Even in the age of computers, there are many cases when mixers come in handy. The drummer needs a click track. Hardware effects need special signal routing. You want to control monitoring of some live mics, and to adjust level directly. You need to mix the sound from your computer with external hardware, and don’t want to have to mix in the computer to do it. I could go on, but you can use your imagination.

Rouding out this week’s slew of M-Audio announcements, M-Audio’s new NRV10 combines an 8 x 2 analog mixer with a 10 x 10 FireWire audio interface, at a pretty reasonable price of US$899.95 (especially if you consider having to buy this gear separately). It doubles as a mixer and audio interface, and can be used as a mixer when no computer is connected.

The idea itself isn’t new. Alesis (MultiMix) and Behringer (XENYX) both have their own models, though I hope the M-Audio is better-quality gear; their experience with audio interfaces, at least, suggests it should be. Mackie’s Onyx series is well worth a look, and you can’t argue with the quality of Mackie’s mixers and interfaces. In fact, the one feature missing on the NRV10 is a 4-bus option, which could be useful for sending a separate front-of-house mix. (You could do that from the interface, but that sort of defeats the purpose.) The Mackies require add-on options for their audio interfaces, however, and lack some of the computer integration features of the NRV10. I think M-Audio was wise to make the interface standard and focus on integration.

The NRV10 has some interesting details in its feature set, as well:

  1. Analog mixing of multiple computer audio feeds
  2. Full monitor source assignment (which alone could make it worth purchasing for some users), so you can monitor whatever you want from the mixer via headphones, plus DJ-style pre-listen cues (neat!)
  3. Automate the NRV10 itself from your DAW
  4. Pro Tools M-Powered support, as well as Core Audio, ASIO Mac/PC support for other apps
  5. Built-in effects (reverbs, delays, rotary speaker, flanger, chorus, tremolo), plus Mac/Windows VST software host versions
  6. All the essentials: insert jacks on each channel for routing effects, 2 stereo aux sends + 2 returns, balanced XLR and balanced 1/4″ TRS mix outputs (specs we’re not used to seeing on gear with the M-Audio logo)

Street looks like it will be around US$700, making this a pretty good deal. My only gripe is that the only LED per channel is a single “peak” LED on each channel, which will make monitoring signal levels a little tricky, though that’s generally a problem with compact mixers. (Seriously, though; LEDs cost about 15 cents, so I wish manufacturers wouldn’t be so stingy.) Fortunately, you do have a full set of meters for the main bus. Note that M-Audio put this under a category on their website for “FireWire Audio Mixers”, meaning more may be on their way.

My take is this: if you need more sophisticated mixing features, you’re probably going to go with Mackie’s Onyx line — the extra cash will be money well spent, for a great mixer with lots of features. (See the Onyx 1220, for starters.) If your needs are simpler, you want to stay on budget, and you want a more compact unit, the M-Audio looks like it has real potential. We should know more once these units start to ship this month. Having both choices means we may be really spoiled in audio interface/mixers, finally!

NRV10 Product Page [M-Audio]

What do you use?

What do you use for your mixing needs? A number of audio interfaces can double as mixers, though often minus the faders. Got a trusty 1402 VLZ sitting next to your interface? Or do you do all your mixing in-computer?

[tags]mixing, hardware, M-Audio, mixers, FireWire, interfaces, audio-interfaces, recording, previews, Mac, Windows[/tags]

  • pantload

    phonic & alesis have their firewire mixers, too. i've heard (surprisingly) good things about the phonic line… and have first hand experience with the complete nightmare that is the alesis fw mixer.

    the beauty of this m-audio offering is that you have the ability to mix the firewire returns *on the mixer.* all of the others, including the mackie, only offer a stereo return from the DAW. i can't tell from the specs whether or not the NRV gives analog outputs for each the fw returns.. via the inserts, maybe? that may be asking too much.

  • maz

    Looks like a great piece of kit. Though I wish it had MIDI support to use as a controller within a DAW as well. Then it would be top notch for those of us in need of a mixer as well as a controller for using things like Ableton along with some hardware sound sources.

  • Studioguy

    Not cheap though. I have an Alesis MultiMix 16 channel mixer that has 8 XLR's that I got for $600. I don't have any problems with mine. I record gigs with it all the time.

  • This looks like exactly what i've been looking for. Can't wait for the release!

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  • BassTooth

    i totally do have a 1402-VLZ that i got last christmas! i use the last 4 channels on it for my PSP, MBox, FirePod, and MicroKorg. i've always wondered how to rig it up to do seperate cue/headphone mixes.

  • Why pay $900 for this when Mackie makes Onyx Firewire Mixers in 3 versions? The 1640 is 4 bus, 16 channels for $1100.

  • kingmetal

    my Yamaha 01V96 only cost $1500, so $900 is a pretty horrid price for what this thing actually does. hell, I'd rather have a MOTU Traveler any day of the week. sure, the interface isn't as straight-forward as having real knobs and faders, but it does the same damn thing and is a helluva lot better of a deal. people tend to forget that the firewire MOTUs will work stand-alone as a 4 bus mixer. just my two cents, I suppose I could see some applications for this thing, but it just doesn't seem versatile enough to me for that price.

  • I think it depends on what you're looking for. I agree, kingmetal, I like the standalone mixer features of the MOTU pieces (and a couple of other competing interfaces have mixer function as well, though I can't remember off-hand which ones — certainly have tried and love the MOTU feature). And there are certainly competitors from Mackie and Yamaha to look at before shelling out the cash on the M-Audio.

  • GHuntech

    HI All

    I would Like to suggest we become a little more broad minded and be a little less wedded to tradition and name recognition. There are products out there that at least match if not exceed this fine little M- Audio mixer. It has the same number output Buss count 1 & 2 + a Stereo L/R. Yes it even has 6 Real Direct outs /inserts. . . yes it Has 1394 aka Firewire interface. . . Mod # Helix Board 18 FireWire made by Yes Phonic.

    Best All

    Happy creativity


  • Jer

    Personally, I think the Protools M-powered integration is worth something that Mackie, Phonic and Alesis just can't provide.

  • gary

    this is the only mixer of its type that returns more than 2 channels (10 in fact) from the DAW all the others listed return just a stereo mix (mackie,phonic etc) hence the price premium – now if they had included motorised faders, theyde really be talking

  • john light

    Mackie's solution is a total miss:

    its wonderful mixer features cannot be used within the computer!!! You only get a "flat" input signal on your computer. So, you actually pay all this money and get only "half" of the product. Such a stupid move…

    On the contrary, this M-Audio unit looks like it does the job ideally. I am seriously thinking of purchasing it. If only someone could tell us how it really sounds.

    And if only it was a little cheaper… :-((

  • pitsam

    I found it for $549. Cover me I'm going in.

  • OK so this is the only Firewire mixer that returns what you send to the computer back into the analog mixer on more than just a stereo channel. I didn't realize this until today, which rockets this into first position for my choice of DAW interface.

    The support for VSTs, which is why I even want a Firewire mixer in the first place, comes from Audiffex's interFX application which, out of the box, is pretty much useless to me. However the upgrade to interFX pro is $150 which seems pretty steep just to get control of parameter automation for my VST instruments and fx. The upswing is that the latency on a modern Core Duo system should be about 3 ms or less so far as I can tell due to audio being processed without further ado across the actual Firewire audio input/output stream. If anyone else can tell me how to achieve such a thing without buying the NRV, drop me a line!

    Being that I intend to use the brilliant program Usine as my "live DAW" exclusively, the fact that the NRV's interFX pro version allows midi note and "control" (I assume they mean Midi CC's) messages to be received and that it can be controled by another app via ReWire this may be the godsend I've been waiting for.