Best Portable Mixers for Small Gigs

At the time that I’m writing this a pandemic is winding down while shipping costs from China are on the rise. The rising cost of gear ownership is putting a strain on the music community. If you are getting ready to play out in small venues where you’re expected to bring your own sound, keep reading. Places like coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants will soon be hiring you to play. You’ll need a small, portable mixer that won’t break the bank or your back. Here are The Audio Brew’s top 3 portable mixers.

Best in Class – Bose T4S ToneMatch Mixer

The Bose T4S 4-channel ToneMatch Mixer is perfect for small gigs. If you’re a solo singer-songwriter or even a duo, you’ll have everything you need to play any small to medium size gig. It does pair nicely with ToneMatch port-equipped Bose speaker systems (L1 Model II, L1 Model 1S, but you can plug it directly into any other setup. Chances are you own a set of powered speakers and these will plug directly in with either an XLR or 1/4″ cable.

The T4S also adds that extra shine to your live performance. You’ll get channel-level control over dynamics, EQ, and effects. There’s even a dedicated EQ for the overall mix in the venue. We all know how well most small venues are treated for sound. If 4 channels are not enough, there’s the Bose T8S ToneMatch Mixer.

Click here for a full review of the T4S 4-channel ToneMatch Mixer.

  • 4-channel mic/line mixer with rich stereo DSP
  • Simple layout — great for analog users and beginners
  • Bose ToneMatch processing provides stellar, natural-sounding vocals and instruments
  • Independent ToneMatch, EQ, dynamics, and effects per channel
  • Effects with advanced digital audio processing: compressor, limiter, de-esser, noise gate, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, tap delay, and reverb
  • 6-band master EQ helps compensate for venue acoustics
  • USB audio input streams music into a live streaming platform
  • The magnetic cover protects your mixer and preserves levels between shows
  • Street price: $599
  • Manufacturer spec sheet

In all reality, one of the best things about the Bose T4S is its size. It’s very compact and could easily sit on a music stand or stool. So long and whatever you put it on is stable, you should be fine!

Best in Budget – Allen & Heath ZED-6FX 4-channel Mixer

The Allen & Heath ZED-6FX is a great 4-channel mixer if you’re working on a tight budget. I know you’re wondering why I’m not talking about Behringer for this category. That’s because this category is best in budget and not cheapest. Allen & Heath builds durable mixers at a killer price.

This mixer is perfect for solo artists. There are two XLR inputs for mics and two additional stereo channels for instruments like digital pianos, digital drums, or synthesizers. When you account for the two stereo channels, you would need a 6-channel mono mixer to compete. These two stereo channels really give you an advantage.

  • Rugged compact mixer for small-format applications
  • Multimodel effects include reverbs, delays, and combination effects
  • 2 mono channels with GSPre mic preamps and instrument/line-level inputs
  • Low-cut filters to reduce rumble and other unwanted low frequencies
  • Effective sound shaping from HF and LF equalizer controls
  • Channels can be individually assigned to the headphone mix
  • XLR outputs for studio monitors or powered PA speakers
  • Smooth 60mm fader for controlling your main mix
  • Rotary controls are secured to the faceplate with steel nuts for maximum durability
  • Street price: $219
  • Manufacturer spec sheet

If you like having hands on control, and not paging through menu systems, this mixer might be right for your next small gig.

Best Powered: Peavey PVi 6500 6-channel 400W Powered Mixer

If you’ve been around the music scene for more than 20 years, you know Peavey. This little giant is a classic powered mixer design resembling an overweight guitar amp head. If you own passive speakers and need a small powered mixer to take to shows, this is your stop. The tactile knobs for level, EQ, and EFX sit squarely on the face.

With the PVi 6500 mixer, you’ll get a lot more connectivity than others in its class. An old-school RCA input is easily accessible on the front for your phone or MP3 player. You could also use it as an input for something like a Roland V-Drum kit – essentially making this an 8-channel mixer. Bluetooth wireless connectivity works with your phone or tablet to stream music to the system.

  • Powered mixer with 200W (RMS at 4-ohms) per output channel
  • Six-channel design with ultra-clean Silencer microphone preamplifiers
  • Feedback Locating System makes it easy to fight onstage feedback
  • 9-band Graphic EQ helps you tune your system to any room
  • Mid-Morph EQ makes it fast and easy to dial in a great vocal sound
  • Built-in 24-bit effects processing with foot-switchable mute
  • Kosmos-C audio enhancement module lets you add punch and clarity to dull signals
  • Bluetooth wireless audio streaming for portable Bluetooth music players
  • Street price: $399
  • Manufacturer spec sheet

The PVi 6500 has enough power to fill a small venue and enough channels to handle a small band. If the idea of combining an amp with your mixer is appealing, then this is your ticket. If you have powered speakers, you’ll want to pass on this. You won’t need a powered amp if you have powered speakers. You could easily damage your equipment by plugging in a power amplifier into already powered speakers.

Getting Back to Gigging

Following a receding pandemic, you will want to start getting back into the mix. I’m already seeing small venues like bars and restaurants opening back up with live music. You want to be prepared to play and stay safe at the same time. At some point, you have to get back to doing what you do. Now get back to it – Cheers!