 comes with RCA connectors for recording and separate volume controls for the headphones and main outputs.

User impressions

Users like Mackie Mix8 for being a very well-built, capable, and compact mixer. It’s really easy to use, and this mixer has a user-friendly design. This mixer has enough features to mix everything that’s needed almost effortlessly. Users say that this mixer has a very sturdy build and it is easy to transport whenever you need it. Also, it has 8 inputs total in mono and up to 3 if you go in stereo.

What we think

You may think that Mackie Mix8 has very limited functionality, and to be fair, you probably cannot host a heavy metal gig with it, unless you have a very exceptional ingenuity, but this shouldn’t be a problem if you have nothing to do with heavy metal concerts or any other large gigs. Mackie Mix8 is more than enough to mix intimate acoustic concerts or DJ sets.

Bottomline

Mackie Mix8 is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a very compact and portable analog mixer designed for smaller line-ups. Considering its more than competitive price, Mackie Mix8 would be extremely suitable for various street musicians and DJs who travel frequently. You may consider a downside that this mixer has phantom power only on 2 channels out of 6. But considering what it was made for in the first place, this actually is a nice bonus.

Behringer Xenyx X1222USB

Behringer Xenyx X1222USB

Pros
  • 12 input channels
  • USB recording and playback
  • Built-in multi-effect processor
Cons
  • None
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Behringer Xenyx X1222USB is a budget-friendly analog mixer that has six input channels with additional four stereo channels. Each individual channel has two dedicated AUX sends as well as three-band EQs and one-knob compression. A master channel has its own seven-band EQ, which helps you surgically sculpt the sound. This mixer also features a USB connection which means that you can effortlessly record the output signal. A built-in 24-bit multi-band processor gives you an opportunity to choose between various effects, such as reverb, delay, chorus, and many more.

User impressions

Users say that Behringer Xenyx X1222USB is incredibly user-friendly, easy to use, and has a very detailed manual with a lot of diagrams showing how to plug everything in. It has a decent build quality and is very durable. Users like it for being very reasonably priced. Also, this mixer has a lot of useful features and excellent sound quality.

What we think

What is impressive about Behringer Xenyx X1222USB is that not only can you record the output signal via a USB port, you can also send a playback from your computer through the same connector. This significantly expands the possibilities of this mixer, especially when it comes to the bands that use a lot of backing tracks or musicians who require very complex click tracks.

Bottomline

Behringer Xenyx X1222USB is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for an analog mixer with lots of hidden features and an option of USB recording and playback. Where this mixer stands out the most is how reasonably priced it is. If you consider its outstanding built quality and a very impressive number of features, you’d be very surprised with its price.

Soundcraft Signature 16

Soundcraft Signature 16

Pros
  • USB connectivity
  • 48 V phantom power
  • Lexicon effects
Cons
  • Might be considered expensive
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

Soundcraft Signature 16 is an outstanding analog mixer with the superior build quality and a very impressive amount of features. It has 48 V phantom power on each and every channel as well as high pass filters and 4-band EQs with 2 swipeable mid-bands. It also features USB connectivity, 3 separate AUX buses, 4 mono and 2 stereo subgroups, and one FX bus. Onboard it has Lexicon plugins, DBX limiters, and Soundcraft Ghost mic preamps, which will give you a lot of headroom and almost unprecedented clarity of sound.

User impressions

Users like Soundcraft Signature 16 for its design and color scheme in particular, which makes it significantly easier to work with it on stage in dim light. This mixer has a solid build quality and a lot of useful features to play with. It’s versatile, and it has a superb sound quality. Despite you might be at first overwhelmed with a number of different knobs, this mixer is easy to work with.

What we think

When manufacturers design analog mixers and any other audio equipment, for that matter, they obviously want it to be as feature-packed as possible. But there’s one very important thing they often forget about. Apart from the amount of FX per channel and routing options, we, audio engineers, believe that the feeling that equipment gives you is also crucial. And that tactile sensation that Soundcraft Signature 16 gives you is truly astonishing. Sometimes we want very much to feel good about ourselves and moving rather heavy, and a smooth fader is certainly one way to achieve this.

Bottomline

Soundcraft Signature 16 is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for an analog mixer with the top-shelf build quality and a feel of very rare and vintage gear. One might consider this mixer to be rather expensive, but what you really should do is try it out. Then you might actually find that it’s rather underpriced.

Allen & Heath ZED-10FX

Allen & Heath ZED-10FX

Pros
  • Bundled IK Multimedia X‑Gear software
Cons
  • Audio interface is stereo only
  • Not capable of higher than 48kHz conversion
See price @ Amazon / @ Sweetwater
Best features and specs

At a first glance, Allen & Heath ZED-10FX is a very simple and rather limited analog mixer. It has only 4 mono and 3 input channels with 2-band EQs and pan controls. But under the surface hides a very mighty beast with 16 digital effects of the highest quality, USB connectivity, and a built-in DI box for guitars and basses.

User impressions

Users agree that Allen & Heath ZED-10FX has a lot of useful effects and tap tempo, but it can hardly be named as a perfect choice for live gigs. Users add that this mixer will find its best usage at the home studio while making band demo recordings. EQ sounds good but is rather limited when it comes to carefully sculpt the sound. The limit of 48kHz is also a very considerable drawback.

What we think

Although Allen & Heath ZED-10FX might not be your first choice, especially if you more often than not deal with larger ensembles, but if you are a DJ or a solo performer, this might be the one exactly for you, especially if you want your live sound to be as polished as possible. The centerpiece of this mixer lies within its built-in effects, which provide an opportunity to tailor your live sound exactly as you want it to be.

Bottomline

 Allen & Heath ZED-10FX is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a very compact and portable analog mixer with outstanding sound-altering capabilities. But if you are not even remotely interested in built-in effects, you may actually consider choosing between other entries on this list.

 

Alto Professional Live 802

Alto Professional Live 802

Pros
  • Built-in DSP effects
Cons
  • Channels feel a bit cramped
  • No delay tap tempo
See price @ Amazon
Best features and specs

Alto Professional Live 802 is an 8-channel analog mixer with 5 XLR inputs that features very clean and transparent microphone preamps, 3-band EQ, and 2 AUX per channel, USB connectivity, and 100 built-in Alesis DSP effects. And if all of that isn’t enough, Alto Professional Live 802 has 9-band graphic EQ on the main output.

User impressions

Users agree that Alto Professional Live 802 is very compact and packed with a lot of features, including a stereo USB audio interface, EQ, and multi-effects. The mixer is very sturdy, it has a user-friendly UI, and it gives you a truly professional feeling when working with it. Users note that you need to constantly check that your gain stage is as low as possible, with the signal being at maximum at the source, to enjoy a noise-free mix.

What we think

What is truly impressive about Alto Professional Live 802 is that apart from mixing symphonic orchestras, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t do with it. It’s a workhorse of a mixer on which you can rely in any given situation. Although we should mention that it’s rather bulky for a 10-channel mixer, so traveling with it might be a bit challenging.

Bottomline

Alto Professional Live 802 is a perfect choice for someone who is looking for a professional and extremely reliable analog mixer with tons of high-quality built-in effects, analog compression, and very transparent preamps. What’s really surprising about Alto Professional Live 802 is how reasonably it’s priced, there’s absolutely no indication that the manufacturer cut some cost at any point.

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