The sub $100 mixer shootout was created out of a personal desire to find out if any mixers priced less than one-hundred dollars were good enough to recommend to beginner podcasters or those on a smaller
This is actually less shootout and more of a comparison of features amongst four different sub $100 mixers. I selected these four specific mixers for reasons based on the basic needs of podcasters. Each mixer had various features that I wanted to test.
These mixers were sent to me, on loan at my request, from B&H* and I tested them out for 30 days using an iMac and an Edirol audio recorder. Windows users may have a different experience if drivers for the USB options are required but for the most part these a very simple mixers that should work great with most setups.
The first mixer up is the most feature rich of the group. The Q802USB was chosen because it has a USB output along with an auxiliary send (labeled FX Send) as well as Behringer’s premium Xenyx preamps.
Here’s the video review of the Q802USB with a focus on using this mixer for podcasting. [Best viewed in HD]
Here is the audio testing I did with the Q802USB. Mostly just me rambling on for twenty plus minutes as I figure out the best settings for this mixer in my recording environment.
The second mixer up is the Mackie 402VLZ4, chosen for Mackie’s premium Onyx preamps. Although this is the most compact of the mixers with less features, including no aux channel, this is my favorite mixer of the group.
The build quality of the 402 is unmatched. It’s encased in steel and has sealed knobs that help resist dust. This feels like a mixer that will last as long as you do (that remains to be seen however). It also has the best audio meter resolution, employing 8 LEDs to help you get a more accurate gauge of your peak levels.
But, if you are a podcaster that needs an auxiliary channel then this mixer would not be for you. You would have to upgrade to the model above this one at a significant price jump of approximately $100. Still worth it in my opinion but if your budget is less than $100 then you’d want to look at another mixer in this group, perhaps the Mix8 also by Mackie (below).
Here is more audio of me working with this mixer. The preamps in this mixer were, to my ear, the quietest of the group.
The third mixer I chose to test was the Mackie Mix8. I chose this one because it had what the 402VLZ4 did not, an auxiliary channel for performing a mix-minus setup. However, what you lose with the Mix series are Mackie’s Onyx preamps which in the 402VLZ4 sounded best to me.
What that means is you get 10db (50db instead of 60db) less gain on the preamp itself which might be a deal breaker if you are using a microphone that needs that extra 10db (perhaps the Shure SM7B).
However, I was pleasantly surprised that despite not being Onyx and possessing 10db less gain, the preamp sounded almost as good (hard to tell any difference) as the Onyx and it was able to power the same microphones I used in each test (ATR2100 (AT2005 same mic sometimes lower price) and PR40) while reaching almost the same levels. It didn’t feel like I was losing as much as 10db but your results may vary.
That said, this is an excellent if not the best option in the group. You get a high quality preamp, a credit to Mackie’s reputation for making the lesser preamp just about as good as the Onyx. You also get the aforementioned aux send.
Here is me testing the Mix8.
Last and unfortunately least is the Alesis Multimix 4 USB. I chose this mixer because it was an Alesis, a brand I have had success with before and another alternative to Behringer and Mackie. As well, this was another USB mixer.
However, there isn’t much to say about this mixer other than the preamp was noisy and it’s build quality is not impressive. Once I found the preamps to be noticeably noisier than the other three mixers there wasn’t much testing left to do. Don’t pass go, this mixer did not make the cut.
Here is the setup test of the Multimix4 USB.
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