To choose the best channel mixer, you need to evaluate wanted features against budget concerns and what you'll be using the mixer for. A basic, analog 2-channel or 4-channel mixer will usually be adequate for a beginning to intermediate DJ (disc jockey), but more advanced DJs and those wishing to record or podcast mixes will probably want more features. Doing plenty of research, talking to other artists and technicians, and testing equipment in person are all great ways to ensure that you choose the best mixer for your particular needs.
A channel mixer for recording purposes can have many channels, but most users will be looking at mixers with only four to eight channels, enabling them to hook up turntables, compact disc players, and other basic devices. Since mixers also come with different numbers of inputs and outputs, it's important to know the number of devices and components one is planning to use, and how they will connect to the mixer.
One of the most important factors to think about when choosing the best mixer is the quality of sound output. This can vary dramatically when mixing on a large sound system. On the other hand, for smaller sound systems, the difference in quality can be negligible. Sound quality will be noticed more by professionals using large systems than amateurs using smaller systems, and a little low noise is usually considered tolerable given the expense of getting completely transparent, warm, crystal-clear sound.
Additional basic concerns include the size of the channel mixer, the quality and number of equalizers and cross faders, the consistency of performance from different channels, and whether the mixer has all the features, or "bells and whistles," one desires. A small, very basic analog mixer will cost the least and is easy to transport. The number of features a mixer has will increase proportionally with price.
For about three to four times as much money as the most basic channel mixer, one can get a leading-brand 4-channel mixer with many features, as well as channel peak meters, an independent monitor switch, automatic BPM (beats per minute measurement), and more. For about twice that much, one can get a professional mixer with high-quality audio, advanced sampling and effect capabilities, automatic harmonic tuning, and other bells and whistles.
While analog mixers are still the standard, even for professionals, high-quality digital mixers are increasingly becoming popular and affordable. Your budget and the number of special features you need will set a pretty clear range of mixers to choose from. The more research you do and the more reviews you read, the better informed you'll be. Also keep in mind that it always helps to test your equipment hands on. Make sure to comparison shop, and if you're spending a lot of money, read each warranty carefully.