This week I’ve been shopping around for a small mixer for a live rig.

I’m amazed at just how crappy most options are, and especially, just how inappropriate most small mixers seem to be for musicians who deal in (primarily digital) tabletop electronics. Of course, I realize electronic musicians are in the minority when it comes to live settings, and most live mixers are great for two guitars and a singer, but surely the niche is big enough to warrant something aimed at it.

I’m working out how to do a SIGHUP set live without a PC, which has required some creative thinking since SIGHUP is primarily a computer-based recording project, and I’ve never gigged it before. I don’t have a laptop, I’m not eager to get one, so I’ve decided to come up with something with the gear I have.

Using an MPC500, a Jomox M-resonator and some kind of digital delay/multi-effects unit (for now it will likely be a Korg Kaoss Pad 3, which has the added benefit of playing double duty as a sampler. I had thought about using my Akai S-20 alongside the MPC, but the KP3 will save me the pain of having one more thing to carry). To get all things working in a nice little setup, I’m going to add a mixer.

But here’s the problem: all the things I’ve mentioned have stereo ins and stereo outs. And I kind of like it that way. But finding a 100% stereo small mixer is a big pain in the arse, in the “I couldn’t find anything but crap” sort of way. The only fully stereo things I could find were DJ mixers, which a) are two to three times more expensive than plain old console mixers (perhaps because of the stereo signal path, but I also suspect that the DJ market is easily fleeced and as such encourages making merry with the pricing model) and b) tend to be filled up with all sorts of stupid DJ gewgaws (phono, filters, DSP, and all those blinking lights!), of which I am uninterested.

For now, I’ve settled on a Tapco Blend 6, since it is cheap and sturdy (and so cheap, I won’t ever feel bad replacing it). It should do until I find something that better suits my needs. What I would love is a four stereo-channel mixer (maybe throw in a mono channel with XLR in just to cover the “might need a mic at some point” angle, but even then, I won’t be brokenhearted by its absence), with two stereo aux sends and two stereo aux returns, all line level, balanced or unbalanced, and all 1/4″ jacks.

If something like that exists for under $400, please point me to it. Or, in the event that my way of thinking is messed up and naive, please correct my way of thinking.

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