A DJ mixer is an essential part of any professional setup and one of the few things any budding DJ CAN’T live without. At the very least, a mixer will allow you switch from one track to the next and give you something to plug your microphone into. For the professional club DJ, however, a high-end mixer can become the centre of your DJ setup and a creative powerhouse.
So, what is a mixer? A mixer is effectively a linear switch which lets you move between the music playing on one device and the music playing on another. Instead of a standard on/off type switch, DJ mixers will typically use a crossfader which is a sliding switch with one end being one input device and the other end being another. Instead of an on/off effect a crossfader lets you fade one side out and fade the other in as you move across. When moving from one side to the other the tracks will blend or “mix” together which is the basis of mixing music.
Mixers today offer the user far more than just the ability to blend one tune into the next, a mixer will offer you complete control over the music you’re playing. Nearly every mixer available today will offer a basic equaliser (often referred to as an ‘EQ’). An equaliser lets you control the tone of your music by adjusting the bass (low frequencies) and treble (high-frequencies). Most mixers (except for lager desktop and studio mixing desks) feature either a 2-band (Bass and Treble) or 3-band (Bass, Mid and Treble) eq.
Often equalisers on mixers are used by DJ’s to eliminate certain parts of a track to aid them when mixing. For example, if you are beat-mixing one track into another then you may choose to take the bass (beat) from one track to help the mix into the next. Many EQ controls offer “Complete Kill” which, in the case of the bass control, will eliminate all bass frequencies once the EQ knob is rotated completely. In addition, many club-style mixers will included Kill-switches which will eliminate complete frequency ranges with a single button (often more efficient that constant manipulation on EQ knobs).
In addition to being able to connect your CD players (Line input) or turntables (Phono input) mixers offer wider connectivity for the modern DJ. A headphone socket is a must for DJ’s who are serious about seamless mixing. Headphones allow the DJ to ‘monitor’ one track while playing another, this lets you preview what your crowd will hear when you move the crossfader across. Again, at the very least this lets you ensure that you will be playing the right track (and not something massively inappropriate) but the professional club DJ will use the headphones to match beats and seamlessly mix one track to the next. On mixers with more than 2 channels, there will normally be a Pre-Fade listen control (PFL) which lets you select which channel you want to preview.
Microphone inputs are another near-standard feature on most modern DJ mixers. The majority of mixers will have at least a single mic socket but some will have more (mixing desks, live and studio mixer may have many more). Microphones are essential piece of kit for the gigging DJ for interacting with your crowd (invaluable when creating a good atmosphere). Aside from a regular gain control for the microphone, many mixers include other mic features such as dedicated microphone EQ, talkover function and even effects.
With the increase in the number of DJs who use a laptop as part of their set it makes sense for mixer manufacturers to embrace this and improve the way a laptop can integrate into a DJ’s setup. As a result of this, many mixers now come with USB connectivity built in and there are two main uses for this. USB can be used to integrate a DJ mixer into a digital setup whereby the mixer can be used to control popular DJ software (in the same way that modern CD decks such as the CDJ2000 can be used as a controller as well as a CD player. Another, and more common, use for USB connectivity on a DJ mixer is for recording. DJ’s may want to record their sets for many reasons (remembering what tracks went well together, spotting errors in their mixing or simply just for prosperity or play-back). USB mixers allow DJs to record their mix at a digital quality direct to their laptop during a set.
Many higher-end (and some very affordable) mixers are fitted with digital effect processors (often abbreviated to “FX”). These inbuilt effects can be used to add depth and a unique twist to your live sets. Some FX processors have variable parameters to allow you to adjust the depth and intensity of the effect “on the fly” and most will include popular effects such as echo, reverb, phase and flanger.
Mixers can be bought fairly inexpensively from as little as thirty quid and can go upto nearly £2,000 for the latest Pioneer DJM2000 Nexus which pushes what is possible with a traditional format DJ mixer. Check out our full range of DJ Mixers online today or, for any more advice, please don’t hesitate to call our expert sales team on 01206 845125.
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