Live performances sound better than they are. The reason for this is because a live mixer supports multiple channels which use sound engineering to improve the singing and instrument sounds.

Without using a sound mixer, not only will live performances sound inferior, but they won’t closely match any recording of the same tracks from a recording studio. The reason for this is the studio will use a much larger multi-channel mixer, and the sound won’t be the same. It is not realistic for a small band to travel with a mixing deck the size of what a proper recording studio uses, but a multi-channel mixer is a good start.

A 12-channel mixer is designed for portability. When travelling with a new band to gigs and new venues, it is important to project the right image and musical sound to the audience to build up and a fan base. Smaller mixers supporting fewer channels are available, but a 12-channel mixer for live performances straddles the not-too-big, not-too-small, mid-point nicely.

A professional mixer will have preamps for several inputs. These could support microphone vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums, and a couple of other inputs besides. The use of a preamp improves the overall sound before any other adjustments get made.

Some mixers will have a USB port, which is a useful extra to have. Hooking up a laptop to the mixing deck lets the sound engineer feed a recorded backing track into the mixer.

Sound effects help fill in deficits in performance or where some backing vocalists would have been a good thing, but the band’s budget doesn’t yet stretch that far. Some reverb and delays adding to the vocals deliver greater depth and makes up for an overused vocalist.

A multi-band graphical equalizer for each channel is good to see with a live mixing desk. A low-cut filter at the 100Hz frequency is used to shape the inputs.

A separate multi-band graphical equalizer applied to the main outputs via the PA or through the auxiliary output removes unwanted feedback in the monitors.

A headphone output with its level setting is useful. Condenser microphones supplied with phantom power from the mixer is a life-saver with mixers that offer this functionality.

The headphone output can also be used for the drummer as in-ear performance cues. Drummers sit way back on the stage and don’t have the best position to hear the performance clearly to time their rhythm correctly, so being able to use an in-ear monitor is ideal.

What’s Included with The Best 12 Channel Mixer

A 12-channel mixer is a setup primarily for live performances. To this end, several preamps are often included to bring the live sound to life in a vital way. Noise reducing preamps is a key consideration here.

A multi-band graphic equalizer allows the live sound engineer the opportunity to adjust the tuning. The more bands, the better the graphic equalizer, will be. Monitors and mains need to be controllable.

Some mixer decks include an effects engine. These can add reverb, echo and other useful additions to the core sound from a live performance. Either the sound effects will improve the performance or help it better mirror the studio recording.

An auxiliary output for monitors and compatibility with 70-volt venue systems is helpful with any mixer.

Some mixers have a USB connection to hook up a laptop directly to the deck. Backing tracks played through the computer and fed through the deck can aid the performance.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

With a mixing deck for enhancing live performances, more is not necessarily better. With more channels available to the mixer, the equipment becomes bulkier and harder to transport. A 12-channel mixer sits at the mid-point between being too cumbersome to travel in the crew van and large enough with sufficient features to do justice to the live performance the equipment is being used to enhance. Striking the right balance is the hard part, learning to use the mixer well is easier.

Multi-band equalizers for each channel are useful to smooth out any wrinkles in the performance or the musical equipment. Three bands per channel are about right for a 12-channel mixing desk. A greater number of bands for an equalizer to mix the overall output is preferable.

Other Considerations

Look for a hi-Z input to use for direct instrument input. The high impedance from the hi-Z input is a better choice over line input in most cases.

Best Brands

Behringer is an audio equipment manufacturer in Willich, Germany. Founded in 1989 by Uli Behringer, their sound mixers are used around the world.

Mackie manufacturers an extensive array of studio monitoring, recording and mixing tools for professional musicians and recording studios to use.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Time delay: With some sound effects, it is possible to change the time delay or reverb. Without being able to make these adjustments, the usefulness of a sound effect board is minimal.

Faders: Some mixers have 100mm faders which let the sound engineer adjust the faders precisely. 

Indicators: Make sure every channel has signal and peak indicators on the mixer deck.

USB port: The USB connection and noise factor is hit and miss with many mixers. Live recording and home recording sessions often make use of a USB connection to the mixing deck, yet finding a mixer which works well with USB ports is difficult. Investigate carefully if this is a requirement for you.

Mixers, not recorders: Podcasters sometimes make the mistake of thinking a channel mixer is a tool they can use to record their podcast. There is no facility within a mixer to record any audio. The multi-channel mixer shapes and improves the sound quality of a live performance, but has nothing to do with recording it. However, a laptop connected via a USB port might be able to record the output from a mixer.


Durability: Different brands produce mixers that are either less or more durable. Some brands are known to build mixers that withstand knocks and shakes without breaking down. For anyone who travels to gigs regularly, these mixers are the ones to choose.