In an ideal world, streamers would just plug their microphone into their PC and be ready to record amazing vocals. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that if you want your audio to be top-notch quality. This is why many use audio mixers for their twitch streaming.
Actually, most microphones nowadays that are worth their salt require an additional step on their way into your PC; a mixer or processor.
When on the lookout for a new mixer or processor there is a myriad of confusing options. In this article, we’ll break down why you need them, what they are and which ones you should spend your money on!
Best audio mixers for streaming on Twitch:
- Behringer Xenyx 1002 (The Best Budget Mixer for Twitch)
- Alto Professional ZMX122FX (The Best All Round Mixer)
- Allen & Heath ZED10FX (The Best Expensive Mixer)
Best audio processors for streaming on Twitch:
- Behringer UMC22 (The Best Budget Processor)
- MOTU M2 (The Best All-Round Processor)
- Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 (The Best Expensive Processor)
Why Do You Need a Mixer or Preamp Processor?
You could easily go out today and purchase a microphone that runs straight into your PC and does the job, but would it really sound enticing to your viewers? No. In all likelihood, it would sound grainy with a TONNE of background noise.
For the most part, XLR microphones are the way to go for modern-day streaming. These microphones cannot function properly off of the power that your MIC IN input supplies and need an additional ‘box’ which is connected to mains power to supply it with enough juice.
These boxes come in the form of mixers or preamp processors (also known as audio interfaces).
Audio Mixers for Streaming: What to Look out For
Most likely you would have seen video images of a mixer at some point in your life. They’re those large square-shaped boxes with hundreds of knobs and inputs on top and, perhaps most iconically, sliders to control gain volume.
A mixer supplies additional power to your microphone, as well as giving you the ability to change the EQ (equalization) of your input by adding low end, mid-range, or high range gain to your audio.
There are a few buttons that you should be familiar with before you purchase your mixer:
Gain sliders or knobs adjust the amount of volume added to or subtracted from the input’s original feed. Turning this up will make your output louder and turning down will make your output quieter. A high gain can sometimes increase the occurrence of background noise.
EQ is split into three main categories; high, mid, and low. High EQ affects the treble volume of your sound, low affects the bass and mid effects the mid-range. For podcasting or streaming, it is quite normal for creators to increase their low range a tiny bit to get a nice bassy compressed sound.
These controls will scroll through an in-built effects library and apply them to the relevant inputs. You will normally need to engage a button on the relevant channel in order for the effects to be heard.
This will be written next to most of the ‘holes’ on your mixer. Simply, these are the ports where you plug in your microphones and other audio input devices.
This text indicates a port that will be output to your streaming device. It could also be output to a headset or speakers.
This button will engage phantom power through your XLR devices. If you’re using cardioid or dynamic XLR microphones, you will want to make sure that phantom power is turned on.
Some mixers even have built-in effects stations and enable you to apply effects such as reverb, wahwah or even echo without in-built PC software or plugins.
TOP TIP: When buying a mixer make sure to check for a ‘phantom power’ button. This is the feature that sends extra power to your XLR microphone.
What is a Processor?
A processor is an extremely cut-down version of a mixer. It handles the power input for the microphone and normally the gain too but other than that, it’s just a box!
If you don’t need to change the equalization of your microphone before sending it to your PC, a processor (audio interface) will do everything you need!
The 6 Best Audio Mixers and Processors for Twitch Streaming
1. Behringer Xenyx 1002 (The Best Budget Mixer for Twitch)
With 2 XLR inputs, 1002 is absolutely everything you’ll need from a budget streaming mixer. You can output to your PC’s microphone input via the LR White Red audio outputs making it super easy to set up.
The blue knobs control the equalization levels of your microphones while the white knobs control the gain. The large slider to the side controls your master output and clipping can be monitored with a handy LED light system above the fader.
Phantom power is available at the touch of a button and it even has an in-built effects library. However, the FX option is only available to two inputs and not your XLRs.
We’ve been using this for 2 years straight now and have zero complaints; definitely among the best budget audio mixers for Twitch streaming.
2. Alto Professional ZMX122FX (The Best All Round Mixer)
The alto takes everything just that little bit further than the Xenyx. This mixer has 4 main XLR inputs, making it perfect for a setup with multiple microphones (such as band or choir recording).
Unlike the Behringer, the Alto can apply its FX library to every single input and has a much larger LED monitor for output level clipping. All in all, it’s an improvement on the Xenyx and is not that much more expensive.
3. Allen & Heath ZED10FX (The Best Expensive Mixer)
At first glance, it’s hard to see the difference between the ZED10FX and the Alto. Both have four XLR inputs and in fact, the ZED has far fewer overall inputs.
What the ZED lacks in inputs, it makes up for in sturdiness. The reason for the price of this mixer is because of the quality of all of its parts. The knobs are resistant yet smooth, the LED strip is broken down into much smaller LEDs for more accuracy and the buttons are padded.
For durability, the ZED is a fantastic choice. It feels as though it would last for decades and also produces a fantastic sound quality.
Undoubtedly the best audio mixer for streaming, but it comes at a price!
4. Behringer UMC22 (The Best Budget Processor)
Do you need an audio interface just to give your microphone that extra little bit of power? The UMC22 is the perfect no-thrills solution to your problem. And when we say no thrills, we really mean it!
There is one XLR input plus an additional input for a guitar cable and gain control. If your gain is clipping, the CLIP LED will go red. You will have no idea how much you are clipping by, but at least you’ll know you’re clipping!
The only additional feature is a monitor socket, meaning that you can also listen to yourself back as you stream or record. A very handy and capable little machine for the price.
5. MOTU M2 (The Best All-Round Processor)
Similar to the UMC22 in size but with some key differences. On the M2 you find 2 XLR inputs and a fantastically clear display with live time monitoring. It’s a great little feature that you won’t find on many interfaces in this price range.
If you need two XLR inputs, the M2 is for you.
6. Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 (The Best Expensive Processor)
The Scarlett 8i6 is technically similar to the M2 but what you’re paying extra for is the build quality. Everything feels smooth and the device itself has some serious weight to it, indicating a high-quality interior build.
The godfather of 2 input interfaces, the 8i6 is your last stop shop for audio processing.
I can’t afford a processor or mixer, is there anything wrong with using USB or Line In microphones that go straight into my PC?
The short answer is no. Your voice will still be audible to your viewers and they will be able to follow your every word.
The biggest advantage to using XLR microphones and a mixer or interface is quality. Straight-in mics will sound monophonic, grainy, and sometimes extremely reverb. Using a mixer or processor will eliminate these issues and create a nicely compressed, limited, and equalized audio that sounds far more soothing to a viewer.
So which is better, audio mixers or a processors for twitch streaming?
In many cases, streamers will be streaming through software such as Streamlabs or OBS studio. These software come with in-built audio filters that allow you to edit your audio quality and effects from inside the program.
If you are a proponent of using these filters, you should only need an interface that provides power to your microphone. In this case, grab yourself an audio processor.
However, if you would like to edit your audio slightly before sending it to your PC, using extremely simple sliders and knobs, then audio mixers is the device for your twitch streaming.
It’s hard to suggest one or the other outright as it completely depends on each creator’s preferences. Whichever you decide to purchase will undoubtedly increase your audio input quality and your viewer’s overall enjoyment of your streams!