DJ Mixers - what are you paying for?

Hey guys, i have recently been thinking of getting some kind of two channel DJ style mixer with integrated isolator EQ and filters etc, i think it might be an interesting addition to my OP1 and other synth / sampling toys. However I am a bit bewildered by the range and price options. I have a background in pro studio gear, so i know that quality needs to be paid for, but in the case of high end pre amps you are paying for something that is going to colour the sound in a reliable and subjectively favourable way. Pre amps were a bit of a mystery to me 10 years ago and it is only with experience and trial and error i have come to understand what makes one particular pre amp / analogue compressor / EQ preferable to another one. I am hoping perhaps someone can help me unlock DJ mixers in the same way!

Most of the bumf about DJ mixers all seem to be about making stuff sound ‘great’ whilst also not colouring the sound in any way. This feels a bit oxymoronic so i was wondering what character of the sound i’m listening for? I totally get that you gotta pay a couple of hundred bucks for some good analogue filters, but do these DJ mixers have super high end transformers in them or something? do they have some kind of circuit that distorts beautifully when you push it? I know they have phono amps in them, is that the main draw? or do they have super clean massive headrom highs? What is it that makes one DJ mixer sound different or better than another? W’re talking some serious bucks here for a high end mixer, is that mostly for build quality and features? What are you actually getting / looking for if you spend 2000€ on a mixer rather than 200€?

Any thoughts welcome!


In my experience cheaper mixers sound acceptable and good enough for me.It has to be super cheap and basic before I hear a noticeable difference without a/b reference .
Build quality and features is why I consider more £s.
Stuff like high grade faders ,infinite cut on EQs and … A prefade FX send is a real decider for me, because of Kaoss pads sound better ,fed that way (OP-1 too).
I am using a studio master fusion I got for £65 because of ability to moniter a prefade aux well (in stereo).It takes up more space, weaker faders and EQ than my other (Stanton hybrid techno thingy) but I can route lots out ,to suit my needs.
Three channel or more means a lot to me because I use decks with mine.And having extra switchable inputs is handy per fader aswell.
(I love using DJ mixers , but I use one in conjunction with a studio mixer and I fire back and forth between the two and a ton of FX ,in figure 8s with feed back all over the shop).

@Spheric_El - thanks for the thoughts! Sounds like an interesting setup you have got going on there. What else do you have firing into your DJ mixer then? I saw a lot of them have multiple inputs, do you approach these int he same way you would a stereo channel on a more standard desk then (aka, one thing per channel? if you want more than 4 things at once you need more channels)

Interesting with the prefade FX send, does that allow you to keep sending the input to the fx without it coming through the main outs then (aka, 100% wet)?

I don’t know if it would fit your needs, but Sherman/Rodec Restyler seems pretty good as a crazy mixer + analog filters :slight_smile:

Hard to find, but not that expensive…

I’ve been using Dj mixers for a couple decades now and really like my Urei 1601s. Let me state that I’m a dj first and synth head second, but I always thought that this mixer would work awesome with a synth setup. Picked it up cheap ~$150 new at a guitar center. The insert fx routing is pretty deep, the dual samplers with dual foot switches are lots of fun and overall the build quality and sound are top notch.

Ignore the crowd that hates this mixer, most of them can’t wrap their heads around all the features it offers to someone thinking outside the box.

Here’s a pic of my travel setup:

@aswefallintostatic I have two stereo aux sends from my studio mixer(O1v) into two stereo line ins on the DJ one.
Yes the line channels are “one instrument at a time” and can switch from my aux onto either of two CD decks.There’s also some instrument style channels on mine that can be mic or synth.I generally plug a Monotron (as FX filter) or mic here.Then two channels for technics.
It’s the outputs I use loads too.Two times Kaoss pad busses,each one a chain of FX and an old ER-1 input fed for ringmod FX .Also manage another feed for any synth input,like a vocoder type or filter on a VA synth (MiniAk right now).
Yes the prefade FX is like you mention, either KP buss can be exclusive or mixed.Each buss arrives at O1v ,then can come back to be potentially routed through second channel.
I’ve got GAS for Allen & Heath Xone 92
Although the 62 is much cheaper.
It seems the channel faders are less DJ orientated (scratch friendly) and EQ not as powerful on cut. 1 aux FX send ,not 2 and 1 filter shared between channels. The latter (FX) not important for me , but most mixers at this price range give prefade aux -which is.
I’d say the extra stereo faders are very useful -in the DJ world.

@LyingDalai hadn’t realised that was a mixer (GAS).

@Dichstudios1 nice,pritty set up.

I bought a Xone 92 last year - I blew my entire Elektron Rytm budget on it, but definitely no remorse. It is a thing of beauty and I’m pretty sure it will last me years. At the time, I was lusting after one of those old mackie mixers that you can push to get that nice drive, but then decided to look into something I could use for both production and DJing. I must say, I probably use it in a very simple way and have probably not discovered half of its uses. What I love most about it are its two sends and returns. I plug in a Strymon Big Sky on one and an El Capistan on the other. The two analog filters (each has an LFO) are really nice too. Those two aspects alone make for a fun ol’ time when DJing. I reserve one of the channels to connect my production toys to it (yes, only one - I still can’t cope with more than one machine at a time) and I’ve also got it set up to allow me to record whatever’s playing to either tape or my Zoom H5 (or indeed bounce between them). Defo a luxury present to myself, and probably one I can’t justify, but I’m very happy with it :slight_smile:

thanks for all the thoughts and personal experience advice guys, super useful!

The Urei 1601s looks super fun for the samplers and routing options, seems like getting some good external fx is going to be a real must have, i was planning to get some kind of looper int he mix anyways.

the xZone looks pretty comprehensive, they do a rotary version as well which is cool, i like the rotary approach, comign from a background twiddling synths it makes me feel at home :slight_smile: Talking of rotary i came across a bunch of boutique ultra minimalist looking rotary dj mixers that all seem to be pushing the ‘amazing sound’ route. They certainly look amazing! I like the approach of having a big isolator on the master.

My current plan is to have two channels, channel 1 have my tracks coming in, channel 2 have a few loop / delay pedals and use an fx loop to create a feedback loop, so channel 1 is reliable track and channel 2 is unreliable feedback loop stuff. I have been doing this with a mackie mixer recently and it works great, but combining with some more dj orientated filtering and mixing i think it could be a fun way to get a bit more creative with a DJ set.