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Old 12-15-2019, 09:48 PM
Zandit75 Zandit75 is offline
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Default Recommended Small Mixers

I'm doing some research towards a new PA system for solo work, and at this stage, the Maui 28 G2 is leading the pack for me based on feedback from friends currently using the system, cost, and ease of use.
To future proof myself, I want to add a small mixer with 4-6 fully EQ-able channels in case I have someone else jump up on stage with me.
Right now, it's my guitar into a Zoom AC3 into a Boss Acoustic Singer Pro, and a Shure SM58 vocal mic into the same amp.
This works well enough at local markets etc, but if I'm playing at a restaurant or similar sized venue, I'll need something more robust to project the sound to the further reaches of the room.
I'm actually surprised at the range of prices available, especially how cheap some brands are like Behringer, which I seemed to always think was a high end brand(I may be way off here!).

So, questionwise, what should I be looking at?
On board reverb or other FX options?
XLR inputs on all channels? Does that even matter?
Analogue or Digital? What's the difference?
Why do some mixers have individual inputs on all channels, and others seem to have individual inputs for only channels 1&2, but combined channels for 3/4 & 5/6?

Any and all inputs would be appreciated!
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Old 12-15-2019, 10:52 PM
Chipotle Chipotle is offline
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I just went through the whole research and shopping thing for a small PA including mixer. Most gigging solo but, like you, I wanted to be able to handle adding a few friends if need be. Other wants of mine: reverb or other effects for vocals (guitar(s), at least mine, handled by pedalboard), and I like the idea of being able to record right off the board easily.

To answer your questions first:
FX: Up to you, but if all the FX are on your pedals you won't have any for guests. I like being able to reverb (or delay or chorus or whatever) any signal if necessary.

XLR inputs: really doesn't matter if you are DI-ing instruments. Some mixers have (one or two) Hi-Z inputs if you want to run guitars/basses straight in. If you have line-level instruments (guitar effect outputs, keys, etc.) then you'd need to have some DI boxes if the mixer only has XLRs. Combi jacks can be nice to have.

Digital v analog: Digital is far more powerful in a small package. Usually more inputs/outputs, routing, flexibility and power than similarly-priced analog gear. Downside is having to punch through menus and not having knobs right at hand.

Stereo channels: Most mixers have a few stereo or aux inputs that bump the advertised channel count even though they aren't as useful for instruments. Typical use is for recorded music playback; might also be useful for stereo keyboards that don't need EQ or FX. It's more obvious on smaller mixers that only have few full channel strips even though they might advertise 6 or 8 channels.

On to my opinions. I went digital. I got amazing power and flexibility, as well as the ability to record separate channels live to a laptop for later mixdown, and a great set of on-board effects. I can also run it off a tablet, which is mounted right on my mic stand. Tweaking things might take a couple extra taps, but it's really not that inconvenient and wireless control is amazing. All in a package the size of a large loaf of bread that sits discreetly at the back of the stage and cost just $500.

I ended up with the Behringer XR18 (18 in--16 XLR, 1 1/4" stereo, 6 out, virtual FX "rack" with 4 effects, controlled by phone, tablet or PC, and also is an 18x18 USB audio interface). Behringer used to actually be known for very inexpensive, lower-quality stuff, but recently have upped their game. They bought Midas, a high-end company, and have started to use Midas tech in their Behringer mixer lines. I decided I'd rather "buy once, cry once". The XR18 is totally overkill for a solo show, but wasn't that much more expensive than a small analog mixer, and I'm pretty much set for any eventuality up to mixing a full band if need be.

Really, it comes down to features you want and your budget. Pretty much every mixer out there (Behringer, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Yamaha) will have decent if not very good mic preamps and quiet circuitry, so the average person wouldn't know the difference in a live setting.

Features you should decide on:
1. Physical knobs or not? This is the big differentiator between analog & digital. If you don't mind a few extra taps/menus and like the idea of wireless mixing from anywhere in the house, go digital. If you gotta have that knob right there at hand, analog.
2. Number of channels. As you noted, not all channels are equal. Consider how many mics you might need (not all channels have mic preamps) and how many instruments. Get that many, plus a few more, with full channel strips & ignore the advertised number of channels.
3. FX. If you provide FX elsewhere, you may not need them on the mixer.
4. Number of outputs. Will you need monitors? More than one monitor mix? Will you need a send for outboard effects? Ever plan to use an aux send for a subwoofer? A lot of small boards might just have one send which limits you to one monitor mix, ever.
5. Size and weight. This is another area the digital mixers win, given similar number of channels. Tablets & screens take the place of all those heavy knobs & faders. If you want, say, 6 full channels, you're looking at an analog mixer that starts to take up a good chunk of tabletop.
6. Recording capability. May not be a need for you, but there are even a few mostly analog mixers that have USB ports and can record the main bus outputs (stereo). I like to not only be able to record & critique my performances, but re-mix later. It's a nice feature to have, given all the shows from back in the day I wish I had a recording of.

Whew. I'll stop there and let others chime in.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:19 AM
MikeBmusic MikeBmusic is offline
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Good guide from Chipotle above.

Behringer analog mixtures are the bottom tier of price/quality. (not so for their digital models, though). For analog, look at Allen + Heath and Soundcraft for build quality and durability (I've been using a Mackie for many years with no issues yet, knock on wood!)

As to # of channels, how many is the MOST number of other players & mics you anticipate ever having? This will determine how many single channels you'll need. Most current mixers have combo XLR/1/4" inputs that can handle mics or instruments (that have preamps). If you have anyone who could plug in an instrument with no preamp/battery power, you will need a DI box, although many mixers have at least one input that can be switched over to provide an extra preamp boost for those.
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Old 12-16-2019, 06:19 PM
GuildF20Guy GuildF20Guy is offline
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Can never go wrong with Yamaha. MG10XUF.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:49 PM
j3ffr0 j3ffr0 is offline
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I went with a zoom livemix 12 and two EON610s. Of course it is a more capable mixer than the Maui 28 G2 -- it is not a line away. The semi-parametric sweepable mid is a must for me. The digital reverb is nice, but I don't use much of it. I need a minim of 3 independent channels... and often more than that. I'm really happy with the mixer for it's price/size.

The EON610s are good speakers... very different than a line array... perhaps more volume, but less tuned for what acoustic players do. However, I really like the 3-band built in parametric EQ (via bluetooth), and now I have these things pretty well dialed in. Great rig for me... comparable in price to the Maui 28G2. It is more capable and flexible at the expense of a slightly more set up time.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:44 PM
roylor4 roylor4 is online now
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Soundcraft & Yamaha would be my choice for mixers. I prefer analog.

XLR inputs used with a DI are inherently less noisy than a 1/4" in, but more hassle that way too.

If all you need is a line and a mic in, why buy a mixer? The 28 has both as combi inputs? Especially if you have pedals in between that give you the effects you want...
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:45 PM
Zandit75 Zandit75 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roylor4 View Post
Soundcraft & Yamaha would be my choice for mixers. I prefer analog.



XLR inputs used with a DI are inherently less noisy than a 1/4" in, but more hassle that way too.



If all you need is a line and a mic in, why buy a mixer? The 28 has both as combi inputs? Especially if you have pedals in between that give you the effects you want...
Merely for expansion options. If I have someone performing with me, which is certainly not out of the question, we can have separate settings and either play together or separately without interference.
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:46 PM
Zandit75 Zandit75 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildF20Guy View Post
Can never go wrong with Yamaha. MG10XUF.
I've been looking at this unit for the last couple of hours.
Looks great, but then I'm also looking at the slightly more basic version without the faders. Saves me about $80AUD.
What's the advantage of having faders?
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2015 Ibanez AEL108MD-NT - Laminated Spruce top, Laminated Mahogany B&S, Fishman Sonicore Pickup SOLD
2018 Custom Built OM - Silver Quandong Top, Aussie Blackwood B&S, Fishman Matrix Infinity Mic Blend Pickup


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Last edited by Zandit75; 12-16-2019 at 09:54 PM.
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  #9  
Old 12-16-2019, 09:53 PM
Zandit75 Zandit75 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j3ffr0 View Post
I went with a zoom livemix 12 and two EON610s. Of course it is a more capable mixer than the Maui 28 G2 -- it is not a line away. The semi-parametric sweepable mid is a must for me. The digital reverb is nice, but I don't use much of it. I need a minim of 3 independent channels... and often more than that. I'm really happy with the mixer for it's price/size.

The EON610s are good speakers... very different than a line array... perhaps more volume, but less tuned for what acoustic players do. However, I really like the 3-band built in parametric EQ (via bluetooth), and now I have these things pretty well dialed in. Great rig for me... comparable in price to the Maui 28G2. It is more capable and flexible at the expense of a slightly more set up time.
Thanks for chiming in. That Zoom unit is pretty expensive here in Australia. Looking at the same set up that you have, it'd be more expensive overall, by about 20%.
Do the speakers come with stands, or would that be additional as well?
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  #10  
Old 12-16-2019, 10:06 PM
Chipotle Chipotle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandit75 View Post
What's the advantage of having faders?
Faders are easier to see (tell the setting at a glance) and work well when the mixer is set flat, at the expense of adding some size (and, well, expense!). If you don't care so much or are going to rack-mount the thing, you can go with the knobs.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:32 PM
Oregon Donor Oregon Donor is offline
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Soundcraft makes a nice little compact mixer, the Notepad 12Fx, and I believe it's under $200 new. The effects bus and aux bus are both routed in a way that's kind of strange, but it has nice preamps and it's design is solid. 4 combi XLR/1/4" channels, two stereo 1/4" channels that can be used as mono, and some other features. The effects aren't fancy but the reverb is serviceable if that's all you really need.
I actually like it better, soundwise, than the larger Soundcraft Signature 10. That mixer turned out to be a huge disappointment.

While I like the Notepad, I plan to spring for the Allen & Heath Zed10fx--the consensus around here and other places seems to be that it's the best small format analog mixer, but its price point reflects that relative to, say, the Notepad.
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Old 12-16-2019, 10:32 PM
Zandit75 Zandit75 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chipotle View Post
I just went through the whole research and shopping thing for a small PA including mixer. Most gigging solo but, like you, I wanted to be able to handle adding a few friends if need be. Other wants of mine: reverb or other effects for vocals (guitar(s), at least mine, handled by pedalboard), and I like the idea of being able to record right off the board easily.

To answer your questions first:
FX: Up to you, but if all the FX are on your pedals you won't have any for guests. I like being able to reverb (or delay or chorus or whatever) any signal if necessary.

XLR inputs: really doesn't matter if you are DI-ing instruments. Some mixers have (one or two) Hi-Z inputs if you want to run guitars/basses straight in. If you have line-level instruments (guitar effect outputs, keys, etc.) then you'd need to have some DI boxes if the mixer only has XLRs. Combi jacks can be nice to have.

Digital v analog: Digital is far more powerful in a small package. Usually more inputs/outputs, routing, flexibility and power than similarly-priced analog gear. Downside is having to punch through menus and not having knobs right at hand.

Stereo channels: Most mixers have a few stereo or aux inputs that bump the advertised channel count even though they aren't as useful for instruments. Typical use is for recorded music playback; might also be useful for stereo keyboards that don't need EQ or FX. It's more obvious on smaller mixers that only have few full channel strips even though they might advertise 6 or 8 channels.

On to my opinions. I went digital. I got amazing power and flexibility, as well as the ability to record separate channels live to a laptop for later mixdown, and a great set of on-board effects. I can also run it off a tablet, which is mounted right on my mic stand. Tweaking things might take a couple extra taps, but it's really not that inconvenient and wireless control is amazing. All in a package the size of a large loaf of bread that sits discreetly at the back of the stage and cost just $500.

I ended up with the Behringer XR18 (18 in--16 XLR, 1 1/4" stereo, 6 out, virtual FX "rack" with 4 effects, controlled by phone, tablet or PC, and also is an 18x18 USB audio interface). Behringer used to actually be known for very inexpensive, lower-quality stuff, but recently have upped their game. They bought Midas, a high-end company, and have started to use Midas tech in their Behringer mixer lines. I decided I'd rather "buy once, cry once". The XR18 is totally overkill for a solo show, but wasn't that much more expensive than a small analog mixer, and I'm pretty much set for any eventuality up to mixing a full band if need be.

Really, it comes down to features you want and your budget. Pretty much every mixer out there (Behringer, Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Yamaha) will have decent if not very good mic preamps and quiet circuitry, so the average person wouldn't know the difference in a live setting.

Features you should decide on:
1. Physical knobs or not? This is the big differentiator between analog & digital. If you don't mind a few extra taps/menus and like the idea of wireless mixing from anywhere in the house, go digital. If you gotta have that knob right there at hand, analog.
2. Number of channels. As you noted, not all channels are equal. Consider how many mics you might need (not all channels have mic preamps) and how many instruments. Get that many, plus a few more, with full channel strips & ignore the advertised number of channels.
3. FX. If you provide FX elsewhere, you may not need them on the mixer.
4. Number of outputs. Will you need monitors? More than one monitor mix? Will you need a send for outboard effects? Ever plan to use an aux send for a subwoofer? A lot of small boards might just have one send which limits you to one monitor mix, ever.
5. Size and weight. This is another area the digital mixers win, given similar number of channels. Tablets & screens take the place of all those heavy knobs & faders. If you want, say, 6 full channels, you're looking at an analog mixer that starts to take up a good chunk of tabletop.
6. Recording capability. May not be a need for you, but there are even a few mostly analog mixers that have USB ports and can record the main bus outputs (stereo). I like to not only be able to record & critique my performances, but re-mix later. It's a nice feature to have, given all the shows from back in the day I wish I had a recording of.

Whew. I'll stop there and let others chime in.
Thank you so much for your input Chipotle, most appreciated.
That's a lot of info, very well laid out, and very understandable.
To expand further:
FX, needed primarily for vocals, as per my original post, the guitar FX are covered by the Zoom AC-3 pedal. Vocals are purely from a microphone, however the Boss Amp has built in basic harmonies & Reverb if needed.
I'm looking at the LD Systems Maui 28 G2 Linear array PA, which has individually adjustable subwoofer from the tower(Volume at least). As it would theoretically sit behind me, it would double as my own monitor, so those added features are probably not needed at this point.
Thanks again for chipping in. Any further comments are well welcomed!!
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Old 12-16-2019, 11:49 PM
larren larren is offline
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G'day Zandit, I'm a long time Yamaha user, but have recently changed over to Soundcraft (my accountant told me to buy some new gear). I have a Notepad 12FX, Signature 12, and Signature 16. I've found the newer Yamaha preamps to be quite harsh and "brittle" sounding. The older Yammys were fine, but I don't like the new models.

If you can stretch the budget a bit, I would recommend the Soundcraft Signature 10, as it has sweepable mids, and a heap of nice features including very good effects, but the Notepad 12FX is very good too.

As I tell my wife often, Sir Henry Royce said, "Quality remains long after the price is forgotten".
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Old 12-17-2019, 05:25 AM
leew3 leew3 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildF20Guy View Post
Can never go wrong with Yamaha. MG10XUF.
+1 for this recommendation. I have used this for our duo, though since I use 3-4 inputs, it's limited in that application. I plan on using it into a Bose S1 for just my side of the duo. In the course of the night I play a 6 and 12 string acoustic and mandolin in addition to vocals.
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Old 12-17-2019, 07:48 AM
roylor4 roylor4 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandit75 View Post
Merely for expansion options. If I have someone performing with me, which is certainly not out of the question, we can have separate settings and either play together or separately without interference.
Gotcha.

If you want small footprint, a Soundcraft Notepad. If not, a Soundcraft EFX.

If you get the larger board, make sure to budget for a mixer bag. The notepad would fit in a backpack, but the larger ones will need their own case - electronics hate rain.
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