A sound is the heart and soul for every DJ and mixers do a great job delivering the right quality and volume of sound to add the ‘zing’ to the DJs performance. But when you set out shopping for your digital mixers, you will find an overwhelming range of brands, prices and opinions. Some of the manufacturers have been out there for decades while some others are just about getting their feet in. Therefore it is essential that you have an in-depth knowledge of your crossfader needs and how the gadgets will meet those needs. Some of the advanced digital mixers from established brands will be more expensive and best suited for professionals who may be more comfortable making the additional investment. On that note, let us now examine your options and understand how they meet your expectations.
Deciding the type of mixer you need
Digital mixers for DJ are configured in many different ways by multiple manufacturers. Therefore, it is essential that you choose the DJ gear that best answers your DJ style. For instance, if you are employing scratching and cutting techniques that are associated with the hip-hop DJing, the mixer design should allow you to adjust how you implement the crossfader. An elongated version of the Crossfade is preferred by DJs focusing on Club style because of the smooth mixes that are also often longer. This type of crossfade is also ideal for techno and mixing houses. Scratch DJs prefer the curvature of the crossfaders that is fast and short in addition to a preference for mixers with the ability to reverse position of crossfaders. Scratch DJs would also do well to consider the layout and positioning of the mixer since some controls may interfere with your performance while using scratch techniques.
Laptop DJs will lean naturally towards mixers that connect with the computer through a USB. Additionally, they may also look for mapping the mixer controls to a chosen DJ software via MIDI or a mix of both. Certain MIDI controllers can also double up as mixers and you may be able to wholly integrate a digital and analogue set up in a single unit. However, mobile DJs would also want to think of connectivity for the mixer. For instance, mobile DJs may be better off with a mixer which accommodates several output connections. This is because the DJ may have little or no knowledge of the way the sound system at the venue is set up from one gig to the other. The ruggedness of the equipment is another feature that most mobile DJs would be looking for so that enough variety including a microphone for addressing the gathering is also available.
How do these mixers work?
Primarily, a DJ mixer allows the user to blend and mix music from two sources simultaneously. If you are looking for the very basic mixer, you will notice that it has 2 channels with EQ, gain and level controls and an option to send signals to your headphone output for the purpose of cueing. Usually, the gain control is a knob that allows the user to trim volume of signals that go into a channel. This is important because no two CDs, records or digital files are created with equal volumes or mastered by the DJ. Adjusting the gain level will help in matching input volumes for a smoother flow. 3 bands of EQ will be offered by most mixers to allow you gain control of high, mid and low tones of the chosen music. EQ is controlled through knobs, though some versions may also have small faders while others sport added kill switches to cut off a particular frequency when activated fully.
A fader acts as the final control for a channel to control the level of output. The channel fader usually comes with a button above it which can be used to integrate the channel with your headphone monitor. Mixing two channels can be easily achieved by moving the crossfader from one end to the other, and that constitutes the most basic method of mixing.
Certain channels will also allow connecting multiple sound sources are giving you the ability to integrate 2 CD players and two vinyl decks into a single set up. Some mixers can also feature over two channels presenting you an opportunity to mix multiple sources to achieve the creative effect. Club DJs keen on extending the dynamics of chosen music can look for mixers having built in sound FX which will enable beat synchronisation to the music source through an auto BPM detection or tap tempo key.
For DJs with a separate FX unit and looking to integrate it into your particular set up, you may want to look for a mixer with an FX send/return connection at the rear end. DJs who do not have an FX unit but have plans to acquire one, a mixer sporting the return feature allows you to integrate it at a future point in time.
Another important aspect in choosing a digital mixer is the manner in which the source music passes through a mixer. Some mixers will sport a wholly analogue signal track while others will employ digital circuitry. But, finally, the job of a mixer is to mix multiple music sources together. Technology needs to be creatively harnessed and not lazily. Best DJs often are those who pay plenty of attention to the basics. Becoming a great DJ comes out of sustained practice and no mixer can help you hasten the pace. Knowing your DJ aspirations and style will hold the key to discovering the best mixer to take you on the road to success.