Active mixer with an audio interface?

I have a TC Electronic Desktop Konnekt 6 and I’m pretty happy with it. However, I need more inputs; 'cause I don’t want to unplug-plug every instrument each time I change to instrument. This leads me it’s a good idea to have a passive sound mixer for me.

I looked around for a while and I loved Allen & Heath ZEDi-10. It perfectly suits me. No fx needed, just two inputs for my mics and TRS inputs for my instruments. Additionally there are 2 * DI balanced inputs for my bass and guitar, which takes away of having an external DI box I was planning to buy! It was like the best passive mixer solution for me.

However; after a while, I saw Mackie BIG KNOB STUDIO PLUS. Which is an audio interface and monitor controller at the same time. I don’t need an external mixer if I have this device which is far better for me. Because in fact, I don’t need some features of ZEDi 10 like eq butttons, RCA outputs and so on. It’s just too big. So, Mackie seems like the simplest and most compact solution for me.

But, I have some doubts with it. Mainly, it’s not a passive mixer, it’s an active mixer. In fact, it’s an audio interface which I have already.

So my questions are:

  1. What if I use BIG KNOB STUDIO PLUS as a mixer, with my Konnekt 6? I mean, does it effect color? If it is, how much? Do you think, is it OK to use them in this way? Or is it just ridiculous to use two audio interfaces?

  2. Would you compare Konnekt 6 vs. Mackie Big Knob Studio in according to sound qualities. Would you change your audio interface in current issue? Maybe Big Knob is far better from Konnekt 6 and I have no idea about it :slight_smile:

Can you clarify what you mean by passive vs active mixer?

I took a look at each piece of gear you mentioned including the TC.

The first question is if you are on a mac or PC. And if you are on a PC then does windows allow you to aggregate multiple devices? If you don’t know, perhaps someone can chime in.

Unless you have compelling need for the EQ on the Allen Heath, I’d recommend the Mackie.

This is possible, but if you buy the Mackie, the goal is to get rid of the TC as I can’t see any real advantage it would have over the Mackie.

90% no, 10% yes. What I mean is that the color differences are barely noticeable, but they are there. One doesn’t sound better than the other, but they may sound slightly different. I borrowed a Big Knob + for a few days when I was waiting for my monitor controller to get built. I had the chance to listen to it vs. a TC Konnect 32 which I’m almost certain is using the same converter. I do not use the converter anymore in the Konnect 32 (I only use the patch matrix) but both were quite acceptable as far as the sound quality of the converter is concerned.

Now if you use them together, you want to aggregate them. What you do NOT want to do is run the outputs of one into the inputs of another. This is bad because you have multiple gain stages. If you aggregate them (which means your computers sees the inputs 1-4 on the Mackie and inputs 1-2 On the TC (giving you a total of 6 inputs within your DAW), that would be the way to go. However, I’m not sure that you can aggregate 2 devices where one is firewire and the other is USB. They either both have to be firewire or both have to be USB (I think)…someone correct me if I’m mistaken.

This is perfectly normal, but again, only if you create an aggregate. People do it all the time.

Again, the converter quality will be pretty close, I think the preamps in the Mackie will seem much clearer and more forward. Partly because they are newer and have greater headroom. It doesn’t mean they’re any better, but it may mean you have to work a little harder to get a similar sound from the TC. It will also mean that you don’t have the same amount of dynamic range before your input meters start to peg red.

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Thanks Jonathan. I really appreciated your answer. In light of this information, I researched a little more and now, I know LOT more. First of all, I know both Mackie and A&H are active devices and they are both audio interface. I should go for “one” and sell my Konnekt 6.

So, I changed my question: Why would I choose Mackie over A&H?

For me, Mackie is simplest solution and have more features like talkback and fancy switches. However, A&H has more inputs and it also has DI inputs. (They are both good features for me) The only disadvantage with A&H is just bigger.

So, why would I choose Mackie over A&H?

Because the big advantage of the Allen Heath is the channel strip, much of that will be completely useless if you’re going into a DAW. The Mackie is better ergonomically and the center section features are much better geared toward a small studio application.

Lets back up a sec…how many channels do you see yourself needing in the next year or so? And what are they for? Keep in mind that having i/o vs having mic pres are 2 different things. What are all are you planning on plugging into this thing?

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If input channels are what you need, the Big Knob is definitely not the solution. The Big Knob is more of an advanced monitor controller. It has more outputs than it has inputs. It’s designed for switching between monitors, and has a couple inputs for convenience.

If what you need is more inputs, then I think you are looking in the wrong direction. If you are mixing in the box, there are tons of good interface options out there that will solve your described problem much better.

But I guess it’s not 100% clear to me what issue it is that you are trying to solve. Do you need more inputs? Do you need to have a better monitoring solution?

Are you on Mac or PC? There’s no good reliable way (that I know of) to have multiple interfaces on windows at the same time. On Mac, you can set up aggregate devices. On windows you can’t.

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I’m using Reaper in Windows. Right now, I only have:

1 * drum machine (stereo or mono)
1 * guitar
1 * bass (which needs DI box) and
1 * condenser mic.

Main reason to change my interface is I don’t want to unplug-plug instruments every time. Furthermore I’m planning to get two more instruments (1 mic and a synth -probably Minilogue-).

I am an amateur musician. In fact, Konnekt 6 answers nearly all my problems in recording. But I’d like to make music without interrupting, just with a few clicks in creation process. That’s all.

Gotchya. Do you have any objections to buying a multi-channel interface? I’d look into that and add the monitor controller later if you’re trying to stay under say $300. Also, do you have any objections to buying it used?

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In that case, I’d look into the more standard interface options. You can get a decent interface with 8 channels of I/O. Get a monitor controller when you need a monitor controller.


Here’s what I use:

£45 off Ebay. (Make sure it’s 2.0, the new Multimixes do not have multi-channel recording capabilities).

I also have, and can recommend:


Actually, I don’t even have monitors right now :sweat_smile: For now, I’m using some old big speakers. I know, you’re against it. But, I do not mix right now. They just helps me to hear myself. That means I don’t really need a monitor controller. Besides, features of Mackie are more of than. In the beginning, I thought it’s the most compact device, I could do many things easily (like activate-deactivate input channels, monitor outputs, talkback-ondevice mic, dim-mute buttons). (Also I have residency in Turkey and I can find Mackie here.) But you’re right, it has not enough inputs for me. Which leads me to your recommendation: Multi-channel devices.

On the beginning of my research, I saw a lot of home studio on YouTube which have sound mixers. So I though: “I have only two inputs on my audio interface. I can extend them with a sound mixer. I can plug every instrument to a sound mixer’s inputs and plug it’s outputs to my Konnekt 6.” But now, I can see it’s wrong.

In fact, now, I have no idea, why people use sound mixers in their home studio? :smiley:

Maybe they don’t use audio interfaces, but only sound mixers? If so, question is: Why would I prefer multi-channel devices instead of ZEDi10? Multi-channel interfaces are more expensive than mixers. What’re the advantages and disadvantages?

Money is important, especially for me :slight_smile: Because, I live in Turkey. As an example, $500 Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is 2750 Turkish Liras in Turkey (Minimum salary is 1600 Turkish Liras!). I have no problem with used devices. Problem is shipping, as you guess. So, my priority is unused, new devices.

If I understand you correctly you have an interface that gives you enough inputs, however, you want to be able to leave everything connected all the time so that you can pick up anything without setting up and record. A mixer would give you this ability as would a multi-channel interface. The mixer is going to add some self-noise but that is not a big deal.

Here is the downside of having everything hooked up all the time. I have had times where I’ve always had a guitar cabinet hooked up and drumset miced etc. The problem with this is that you start to use the same sounds all the time. Part of the creative process is what gear you are going to use. If I leave a guitar cabinet set up all the time I end up using that cab all the time instead of choosing from the array of gear that I have. Having a really good hardware DI and Compressor to condition DI signals will help you sounds a ton. The Cheap Behringer compressors are great form taming dynamics of DIs before you hit your converters. I know Danny Danzi does this all the time.

If it was me I would invest in a good single channel strip to get my tones a good as possible going in. You will need to plug in whatever gear you want to this channel strip. It doesn’t seem like unplugging a patchcable from a guitar to a bass is that much work though. I like investing in gear that helps my sound. I have to fight with myself very hard to spend money on workflow items that don’t produce a better sound.

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I see that as a positive. As long as the source sound is a good one, the less time spent in that part of the process the better.

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People use them for different reasons. I use mine so that I can listen to different sources on my monitors. I have two computers and a phone input. I also have an input from my eDrums for messing around (I would never use the sounds from my eDrum module for serious recording). I wouldn’t be able to listen to all of these without my mixer.

Also, I use my mixer when tracking vocals so that I can get zero latency monitoring. I hate hate HATE latency when monitoring vocals. Having a mixer lets you easily tap out of the preamp so you don’t have to monitor through the DAW. But I certainly don’t use my mixer for mixing music. I guess it’s possible, but a simple interface with multiple inputs is much easier and more convenient for doing that.

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This can be positive or negative according to your point of view. But, I use vst plugins for every instrument including guitar. So, that’s not the case for me :slight_smile:

I will research channel strips for sure. At the outset I can say that they’re expensive as much as multi-channel audio interfaces.

For now, I’m planning to buy Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 or 18i20 in two months. Thank you all!

I see that Behringer has a USB audio interface with the same number of inputs as the Scarlett 1818 at a lower price point.
Behringer UMC404HD

I don’t have any experience with this unit, but maybe someone who has could chime in.

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Scarlett 18i8 can be upgradeable with an ADAT connection to 18 input. Behringer has’t this feature. It’s a great performance/price product though.

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I see the two Behringer models above it have adat I/O.

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You’re on to something here. I thought about recommending this but thought you wouldn’t want to mess with it, and I had also thought you were looking at units below that price point. Are you opposed to buying a used one?

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For example; Behringer U-PHORIA UMC1820. It’s half of the price of Focusrite. I may think. Thank you :slight_smile: