Can I Use A Powered Mixer As An Audio Interface?

So, you want to know, “Can I Use A Powered Mixer As An Audio Interface?”

Let’s say you are setting up your home recording studio and already have a mixer laying around and you’re wondering if you can connect your mixer to your computer to use as an audio interface.

Sound about right?

Let’s take a look to see how we can make this work.

Can I Use A Powered Mixer As An Audio Interface?

Yes, you can use your powered mixer as an audio interface if your mixer has built in AD (Analog to Digital) and DA (Digital to Analog) converters built into it. Analog signal must be converted to digital signal that the computer can work with. Digital signal coming back from your computer needs to be converted back to analog signal that can be played back through your speakers and headphones. If your mixer has a USB output, then you may have built in AD/DA converters.

Video Credit: Matthew Stratton

How Do I Connect My Mixer To My Computer?

If you have a USB output on your mixer, you can connect your mixer to your computer via the USB connection.

How To Connect All Your Gear To A USB Mixer

If you have a newer mixer, then chances are you may have an audio interface built into your mixer.

Check the back of your mixer to see if you have a USB output.

If your mixer has a USB output, then chances are it will also have built in AD/DA converters.

You can also check your mixers owner’s manual to see if your mixer has a built-in audio interface or AD/DA converters.

The whole point of having an audio interface is to:

1. Improve audio quality.

2. Relieve your computer from the task of converting analog signal to digital signal and then digital signal coming out of your computer back to analog signal for your speakers and headphones.

3. Provide you with one central location to connect all your microphones, instruments, and speakers.

If your mixer doesn’t have built in AD/DA converters, then your computer will be tasked with doing the AD/DA conversions and this can put an extra load on your computer and cause latency.

If your mixer doesn’t have a built-in audio interface and a USB output, then you will need to use a different method to connect your mixer to your computer.

Can I Use My Mixer With An Audio Interface?

If you have an older mixer, then chances are it will not have a built-in audio interface with AD/DA converters.

You can still use your older style mixer, but you will need to connect it to an audio interface and then connect the audio interface to your computer via a USB or Firewire connection.

There are several ways to do this.

1. If you are wanting to record a full band or have many inputs say like a drum set, microphones, and instruments then you may want to consider getting an audio interface with the number of inputs you will need.

You can connect your mixer channel outputs directly to your audio interface inputs if your mixer has individual channel outputs.

This way you can still record individual tracks inside of your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) inside of your computer.

2. If you just want to create a stereo mix of your drums, microphones and instruments inside of your computer you can go with a small audio interface.

Simply connect the main left and right outputs of your mixer into two different inputs on your audio interface.

Important Note: A Powered Mixer means the main left and right analog outputs are already amplified. Make sure you have your left and right mains turned way down before trying to send signal into your audio interface. You may want to use left and right monitor outputs, or an aux left and right output.

Your audio interface will feed the left and right signal into your computer where you can record and edit the performance on your DAW.

You may have a full band connected to your mixing board and can record the stereo performance on your computer.

You can also just play one instrument at a time to create different tracks inside of your DAW.

You can connect your mixer to an audio interface with XLR or 1/4″ cables.

Then connect your audio interface to your computer via USB or Firewire.

Remember, an audio interface will give you better audio quality, (24bit / 44-192kHz resolution), and take the task of converting AD/DA signal off of your computer.

So, you will get better performance out of your computer, and you will get better sound quality.

Relevant Article: Will An Audio Interface Make My Music Sound Better?

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Plug the audio output from the sound mixer into the audio input on the audio interface. You can use a quarter-inch cable, RCA cable, XLR cable to make the connection. Check the inputs and outputs of your equipment to see which connections you have.” https://musicianshq.com/how-to-connect
-a-mixer-to-an-audio-interface/#:~:text=How%20do%20you%20
connect%20a,see%20which%20connections
%20you%20have.
“All the microphones and instruments are plugged into the mixer board. Each input has its own channel, and you can control the volume and effects on each instrument separately. … The audio interface turns the analog signals from the mixer board into digital streams for that the computer can read.”https://www.quora.com/Is-it-OK-to-use-an-active-mixer-with-an-audio-interface
“You can use a mixer with an audio interface quite easily and effectively. All you need is a TRS or TS cable connecting the stereo output of your mixer with two inputs on your audio interface. This connection can be reversed for a different effect.”https://www.homemusicmaker.com/use-mixer-with-audio-interface
“Line out to line in = fine.
speaker out to anything other than a load box (eg a speaker sim, power brake or a specialised DI with a speaker level input) – current will most likely burn out the input.
It’s the high current, not the “volume” you have to watch out for.
Specialised DI boxes are, as has been mentioned, probably more than your mixer is worth.”
https://gearspace.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-and-electronic-music-production/925154-can-i-run-powered-mixer-into-my-audio-interface.html
“There are three main reasons to use a mixer in a recording studio: to record more microphones, to mix with the mixer, and to route signals between devices.”https://audiouniversityonline.com/3-ways-to-use-a-mixer-for-recording/
“Each input will allow you to control the volume of that signal (just like the gain on an interface). In addition, and depending on the mixer, you will be able to control EQ and panning via hardware or digital controls. Many will also have built in effects such as reverb, compression and delay, that you can apply to each channel.”https://www.musicrepo.com/audio-interface-vs-mixer/
“One issue to keep in mind is that the Main Sends on your powered mixer would be a good place to tap off the final mix but the signal level will be high there ie Line level could be 0dBu etc or even +4 dBu. This is much louder than a Mic level input signal. This will seriously overdrive your Mic input on your interface. You will need some sort of Line to Mic attenuator in order to make this work. Not ideal but a workaround.”http://forum.cakewalk.com/powered-mixer-to-interface-m2702001.aspx
“One thing that is very important to keep in mind as you’re searching is that not all mixers with audio interfaces offer full multichannel audio recording. That means that you could have a mixer with a dozen physical inputs or more, but it will only send the main stereo mix to your computer”https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/audio-interface-vs-mixer-which-is-right-for-my-studio/
“As mixers grow in size (and price), their audio routing capability expands too, incorporating ‘inserts’ for effects boxes, input groups called ‘busses’ and tonnes more features.”https://mixdownmag.com.au/features/columns/the-eternal-dilemma-mixer-or-audio-interface/

Final Thoughts

There are powered mixers and non-powered mixers.

A powered mixer means the mixing board has an onboard amp that is powering your analog signal as it leaves the mixer. This will provide a good strong audio signal for non-powered studio monitors.

If you are using a powered mixer, be careful where you take your audio signal from to plug into your audio interface inputs.

The reason being is that your audio interface has preamps to boost the incoming audio signal.

If you have a boosted signal coming out of your powered mixer and put that boosted analog signal into your audio interface inputs with preamps also installed, you’re going to have big problems.

You will be much better off coming out of your powered mixer from a location such as monitor out, aux out, or a bus output and run the non-amplified signal to your audio interface.

If you like to play, write, record, mix, and produce music then you are in the right place.

I have lots of helpful articles that will help you get your home recording studio setup and moving in the right direction.

Make yourself at home and have a look around.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Can I Use A Powered Mixer As An Audio Interface?”

  1. As a beginner with “Audio” I found the whole article really interesting and informative especially about taking the load off the computer with the conversions of AD to DA.  I know know that it will save me some hassle to get a newer mixer so that the audio interface is already built into it.  I would really like to improve my audio sound so with all this new information it will help me to take a step to improvement.

    Reply
    • I hope you liked the article, Ruth.  I have a lot of good articles you can read to help you out.  Make yourself at home and thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  2. I find this all very fascinating. My brother-in-law plays in a band and they have recorded several albums now and I have seen all of the equipment they have. I always wondered how they learned how it all works.  I enjoyed watching the video and even though a lot of it went way over my head it was very cool.  I am sure others will find it valuable end informative as well. 

    Reply
    • I have always been fascinated with playing instruments and audio production.  It’s some of the finer things in life for me.  The equipment keeps getting better and more affordable.  The equipment we have available to us today would have been just a dream 20 years ago. If you like audio production and are interested in setting up your own home recording studio, there has never been a better time to do so.

      Reply
  3. This is actually a very interesting post. I really like posts like this. Because I don’t know much about these things. After reading this I had an idea about this audio mixer. I have seen a mixer like this. But do not know how to use this. Some time ago I worked with this mixer application. but not real ones.  Thank you so much for a post like this. Keep posting like this in the future.

    Reply

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