Updated by Danielle
Updated on March 8th, 2023
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Best Digital Mixer Under $5000 (our top pick)
Allen & Heath Qu-32
While the number of channels you need might differ, the 32-channel version of the Allen & Heath Qu is where we'd recommend starting. This model has a manageable learning curve, a touch screen, and recording built in, so there's no need to mess with an external recording interface.
I've often thought that the difference in sound quality between mixers was often just splitting hairs. But the Allen & Heath Qu-32 truly sounds warm and better than so many other mixers I've heard, at least in this particular price range. So depending on what you're migrating from, it's likely you'll get a bump in tone quality, even if you're not upgrading other components in your system.
Here are a few features we'd take note of in the Qu-32 mixer:
- 32 channels
- Motorized faders
- Touch screen
- Optional app included (use with tablet or phone for mixing)
- Plug-and-play DAW compliance
- Built-in recording
Whenever I run sound at my church, it's the external recording interface that I mess up the most. It's likely a personal problem, but for our own upgrade we're looking at a mixer with recording built-in, like the Qu-32. It's an underrated feature.
Compare to similar digital mixers
In this table we're linking to a few more digital mixers under $5000, just to give you a couple different opportunities to compare it to other units.
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Note that we do not provide ratings, individual reviews, or comparison tools for digital mixers.
Allen & Heath Qu-32
Allen & Health SQ-5
PreSonus StudioLive 64S
Our recommendation methodology
We consult live audio professionals and engineers to create content centered around mixers and pro audio. From there, our process is pretty much the same as it is with any other piece of gear.
- Focus on reputable brands
- Highlight products we've touched with our own hands
- Focus on priority features
- Focus on value for the price ($5000 or less in this case)
All of our content is written and contributed to by musicians who have used these products extensively. We do not publish material from people that are not familiar with the musical instrument market.
If you have questions about our methodology, we're always happy to answer with transparency.
Price Guide for the Allen & Heath Qu-32
The Qu-32 is available from most large-scale music retailers, including Sweetwater, Musician's Friend, and Guitar Center. From what I've seen, price usually stays the same across the board.
Features that matter most
We've touched on a few things you should keep note of, but I'll make a full list here. Remember, we're not necessarily looking at all features, but focusing on the most important.
- Price and budget
- Number of channels
- Sound quality of final product
- Built-in recording interface
- Software, DAW, and app compatibility
Do I need the app?
The mixer we have at our church allows you to control things from the physical board, or from an iPhone or iPad app. That's something worth digging into when you're deciding on a mixer, because it's extremely handy.
We can get everything set up on the physical board, then grab an iPad and move around freely.
These days, most boards are implementing a mobile app for control.
How many channels do I need?
Channels, somehow, tend to get used up. Even if our band is relatively small, we still end up using more than we would have thought. I would advise taking the number of instruments and microphones that need to be connected, then multiple that by two.
That's the channel number I'd go after. For most situations, 32 channels will be more than enough
If you're just a solo artist or a small band running a basic setup, don't buy this. It's way more than you need, especially if there's travel involved.
In that scenario, aim for an eight to 12 channel mixer.
Cost typically fluctuates within a brand depending on the number of channels included in a mixer. Figure that out first, then zero in on the other features that are a priority for you.
Other channel versions in the Allen & Health Qu series include the Qu-24 and Qu-16.
I work with a few guys that know a lot about this stuff, including my father-in-law who used to set up a lot of these for churches. So drop a note in the comments section if you have questions. If I can't help you directly, I'll definitely get you in touch with someone who can.