Most podcasters start with basic equipment, often using only a simple USB microphone plugged into a laptop to get their show on the air.
But as your show grows and gains popularity, you need recording equipment that can help provide the professional polish to make your podcast stand out from the crowd.
The question that every podcaster must eventually face is this: is an audio interface or a mixer better for podcasting? While many podcasters use both, each comes with its benefits, and finding out which is the best option for you will help take your show to the next level.
Let’s explore the differences between the two, so you can make an informed decision on which is the best choice for you and your podcast.
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What exactly is an audio interface? Put simply, it’s a device that acts as a middle-man between your microphones and your computer. That allows you to use specialized mics which give you better sound quality than those that use the standard ports your computer has built into it.
An audio interface also allows you to connect two microphones into it at once, so it acts as a sound card. That ability preserves the quality of the audio your microphones are producing and converts the vocals into a digital format. It can also break each recorded voice down into individual tracks, which can then be adjusted for volume and edited once you’ve finished recording.
Audio interfaces are relatively compact, and this makes them a better choice for smaller studios and home recording setups. They’re also a lot more user-friendly than mixers and don’t have the often baffling range of sliders and knobs to try and make sense.
Unlike an audio interface, a mixer allows you to adjust the volume and sound quality while you’re recording and usually has multiple microphone inputs. That means if you’re a podcaster who has several guests on your show at once, involved in any real-time discussion, the mixer is a better choice for you. The ability to adjust sound levels in real-time means you can establish the overall sound level to avoid spikes if things get exciting or heated.
Mixers can be harder to figure out than an audio interface, and often have many sliders and knobs that are used to adjust the sound levels of each microphone. Once you’ve got the hang of this skill, though, making these adjustments soon becomes second nature.
Using a mixer takes a lot of the work out of post-recording editing since your vocals and sound levels are adjusted before you start recording. Unlike an audio interface, a mixer will deliver all of the vocals to your computer as a single track, rather than as individual voice track elements. Thanks to the adjustments made before recording began that gives you a great sounding podcast that needs little-to-no post-recording sound editing.
A mixer can also offer you a level of security that an audio interface cannot, as some models give you the option to insert an SD card. The benefit of an additional SD card is that you have an instant back-up recording. That gives you peace of mind that your show is safe, even if your recording software decides to stop working halfway through your podcast.
Which is better for podcasting?
Ultimately, deciding whether an audio interface or a mixer is better for podcasting will come down to the requirements of your podcast itself. More extensive operations will need equipment that can handle the demands of a bigger show.
Likewise, smaller setups and solo shows won’t have any need for extremely technical equipment when most of the features will likely never be used.
Personal preference will play a significant role when it comes to deciding whether an audio interface or a mixer is better for your podcast. Still, there are a couple of things you need to consider before making your final decision.
We’ve outlined these factors in more detail to help narrow down your search, and to ensure you make the right choice for your podcast.
Number of Inputs
Think about the nature of your podcast. Does your show’s format require multiple microphones, or do you usually only have yourself and one other guest on the show?
Podcasts that have panels of guests or multiple hosts are dependent on higher quality, higher complexity recording. For those, a mixer would be a better choice. That will allow you to get everybody’s sound levels established before the show starts, and will take a lot of work out of editing the show once you’ve finished recording.
If your podcast doesn’t have lots of people talking at the same time or across each other, audio interfaces are the better choice for you. The setup is a lot simpler, and you won’t have to worry about adjusting sound levels before you start recording. They also give you a lot more editing freedom post-recording, which in turn gives you more control over how the finished episode sounds.
Mixers tend to be a lot more expensive and can come with a price tag of up to $700, whereas you will be able to pick up an excellent quality audio interface for as little as $100. So keep your budget in mind when making your choice, and try to weigh up the cost against the benefits.
Overall, an audio interface would be a better choice for anybody, whether new to podcasting or an established podcaster, if you are looking to take the sound quality to the next level but don’t have a lot of guests. An audio interface is also the best option for any show on a budget.
A mixer would be better suited for a more massive show that has multiple hosts and guests and will take a lot of the hard work out of editing by allowing you to adjust and perfect your sound levels ahead of recording.