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How to Choose an Ultra-Portable USB Audio Mixer

This article compares a range of sub-$100, sub-compact mixers that can help you capture top-quality audio at events where you don't need bulkier, more expensive mixers with more inputs than you may need.

Phenyx Pro PTX-10 4-Channel Mixer

This one strikes a very different pose compared to the others. While the casing has the light-colored sides like THE Behringer, it’s the fader on channel 1 that really stands out. Among all the mixers included in this roundup, the Phenyx is the ONLY one with a fader.

It has XLR on channel 1, with gain, peaking LED, PAD, and a 3-band EQ. It’s the only model with three bands as well.

The second input is 1/4" line input only, mono only, and there's no EQ, no pan, just a level control.

Then a stereo set (mono-capable) with its own level control. So, three level controls, unlike any of the mixers before this. Mini mic jack and mini headphone jack, which was also available on the previous mixers.

You’ll also see that many of these mixers have "effects" for live sound reinforcement. They all seem designed for solo singer/songwriters who need something to mix themselves on top of a backing track, whether it be from iPod or computer playback over USB.

Audio 2000 AMX7304

Yes, this one is white. But it’s very similar to the Phenyx Pro PTX-10, but loses the fader, and has only a 2-channel EQ on the mic input. 

Otherwise, it’s very similar in capability and features, with the addition of a USB/Bluetooth button that has no additional information in the manual. 

This is also the only mixer in this group with a high-pass filter on the mic input. So if the mic is on a table or handheld, it takes away some handing/thumping noise. It looks enticing. The Audio 2000 website says it was introduced in January 2019, so it's very new. And very white.

Ammoon AGM04

Ammoon is back, and with a nicely featured mixer with XLR/line on both channel 1 and channel 2. We're starting to get close to $100 here and the features are starting to expand. But when you look closely, you realize that channel 1 and channel 2 are not created equal. There’s a phantom button on channel 1, but not on 2. Both have a pad, input gain, 2-band EQ, pan, and channel level.

Then there’s 3/4 (mono-capable) with its own level. Headphone and main level out. They also try something with using the headphone as a second dual mono output for L & R, or a headphone out. And you can pick what the USB output is.

This is an interesting little mixer for sure. It seems to be what I wanted the AGM02 to be, but the design is all black--every knob is black, and in production I think I can foresee adjusting the wrong knob by mistake. The AGM02 avoided that by the arrangement of very different knobs and sliders, and the AGM02 packed it all into a smaller device.

Muslady SM-66

I'll start by saying this is a pretty mixer--perfectly avoiding my main problem with the AGM04. The SM-66 is well-laid out and color-coded, and it does not look confusing at all. It has the largest audio meters of all of these mixers. It’s physically the biggest. And it costs $100, which was my price limit when putting together this article.

Both channel 1 and channel 2 are identical, with XLR mic and 1/4" line, as well as their own phantom switch, peak lights, and Hi-Z button. The mixer also features 2-band EQ, pan, individual effects level, and channel level. Then there’s 3/4 (mono-capable) with pan and level.

A good portion of the mixer is allocated to USB playback, and the effects--with a digital readout of what type of effect is active, none of which apply to what I'm writing about.

This Muslady has dedicated headphone and main outputs. It has no 1/8" inputs or outputs, but it does have the only XLR outs in the group, which is part of the reason it’s the largest and most expensive mixer here. But the SM-66 is still USB-powered, and delivers audio over USB.

There is also a $120 Muslady SM-68 with four XLR inputs. It was over my threshold for this article, but worth mentioning for those who need that functionality over USB power.

All these mixers seem to be designed for musicians, either for recording or performing, with a minimal number of pieces to integrate. They tout the USB connection to a computer. Not all USB devices specifically support iOS. But several touted “universal USB compatibility,” and I know producers who are using a couple of different models on iOS, so I think the manufacturers understand that iOS compatibility is important too.

These are the little widgets you can use to take the house feed, add a room mic, and maybe something else, depending on which model you pick. There are quite a few little nuances to these various mixers. It’s not as simple as A-B-C as you go down the line. Each manufacturer has a different take on how they're going to deliver what they feel their market needs. I hope this helps you find the one that matches what you need.

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