Can I Use An Analog Mixer With A DAW?

So, you want to know, “Can I Use An Analog Mixer With A DAW?” This is a great question and today we’re going to take a look at different ways to use an analog mixer with a DAW. We will also look at some other alternatives that may save you some money.

Can I Use An Analog Mixer With A DAW?

Yes, you can use an analog mixer with a DAW. In fact, some people prefer to use an analog mixer with their DAW because of the unique analog sound and because they like to touch and feel the mix with their hands. You will need to get a good audio interface and some good quality cables to connect your analog mixer to your audio interface. The audio interface will then connect to your computer to send the signal into your computer and back out of your computer to your speakers and back to your analog mixer.

Video Credit: Joe Gilder

Benefits Of Using An Analog Mixer

So, what are the benefits of using an analog mixer? Will an analog mixer give you a better overall sound?

That will depend on your level of expertise with creating a mix and your sound preference.

A good analog mixer will have quality preamps built into the channels.

The preamps will add color and warmth to signal coming into the board or they will add noise and distortion.

This will depend on the quality of the analog mixer you are using.

So, let’s look at some benefits.

1. Better Sound Quality

Some say that analog mixers have a better sound.

I think this will depend on how well your ears are developed and how well you can mix.

An experienced sound engineer will always trump a non-experienced person with an expensive analog mixer.

It may sound better to some, or it may not.

2. Allows You To Mix With Your Hands

Some people love to mix with their hands.

There is nothing better than putting your hands on a mixing console and turning the actual knobs and pushing up some faders.

It just feels good and gives you a better sense of control and intention.

3. Instant Monitoring Coming Directly Out Of Your Mixer

One great thing about using a mixer in your home recording studio is that you can monitor the input signal directly from the mixing console.

This totally eliminates latency.

Latency is the delayed signal you sometimes hear when you are listening to the return signal from your computer and DAW.

Honestly, todays audio interfaces really do not have latency issues if you have a modern audio interface with dedicated drivers and a newer computer.

How To Configure An Analog Mixer With A DAW

There are many different analog mixing consoles and quite a few different DAW software programs.

In my opinion the best way to configure your analog mixer with your DAW software is a one-to-one channel connection.

In other words, let’s say you have a 16-channel mixing console you would configure each channel on the mixer to its own channel in the DAW.

So, you would have 16 channels on the mixer and 16 channels inside your DAW.

For me, this would be the ideal setup and you may also have some aux or bus inputs from the mixer as well.

In order to accomplish this, you will need to have a mixing console with a direct channel output for each channel on the mixing console and an audio interface that will accommodate 16 plus input channels.

If you want to do your mixdown on your analog mixer you will also need 16 plus return channels on your audio interface to feed back into your mixer.

You may have an analog mixer that only has two main left and right outputs.

Or, you may have a mixer that has left and right main out and maybe some aux or bus left and right outputs.

You can run a set of left and right outs from the mixer into your DAW and create stereo or mono tracks inside your DAW this way.

You will just need to track different instrument parts one at a time into your DAW.

What Equipment Will I Need To Connect My Analog Mixer To My DAW

PreSonus Multi Channel USB Audio Interfaces

The main piece of equipment you need to connect your analog mixer to your computer will be an audio interface.

An audio interface converts the analog signal coming from your mixing console into a digital signal that your computer can read and understand.

When the sound comes back out of your computer the digital signal has to be converted from a digital signal back to an analog signal to be played through your speakers or headphones.

You will also need some cables to connect your mixing console outputs to your audio interface inputs.

And more cables to connect the audio interface outputs back into your mixer if you want to do your mix downs on your analog mixer.

You can also do your mixdown inside of your DAW if you are only using your analog mixer to do tracking.

You can see where you may need a large audio interface and a number of cables depending on how many channels you want to use.

Relevant Article: Do Expensive Audio Interfaces Improve Sound Quality? Learn More About Audio Interfaces.

USB Digital Mixers

What if you could buy a mixing console with a built-in audio interface?

No need to buy a bunch of cables and a separate audio interface.

Imagine how much money this could save you..

Well, it turns out you can!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the USB Digital Mixer.

Let’s use the same example from above.

You get yourself a 16 channel or larger USB digital mixer.

You can plug in all of your microphones, instruments, and gear for easy recording anytime you like.

The USB digital mixer has preamps just like the analog mixer to give you the extra flavor on your inputs.

The USB digital mixer also has a built-in audio interface so no need to buy a separate audio interface and all the required cables.

Here is the best part, you simply connect the USB digital mixer to your computer with one USB cable.

This is a very clean and simple setup, and you have all the bells and whistles of an analog mixer.

Not All USB Digital Mixers Will Give You Full Channel Outputs and Returns.

Some USB Digital Mixers will give you a channel output and a channel return for every channel on the mixer.

This means you can create a separate track for each channel on your mixer inside of your DAW software.

So, if you have a 16-channel mixer this means all 16 tracks are sent to your computer and DAW and all 16 tracks are then sent back to your USB mixer.

On the other hand, some USB Digital Mixers Will only give you two to four outputs from the mixer going to your DAW and then two to four returns back to your USB Digital Mixer.

So, if you have a 16-channel mixer two or maybe four tracks are sent to your computer and DAW and then two to four tracks are returned back to your USB mixer.

This means you will have to record different instruments at different times and create separate tracks for each recording or you can create a stereo mix coming from your mixer.

I will list several USB Digital Mixers below that give you full channel connection capabilities or at least a large number of channel sends and returns.

PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 USB 16-channel Digital Mixer

PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 16 Channel USB Digital Mixer

The PreSonus Studio Live 16 channel USB Digital Mixer sends 16 channels to your computer / DAW and also sends 16 channels back from your computer to the mixer for mixdown and monitoring.

This is a great tool for a home recording studio setup.


Soundcraft Si Impact 40-channel USB Digital Mixer

Soundcraft Si Impact 40 Channel USB Digital Mixer

The Soundcraft SI Impact 40 Channel USB Digital Mixer sends 32 channels to your computer / DAW and also sends 32 channels back to your mixing console for easy mixdown and monitoring.

This is a great tool for any home recording studio setup.


Allen & Heath Qu-24 24-Channel USB Digital Mixer

Allen & Heath QU 24 USB Digital Mixer

The Allen & Heath QU-24 24 Channel USB Digital Mixer sends 32 channels to your computer / DAW and has a 30 channel return to your mixer from your computer for easy mixdown and monitoring.

This is a great mixer for a home recording studio setup.


These USB Digital Mixers will give you plenty of individual channel sends and returns to and from your DAW.

You can connect these mixers directly to your computer with just one USB cable and you are ready to go.

Plus, you get the hands-on experience of creating your mixes as they go directly to your DAW where you can also create individual tracks or stereo mixes.

If you want to create your mix downs on your mixer you can. The USB cable sends the individual returns back to your board for mixdown mode.

Benefits Of Using A USB Digital Mixer

I think the best benefit of using a USB digital mixer is that you only need one USB cable to connect the mixer to your computer.

Let’s look at some other benefits of using a USB Digital Mixer.

1. One Cable To Connect To Your Computer

2. No Need To Buy A Separate Audio Interface

3. No Need To Buy Lots Of Cables

4. Less Cables Means Less Noise

5. Takes Up Less Space

6. Saves Money

7. Sounds Great

Why Mix Outside Of The Box

Some of you may be wondering, what is all this talk about mixing in or out of the box?

Mixing in the box means doing all of your mixing inside of your computer on your DAW mixing console.

Mixing out of the box means working with your mixes on your own mixing console.

Some people simply love to work with a mixing console they can touch.

It’s traditional, It’s fun, and It’s very cool.

There is something special about laying your hands on a mixing console.

You get a visual, touch sensitive, perfected timing when you can use your hands to completely take control of your mix.

It’s intentional, simplistic, and a lot of fun!

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Most small project studios nowadays don’t need a hardware (analog) mixer—they can run signals directly into and out of their interface, monitoring through powered speakers and/or headphones. But sometimes a small mixer can come in handy, especially for slightly larger sessions.”https://ask.audio/articles/using-a-small-analog-mixer-with-your-daw#:~:text=The%20main%20stereo%20output%20from,capabilities%20for%20different%20session%20requirements.
“With a mixer granted you are sending your recorded signals out to your mixer(from your converters outputs,which are usually balanced line level signals) and then back to your converter from the mixer(also balanced line level signals), you are granted the luxury of having a hands on mixing experience; However you need to monitor from the mixer and not your DAW to actually hear what you are doing to the signal(specifically eq,gain,compression if your mixer has it).”https://gearspace.com/board/low-end-theory/511481-analog-mixer-daw.html
“The most straightforward way is to get an audio interface with the same number of inputs as your mixer. Then you would be able to route each mixer channel to it’s own track in your DAW. There are a whole range of audio interfaces with 4, 8, 16, or 32 inputs.”https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-integrate-an-analog-mixer-with-my-computer-Daw
“I mean…there’s not much to it.
Outputs from the console to the interface inputs…outputs from the interface to the mixer inputs. If the mixer has “Tape” or “Monitor” inputs, you can leave it all connected in both directions.
If you only have the 24 channel inputs…get a patch bay, and switch the connections as needed…etc.
It’s really up to you to figure out how you want to connect things, based on how you want to work….how you want to monitor…etc.”
https://homerecording.com/bbs/threads/how-to-use-an-analogue-mixer-to-daw-multitrack-recording-mixing-and-monitoring.390604/
“Most small mixers contain two independent sections: an input section and a mixer section. The input section contains the input connectors (XLR and 1/4-inch) and the preamps, which raise the small input signals to line level so they’re suitable for recording. The mixer section then combines all of the preamplified inputs into one stereo mix that you can play through loudspeakers or headphones.”https://ethanwiner.com/mixer2daw.html
“The easiest way to connect an audio interface to an analog mixer is to plug the output from the analog mixer into the input on the audio interface. Several cables can potentially be used to form the connection, including quarter-inch jacks, RCAs, or balanced XLRs.”https://stampsound.com/how-to-connect-an-audio-interface-to-an-analog-mixer/
“For some, it’s true, simply running each individual piece of gear in to each open channel on an audio interface will be just fine. After all, all you have to do is record arm 3-4 tracks and set up your inputs. And, there you go! Everything is on its own track, and the mixing can commence, once you’ve recorded, or tracked your takes, all in one shot.”https://ask.video/article/audio-hardware/strategies-for-using-a-hardware-mixer-with-midi-hardware-and-a-daw
“Don’t let anyone dissuade you. There are real advantages in using an analog console that you’re not going to get otherwise. Most importantly? You are not going to get the experience of learning about the yesteryear of your craft staying in the box. And trust me, there is an advantage to that knowledge that you can bring with you anywhere.”https://www.reddit.com/r/audioengineering/comments/2h2atf/noob_question_about_analog_mixers_and_daws/
“When an output is taken from the insert point, it’s called a direct outbecause the signal is taken directly from the output of the Can and how do you run an analog mixer with a daw such as pro tools. As i mentioned at the beginning, a lot of mixers now have usb outputs, meaning the mixer can double as an audio interface and send audio via usb into your computer.”Can You Use An Analog Mixer With A Daw (vamosarema.com)

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you have a lot of different options available to you if you want to connect an analog or digital mixer to your DAW setup.

Many people prefer to use a mix console because they like the feel of mixing with knobs and faders instead of using your mouse inside of your DAW.

I personally think the USB or Firewire digital mixer is the better choice because there is no need to buy a separate audio interface and all the cables to get an analog mixer setup.

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

I have many different articles that you will find helpful and get you moving in the right direction with your home recording studio setup.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

8 thoughts on “Can I Use An Analog Mixer With A DAW?”

  1. Thanks so much for such a valuable post. I do not know much about using an analog mixer but I have a friend who has one of these and says I can use it if I want to set up my home studio. I dont think he has a digital mixer like this. I think this analog mixer will improve my sound quality even more. I will definitely keep this article and refer back to it. Thanks so much for posting like this. Keep posting like this.

    Reply
    • If you have an analog mixer that you can use, I think this may be a good start for you.  It just depends on how many inputs you need and how you want to use your mixer to track your instruments and vocals.  You can use your DAW as a recording medium and use your mixer to set up your inputs and mixdown in the box or roll the signal back out to the analog mixer through an audio interface and do mixdown on your mixer.  You have a lot of different options.  Let me know if you need help or have further questions. 

      Reply
  2. i am like bang straight to the point here. There is no dilly dallying. a picture is worth  a 1000 words. The way the first picture or photo is posted here right off the bat really resonates with me. The youtube video is a 10 out of 10. I have learnt something new here. Live streamin is a no brainier. Yes thats a way to add me value for sure. i agree that its a nice to have.  thanks

    Reply
  3. I think it’s great that your trying to inform more people on more options they can use with their Daw, I’m not very tech-savvy when it comes to musical equipment but I think think this can help a lot of upcoming producers and people who may be interested in music production

    Reply
  4. Hello,
    Thx for the post. I used to have an analog recording studio in the 80’s-90’s. Most of the equipment put in road cases till now. I wish to do everything out of the box and take the mixdowns put them through an interface and record them onto a laptop. At this point I’m trying to use all the equipment I have already. What is a basic program I can use on the laptop so I can start putting material online. Thx.

    Reply
    • Hi Jerry, I like to use Presonus Studio One. It’s a great DAW software that will do anything you need, has some great features, and is very affordable. It’s also pretty easy to learn. If you want to learn more about Studio One, be sure and check out my article: Do Producers Use Studio One. I hope this helps and thank you for stopping by.

      Reply

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