The endless debate about which is better for your gaming needs, audio interface vs mixer. Both provide lasting benefits to any live streamer and will greatly improve your audio quality, but which one do you really need? Let’s jump down and read some of the most pressing questions about the audio interface vs mixer: which is best for your gaming setup?
Let’s begin by understanding the differences between these two live streaming audio peripherals. From there, we’ll jump into more specific use cases and how each of these can benefit you while gaming on Twitch or YouTube.
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The difference between a mixer and an audio interface
An audio mixer is designed to take analog inputs and convert the signals into digital, so your gaming or streaming PC can read them.
When looking at an audio mixer, the first thing you should notice is the inputs: and these are different from any PC or gaming laptop, and this is intentional. The microphone inputs are XLR and require an XLR microphone to leverage the benefits of an audio mixer.
This is also true for a USB audio interface.
However, how you use a USB audio interface or a mixer is where the differences begin.
A mixer is designed to be the hub of all your analog devices, and it will take multiple sources of input and mix them into one, singular output. This is why you see the tuning knobs on a mixer – this allows you to alter volume levels and improve the sound of your microphone, gaming console, gaming PC, etc. in real time without additional software.
A USB audio interface is designed to be much smaller, portable, and therefore less complicated to use.
Once you connect your XLR microphone to a USB audio interface, it’s up to your operating system and your live streaming software to arrange and sort things out. Tuning, adjusting and altering the sound of your microphone, gaming PC or Discord, you will require a software mixer to hone in the settings.
If you have been live streaming to platforms like Twitch, then you’ve probably heard of Voicemeeter Banana, one of the most popular software mixers available. This is your companion software to a USB audio interface, and will make your life easier for those not interested in an audio mixer.
Can a mixer come with a built-in audio interface?
Some of the most popular audio mixers for streaming come loaded with a plethora of features, one of which is a built-in audio interface. Should you only focus on the feature of a built-in audio interface when shopping for your audio mixer? probably not.
When you are shopping online for an audio mixer and intend to live stream to Twitch or YouTube, you want to consider the amount of inputs and tuning features it offers.
Perhaps, consider the following checklist:
- Do you have an XLR microphone?
- Single PC or Dual PC streaming setup?
- Do you have any gaming consoles you want to connect?
- Do you have a gaming desk large enough to hold your PC, peripherals and an audio mixer?
The more hardware you wish to connect to improve your live streaming setup, the probability that you require an audio mixer increases dramatically.
Focus on your specific use case and how you intend to leverage the benefits of an audio mixer. This is the starting point, and from here you can build your live streaming setup outward with the intention to use only what you need.
The Best Audio Mixers for Streaming
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Audio interface vs mixer which is better for sound quality?
Sound quality is largely dependent on the quality of the preamps and in large part, quality of the mixer or audio interface you’re shopping for.
Unknown brands or suspiciously cheap audio interfaces and mixers when shopping should spring alarm bells. To guarantee quality, always do comparison shopping and check the reviews. Brand name companies like Yamaha, Focusrite, and Behringer have been producing high quality audio gear designed for studio use for decades. Newer products, like the GoXLR brand of audio mixers and interfaces, have shown to be well constructed and should endure any streaming hardship.
Any of the aforementioned brands would be great for any live streaming setup.
As far as sound quality is concerned, among these brands, it depends on the quality of your microphone, not the quality of your audio mixer or USB audio interface.
The audio mixer and USB audio interface are designed to accept a clean signal from your microphone and ferry it to your PC. If it isn’t changing, boosting or otherwise altering the signal, then it’s doing its job. Additionally, if you’re looking for one sign of a high quality audio mixer or USB audio interface, it’s their ability to produce a clean signal, one not altered by the outside world of electronics.
The best improvement you can make for your sound quality will be to find a better XLR microphone, one that meets the demands of the modern live streamer.
Mixer vs Interface: Yamaha mg10xu vs Scarlett 2i2
As the name implies, the Yamaha mg10xu is a 10 input audio mixer.
- 10 channel mixer with USB and SPX digital effects
- Featuring studio grade discrete class A D PRE amps with inverted Darlington circuit providing fat, natural sounding bass and smooth, soaring highs
- 3 band EQ and high pass filters give you maximum control and eliminate unwanted noise, resulting in a cleaner mix
You can see the 10 inputs provided, in addition to various volume knobs and adjustments. The XLR inputs provide 48V phantom power, designed to power the best microphones for gaming.
It’s often regarded as the best audio mixer around $200.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a durable, compact and portable USB audio interface perfect for anyone live streaming to Twitch.
- Pro performance with the finest pre-amps - Achieve a brighter and a more open recording thanks to the best performing mic pre-amps the Scarlett range has ever seen. A switchable Air mode will add extra clarity to your acoustic instruments when recording with your Scarlett 2i2.
- Get the perfect guitar and vocal take - There’s no need to sacrifice your tone with two high-headroom instrument inputs to plug in your guitar or bass so that they shine through. Capture your voice with clarity and your instruments in all their glory without any unwanted clipping or distortion thanks to our Gain Halos.
- Low-noise for crystal clear listening - Two low-noise balanced outputs provide clean audio playback. Hear all the details and nuances of your own track or music from Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. Plug-in your own headphones via the output for private listening in high-fidelity.
The front panel provides two XLR inputs for your microphones, both providing 48V phantom power.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 provides high quality preamps and a high power converter that produces 24-bit/192kHz playback. Among USB audio interfaces, the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the most popular and a best seller online.
The difference between the two audio peripherals is evident, and which one you should choose depends largely on your live streaming and gaming setup.
Consider the following before making a decision:
- Do you currently own an XLR microphone?
- Do you need up to 10 inputs for additional hardware like gaming consoles?
- Do you have a dual PC streaming setup?
- Are you currently using a software mixer like Voicemeeter Banana?
The Yamaha mg10xu is great for those with an expansive live streaming and gaming setup or those looking to grow their setup. However, if you’re only interested in a great USB audio interface and have an XLR microphone to plug into it, then perhaps the latter choice will save you some money and still provide professional quality audio.
If you’re looking for a little more information about how an audio mixer can improve your gaming experience, consider reading the next section.
The Best Audio Interface for Streaming
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What about using an audio mixer for gaming?
Audio mixers, whether for gaming or streaming, can greatly improve and declutter your gaming desk.
An audio mixer will provide a tremendous improvement to your vocal quality once paired with an XLR microphone. Audio mixers offer you the opportunity to control and adjust on the fly, the volume levels and quality of the end product.
Most audio mixers will offer you some tuning knobs that can alter and improve the EQ of the sound or music passing through the mixer. Normally, you can tweak bass, mids, and highs by adjusting the tuning knobs until you get the desired output. This is something that USB audio interfaces do not offer, and would be far more time consuming in software mixers like Voicemeeter Banana.
Additionally, there is another major benefit to an audio mixer for your gaming setup, and it keeps all gaming peripherals isolated from the rest of your electronics. This will either represent itself as a decluttered environment on your gaming desk, or you will notice an overall sound quality improvement where you no longer experience electric hum, or sometimes a low volume static that is very common with PC motherboard audio.
This problem is often created because PC motherboards and laptops have their electronics cramped together, and often notice an improvement when isolating and separating your audio equipment from your CPU and GPU.
Audio mixers are designed to handle all the analog inputs without creating this issue, and pass through a clean, crisp, digital signal to your PC for processing with your favorite streaming software.
What about using an audio interface for gaming?
Although less complex and not as robust as an audio mixer, the UBS audio interface will provide much of the same benefits as an audio mixer within the confines of a gaming setup.
Albeit with some caveats.
USB audio interfaces, in most cases will provide one or two XLR microphone inputs, and if you want the same features that an audio mixer provides, you will need additional software called Voicemeeter Banana that acts as a software mixer in its place.
The sound quality of a USB audio interface will likely be the same as the aforementioned audio mixer, however the USB audio interface is far more compact and portable.
You will also not have the expandability of an audio mixer should you want to grow into a dual pc streaming setup. Additionally, connecting and adjusting the sound of gaming consoles to your gaming PC will require additional hardware or Voicemeeter Banana.
This is the unseen cost of going with a USB audio interface over an audio mixer, but for most gamers this shouldn’t pose an issue. It would only become an issue for those wanting to stream their gaming shenanigans to Twitch or YouTube with the express desire to expand their gaming setups.
What happens if you already have an audio interface and are looking to purchase an audio mixer?
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Can you use a mixer with an audio interface?
Although for gaming, there is probably a better solution than whether or not you should connect your audio mixer to a USB audio interface. Most gamers that stream to Twitch and YouTube prefer to upgrade their live streaming setups to an audio mixer with 10+ inputs. However, that is not the solution for everyone.
To connect an audio mixer with your USB audio interface, you will need to follow these steps:
Begin by connecting the audio output of your audio mixer to the audio input of your USB audio interface.
Audio mixer output > USB audio interface input with the use of an 1/4 cable or XLR cable.
Connect the USB audio interface to your gaming PC and confirm the end result meets your needs.
Normally USB audio interfaces will use a USB cable as output or a firewire cable as output. Once you’ve made the physical connection with your gaming PC, you can adjust any final settings with OBS Studio or your preferred live streaming software after step 3.
Perform a sound test to confirm the connection is working.
When performing a quick test to confirm you’re both hearing the output from the USB audio interface, the most important part is to make sure there isn’t peaking. Normally your USB audio interface will have a color coded LED that will inform you when you’re peaking, as this can cause distortion in the resultant sound quality.
That’s basically it, it’s far less complicated than previously thought, and all it comes down to is your desired live streaming and gaming setups.
Frequently asked questions about an audio interface vs mixer: which is best for your gaming setup?
Do I need an audio mixer for streaming?
Do you absolutely require an audio mixer for streaming? No. However, you can greatly benefit from using an audio mixer for streaming.
Here are a few points to consider:
1. Greatly improve the sound quality of your stream
2. Declutter by compartmentalizing all of your streaming peripherals
3. Take greater control of your sound levels with on the fly tuning knobs
4. Audio mixers work flawlessly with OBS Studio
5. The most popular streamers use audio mixers for streaming
You can understand now why so many professional live streamers rely on an audio mixer to handle all of their sound and vocal quality while gaming. Leveraging the power of an audio mixer greatly increases the ease of use for live streaming, and will also impact the sound quality of your streams.
How to connect an audio mixer to OBS?
You can simply and easily connect an audio mixer to OBS Studio without having to follow a complicated product manual or scour forums for an answer.
Try these easy to follow steps:
1. Connect your audio mixer to your streaming PC
2. Open OBS Studio
3. Locate the Sources window within OBS Studio
4. Click on the +(plus) sign to add a new source
5. Select Audio Input Source from the drop down menu
6. Name your new source
7. Select your audio mixer from the drop down menu
8. Press OK
Now you can test your sound levels and make any necessary adjustments prior to launching your stream in OBS Studio.
Do I need an audio interface for live streaming?
You are not required to use a USB audio interface for live streaming, however your live streaming experience will greatly improve by using one.
USB audio interfaces are great for live streaming because you can upgrade to an XLR microphone and have greater sound quality, cleaner audio and these peripherals are guaranteed to work flawlessly within OBS Studio.
Do I need a mixer and an audio interface?
Most name brand, high quality audio mixers will come with a built-in audio interface. Yamaha, Behringer and GoXLR will offer top of the line audio mixers with features to match.
The most popular audio mixers for streaming that come with built-in audio interfaces are as follows:
1. Yamaha mg10xu
2. Behringer Xenyx QX1002USB
3. GoXLR mixer
The benefits of a USB mixer vs audio interface for gaming
The benefits of using an audio mixer or an audio interface will far outweigh the initial investment as a streaming peripheral. Expanding your live streaming setup to include an XLR microphone, audio mixer or a USB audio interface will greatly impact the sound quality and help you to grow your audience and become a professional streamer.
While leveraging the physical peripherals it’s also important to learn about the software side of live streaming. Find the best software for streaming and make sure you know how to stream on Twitch. There are a handful of guides online that will help you configure Voicemeeter Banana and how to incorporate a dual pc streaming setup.
Additionally, if you’re looking for what streaming hardware to select for your needs, check out the definitive guide to streaming equipment for every budget to help you make more informed purchases that meet your needs.