Digital vs. Analog Mixers for Live Performance

Its nice to see my favorite digital mixer the Avid Venue System come down in price. There has been a number of digital mixers that hit the market over recent years, but are they better.

Analog mixers are made of physical circuitry, wire, resistors, potentiometers, and switches (and a bunch of other junk). Analog mixers are simple, with hands on controls for every function and routing option. The signal is linear, and quality analog mixers can be extremely affordable.

Digital converts the analog signal into digital (1's and 0's) right after the pre-amp. A digital mixer is a computer with a bunch of AD/DA converters and other junk that processes the signal the same as any computer does. Digital mixers do come with a higher learning curve and can be quite daunting if you begin with little knowledge in the digital audio process.

Back in the 90's when digital recording emerged on the scene people hated it. The technology was new and did not provide many advantages over current methods plus the quality was marginal. Today it's all in the box. Sure some mixing and mastering engineers use analog gear but most of those pictures you see of people standing around a huge analog mixer are just for effect. Most of their work is performed with a control surface in front of a computer monitor.

The day will come when digital systems will replace the analog systems for live music PA systems. The capabilities of digital far surpass the ability of analog. The sound quality will also eclipse analog and with it's compact size it's much easier to work with moving from room to room.

Without going into a long boring bunch of junk, the simple answer is yes, it's better. If you can get quality gear designed on the cutting edge technology from manufactures who provides this to professionals working in concert venues.

Back to my favorite, the Avid Venue system. Today you can get a basic system starting at around 60 grand when you add everything else it gets into big bucks. Digital systems used today for major concert acts can cost up to one million dollars. The digital mixers offered for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars will not sound or perform like a 60 thousand one will. The pros spend the huge money because that's whats required to get the full advantage of a digital system. Save your money buy a good analog mixer. For now it's still the best option.