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What is a Digital Audio Mixer?

Bryon Turcotte
Bryon Turcotte

A digital audio mixer is an electronic device used to combine multiple audio signals from individual sources. This type of audio mixer encapsulates three phases of functionality. The first is mixing, which uses a basic algorithm to process the information with an assigned summing amplifier. The second would be routing, which allows the channeling of source audio to internal buses or external effects processing. Finally, a digital audio mixer will handle some processing through internal equalization and compression modules.

Most often, a mixer of this type accepts both digital and analog sources, converting analog signals into digital data immediately through its processors. A digital audio mixer often has effects and processors that can affect the source audio digitally before it converts the data back to analog on output. A sound card, which can be easily installed in most workstations, acts as an audio interface, typically converting analog audio signals into digital form, while helping with processing audio. Generally, a software application will control the functionality of both the mixer and the sound card, providing the user with a graphic interface for audio recording, editing, mixing, and playback functionality.

Audio signals are combined in a studio.
Audio signals are combined in a studio.

With a digital audio mixer, effects may be added to specific channels, and individual instruments may be relocated to new positions in the stereo spectrum. Channels on this mixer may also re-route audio interface input channels to a dedicated equalizer where the bass, treble, and mid range can be adjusted seamlessly. Depending on the mixer's capabilities and if it contains enough channels, a user can also route the outputs of an audio interface to another mixer or additional processing to touch up the sound within the analog realm. This allows the user to separate vocals, drums, and bass, and have complete control over the mix.

A digital audio mixer is preferred by modern DJs over analog mixers.
A digital audio mixer is preferred by modern DJs over analog mixers.

Unlike analog mixers, which usually have limited logic and no memory capabilities, a digital audio mixer can retain information assigned by its user. A sound engineer may set level assignments for multiple microphones, monitors, and instruments during one night of performance. Through the software application controller, this configuration can be saved, named, and stored in the mixer's memory. The following evening, an engineer unfamiliar with the last performance can easily launch the application, recalling the saved configuration.

A digital audio mixer can a significant and valuable tool for sound engineers. It can be used in a studio for recording music, designing sound for television and film, or mixing audio signals for live performance.

Discussion Comments


Why would anyone use a digital mixer only to have an analog output that then has to be converted to digital by their computer. You've heard of USB?


@ceilingcat - Digital does make a lot of things better and easier. However, I hear that for digital audio mixers there are a few problems created by digital mixers that aren't present in analogy mixers.

One of these problems is delay. When the sound engineer makes an adjustment, it can take a few milliseconds to take affect. If a recording artist is listening to themselves in headphones, it can be very unpleasant. They end up hearing themselves in real time and then hearing the delay in the headphones!

However, I think the digital audio mixers make up for it with all the different features they have. You can do create a lot of special effects with digital audio mixers you can't with analog!


Let me just say, using a digital audio mixer isn't as easy as it looks! A lot of people don't know this, but audio engineers actually go to school to learn how to do their jobs.

My boyfriend works in the audio industry, and he got a bachelor's degree in electronic media. His job is very technology intensive, and you have to understand the properties of sound.

However, from what he tells me, digital equipment has made things a lot easier. The example the article gave was a good one. Using preset configurations can save a lot of time.

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    • Audio signals are combined in a studio.
      By: dmitrimaruta
      Audio signals are combined in a studio.
    • A digital audio mixer is preferred by modern DJs over analog mixers.
      By: Oleksii Nykonchuk
      A digital audio mixer is preferred by modern DJs over analog mixers.
    • A digital mixer can adjust the levels of signals coming in from various types of microphones.
      By: Tiler84
      A digital mixer can adjust the levels of signals coming in from various types of microphones.