Mixing Tools On A Budget – Part 1

Creating high-quality audio content doesn’t have to break the bank. Knowing what to spend your money on when you’re on a budget can be daunting. Let’s take a look at the best use of resources for creating great mixes.

It’s easy to get lost looking at expensive monitors and vintage outboard gear. At its core the most fundamental part of mixing is getting the balance right. The only way you can do that is to be confident in what you’re listening to. 


Firstly you will need to get a pair of monitors (speakers) you feel comfortable with.

While you’re mixing, it’s important that you know what music is supposed to sound like. The best way to do that is to listen to lots of music on your monitors. You will get much better mix results on monitors in the lower end of the market, where you have hundreds of hours of listening experience, than if you were put in a room with a $100,000 pair of speakers you’ve never listened to before. If you don’t already have a pair of monitors we would recommend the Yamaha HS series of monitors.

Audio Interface

Next you will need an audio interface. An interface is the bridge between your computer and all of your audio equipment, such as monitors, headphones and microphones. We’re fortunate that most modern audio interfaces have great internal components, such as converters and preamps, so there are a lot of great low budget options. We would recommend an interface such as the Audient ID4 MkII interface.

If you’ve ever done a mix and it sounds great but you’ve played it back somewhere else and doesn’t quite hit the same, it’s probably because the space you mixed it in needs some treatment to help balance out its frequency response. 

This does require some effort, but the returns will be more valuable than any vintage modeled plugin you have your eye on. Firstly it’s good to know your room’s frequency response, you can do this with a free app on your computer such as REW (Room EQ Wizard). Once you’ve figured out the frequency response from your listening position, you will be able to determine which frequencies will need to be tamed and which are underrepresented in the space.

Acoustic Panels

The next step would be to put up some acoustic paneling. Acoustic panels are extremely efficient in reducing unwanted reverberations and short delays within your room. They achieve this by absorbing the unwanted sound reflections. Once you know which frequencies in your room need looking at you can decide on the thickness of your panels, which will determine the frequencies it will be able to absorb. This will result in a clear more focused sound within the room.

If you don’t want to shell out lots of money for acoustic panels, it’s something you are able to do yourself on a budget. There are lots of tutorials online explaining how to do this, we recommend watching this video by Micheal Wynne from In The Mix on YouTube.


Once you set up your room, you’ll likely be looking at equipment such as outboard and plugins. Luckily, nearly all DAWs come with great stock plugins that are more than capable of getting the job done. Nearly all professional producers and engineers utilise stock plugins in some way or another. Whether it be due to their sound transparency, ease of use and familiarity or low CPU usage. Our suggestion would be to master using your stock plugins until you feel you’re looking for a specific sound that you’re unable to get out of them. It may be beneficial in the long term to master a smaller collection of plugins than having lots of plugins you’re not able to spend the time with to fully understand.