Powered Mixer Vs. Unpowered Mixer: Which One Is For You?

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From live performances to recording studios, it’s common to see the mixer at the heart of the audio setup. Through the mixer, people put together various instrument signals in the manner that they desire. Still, similar to other sound devices, the mixer comes in quite a few varieties including powered mixer and unpowered mixer. Of course, different mixers have different characteristics so to get your money’s worth, you must answer one question: powered mixer vs. unpowered mixer, which one better fit your requirements? 

New to mixers and don’t know what to pick? In that case, you have come to the right place. Take a good look at the following information if you truly wish to get the ideal mixer for your system. 

The Primary Difference Between Powered Mixer Vs. Unpowered Mixer

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Before we head deeper into powered mixer vs. unpowered mixer, it’s a good idea to learn about their difference. To put it plainly, powered mixers have an integrated amplifier while unpowered mixers don’t.   

To some people, the fact that powered mixers have an amplifier inside them is a major plus as that means one less thing to carry. For small bands as well as establishments with limited spaces, powered mixers really prove handy. That being said, powered mixers have negligible room for improvement: you want something more? Then you need to start over.  Unpowered mixers don’t have face such a limitation in most cases as they offer a high degree of customization. Compared to powered mixers, unpowered mixers could fit more setups. 

Notable powered mixers:

  • Yamaha EMX5014C
  • Behringer Xenyx 1202
  • Rockville RPM870

Notable unpowered mixers:

  • Allen & Heath GL2400-32
  • Yamaha MG16XU
  • Mackie VLZ4 Series 24

In-Depth Comparison Of Aspects of Powered Mixer Vs. Unpowered Mixer

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  • Price

Assuming that the quality is more or less the same, powered mixers cost more than their unpowered counterparts due to the inclusion of the amplifier. However, it’s worth noting that unpowered mixers require separate amps which raise the cost.  For most of the time, a powered mixer is by all accounts more affordable than an unpowered and its amp. That is why budget-minded musicians these kids of days prefer to get powered mixers. Actually, powered mixers also have more options at low price ranges compared to unpowered mixers.     

  • Portability 

On average, unpowered mixers weigh noticeably less than powered mixers but powered mixers tend to be smaller than unpowered mixers. The difference in size sometime proves significant enough to make certain unpowered mixers noticeably exceed the weight of powered ones. All in all, powered mixers have superior portability to their unpowered counterparts in live gigs. Needless to say, you also have to take the components of the mixers into account. The overall bulk of the audio setup varies greatly depending on your choice of mixer. 

  • Convenience 

In most of the cases, powered mixers only take a few moments to set up as you could access all the controls on the board. On the other hand, unpowered mixers might require quite a bit of time/effort as certain functions got split between the mixers and the amps. As a result, in term of convenience, powered mixers have an edge over unpowered ones. The rugged design of unpowered mixers often results in fairly high reliability which is nice if you have to move around from time to time. 

  • Versatility 

All and all, unpowered mixers have a reputation for being undisputed kings regarding versatility as the users don’t get tied down to an amplifier. You would be able to fit unpowered mixers to various audio setups without much difficulty. Once you need more power for big gigs, it’s a breeze to fit additional amps as well as speakers. If one of the components breaks down, you should have no trouble restoring the function of the system, a considerable advantage compared to powered mixers. 

  • Quality 

Assuming that you get your mixers from reputable brands, their build quality shall be excellent. Still, most of the high-quality mixers tend to be unpowered mixers designed for studios. As mixers in studios rarely need to be moved, their large size is considered to be less than an issue. Furthermore, studios boast a range of amps and associated accessories which makes the internal amps of powered mixers somewhat unnecessary.  

Conclusion: It’s Entirely Up To You At The End

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Generally speaking, because different people have different requirements, it’s tricky to say which one comes out on top in powered mixer vs. unpowered mixer

In order to make a wise investment, you need to think about your personal preference. In the case you like something straightforward that you could set up without much difficulty then go for powered mixers. If you value the ability to customize your audio setup as you like to match variable requirements, prioritize unpowered mixers. All things considered, as long as you make the purchase bases on your needs, you would get what you want.  Use the information from the powered mixer vs. unpowered mixer comparison above for shopping references.

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