The best digital mixer for church sound

In this article, I’m going to share ten reasons why the X32 and M32 family of mixers is the best choice for most church sound systems. I’ve worked with these mixers for over six years now, so this review comes with a lot of practical experience using these tools for worship ministry. By the end of this article, you’ll have a firm grasp on the benefits of upgrading to one of these mixers, and you’ll know whether or not you should buy one for your church.

The mixer is the foundation of any church sound system. Of course, you need a robust speaker system, monitoring, and cabling, but the mixer is an integral part of pulling all of these tools together and creating an acoustically pleasing experience in worship.

There are a lot of great sound consoles available. I highly recommend you continue to research other makes and models yourself after watching this video. Presonus, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft, and Yamaha, all make comparable digital mixers in the sub-$5,000 range that you need to check out. In this video, I’m going to unpack why I believe the Behringer and Midas family of digital mixers is the best choice for most churches. Not only do I have extensive experience with these sound consoles over the past six years, but they’ve been on the market long enough to prove themselves as the best choice for a lot of churches.

You may be wondering why I am referring to Behringer and Midas as the same family of consoles. It’s because Music Group owns both brands. Historically speaking, Behringer has a reputation for low priced and low-quality gear. Midas has a reputation for high-priced, high-quality gear. A few years after Music Group acquired Midas, they began combining forces of the low price point of Behringer with the quality of Midas. In 2012 they released the X32 series of mixers under the Behringer brand, and in 2014 they released the M32 series of mixers under the Midas brand.

X32 and M32 mixers are practically the same. They both run the same software and user interface. The primary difference is in the hardware. The Midas boards have better faders, pre-amps, and overall look cooler. Think of it this way. Midas is like Cadillac, and the X32 is like Chevy, and both get the job done, but if you have the money, you won’t regret owning a Cadillac. If your church can afford it, purchase the Midas board.  It will sound a little better, and the hardware will most likely last longer. But if you can’t afford the M32, the X32 will do just fine.

I hope that gives you a little context and understanding of how these two brands are part of the same family of digital mixers. Now I want to unpack the ten reasons why I believe these mixers are the best choice for most churches.

Reason #1 - It’s all digital

Many churches have yet to transition from analog mixers to a digital one. Up until six years ago, finding a high-quality digital mixer at an affordable price was difficult. Since then, Behringer, Midas, and other brands already mentioned have released a ton of affordable digital mixers. Going digital has multiple benefits. All effects and signal processing is built into the board. You can apply eq, compression, noise gates, reverb, delay, and a bunch of other effects to any voice or instrument going into your mixer.  

Going digital will help you reduce the amount of gear clutter in your worship space and sound booth. Motorized faders allow the board to take up a smaller footprint because you can scroll through pages of channels. 

You can save different scenes to your soundboard so once you’ve dialed in a mix, so you don’t need to worry about someone coming by the board and adjusting the knobs and faders.

Going digital with your mixer is just as powerful as going digital with your phone. Remember life without smartphones? Sure, you could get the job with flip phones, but you can accomplish a whole lot more with a supercomputer in your pocket. Digital mixers bring that same transformation to your sound system.

Reason #2 - The ecosystem

We are all familiar with the power of ecosystems in tech these days. The most infamous one is Apple’s ecosystem. All of their devices are designed to work with one another whether you use a Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iWatch. It works the same way with digital mixers. When you buy a digital mixer, not only are you buying into the console, but you are also buying into an ecosystem of compatible consoles, digital snakes, and in-ear monitoring.

One of the best features of the X32 and M32 family of mixers is their compatibility. For example, if you want the affordability of the X32 console but quality sound of the M32 pre-amps, you can use the Midas stage snake with the X32 console. All of these pieces of hardware route together with ethernet cables and you can instantly start configuring them for your situation.

The other benefit of this ecosystem is it has the same user experience on all of the mixers. If you know how to use an X32, you know how to use the M32. In one church I served at, we had the M32 in our large worship space, and we used the X32 rack in the smaller worship space where the youth ministry met. Despite the mixers being different, our volunteer sound techs could run both once they learned how to run one of them.

Reason #3 - Ease of use

Ease of use is where I think the X32 and M32 mixers beat their competitors like Presonus. The layout of their board is incredibly intuitive to navigate and get work done. In a church environment, it’s essential to have a mixer that I can easily understand how to use as the worship leader. It also needs to be easy for volunteers to learn. The X32 and M32 board accomplishes both of those. I know this is subjective, but I’ve poked around a lot of other digital boards, and in my opinion, this family of mixers is the only one you could give me without an instruction manual, and I could figure it out on my own in a few minutes.

Reason #4 - Compatibility with analog sound systems

Since many churches are still making the transition from analog to digital, the X32 mixers are an excellent choice because you can swap it out with your analog console and get it up and running in a matter of minutes. There is no need to immediately upgrade to an analog snake because of the analog inputs built into the back of the board. A lot of higher-end digital mixers don’t have any analog inputs because they expect the end user to have all digital routing.

Reason #5 - Expandability

A lot of churches may be in a situation where due to current budget constraints and potential for future growth, they need the ability to start small and expand when the opportunity arises. For example, you could purchase the X32 compact which only has 16 inputs and eight outputs built into the mixer. Maybe that works fine for your needs right now, but what do you do when your worship ministry grows, and you need more inputs and outputs? You can purchase the compatible digital snake to double your capacity and have a full 32 channels of inputs.

Reason #6 - Wifi Remote Control

The X32 and M32 mixers come with compatible apps for wifi remote control on an iPad. You don’t need the latest and fanciest iPad. You can buy a used one for a few hundred dollars off, and it can be your dedicated remote for your mixer. I love this feature because it allows my sound tech to walk around the room as they mix. You can also bring mixing control on stage when you troubleshoot any issues with your gear.

Your musicians can download the M32 Q app to control their in-ear monitor mixes. No more yelling to the sound tech to turn things up or down. Your musicians can adjust their mixes in real time.

Reason #7 - In-ear monitoring

In-ear monitoring is becoming increasingly crucial for worship ministries as more bands begin using a click and tracks in worship. In-ears are also a great way to reduce stage volume and improve the overall front of house mix. With the X32 and M32 there are multiple ways to setup in-ear monitors. You can use a headphone amp with headphone extension cables. That is the cheapest setup, and we use it at my church for all of our musicians except the worship leaders. Next, you could use the P16 personal mixers. While these are reasonably priced and easy to install, they are not my favorite option because I do not prefer using another piece of hardware to mix my in-ears. I would rather use the app on my phone. The third way to set up monitors is to use a wireless system. It’s the most expensive option, but it’s fantastic because it requires less cabling and allows your musicians to move about the stage. We use wireless in-ears for our worship leaders.

While it’s possible to setup wireless in ears with analog soundboards, you’ll find some significant limitations in that type of situation. The X32 and M32 have up to 16 unique outputs. Usually, two of those are used for your main mix for P/A system, so that means you have 14 Mixbus outs available to send up to 14 unique mixes to your monitors. With in-ear monitoring, it’s best when everyone has their unique mix so they can hear what they want need. On analog boards, you are limited to 4 or 6 auxiliary outputs which often means people will need to share mixes. 

No matter what route you go with in-ear monitoring, the X32 will make it exponentially easier to make the transition.

Reason #8 - Recording audio to a USB thumb drive

Recording sermon audio is easier than ever using the USB thumb drive on the X32 and M32 mixers. In our workflow, we plug in the drive, hit record at the beginning of the service, hit stop at the end of the service, unplug the drive, plug it into a computer, edit the audio in GarageBand, and then upload it to Soundcloud for our sermon podcast.

Reason #9 - Multitrack recording

If you wanted to record your worship service with the ability to mix down the audio tracks in post-production, you could easily record a multitrack session to your favorite digital audio workstation. I know churches that have done this to record a night of worship and make an album. Other churches will record multitracks so they can create backing tracks for future use. All you need to do is plug your laptop into the USB port, open up Logic, ProTools, or Ableton, and you’ll see the X32 or M32 as an option to route audio to and from your computer.

Reason #10 - Price

I just listed off a tone of neat features about the X32 and M32 digital mixers, but what makes all of these things more exciting is the price point. Buying one of these mixers ranges from as low as $999 for the X32 Rack and as high as $3,999 for the M32. Then you have a bunch of options in between.

Our church went with the mid-range price option of the Midas M32R. We wanted the hardware quality of the Midas board, with a compact size, knowing we could put a 32 channel snake on our stage. The stage snake we chose was the S32. Unfortunately that means we are not using the Midas preamps for our stage instruments, but honestly, 99% wouldn’t be able to hear the difference in sound quality.

In the end, you can easily have a digital board and snake for just a few thousand dollars. Ten years ago this would have cost you more than $10,000. If you have an analog mixer, you will not regret switching over to the X32 or M32 mixers.

I've compiled for purchasing these mixers in my Worship Ministry Toolkit. It’s my complete list of recommended gear for worship ministry, and I have an entire page dedicated to selecting the right version of the X32 or M32 board for your church. All the pricing is there as well to help you out with budgeting.

When you do purchase the X32 or M32, I highly recommend you check my online course, “The Beginner’s Guide to Church Sound.” It’s only $7 and it will walk you through everything you need to know about building a sound system and navigating your mixing console. Click here to purchase the course.

What questions do you have about the X32 or M32 digital mixers? Let me know in the comments below.