The Best Powered Mixer for Consoles & Box/Racks

powered mixing consoles

Before the popularity of active speakers, the go to PA setup involved getting the best powered mixer paired with passive speakers. This was the especially true for mobile setups, because of how passive speakers were lighter.


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We have a range of guides related to PA systems which you will find helpful:

These days, many prefer pairing a passive mixer with powered speakers because of how easy they are to setup. While other audio engineers stick to the tried and tested powered mixer to passive speakers setup.

Every live sound engineer has their own approach setting up their PA system. In this guide, we’ll focus on helping you get the best powered mixer to drive your passive speakers.

If you’re a soundman who wants to update your existing, permanently installed PA system, our mixer suggestions is perfect for you. This will also be helpful if you simply prefer a more traditional setup with passive speakers.

Passive speakers only carry the essentials and do not have a built-in power amp inside. This is of the reasons why it’s great for go-to mobile setups–passive speakers are light weight.

In the case of multiple speakers, the weight reduction adds up to a significant amount as you use more speakers. An powered speaker inherently weighs more than a passive speaker. This is important for touring musicians and sound system rental providers.

For permanent and semi-permanent audio installations, this setup is also easier to maintain.

Here are the best powered mixer selections based on our combined years of experience here at Gearank, and our up to date market research.

The Best Powered Mixers

Author & Contributors

The Best Powered Mixers Under $500

Rockville RPM45

89
GEARANK
89 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.
$134.95
Rockville
At publication time, this was the Highest Rated Powered Mixer Under $500.

Cons

  • Cooling fan can get loud

Pros

  • High headroom for the size
  • 4 Channels with independent EQ and reverb
  • High-quality enclosure

The RPM45 is a Rockville powered mixer with a lot of clean headroom in a high-quality wooden enclosure.

It features 4 channels with independent bass and treble controls with independent Reverb.

A power rating of 225w x 2 @ 8 Ohms pushes passive speakers with plenty of clean headroom.

Clean gain is important, and the RPM45 has plenty. Even at 90% output, it gets loud enough for small to medium venues.

However, with great power comes great heat production. The cooling fan gets loud, but that should only matter in quiet studio recordings.

The Rockville RPM45 is the best audio mixer option for those with limited budgets. It's a readily available, loud, and clean-powered PA head that is sure to liven up your small gatherings.

Specifications

  • Inputs: 4 x 1/4” TRS inputs, 1 RCA L/R AUX input, 1 1/4” Effect loop input/output
  • Channels: 4
  • Power Rating: 225w x 2 @ 8 Ohm (Parallel mono) (RMS)
  • Phantom power: 4 Channels
  • Equalizer: Treble, Bass (per channel)
  • Outputs: 8-ohm dual 1/4” speaker outputs, 1 RCA L/R Rec output
  • Onboard FX: Echo and Delay
  • Weight: 18Lbs.

Behringer Europower PMP1680S

89
GEARANK
89 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.
$439.00
Behringer

Cons

  • Might not be enough for large venues
  • No input attenuation

Pros

  • Powerful Class D amplification
  • Quiet operation
  • Dual graphic EQ and Multi FX
  • Good amount of jack inputs

The Europower PMP1680S features a loud Class D amplifier with 2 x 300W RMS (1,600W bridged) at 8 ohms. It is part of the popular Behringer Euro Mixer line, which is considered one of the best digital mixers in the entry-level price range.

Even with the power rating, the Class D amplifier itself runs cool and foregoes the need for large heat sinks or loud fans. This Berhringer mixer it does a good job of keeping your audio signal clear and clean.

The PMP1680S also features dual graphic EQs for overall sound sculpting as well as dual multi-fx processors that feature reverb, delay, modulation, and more.

Multiple XLR inputs enable multiple singers or band members to output to FOH. This makes the PMP1680S a good mixer for those who are looking to start a band.

The amount of clean headroom is capable of driving speakers to fill small and medium size venues easily.

For larger venues, however, the power might fall short. Another thing lacking is input attenuation. But it is more than enough to handle the main mix duties in small venues.

The Behringer Europower PMP1680S is a versatile powered mixer with a versatile dual EQ and dual Multi-FX section. If you're looking for a standalone powered mixer for small to medium size venue audio production, this is a great pick. It is also ideal for typical gigs and rehearsals, especially if you need onboard effects like reverb and delay.

Specifications

  • Inputs: 8 x XLR, 4 x TRS, 2 x RCA, 2 x 1/4"
  • Channels: 10
  • Power Rating: 2 x 300W RMS @ 8 ohms
  • Phantom power: 8 x Channels
  • Equalizer: dual 7-Band Graphic EQ
  • Outputs: 2 x speakON, 2 x RCA, 1 x 1/4" (Monitor), 2 x 1/4" (Send), 2 x Post (FX), 1 x Pre (Monitor)
  • Onboard FX: reverbs, echo, chorus, delays, multi-fx
  • Weight: 21.8 lbs. lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube JUST ONE ID10T 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

The Best Audio Mixers Over $500 (Powered)

Yamaha EMX5

91
GEARANK
91 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.
$699.99
Yamaha

Cons

  • Headroom greatly affected by impedance mismatches

Pros

  • Great reliability, good build, and audio quality
  • Complete 3-band EQ per channel
  • Compression and feedback suppression welcome additions
  • Very portable

With this 12-channel, box-type power mixer, Yamaha designed the EMX5 with portability in mind. It sports a 3-band equalizer section per channel (including the stereo channels), a compressor knob on channels 1 to 4, multi-effects, feedback suppression, and more. To drive speakers, this Yamaha power mixer employs a dual 630W (4 ohms) Class D amplifier.

Ruggedness is the name of the game when it comes to the EMX5. The build quality is top-notch and can perform fine from hot beaches to cold winter events. The size makes it easy to transport and set up. The Mic preamps are also quite good and work well with common uses of compact PA systems.

As with all amplifier/speaker matchups, it's important to note that impedance plays a key part in headroom. Mismatched speaker impedance causes lower volumes, and while the Yamaha EMX5 is capable of pushing 2 x 630W at 4 ohms, that figure gets reduced to 460W at 8 ohms.

Among the Yamaha powered mixers, this is a wonder of a unit, portable enough to take around while being full-featured enough to provide more than adequate levels of tweakability. Matching the output impedance to speakers is the key to getting maximum headroom from this unit.

The Yamaha EMX5 is one of the best 12-channel mixer contenders out there, bar none.

Specifications

  • Inputs: 4 x XLR, 4 x XLR-1/4" combo, 4 x 1/4", 2 x stereo RCA, 1 x 1/8" (stereo Line)
  • Channels: 12
  • Power Rating: 2 x 630W @ 4 ohms, 2 x 460W @ 8 ohms
  • Phantom power: 8 Channels
  • Equalizer: 3-Band Graphic EQ
  • Outputs: 2 x speakON-1/4" combo, 2 x 1/4" (main stereo line out), 2 x 1/4" (aux 1, aux2), 1 x stereo RCA (record out)
  • Onboard FX: Reverb, Delay, Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Pitch, Tremolo
  • Faders: 15 x 60mm
  • Weight: 20.9 lbs.

Behringer Europower PMP4000 Powered Mixer

88
GEARANK
88 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.
$509.00
Behringer

Cons

  • Actual program power a bit underwhelming

Pros

  • Affordable and long lasting mixer
  • Cooling fans work really well
  • Has tons of effects

We featured this powered mixer a few years ago and it made it to our top list once more. Behringer has proven time and time again that it's possible to have great gear with great sound at an affordable and accessible price.

The PMP4000 has garnered much praise due to how long it lasts and its great feature set of effects. Thanks to the Class D low-temperature operation amp design, you won't have any overheating issues. The fan at the back is big and effective at cooling the mixer internals.

This powered mixer has 16 channels and a 2 x 300W rated power amplifier section. It will cover small to mid-sized setups from karaoke, and acoustic folk music, to band gigs.

In terms of sound, it got a lot of praise from those who've upgraded from old mixers. It's relatively easy to operate and packs 100 types of reverb, echo, chorus, and delay presets, including a 7-band Graphic EQ and multiple effects.

Many who upgraded from older mixers were impressed with the Europower PMP4000, stating that it improved and simplified much of the soundman’s work.

Clarity and overall sound quality received a lot of commendations, even those that rated it poorly for other reasons cannot help but praise the sound.

Of course, affordable mixers also have some downsides. The most notable complaint 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 who wanted to use the PMP4000 on medium and bigger-sized venues.

Other than that, you will find the Europower PMP4000 mixer to be an inexpensive but valuable arsenal for live sound.

Specifications

  • 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 FX:Over 100 reverbs, echo, chorus, and delay presets.
  • Faders:15 x 60mm
  • Weight:22.9 lbs.

Things to Consider When Buying A Powered Mixer

How Much Power Do I Need?

One key thing to take note when mixing is how big the venue is. Small venues can get away with one or two speakers, so checking these speakers for their power requirement to achieve their optimum operating volume is key.

Bear in mind that it is much better to distribute power and volume across multiple speakers than it is to push fewer speakers to a loud volume. Not only does it stress your speakers, but it also stresses the people directly in front of them!

With soundboards, volume goes hand in hand with dispersion, and your power requirement is then a matter of how many speakers you are going to use to achieve an optimum level of volume controls rather than how loud you want one or two speakers to be. Good dispersion allows you to hear every note or word clearly through the speakers.

For a more technical explanation, check out this Live Sound 101 primer by B & H.

Inputs, Phantom Power and Channels

One of the first things you need to consider when buying a Mixing Board is how many inputs it has. The more input options available, the easier it is to do sound mixing. You can accommodate the different mics, musical instruments (like violin, Saxophones, flutes, etc), and tools of performers. If you're using mics that require Phantom Power, you'll want as many XLR inputs with switchable phantom power to match the number of mics.
The same rule applies to stereo inputs, line inputs, and channel count. More inputs and channels will let you accommodate more sound sources simultaneously. On the flip side, the inputs and channels require more space and components, which translates to added bulk, weight, and cost. So it is recommended to assess your needs prior to buying a soundboard. 16 Channels are enough input for the usual band setup.

Powered vs Passive Mixers

Stage 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 these mixers house the amplifier, all the amp controls are also accessible within the unit. On the other hand, passive mixers like the Zoom Livetrak L-1 require a separate amplifier to work, and along with it, extra cable. They also work with powered speakers. 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. Note that many modern setups utilize passive digital mixing desks, because of their versatility and compatibility with USB and Bluetooth, take this into account if you want to future proof your setup.

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. In addition to EQ, many modern mixers come with high and low cut filters, for complete control over the shape of each channel, subgroup and the entire mix. A good digital mixer will offer you more tone shaping options and and audio interface mode, but they will need a dedicated amplifier, or be paired with powered speakers. Note that having too many of these complex options may be detrimental for beginners. Having good display and LED metering helps in better managing complex setups. Audio Ducking effect is another useful feature to look out for.

Gear Compatibility

Knowing how many phantom powered mics you'll be using is something to seriously consider. You also have to look into the number and types of inputs, built-in effects, SD card recording, and the ability to directly connect to a computer for live show recording if that's what you need. You may need to find the right page in the manual or specs sheet for this, but we've also provided much of the information right here. Another factor is checking to see if your speakers or the speaker you're going to buy have impedances that match the mixer's power. The most common problem caused by impedance mismatching is inefficiency which results in low headroom. Having the necessary ports and controls to monitor via stereo headphones is another important consideration. Some modern digital mixers come with USB connections for direct recording. You can do live recording action with older analog mixers by connecting to a dedicated USB interface (Audio Interface) with USB connectivity.

Desk/Console vs Rackmount Form Factor

Choosing the right form factor boils down to how portable you want your setup to be. For more permanent setups, Desk/Console form factors would be the way to go especially when they have faders. Rackmount or Box units offer the convenience of being able to transport them along with other outboard gear you may have. This doesn't mean Desk/Console form factor mixers aren't portable, but it will depend on how much of your setup is integrated as a system. Rackmount systems with outboard gear in the set up allows fast set up and teardown but often don't have the controls and faders like Desk/Console types. You also have to consider cable, power cord positioning. Software digital mixers paired with rack mount units are very versatile, and ideal for recording studios.

Best Powered Mixer Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016. This latest articles was published on May 23, 2024

For this edition, we looked at powered audio mixers that consistently rank well, including Mixing Desks from Behringer, Allen Heath, Yamaha and more. We ended up with a short-list of 21 models which you can see in the Music Gear Database. We then collated all related ratings, reviews and forum discussions, and fed over 5,600 of them into the Gearank Algorithm. This process gave us the rating scores out of 100 that we used to narrow down the list to the highest rated among them. The result is the list that you see above, separated and sorted according to price ranges. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

The times that I have worked with powered mixers, the ease of setup and teardown were among the first positives to come to mind. That is why I think that the combo isn't going to go out of style just yet. Despite having powered speakers dominate the market, it can get quite logistically challenging to bring several heavy speakers with amplification along. For practicality, the Powered Mixer + Passive Speaker combo still wins for certain situations.

Contributors

Allen Articulon: Co-Writer and Product Research
Alexander Briones: Editing.
Jason Horton: Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of Yamaha and Mackie audio mixing consoles.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

18 thoughts on “The Best Powered Mixer for Consoles & Box/Racks”

  1. I read it some where that we should not use the power mixer to set up with power speaker due to conflict some thing between them and make the power speaker easy blow up after while use them. Is that true? if not then what is best mix between power speaker and mixer?

    1. Powered means that they have an amplifier built-in, so if you send an amplified signal from a powered mixer to a powered speaker which is expecting only a line level signal, then yes you will damage the powered speaker.

      Technically, you could use a line level output from a powered mixer to safely drive a powered speaker, but then you wouldn’t be using the amplifier in the mixer so you’d be paying for an amp you’re not using and you’d have extra weight to lug around.

      For these reasons it’s best to use powered mixers with passive speakers (unpowered) and use unpowered mixers with powered speakers.

      1. If i pick unpower mixer and power speaker and sub speaker, which kind of sub speaker should go with that set? Do i need amplyfier with power sub speaker? Thank you for all your help in past post .

    1. I have interests in the PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 USB. What where the reasons to remove this one? It’s a digital mixer, seems really good for small home studio. Is it outdated? Please let me know, thank you.

    1. Back when we completed the research for this guide, Soundcraft mixers didn’t make it onto our short-list, however a quick look at the current data suggests they will at least be on that list when we next update this guide.

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