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I have done some research and have found an audio mixer/interface combination device that I want to use to record a microphone. I have picked a few choices out in my budget range and have found a bit of a problem with them. The USB is not bi-directional, and the USB cannot be used for mix minus to filter out devices I don't want going over the mic. I want to be able to use this mixer for 2 purposes: mix all the sound together from my PC, microphone, phone, and any other devices I am using and monitor them in real time on the mixer and to export the microphone audio to the PC so I can use it to talk on discord.

This leaves me with one question that I can't quite seem to find an answer to. Is there a big advantage to using the USB output to get audio to the computer over using a 1/4" to 3.5mm adaptor on the FX send of the mixer? I plan to use the mix minus most of the time with discord, and I want to know if I should be budgeting more to get a mixer that can input/output through USB how I want it to, or save money (about $40) and get the version of the mixer that doesn't have USB at all.

As far as I can tell from the lack of information on this kind of question, it doesn't actually matter and either is fine, but asking a community of experts seems like a good way to save myself from making a bad expensive purchase. I have checked and the sound card in my PC will let me direct the outputs to make a setup like this work without USB.

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There are a bunch of things to consider:

  • if you send audio to the computer using a 1/4" to 3.5mm, as the microphone input of computers are usually mono, you will lose the stereo in the way. Not a big consequence for recording a single mic, but might be a problem for other devices…

  • also, as it will be your computer sound which will do the Analog to Digital Conversion, do not expect the quality to be very good as these inputs are made to be used videochat mainly. Might not be a problem for you… External USB sound card usually perform way better on this point.

  • another usual problem that needs to be pointed out is latency: computer sound cards deal very badly with latency, which can be a problem when you want to record something over something else.

Maybe an easy way to go is to get an external sound card with enough inputs/outputs, this way you can send audio in and out of your computer. If you connect this to your speakers, you can send all the audio of your computer there, but also the sound of other devices without going through the computer using "direct monitoring". You probably do not want that for the mic, but if you want (say) to listen to your phone's music, this will possible.

Bear in mind that, inputting a stereo device like a phone to a sound card/mixer, you will need two channels.

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  • So if I understand this correctly, you answer is "it depends on your pc's sound card being good enough to convert the signal to useable digital information." Meaning its not really something I can know without buying the mixer first and seeing how it sounds. My desktop has a built in Realtek HD Audio card with enough inputs and outputs to do what I want without an external card (line out, line in, headphones in). With this being the case the only issue is the quality of the DAC in the integral soundcard vs the mixer. Is it unreasonable to assume the Realtek HD card is good enough? Oct 2 '20 at 14:18
  • @MaxBrown Well, Realtek HD is a bit vague, there are quite a bunch of them, why not trying like it is now? If the quality is not good enough for you then you can go for a sound card. If it is, go for a mixer if you need one… I never heard of "standard" sound cards being able to record stereo but maybe yours does. Quality is not the "only issue", latency and ease of connection also.
    – Tom
    Oct 2 '20 at 15:07
  • Gotcha. Thank you for all the information. Ill probably go with the mixer that has the USB so I can compare the two then. If it does not fulfill my needs I can get an external dac to convert the analog signal outside my computer at a higher quality. Oct 2 '20 at 15:11

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