Live Audio Mixers for DJs

November 22, 2017 by Ben Stowe, CTS

An increasing number of DJs are branching out into more live audio events which leads some into unfamiliar territory. DJ controllers and mixers are highly specialized for their purpose and not well suited at all for live audio applications. This leads many DJs to wonder what the right mixing console for them would be.

I can’t think of a better time in the history of audio to be looking for one. Mixing boards are more powerful, better featured and less expensive than ever before. The plethora of tools available on a modern console can be a bit overwhelming to those just beginning their search.

First, it’s important to determine how many channels will be necessary. Is it just a handful, maybe 8 to 12? Is it a bit larger, maybe a small band needing 16 to 24? Or is it a larger console of 32 and up? I think this is an important place to establish current and future needs. Larger consoles cost more and will take up more space, but having available channels is nice.


Digital vs. Analog is probably the second consideration. Modern digital consoles contain many outstanding features, including parametric EQs, gates, compressors, flexible bus routing and effects. I find these features essential in my workflow. However, these add complexity, and cheap digital consoles don’t sound nearly as good as higher priced ones. If a small channel count is all that’s needed a high quality small analog board might be the right choice here.

Digital consoles have a few additional features that are often desirable. These include remote app control. The ability to walk away from the console and still have control can be great. This gives the operator the opportunity to hear the sound in different parts of the room and make adjustments, or to walk onto stage and adjust monitors for the band while hearing what the band does. Many times in these smaller shows the same operator and console is running both the main sound and the monitors on stage.

Another great feature of digital consoles are the ability to connect a remote stage box (replacing a large, bulky snake cable) with a CAT5e or BNC connection. Whether this is done via MADI, AES50, Dante or other transport means, it certainly makes set-up easier. Some of these remote stage boxes are also fully functional mixers that can be operated via tablet or computer as described above.

Lastly, virtually all digital mixers, and several analog options now offer the ability of multi-track recording via USB connection or other means. Recently Presonus released their StudioLive III series that also allows for multi-track recording and playback via a built in SD card slot. Multi-track recording is a powerful way to capture the audio from each microphone to produce a clean edit of the event later.

Ben Stowe, CTS Ben Stowe, CTS (26 Posts)

Ben’s love of electronics and technology led to years of schooling in Electricity, Electronics, Robotics and Lasers. Ben supported himself through school by building and selling strobe lights and other electronic devices. He built his first DJ show largely from scratch and scrap, often repairing broken items others had thrown away because he could not afford to buy new equipment. He holds a Minnesota electrical license, and his AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. His relentless passion for education has led to a number of other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS. His love for education inspired him to begin the ProAcademy educational sessions, focused on increasing understanding of AV technologies within the industry. Ben has been involved in a number of technical writings, lectures, presentations, as well as research and development assistance with a number of manufacturers for products, industry wide. He is also a regular contributing author to industry magazines in the United States and Europe. Ben’s presentations have been featured across the world both as a part of industry leading trade shows, and as a presenter for various groups and functions. Some of these events include BPM in the United Kingdom, Mobile Beat, the ADJA National Convention, Wedding MBA, and a national tour as a headlining presenter for an industry magazine. The United States Armed Forces branches have also called upon Ben to provide engineering and training assistance. His highly informational, slightly nerdy and always funny presentation style have made him a favorite at events, while his sincere desire to help people with their application of technology have made him a favorite with them after the event. Ben serves the industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993.

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