The Best Audio Mixer Consoles - Powered & Unpowered

Mixing console

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This guide is primarily focused on mixing consoles used for live sound - we will provide a guide to studio mixing consoles at a later time.

The audio mixer is literally the heart of every live performance, where all sounds converge to be processed and blended - and finally pumped out through the speakers. It is where major connections are routed to, and where important parameters are set including volume, EQ adjustments, balancing and many more.

As such, it is a critical piece of gear that should be considered carefully, which is why we are here to help, with our list of the highest rated mixing consoles in the market.

What To Consider When Buying An Audio Mixer For Live Sound

    Inputs, Phantom Power and Channels

    The more input options available, the easier it is to accommodate the different instruments and tools of performers. If you're using mics that require Phantom Power, you'll want as many phantom power equipped channels to match the number of mics. The same rule applies to channels, more channels will let you accommodate more sound sources simultaneously. On the flip side, the inputs and channels require more space and components, which translate to added bulk, weight and cost. So it is recommended to assess your needs prior to buying a mixer. 16 Channels is good enough for the usual band setup.

    Powered vs Passive Mixers

    Powered mixers come with built-in amplifiers, so they perform two tasks simultaneously and allow for an even more streamlined and centralized operation. With these, you don't need a separate amplifier, simplifying setup and reducing potential clutter. Since it houses the amplifier, all the amp controls are also accessible within the unit. Passive mixers on the other hand require a separate amplifier to work, and along with it extra cables. While it does complicate setup, it makes troubleshooting easier since the two units are separated, also reliability is better since there are fewer components within the mixer.

    EQ, Effects and Other Tone Shaping Elements

    EQ settings and effects allow you to make quick fixes and adjustments to the resulting sound, which is important especially in a live performance situation. Note that having too many of these options may be detrimental, in that you may waste too much time setting up.

    Gear Compatibility

    The main compatibility considerations include how many phantom powered mics you'll be using, the number and types of inputs, built-in effects, and the ability to directly connect to a computer for live recording if that's what you need.

Methodology

We looked at powered and passive audio mixers that consistently rank well on various retailers, and collated all related user ratings and expert reviews about them. We then fed all these information into the Gearank algorithm to find which are the very best among them. The result is the list that you see below, divided into Powered and Passive categories for your convenience. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

The Best Powered Mixing Consoles

Here are the best powered mixers in the market today, four of which are desktop console mixers, while the last one is a rack mount style mixer in case you are looking for something in that form factor.

Yamaha EMX5016CF

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1000
Yamaha EMX5016CF Powered Audio Mixer

It's impressive how Yamaha is able to maintain their reputation for quality across their expansive line of products, from instruments to stage gear. Case in point is the Yamaha EMX5016CF powered mixer, with its 16 inputs, expanded tone shaping options and built-in 500 watts per channel power amplifier. It comes with a wide variety of features including a 9-band graphic main EQ, an onboard sonic maximizer effect and a nifty feedback suppressor.

Features:

  • Inputs: 12 x XLR, 16 x TRS
  • Channels: 16
  • Power Rating: 2 x 500W @4 Ohms
  • Phantom power: 12 Channels
  • Equalizer: 9-Band Graphic EQ (Main), 3-band Sweepable per Channel
  • Outputs: 2 x TRS", 2 x speakON, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA (Rec), 1 x 1/4" (Monitor)
  • Onboard SPX effects
  • Weight: 24.3 lbs.

Pros

The general consensus is that this powered mixer is exceptionally good, providing clear sounds that are supported by complementary features that do not complicate control. An expert reviewer mentioned the mixer's impressive room calibration and correction system, which can be done using a mic plugged in channel 1, quite nifty especially for those who are new to handling mixers. Other positive mentions include the 9-band graphic EQ, the one knob compressor and the feedback compressor, all of which have helped many users in getting the sound right and keeping it right.

Cons

There's aren't many complaints, aside from some nitpicking. There was an experienced user who didn't like the idea of a built-in compressor, and the same user also want the flexibility offered by a separate power amplifier.

Overall

To summarize the overall sentiments of reviewers, I'll quote one user: "Excellent little powered mixer. Easy to setup and use".

Peavey XR1220

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1200
Peavey XR1220 Powered Mixer

There's no denying that Peavey has won the confidence of many with their reliable music gear, so it's not surprising to find that many patronize their products - including the XR1220 Powered Mixer. This lightweight mixer packs quite a lot of bang per pound, weighing in at just 25 lbs, it sports 20 channels and a host of complementary features that make it a viable workhorse mixer and poweramp unit for small to medium sized venues.

Features:

  • Inputs: 20 x XLR, 18 x 1/4" (Ch 1-18), 2 x 1/4" (CH 19 Stereo), 2 x RCA (CH 20 Stereo), 1 x 1/8" (MP3)
  • Channels: 20
  • Power Rating: 2 x 600W @4 Ohms
  • Phantom power: 20 Channels
  • Equalizer: 4-band (CH 1-18), 3-band (CH 19-20) (Channel), 9-band Graphic (Amp 1), 9-band Graphic (Amp 2)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Mono), 4 x speakON (Mon 1, 2), 2 x RCA (Tape), 1 x 1/4" headphones out.
  • Faders: 25 x 60mm
  • Built-in Effects
  • Weight: 25 lbs.

Pros

From small acoustic groups to full-on bands with miked drums, many reviewers found the XR1220 more than satisfactory. Users have reported using it for clubs and churches, and some even use it for their studios, which is a testimony to its overall sound quality and control. Also note worthy is how many customer reviews praised the mixer's intuitiveness, stating that it is very easy to setup and configure, and that they had it running in no time.

Cons

The ratings for this mixer would've been higher if not for some negative scores due to shipping issues, there are also some who reported finding defects out of the box. Thankfully these are rare, and can be resolved via warranty. There were also those who found the power amp section lacking for their bigger venues.

Overall

If you're looking for a reliable powered mixer that you can carry around for mobile musical productions, then this one is just for you.

Behringer Europower PMP4000

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
Behringer Europower PMP4000 Powered Audio Mixer

Behringer endeared themselves to many by making quality workhorse music equipment more accessible and affordable. Case in point is the Europower PMP4000, a popular powered mixer with 16 channels and 2 x 300W rated power amplifier section which feature their Class D (low temperature operation) amp design. Much like most of their products, this one comes packed with a hefty amount of bells and whistles, including a 7-band Graphic EQ and multiple effects.

Features:

  • Inputs: 4 x 1/4" (Stereo Pairs), 1 x RCA (Stereo Pair), 6 x Phono
  • Channels: 16
  • Power Rating: 2 x 300W @ 8 ohms
  • Phantom power: 8 Channels
  • Equalizer: 7-Band Graphic EQ
  • Outputs: 6 x TRS, 2 x RCA Tape, 1/4" Headphones
  • Onboard 24-bit effects
  • Faders: 15 x 60mm
  • Weight: 22.9 lbs.

Pros

Many users who have upgraded from older mixers were impressed with the Europower PMP4000, stating that it really improved and simplified much of the soundman's work. The majority of customers who reviewed it were also impressed with the clarity and overall sound of the mixer, even those that rated it poorly cannot help but praise the sound. From karaoke to band gigs, many have put this mixer to good use without many problems.

Cons

The most notable complaint about this mixer is that the marketing material, and some online stores, specify the peak power rating of 800W per channel. This led to some users finding the actual program power to be underwhelming, specifically, those that wanted to use the PMP4000 on medium and bigger sized venues.

Overall

The Behringer Eurpower PMP4000 is highly recommended if you need an all-in-one mixer + amplifier solution for a small venues.

Mackie PPM1012

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1100
Mackie PPM1012 Powered Audio Mixer

Mackie is well known in the live sound enforcement industry for providing quality equipment at accessible price points. As expected, their mixers are well received, including the PPM1012 which we feature in this list. This lightweight mixer comes with a 500-watt RMS power amp that can drive both main speakers and monitors, providing an all-in one solution for small to medium sized venues with its 12 total channels and complementary features.

Features:

  • Inputs: 8 x XLR, 10 x TRS, 2x RCA
  • Channels: 12
  • Power Rating: 2 x 800W (Peak) @ 8 Ohms
  • Phantom power: 8 Channels
  • Equalizer: 3-Band Sweepable, 4-band(Stereo) 7-band(Main), 7-Band Graphic (Monitor)
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x speakON, 2 x 1/4", 2 x TRS, 1 x XLR Mono
  • Global Compressor built-in
  • Faders: 15 x 60mm
  • Weight: 29 lbs.

Pros

The most common positive remark for the PPM1012 is its value for money, because it can do quite a lot for its cost. And the sound quality is also very good, with most reviewers giving their favorable thumbs up and recommendations. The power amp section is also well received by many, for the projection and volume that it can deliver. There was even a reviewer that used this mixer for a 350 seat auditorium and found it exceeding his expectations.

Cons

Of the few negative comments, the common complaint is regarding its power, or lack there-of. It may have something to do with the specs mentioning the max power of 1600W, when in reality, it has 250W RMS per side at 8ohms. Some found this power lacking especially for medium to big venues, so they ended up getting an extra power amp.

Overall

If you're looking for a powered mixer for a small to medium sized indoor venues, then you might want to check this one out.

Yamaha EMX512SC

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Yamaha EMX512SC Powered Audio Mixer

The EMX512SC is Yamaha's second entry into the powered mixer list, and it is the only one here with a rack-mount form factor. It is essentially similar to the console version, providing the same preamp quality and control features, while offering the portability and reliability of a rackmount amplifier. Features include having 12 mixer channels, 2 500W amp channels, and a number of EQ and tone shaping options.

Features:

  • Inputs: 8 x XLR, 8 x 1/4", 4 x RCA
  • Channels: 12
  • Power Rating: 2 x 500W @4 Ohms
  • Phantom power: 8 Channels
  • Equalizer: 3-Band (Channels, 7-band Graphic (Main), 7-band Graphic (Monitor)
  • Outputs: 2 x 1/4", 2 x speakON, 2 x 1/4", 2 x RCA (Rec), 1 x 1/4" (Monitor)
  • 1-knob compressor on all mono channels
  • Onboard SPX effects
  • Weight: 22 lbs.

Pros

The majority of users are very much impressed with the sound that's coming out of this portable powered, especially for its weight, and they also comment on how sturdy the unit is, including the knobs and buttons. And many also appreciate the unit's built-in effects, gaining the approval of experts who normally dislike extra features. To summarize majority of the customer reviews, the EMX512SC sounds and operates really well, with the added bonus of convenience and portability.

Cons

There were some who complained about the power amp section's lack of volume, which seems to be a trend with powered mixers - mainly because users expect a much louder output. There were a few who complained about the plastic exterior being brittle and cracking at the edges, the rubber feet being easily detached was also mentioned by one user. Thankfully, both concerns are addressed by proper care and handling.

Overall

If you're looking for a rack style portable mixer with built-in power amplifier then the Yamaha EMX512SC is your best option.

The Best Unpowered Mixing Consoles

These are traditional mixers that work with an external amplifier, covering both the latest digital consoles and analog console mixers. Incidentally, digital mixers are mostly rated higher than analog mixers.

Behringer X32

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$2000
Behringer X32 Digital Mixer

The popularity of the Behringer X32 is a testament to the company's ever growing presence in the sound reinforcement market. This passive digital mixer can do almost anything, packed with every bit of relevant technology that the company has available, including Midas designed mic preamps, 40 processing channels and 16 mix buses. The unit's built-in effects, and other sound sculpting features are like icing on an already impressive cake.

Features:

  • Inputs: 32 x XLR, 2 x RCA (Aux), 6 x 1/4" TRS (Aux), 2 x AES50, 32 x USB
  • Channels: 40
  • Phantom power: 32 Channels
  • Equalizer: 4-band Parametric (6-band on Mix Bus)
  • Outputs: 16 x XLR, 1 x AES/EBU, 2 x RCA (Aux), 6 x 1/4" TRS (Aux), 1 x AES/EBU (XLR), 32 x USB, 2 x AES50 (32 via Optional Digital Snake)
  • Faders: Motorized 25 x 100mm
  • Built-in effects
  • Weight: 45.4 lbs.

Pros

Most of the users who bought the Behringer X32 mixers found themselves in awe of what it can do, and consider it as a true upgrade from analog to digital. Most of the users the gave it positive ratings mentioned using the X32 successfully in churches, auditoriums and other medium to large venues. Experienced users and experts found the unit's expansive
connectivity options to be favorable and a great selling point, which when combined with digital "scene" management, allows for complex setups with intuitive and quick adjustments.

Cons

There aren't that many specific complaints, other than the rare shipping issues and DOA (dead on arrival) problems.

Overall

This is easily the best digital mixer in the market today, especially when considering its price point. For churches, auditoriums, other big venues and even studios, the Behringer X32 is highly recommended.

QSC TouchMix-16

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1299
QSC TouchMix-16

QSC is better known for their line of loud speakers, but they also excel in other PA related products, including mixers. The TouchMix-16 exemplifies how they excel in the mixer market, specifically designed for portability and ease of use without compromising sound quality, connectivity, and control depth. At just 5.9 lbs, this mixer is many times lighter than others with the same amount of channels, and it offers modern features that include a touch screen interface for controlling the faders.

Features:

  • Inputs: 4 x Combo (XLR & 1/4"), 12 x XLR, 2 x 1/4" TRS
  • Channels: 20
  • Phantom power: 16 Channels
  • Equalizer: 4-Band EQ Per Channel, 1/3-octave Graphic
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 1/4", 6 x XLR (aux), 2 x 1/4" TRS (stereo aux out), 2 x USB (One for Wifi Adapter), 2 x 1/4" Headphones out
  • Onboard Effects include Chorus, Reverb, Pitch Correction, Delay and Echo.
  • Weight: 5.9 lbs.

Pros

With up to 20 channels, the QSC TouchMix-16 offers impressive value and features per pound, something that many reviewers specifically mentioned. And it's not just limited to connectivity and features, because the sound quality itself got a lot of thumbs up from experts and other users. Most who have used the unit say this is easily the best compact 20-channel mixer in the market today.

Cons

There's not a lot of specific complaints other than the expected shipping and factory defect issues.

Overall

The QSC TouchMix-16 is the best choice if you're looking for a portable mixer that does not skimp on quality and depth.

Allen & Heath Qu-16

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1999
Allen & Heath Qu-16 Digital Mixer

Allen & Heath made a name for itself by building a special mixing console for Pink Floyd back in the early '70s. They have since expanded into a big name manufacturer who also pioneered small mixers. So it's not surprising to see them included in this list with the Qu-16, a 16 channel mixer with built-in effects and a nifty top-rack mountable design for easy storage and transport.

Features:

  • Inputs: 16 x XLR, 16 x TRS, 4 x 1/4" (2 stereo in), 1 x 1/8" TRS (stereo in), 1 x Ethernet dSnake, 1 x USB Type A
  • Channels: 16
  • Phantom power: 16 Channels
  • Equalizer: Parametric EQ, 28-band graphic EQ
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR (Main), 2 x 1/4" (2 track out), 2 x 1/4" (alt out), 4 x XLR (mono mix outs), 3 x XLR pairs (stereo mix outs), 1 x Ethernet dSnake, 1 x XLR AES, 1 x USB Type A
  • Onboard Effects include Chorus, Reverb, Pitch Correction, Delay and Echo.
  • Faders: 16 x 100mm channels, 1 x 100mm master
  • Built-in effects
  • Rackmountable form factor
  • Weight: 22 lbs.

Pros

For a digital mixer, the Qu-16 got more positive mentions of its analog components, specifically its great sounding mic preamps. Almost every reviewer agrees that it sounds great for a wide variety of music applications, and many also commended its practical extra features including virtual soundcheck, EQ, effects and compression. Many also find the recording feature to be of great quality, and has been using the unit for live recording with great results.

Cons

There are users who reported that the learning curve for this digital mixer is a bit deep, but the rewards are well worth the extra time spent reading the manual and trying out different settings.

Overall

If you're looking for a great sounding mixing console desk that's rack mountable, or if you're looking for more control over your PA system via digital means, then check this one out.

PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$900
PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 Digital Audio Mixer

Presonus, who is known for their music production software, have successfully infiltrated the mixing console market with the StudioLive 16.0.2 digital mixer. As the name implies, this mixer is designed to address the needs of both studio recording and live performances, having 16 channels, extensive EQ controls and Firewire computer connectivity. And what makes this mixer even more appealing is its reasonable price tag, allowing more musicians and sound engineers access to a true workhorse mixer at a lower price point.

Features:

  • 13 XMAX Class A Mic preamps
  • Inputs: 12 x XLR, 15 x TRS, 4 x RCA, 1 x XLR Talkback Mic
  • Channels: 16
  • Phantom power: 16 Channels
  • Equalizer: 3-Band EQ per Channel, 31-band Graphic EQ on Main
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 1 x XLR Mono, 2 x TRS, 4 x TRS(Aux), 2 x TRS(Monitor), TRS Headphones
  • Firewire Computer Connectivity
  • Onboard effects
  • Weight: 20 lbs.

Pros

Users have reported successfully implementing the PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 in campuses, churches, clubs and recording studios. And majority of them found the mixer to exceed their expectations, especially when considering its price tag. While its main strength is its convenient integration with music production software, the mixer also shines in live performances as attested to by musicians, studio owners, sound engineers and production managers - many of which took the time to rate the mixer highly and recommend it to everyone else.

Cons

There are some who complain about StudioLive's network connectivity, or the lack there-of. This concern is quite valid in this age of Bluetooth streaming. Still, it is understandable for PreSonus to skip on this feature, especially if simplification is their priority, or if they want to avoid the numerous problems that network connectivity tend to bring into the equation.

Overall

The PreSonus StudioLive is highly recommended if you're also looking for a mixing console for both recording and live performance.

Mackie ProFX16v2

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$450
Mackie ProFX16v2 Audio Mixer

The Mackie ProFX 16v2 is the most affordable analog mixer to make it to this list, with essential features that include having 16 channels, multiple input options including a footswitch connection and 7-band graphic EQ. This is essentially the budget friendly alternative to the other mixers listed here, only this one is not streamlined - rather it packs quite a lot of extras including 16 mixer friendly effects and USB connectivity.

Features:

  • 10 Mackie Vita Mic Preamps
  • Inputs: 10 x XLR, 12 x TRS", 1 x RCA, 1 x TRS (Footswitch)
  • Channels: 16
  • Phantom power: 10 Channels
  • Equalizer: 7-Band Graphic EQ
  • Outputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x TRS, 1 x RCA, 1 x TRS Headphones
  • USB connectivity
  • Faders: 17 x 60mm Throw
  • Built-in 16 effects
  • Weight: 13 lbs.

Pros

Most of the reviews highlight how good the ProFX16v2 sounds, due to the Vita mic preamps that Mackie implemented. Some reviewers even tout it as the best mixer for small venues, and they maybe right considering that it is also priced quite nicely. And speaking of the price, many are happy with the return of investment they got from this mixer.

Cons

There were a few reviews that complained about the learning curve required to get the effects applied properly, but those who were able to do so found the effects to be quite good. There are also some who commented that the interface has a monotonous look which have caused them to make adjustments on wrong channels.

Overall

Even with its higher learning curve, this affordable analog mixer is well worth the effort, especially when you consider the amount of money you can save.

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