The world of podcasts is so diverse and ever-expanding that it’s hard to define “podcast” at all. A history podcast may amount to a highly researched audiobook released in multiple parts or chapters, while some YouTube podcasts are so well produced that they compete with television shows in terms of watchability.
But unlike radio and television, podcasts rarely have the budget for a professional audio engineer. Instead, the creators often do all the work themselves. That’s why dedicated podcast mixers have come into being — as do-everything toolkits that are seriously powerful while being easy to use.
Read on to learn how you can elevate your podcast recording and streaming with a specialized podcast mixer.
But first, hold up — we can hear you asking: Do I really need a full-on podcast mixer to record my show? Can’t I just grab a USB microphone like the EM USB and call it a day, or maybe an audio interface?
The answer, as usual, is “maybe.” Solo podcasters can record high-quality audio with a single USB mic or a broadcast mic with a small interface and get professional results. But these setups are limited. Depending on the size, complexity and ambition of your podcast, investing in a fully-fledged podcast mixer can create new possibilities, make your show easier and more fun to produce and elevate the sound quality of the finished product.
Of course, not every podcast mixer is the same. And there’s a difference between a “mixer that works for podcasts” and a true, specialized podcast mixer. Here’s what we mean by “podcast mixer” here — then, nine reasons to use one for your show.
Lots of mixers are capable of recording a podcast. The Mackie Onyx and ProFXv3, for example, are both USB mixers that can record a high quality podcast. But these mixers aren’t dedicated podcast mixers. They’re designed for versatility, working equally well for musicians and live events as they do for podcasting. And that’s great.
When we talk about a podcast mixer, however, we mean something created from the ground up for podcasts. It’s not a classic analog mixer with modern features — it instead offers a fresh, intuitive experience for podcasters to record episodes that sound perfect without needing a degree in audio engineering.
We’re going to use Mackie DLZ Creator podcast mixer as our example. It’s an entirely new kind of audio mixer designed and built specifically for podcast recording, based on the needs of podcasters in the present day.
Okay, let’s get to it: Here are nine reasons to use a podcast mixer to make your show.
If you are 100% sure you’re recording your podcast alone, and won’t be adding in-person guests or co-hosts, then a podcast mixer is probably more than you need. For everyone else, you need a way to “mix” your multiple audio signals together, balance audio in real-time and monitor your sound via headphones. That’s where podcast mixers become especially helpful.
Take the Mackie DLZ Creator podcast mixer, which is designed to record up to four people in-person (plus more over the phone). All you have to do to get started is plug in four mics and four sets of headphones, have DLZ Creator set the levels for you and press record. No hassles or manual-diving, and no flimsy accessories like headphone splitters. These things used to be commonplace for podcasters, but not anymore — thanks to podcast mixers.
Audio was a huge barrier to entry for the first generation of podcasters. Many podcasters had to put in a lot of research on recording and essentially turned themselves into amateur audio engineers. They learned how to chain the right combinations of gear together, troubleshoot connection issues, run complicated software and fine-tune each episode with extensive editing. And, inevitably, they ended up with extra junk they didn’t need.
Podcasting in general has gotten more accessible since then, but it’s shocking how many podcasters still have this experience. Chances are, you didn’t get into podcasting to become a professional audio engineer — you got into it to share your passion. A podcast mixer can save you from hours of reading how-to articles about everything from setting levels to cleaning up noisy audio in post-production that could have otherwise been spent creating content.
When it comes to user-friendliness, DLZ Creator takes it a step further than any other podcast mixer out there. Instead of making you manual-dive to understand the controls, it actually changes the features on the built-in screen to match your level of experience.
Before you start recording, you choose between three modes (Easy, Enhanced, and Pro) and DLZ Creator walks you through the setup for your first episode. Then, you can hand the reins over to AutoMix, which balances the levels and keeps the output smooth and even. It will even prioritize voices based on your preferences. It’s like having an audio engineer, rather than becoming one.
Phone interviews are a mainstay in interview podcasts, but have you ever tried to record one? You have to figure out how to capture both ends of the call while making sure each speaker only hears the other person. Pulling this off without echo — or worse, feedback — is surprisingly complex. It usually involves solving a puzzle of complex audio routing and connectivity. Doesn’t exactly put you in the mood for a lively interview, does it?
The easiest solution is to have an input channel that’s specially designed for recording phone calls for your podcast. DLZ Creator pulls this off with a combination of Bluetooth and Mackie’s Mix Minus technology. Just connect your phone to the mixer with standard Bluetooth, and Mix Minus will record both ends of the call, without the caller hearing an echo of their own voice. It also lets multiple people join the interview in-person, making the phone guest fit seamlessly into the show. The process is so easy, you’ll wonder how anyone ever did it the hard way.
When you’re recording a podcast with multiple people, it’s helpful when everyone has headphones and can monitor themselves and each other. A standard audio interface or compact mixer just won’t do — usually these only have two headphone outs at most, so you’d need a headphone splitter.
Headphones play two main roles in podcasting:
Monitoring the recording
Making sure everyone can hear each other.
Even if your podcast has a dedicated audio engineer or producer, self-monitoring is helpful. After all, you don’t want your producer to have to interrupt an otherwise great flow to tell someone they need to work on their microphone technique. If you are listening to yourself, you’ll be able to tell when you’re too far away from the mic or if you keep accidentally bumping the microphone stand. That’s doubly important for podcast guests, who may not have as much experience speaking into a mic.
Your hosts and guests will also need to hear each other. Professional talk radio shows work the same way — headphones help them hear each other across the room. Otherwise, hosts and guests may feel the need to raise their voice, which is obviously not ideal for recording. By giving everyone headphones, radio shows ensure people speak in a way that’s appropriate for the recording, rather than their physical space.
When choosing between an audio interface vs. mixer, inputs and outputs are only part of the equation. That’s because you interact with these two devices differently.
Standard audio interfaces require a computer to function. All the tweaking and routing is done on the computer screen, through software. In theory, this setup allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to your audio. In practice, it often means learning how to use new software, which always seems to need updating. More often than not, you end up keeping everybody waiting to start the podcast session while you navigate menus. It’s a total buzz-kill.
That’s an essential benefit to all Mackie USB mixers: You can record to your computer while taking hands-on control over your routing and sound. There’s something reassuring about adjusting your settings in a tactile way, with your hands rather than a mouse and keyboard. It’s also a huge time saver. Let’s say your guest’s mic gain is too high, and you need to turn it down. Going into your DAW on your computer can disrupt the conversation. A hands-on USB mixer lets you reach over and tweak the gain with a quick turn of a knob.
What sets a podcast mixer like DLZ Creator apart, though, is that it’s more than an audio interface added onto a traditional mixer. It’s a dynamic combination of the two that creates a new kind of mixer altogether, designed for podcasters and streamers. It’s totally hands-on, but by combining physical controls with a touchscreen, it can give you the power and flexibility of your DAW with the tactile control of a true Mackie mixer.
There’s a somewhat tragic story that has happened to many successful podcasters. Their show first takes off as a completely solo endeavor, and they invest in the studio to match. They have a nice mic, a high-quality interface with one or two inputs, and they’re golden.
But as their show grows, they find new possibilities cropping up. Maybe they want to add a co-host or guests, or do phone interviews, or hold live in-person events that they record for their listeners. All of a sudden, their perfect studio isn’t up to the task — and they spent some serious money on it.
To avoid this happening to you, be sure to ask yourself: What are my dreams for my podcast? If things go well, what kind of stuff would I like to do with the show? Think carefully before buying podcast recording equipment that won’t help you accomplish these dreams. The last thing you want is to miss out on an exciting opportunity because you don’t have the right gear.
That’s the design philosophy behind any true podcast mixer: to have everything most podcasters need, or will need in the future. You can understand DLZ Creator better if you look away from the specs and instead look at what a podcaster can do with it. For instance: You can do a phone interview while recording four people in-person, headphones for all, with the levels handled for you, while playing audio cues off your computer and recording it all to an SD card. With the wrong gear, a feat like that becomes either impossible or very complex. Podcast mixers make it easy, because they’re purpose-made for the task.
If you want to record everyone on your podcast to separate tracks and do all the mixing later in your DAW, you can do that with a basic audio interface. But what an all-in-one podcast mixer like DLZ Creator can do is get an excellent and fully mixed recording, live, in the moment. Some of that comes from features like AutoMix and Mix Minus, which handle important engineering and routing tasks. But from there, your podcast mixer should have all the classic mixing tools that audio professionals depend on to polish their recordings.
For podcasters who already know about audio production, DLZ Creator offers the essentials of a professional vocal chain on each channel. That means Gain, Gate, Compressor, De-Esser, and separate effects sends for Reverb and Delay, all of which you can adjust with the touchscreen.
Not sure what all of that means? Not a problem. That’s what the Easy mode is for. You can get the benefits of these features, including clearer vocal recordings, a smoother mix, and a general sense of “cohesion” to the audio — without needing to set every individual control. A podcast mixer should be simple to use, but powerful on the inside, where it counts.
So far, we’ve given you reasons to use DLZ Creator as the centerpiece of your podcasting setup. Mics, cables, headphones, maybe a computer, and you’re all set. Most podcasters won’t need anything else to record their show. But it’s no secret that the podcasting industry has grown. Some podcasts rival television productions in scope, with the stars to match. Surprisingly, though, even these large podcasts can find use for an all-in-one podcast mixer that you can travel with, especially one that’s so straightforward to use.
Let’s say you record your show in a world-class studio — what if you need an actor to record something while they’re traveling? How do you get a professional voice recording of someone who has no audio experience, without anyone there to help them? If you’ve tried to do tech support over the phone, it’s enough to make you shudder. That’s where something intuitive like DLZ Creator can be useful even for big productions. It’s a way to get solid recordings from your talent when your crew isn’t there in person.
We briefly mentioned it earlier, but it’s worth addressing directly: podcasting costs money.
Podcasters often encounter audio gear for the very first time when they start recording their show, and some of the prices of professional equipment can take you off guard when compared to consumer products.
Believe it or not, audio gear is astronomically cheaper now than it was even a generation ago. It sounds better, too. But a podcasting setup is still going to be an investment. The goal is to get the gear you need, without paying for what you don’t. For podcasters, a podcast mixer does exactly that.
DLZ Creator is not a budget mixer. It will cost more than the average compact mixer with the same number of preamps. That’s because it’s a serious piece of recording gear, with features the average budget mixer doesn’t approach. But compare the price of an all-in-one solution like DLZ Creator with how much it would cost to buy a collection of gear and software that does the same thing. You can end up spending hundreds on headphone amps alone. And that’s not even counting the time spent learning how to use things like de-noising plugins when you could be focusing on creation. It can end up being a better value to pay once and never think about your equipment again.
If any of these nine reasons apply to you, check out Mackie’s take on the podcast mixer, DLZ Creator, which reimagines what a mixer can be for content creators. And once you’ve decided, make sure to pair it with professional broadcast mics to get professional-sounding audio that can compete with anything on the Apple Podcasts charts. Now, enough with the gear talk — get what you need, and start creating your podcast!