Digital mixers pro and con

I have what might be some brutally dumb questions, but this community seems surprisingly patient. :wink:

So I have been on classic analog console mixers in my main studio since time began (right now I have a 32-channel mackie). Given that it never leaves the house, i am cool with that, and have lots of patching options from various outboard gear (including lots of Elektron obviously) to the mixer.

But recently the old mackie is showing her age, and been considering my digital options, no real specific board yet but there seem to be decent options that are not complete highway robbery like digitals used to be. So what should I expect, in general terms?

—is a digital mixer basically a replacement to my soundcard as well or does it depend on model? Seems like every single one has a link to your computer, but that doesn’t always mean its gonna be seamless
—if it is, I would imagine onboard can handle the AD/DA fine but passing to my computer, most seem to be a standard USB, maybe firewire but not much of that - can a slightly above average CPU/RAM windows machine handle so many high-K audio channels being passed to/from it at once?
—do digital mixers allow “offfline” mixing and audio playthrough?
—with all the automation and sexy menus and filters and motor faders, should I expect more breakdowns?

What has been y’all’s experience?

Years ago I went from a Mackie 32/4 to a yamaha 01v96. I learned there are two ways to find out what works for you.
My way was ordering from a webshop and discovering all the automation, menu’s etc weren’t meant for someone like me. Should have known as I also never got on with DAW and always went back to something simpler as my MPC2000 and MPC3000. Huge mistake, lost some hard earned money on it.

Personally, I think the best way is to see if you can rent one for one or two months and find out for yourself. For me, endless possibilities takes away my motivation, but it might work for you.

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I like my analogue mixer because I can drive it hard and it sounds great. Run a signal too hot into a digital mixer and you can get that nasty digital clip noise. Also I prefer the sound of the analogue eq.
Try before you buy I guess.

If it’s a mixer, it will work stand-alone, aka offline. That’s it’s base functionality :slight_smile:

Now what it offers in terms of computer connectivity really depends on the model. We don’t know which ones you’re eyeing. It will be clear in the manuals what they offer there, if not in the PR.

My rental company has Digico and Midas mixers with USB/Firewire and full soundcard operation, but also Soundcrafts with none of that.

Read this thread

Allen & Heath QU mixers are pretty good for the money.

Its always a tradeoff isnt it? Analogue mixers have flavour in their signalpath, digital mixers offer comprehensive parametric eq & compression on every channel with full recall. Only things that have those and are also analog are insanely big and expensive (large Neve/SSL/API consoles).

USB 2.0 is already plenty enough for transmitting a bunch of audio channels. Your computer should be able to handle the channelcounts, assuming you have ample RAM and fast HDD (SSD recommended).

Considering just how many Yamaha 01V digital mixers are still in use around the world, I’d say longevity shouldn’t be an issue.

Pro Analog Mixers: Easy to use, can work as its own Instrument when driven hard.

Pro Digital Mixers: Automation, Automation Recall, Routing Options, tight DAW Integration.

Cons Analog Mixers:
No Automation, limited routing Options

Cons Digital Mixers: Menu Diving needed, Lots of possibilities, when driven hard, nasty digital clipping can occur, Not easy to use.

Choose your weapon.

I sold my Mackie 1604 years ago and Mix ITB only with RME Total Mix and Ableton Live. Saves me a lot of space and cables. And i have full automation when needed.

For live usage i keep a Mackie 802 VLZ4 in storage. Sturdy and reliable.

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Awesome thanks Finns. A&H is obviously in the list of possibles. He/she seems to directly address a couple other items like the USB streaming, etc.

Thanks to others on the “rent for a month” thing - really good advice actually, had not even crossed my mind, but that might be smart given the other input here is the lack of headroom on digitals. I’ve heard that many times before.

Had Behringer mixer which was crap, had Mackie who dead a few days after warranty was over!
Bought a Presonus AR22 multitracker for 799euro about a year ago. Really happy with it so I can almost attach every gear I have, must have some free channels and attach a patchpanel for more inputs :slight_smile: Record multitrack to laptop or stereo file to intern SD card which goes to 32gb (very good for recording jams) The FX sections is actually good! I have never had mixers with good fx, but this board offers some good usable fx.
I also mix vinyl and can tell you that my Behringer, Numark, Vestax mixers went all dead, the most happy I am is with my Allen&Heath Xone42 which is probably 10years old and still works like new!

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I’ve had (and have) both digital and analog mixers and I would just recommend to not underestimate the tactile part of a mixer - something that very often is either compromised or a bit “different” (cognitive load) in digital desks compared to analog.

Best of luck!