Need Advice: Mixer vs. Soundcard

  • Right now all I have by way of connecting my gear to my computer for recording is an old M-Audio Delta 2496 PCI card with one pair of RCA ins. I am getting a little tired of unplugging and re-plugging various cables to switch devices when I use Ableton or Audacity. Here is what I presently have to connect to a WinXP tower:

    1 Epiphone electric guitar
    1 Washburn electric bass
    1 DSI Mopho
    2 Samson cardoid mics
    1 Kaoss Pad
    1 Kaossilator
    1 turntable
    1 MiniDisc recorder
    1 tape deck

    (I don't have amps for the guitars; they are plugged directly into the soundcard via an adapter.)

    From what I have read I don't know if I need a better external soundcard with multiple ins, or if I would be better off with a small mixer that outputs to the soundcard I already have--or just a patch bay? Not looking for pro gear; I'm just a hobbyist. Any advice or equipment suggestions would be welcome.

  • well, a patch bay would just move your cable-switching from the back of your comp to somewhere more accessible. A mixer would probably be your best bet, providing you don't need to record more than 2 mono signals or one stereo signal at a time. You can sum multiple sources together, of course, but it all goes into a max of 2 inputs.

  • @flplsx: I was leaning toward a mixer since I rarely need to record more than one instrument at a time (so far). I'm just not all that familiar with the purpose of a mixer vs. an external audio device in general. When I see photos of other people's set-ups there seems to be a mixer in there somewhere, so I figured it might be a good idea at some point.

    @BlinkyEyes: while my "hobbyist" statement is true, I do like to have top-notch gear when possible. Recent financial setbacks have made large expenditures out of reach, so I'm looking for an affordable solution in the meantime. I generally make tracks for my own consumption, or the occasional MCRP, so signal degradation is less of a concern at the moment.

  • The main difference you're looking at between a mixer and an interface with more inputs would be the number of tracks you can record simultaneously. With your 2496 you have 2 inputs, which could be 2 mono sources, or a stereo source. Plugging a bunch of synths into a mixer and then feeding it to your soundcard will still only yield 2 tracks. If you were to get an interface with 8 ins, you could connect 8 devices and when you hit record you'll get 8 tracks to deal with in your DAW, one for each source.

  • Cool fellas, thanks. I'll keep researching and try to make a decision. Everything is so jury-rigged right now. I've got an old Radio Shack 4x RCA patch bay of sorts (4 pairs in and one pair out) that lets me hook up my Kaoss stuff in switchable fashion, but I am currently plugging the guitars and the MOPHO into the mic input on the KP3 which sucks (the bypass signal in the KP3 blows). And I have one mic that requires phantom power (it was a gift) which I don't currently have. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions. It isn't so much about simultaneous recording as it is being able to plug everything in at once and be able to flip between inputs. That and some phantom power for my current (and future) mics.

    @Blinky: it's that flash of red that gives the eyes an oh-so-slightly sinister vibe. Maybe you can change up with the holidays: pink for St. Valentine's Day, green for St. Patrick's, orange for Halloween...etc.

  • the best of both worlds? i had one of these for a while and i miss it now, there's a lot to be said for real knobs, i have a soundcard now and i miss the strips and simplicity of the nrv


  • ootini why did you get rid of the nrv? Im currently useing a korg zero4 but looking for something different as it lacks an fx loop. Ive never had a problem with korg though as a bunch of people did so maybe i should just stick with it

  • My 2 cents

    I have as firebox which has treated me well so far... really nice unit, sounds great, ruggid, 6 in 8 out


    I have really been thinking lately about maybe replacing it with a mixer. Albeit I will always want to have the small sound card for when I play gigs with a minimal set up, I have been curious to check out club mixers such as the XONE... I'm an intrigued my the idea of have a hardware (or software modelled) EQ and effects outboard...

    We'll see how it turns out :D

  • i got rid of it because it was pretty big on my desk and i didn't like the eq, i also found myself mixing most of the time in software so it was a bit redundant for me just using it as a interface. i miss it though!

  • I would say to at least get a small mixer with phantom power for the mics you have. Maybe a Behringer Eurorack or Xenyx might suit you. This would be easy to transition into a live setup if needed. This would best be used to mic up the amplifiers you have for the guitars and bass and possibly other sounds handclaps, tambourines, maracas, :D

  • I throw my guitar through a LPB 2ube before going directly into the box... makes it sound purty

  • guitars direct in to the sound card? man, you gotta mic them!

  • Unfortunately I don't have an amp :s

  • @str8 et al:

    I will check out the Behringer mixer. I do NEED phantom power to use my mics. Right now when I need to record through a mic I use an old Sony clip-on condenser and it sucks for anything but lo-fi. That's fine sometimes, but being able to get decent sound would be nice.

    I always thought that by going direct with my guitars that I was losing something significant, but it's good to know that that isn't necessarily the case. I'm more of a dabbler with stringed instruments than a real guitarist, but I love playing around with effects and such. An afternoon will vanish in a flash once I start layering guitar sounds over each other. It's rare that these make it to a finished track, but it is a lot of fun.

    As usual the advice and info provided here has been helpful. (Or is that 'have been helpful'? "Advice and info" is plural, right? Sorry, former English majors die hard.) Thanks.

  • one tips: check that the behringer doesn't make to much noise.
    some behringers are really noisy.

  • I'm in a similar situation, so I suggest a:

    Tascam M164UF 16 channel mixer with usb.

    a recently discontinued 16 input board with a few interesting inputs, useless effects, and the ability to spit out 16 simultaneous tracks (2 return) to your PC or Mac DAW via USB2 (not all 16 inputs direct - see below).

    you can get one for $300, possibly less.

    SOS review:

    1-6: XLR / 1/4" Line Jacks
    7/8: 2x 1/4" Line Jacks
    9/10: 2x RCA Stereo Jacks (also has RIAA curve for Turntable)
    11/12: 2x RCA Stereo Jacks (also USB return track)
    13/14:2x 1/4" Line Jacks (can also be used as return for internal FX)
    15/16: 1/8" Mini Jack on the front panel / return channel for internal FX

    Audio channels sent to DAW:
    1-10: Inputs 1-10
    11/12: Aux Send 1/2
    13/14: Sub Mix L/R
    15/16: Main Mix L/R

    channels not being directly recorded (11-16) can be sent easily to the sub mix,main mix, or aux 1 for recording. From what I've read, Inputs 1-10 can still be recorded by the DAW, even without sending the signal to the main or sub stereo bus.

    2x channels are sent back from the DAW to the mixer on channels 11/12.

    Here's the bad

    IMO the 16 effects are pretty much useless without any adjustable parameters.

    The build quality could be better, and the faders look delicate.

    No Inserts or Returns, it does have 2 sends though! (still unsure whether inputs 11-16 can output to the Aux 2 send).

    I don't know how I feel about inputs 15/16 being only a mini 1/8"...

    No hi-impedance inputs for plugging in Guitars/Basses... I have to pick up a DI box one of these days...

    Phantom power is all or nothing on inputs 1-6...

    in all my googling, I couldn't find anything bad in discussion forums, just seems to be an overlooked mixer. It was only released a year and a half ago, so I'm surprised to see them cleared out. (you can pick up a non-usb version of this board for $99 on Musician's Friend...)

  • has anyone seen or used the mackie U.420d mixer? It seems like it might be a sweet spot, but i have never seen one in the live, so don't know how it feels or sounds...

  • I know it is out of budget... but I want one of these sooooo badly

  • @thealphanerd: the A&H stuff looks great but is overkill for me and yes, waaaaay out of reach budget-wise.

    Video = [drool]

  • Don't even get me started on the drooling... the kind of things that mixer could do just makes my head go CRAZY

  • Both the mixer and a multiple input device will allow you to play as a band, or just input many instruments at once. The difference is the interface will allow individual tracks to have live or post editing in ableton, while the mixer will be just that (you obviously can also use effect pedals with the mixer)

    I guess you just have to nail down the sound before it reaches the computer.

    I previously mentioned guitar centers used gear section. You might get an excellent deal in there. If you see something you like, make sure you call and not bother with email as good stuff sells fast.