There it is, the central piece of your DJ set.
And what’s funny about DJ mixers is that when you actually reached the point where you need to choose one…
Is when you know you’re serious about DJing.
That’s right, since most beginners — and many advanced DJs nowadays — use DJ controllers which essentially are all in one devices, they generally don’t have to take this decision.
Instead, professional grade gears such as standalone players like the almighty CDJ-2000 series need to be plugged into a mixer.
So if you’re wondering what makes a good mixer, and why you should get one…
I compiled for you in today’s post the very best DJ mixers currently available on the market.
Sounds good? Then let’s start.
What is a Mixer?
At its core, a mixer is just what is sounds like: it allows mixing several audio sources into one, generally referred as the “master”.
A DJ mixers is the same, only with some added features to make DJ mixing easier, and better.
It has different types of volume controls and equalizers, so that DJs can mix between songs, and normally takes inputs from:
- DJ controllers
- Instruments and microphones
- CDJs – which plays music from CDs and, nowadays, digital music files stored on USB flash drives or SD cards – even streaming services in some cases
- External soundcards attached to a laptop running DJ software – this is only for some analog mixer since digital mixers will already come with a built-in soundcard
Why do You Need a Mixer?
This might sound obvious but a good way to find the right mixer for your needs is to actually know why you need a mixer in the first place…
And what a mixer can and cannot do.
A DJ Controller has a built-in mixer, so you won’t need a standalone one if you already own a controller.
However, DJ Controllers aren’t used by pros — or at least not by the vast majority of them — for various reasons, but more particularly because of their limitations:
- They can’t be used with any other devices since they’re “all-in-one” – mixers are independent devices that work with a wide range of digital and analog devices.
- They require a computer to operate – since they operate worth software, you need to plug them into your laptop
Pro DJs might use numerous types of players. These include:
- Standalone players – they’re the most popular overall and the most common types of players in clubs all over the world. They include the world-famous CDJ series devices from Pioneer.
- Turntables – if you’re a scratch DJ/turntablist, you need to plug your turntables into a mixer.
- Samplers – which are devices that add nice creative touches.
- All of these together – that’s right. If you use a CDJ, a sampler, and a turntable all at once during your sets, you’ll need a mixer to accommodate them all
Bottom line, if you’re an advanced or pro DJ and already have your own DJ gears, you’ll need a mixer to link them all together.
How to Choose a Mixer
Depending on the manufacturer and the target audience, there could potentially be dozens of factors to consider when choosing a mixer.
This is why we’ll only focus on the most important ones, These are:
- Analog vs. Digital – probably the biggest difference of all? it is however somehow irrelevant today since 99% of the mixer are digital
- Channels count and I/O – typically 2 or 4 channels, many different I/O options.
- Effects – not all mixers come with the same effects, some don’t even have effects built-in at all and you’ll need to use external ones.
So let’s see each of these variables in more detail, starting with…
1. Analogue vs. Digital Mixers
Although most mixers nowadays are digital, making this point arguably irrelevant…
It’s still good to know at its origins, mixing was done with two turntables
Some DJs still prefer analogue mixers for their sound. Modern analogue mixers offer enough features that you can use them easily – namely powerful routing, which used to be reserved to digital
If you’re going to use an old analogue mixer though, keep in mind you might need an external sound card to make it work with your computer.
2. Channels Count and I/O
Most DJs use 2 channels, some pros will use 4. Just keep in mind 99% of the time 2 channels will be enough.
As for in and outs, there are many options and you should absolutely be aware of what I/O you’ll need to connect your gears to your mixer.
That being said, there are some inputs and outputs that you’ll be using virtually every time you use your mixer, whether some of these will be left unused for 99% of the time.
This is why I decided to talk ONLY about these more important I/Os. And so, these are:
- Line level – this is where you’ll be connecting your CDJs, controllers or any other music source with RCA stereo cables
- Phono – in the DJ world, whenever you hear “phono”, just think “analog turntable”. That’s right, since phono channels are the only ones to provide a pre-amp, and since analog turntables’ signal is too low, this is where you’ll want to plug them IF you use any.
- Digital – Now, not all mixers offer digital input, but if you happen to, just know it’s meant to use instead of your regular line-level input, and it uses SPDIF cables which are optical cables.
- USB – you can use the USB port on your mixer to connect your computer if you for some reason feel like using your DJ Software. Keep in mind though, if you’re looking to use a DJ software, it probably means you’re not ready yet to use a mixer with CDJs only. And in that case, you can check out my post about DJ controllers.
- Booth – this is where you’ll be connecting your own speakers in the case you are “isolated” in a booth. Otherwise use the headphone output.
- Master – This is where you’ll connect the main mix output, what your audience will be hearing.
- Midi – If you find yourself wanting to experiment with devices such as drum machines, a good way to sync them to your mixer is by connecting them thanks to the MIDI output.
On this last point, check out this video to see how to connect a drum machine (or another MIDI device) to your mixer:
Pro Tip: Use a LAN dock to allow both CDJs to communicate between them and sync their beats.
While most mixers come with built-in effects…
You’ll find that some high-end ones generally don’t.
So how do you use external effects on a mixer? Well, you need to understand the basic concepts of send and return first:
- The sound goes FROM the mixer TO the FX processor in order to be treated, and then…
- Is sent BACK to the mixer so as to come out on the final mix.
Therefore, you first SEND the effect and then RETURN it back. Pretty simple, right?
In practice, you need to choose between multi-effect processors and single effect units…
Which is what “Pro” DJs generally use: first, you will likely only end up using reverb and delay and having one device per effect will allow you to actually use them together.
Ok but which devices should you be looking for? Well, it might surprise you but many DJs actually use regular guitar effect pedals on their set-up.
So now that we’ve seen the most important factors to consider on a DJ mixer, it’s time to see the best models out there.
1. Numark M2
The Numark M2 is a ridiculously cheap mixer and probably your best bet if you’re looking to just get started on a “serious” DJ set.
Despite being super affordable though, the M2 is surprisingly well made and feels very sturdy.
Pots have a nice resistance to them and — cherry on the cake — the crossfader is replaceable, adding to the lifespan of this mixer.
A good opportunity to switch to the
Check it out:
Also check out the M6, which is the M2’s big brother featuring 4 channels:
2. Allen&Heath Xone:23
If you’re not familiar with Allen&Heath’s Xone line, just know they’re considered like the best sounding DJ mixers in the industry…
And their main selling point is their proprietary VCF filter, considered to be the best filters in the industry. They offer a much wider sound range than traditional filters.
Along with Pioneer, they’re the industry standard, and of course higher end model retail for a pretty hefty price.
However, you don’t have to break the bank to get A&H legendary sound. The XONE:23 is the perfect example of an affordable yet powerful mixer, which will get you the coveted filters.
Check it out:
3. Native INstruments Traktor Kontrol Z2
If you’re a die-hard fan of Traktor, here’s a really good option for you.
Priced in the mid-range, the Traktor Kontrol Z2 has been sitting on top of sales for nearly a decade now.
Many users actually report having bought multiple units because they like it so much.
The fact that it is manufactured by the same company that develops NI Traktor is definitely a very strong argument in favor of the Kontrol Z2.
The software and the hardware blend in seamlessly and create a great user experience an although you won’t be able to control 100% of Traktor’s features, you’ll most likely not even notice something’s missing.
The big difference with the previous mixers on this list is the pads.
One neat feature on this mixer is the 2 “remix” channels, which allow you to
If you’re looking for a high-quality, mid-range, Traktor-compatible 2 channels mixer, look no further.
Check it out:
4. Pioneer DJ DJM-450
Priced in the mid-range, the Pioneer DJ DJM-450 is easily the best value for the price on this list.
It has a bunch of features that make it the best mixer for home studio and bedroom DJs, namely:
- Super compact form factor
- Very rugged build
- Built-in flagship effects – you get 4 of the 6 effects you can find on Pioneer’s flagship model (the DJM-900NXS2)
- Various flagship features –
- Send/Return feature – by offering a send and return channel, Pioneer allows to drastically expand the user’s possibility
More on that last point:
Essentially, the proprietary “independent send/return” feature allows you to use BOTH the internal effects and any external effects, devices (e.g. sampler) or even your smartphone, at the same time.
Check it out:
5. Allen & Heath XONE:43
Climbing up in the range level, we have the A&H XONE:43 which is a mid-priced 4 channels mixer…
Manufactured by Allen & Heath. Remember, A&H is a trademark when it comes to effects, and this mixer is no exception.
As a matter of fact, compared to the XONE:23 we mentioned earlier, this mixer offers much more complex and therefore powerful routing options when it comes to effects, thanks to its XFX feature.
X:FX is — simply put — a convenient way of controlling your send/return, by choosing how much wet signal you want to input.
You can also use this feature to layer various effects on top of the Xone filters, for really cool results.
Another extremely useful feature on this mixer is the split cue function, which allows you to split the h
Essentially allowing you to hear the master output mix in one of your headphone’s sides and your cue on the other.
This is useful for a few use cases:
- Whenever you have bad monitoring and can’t hear your cue correctly
- If you want to practice home in a “full-headphone” setting.
This mixer also has an integrated sound card, which means you can also use it to control software like Serato.
All in all, the Xone:43 is a top-quality full-featured analogue mixer that shouldn’t leave you thinking you need something better for a while.
Check it out:
6. Rane DJ SEVENTY-TWO MKII
If you sift through DJ mixers, you might notice a term you haven’t seen before: battle mixer.
Well, the Rane Seventy-two MKII is one of these: a battle mixer.
To make it simple, battle mixers are aimed for scratch DJing. They only work with a scratch DJ software such as Serato DJ, Rekordbox or Traktor.
I won’t list all the differences between a battle mixer and a regular DJ mixer but some of the most noticable ones include:
- An unobstructed, clear bottom part – one fader per channel, one crossfader and that’s basically it. This is so that when using the crossfader rapidly you don’t encounter any obstacles that could mess with your performance or, worse, damage your mixer.
- MPC pads – that’s right, you’ll notice the seventy-two actually has control pads, just like on a DJ controller.
- Overall full control over the software – battle mixers are meant to work with software, whereas regular club mixers aren’t. This is why battle mixers have full control over what you’re seeing on your laptop’s screen.
Now, having this into account, the Rane Seventy-Two MKII s a very powerful mixer, offering advanced features such as:
- A big touch-screen – a pretty big deal since it allows you to virtually never look away from your mixer (you won’t have to look at your laptop’s screen to visualize waveforms or libraries for example)
- New, improved (cross)faders – the mag four technology relies neither on friction nor tension, meaning it is much more durable. Moreover, the faders’ resistance is fully customizable and the faders themselves are easily replacable.
- Footswitch input – It might not seem like a big deal but the fact that this mixer can accept footswitch effects natively is a much appreciated feature that will save some precious setting up time to many DJs.
Essentially one of the best battle mixer you can get your hands on as of right now. Check it out:
7. Allen&Heath Xone:DB4
Hailed by many as simply the best DJ mixer n the market, the Xone:DB4’s performance on the market has to be recognized.
The sheer amount of power features you get is what makes this mixer so unique. But don’t be fooled – you don’t need to be an advanced DJ to use these features.
Here are some of the most powerful and unique features you’ll find on the DB4:
- Input matrix – this little feature allows you to assign any channel to any input, and change it on the go. For example, you can decide that you now want your CDJ to be controlled via channel 2, although it is physically connected to channel 1. Well, that’s possible!
- Dedicated channel looper – No other mixer offers one looper PER channel. This allows really nice, easy to perform effects based on loops.
- Dedicated FX per channel – Extremely convenient for quickly accessing any effect
Here is an example of power-using the Xone:DB4:
Also note this DJ doesn’t use neither a laptop nor CDJs, only sampling machines. The advantage of such a setup?
The ability to create your own track live, and from sratch. Pretty sick, huh? If you’re curious about these devices check them out:
And for our last pick…
8. Rane MP2015
Here is what I personally consider to be the most beautiful mixers of all.
But besides its unique look, the Rane MP2015 has one major difference compared to all other mixers:
It is a fully rotary mixer. In other words…
Not a single fader to be seen here!
So, why would you want a full-rotary mixer in the first place? Well, the MP2015‘s users all like it for the same reason:
- SubMix channel – this exclusive feature allows you to group 2 or more channels and apply control them
- Isolator – Back in the days, analog mixers used to have a main output EQ. Well, the Rane MP2015 is the only modern mixer to offer this feature. Many DJs used to use it to change the color of their mix as the venue filled up with more people.
- Headroom – Headroom is defined by the level range a signal can be reproduced without distortion. And the MP2015 sports a massive 113dB range
So a little bit more on the isolator.
Back in the days when mixers were analog, a common feature you’d find on them was a special type of EQ, that would apply to the master output mix.
This was known as an “isolator”. So you’re probably wondering:
What’s the difference with a regular EQ?
There are several differences actually, namely:
- Full-cut – an isolator allows you to go full kill on your mix. Use carefully.
- Crossovers – on the MP2015’s isolator, you can adjust your filters/EQ even more by using the crossover knobs. These are Linkwitz-Riley filters, which are the audio-standard active crossover filters. For technical info on these filters click here.
Check out the isolator and crossover filter in action in this video:
As you might have figured, the isolator paired with the crossovers gives you a much more powerful filter, not to talk about the sound quality which I personally find incredible.
Check it out:
What About Effects?
As as I explained earlier and as you might have noticed in the list, some mixers simply do not have effects integrated.
This means that if you want to use even the most basic type of effect, such as a filter, you’ll need to get one separately.
However, even if your mixer has built-in effects, you can still use external ones. Some DJs actually prefer using external effects for a few reasons, namely:
- Ease of use – some DJs prefer the ease of use of a device that is dedicated to effects
- Increased possibilities – some DJs like to layer their mixer’s effects with external effects, for a unique sound
- Versatility – some external effect, on top of offering a much higher level of customization, double as sequencers, drum machines or synthesizers. You can also daisychain them to have even more effects at reach.
I won’t make a comprehensive list of the best external effects because there are too many elements to factor in.
HOWEVER, I would like to mention 3 devices that are either best-sellers, highly-regarded or breakthrough.
First up, the…
1. Pioneer RMX-1000
Over a decade after its launch, Pioneer’s flagship effect generator seems like it hasn’t aged a single bit.
This is due to a few reasons, namely:
- Wet/dry know – Effects start acting crazy and you’re not sure how to get out? Simple, kill all the effects at once with this knob
- Rugged construction – this thing is built to endure the roughest DJs.
- Extremely powerful – honestly, this device is so powerful you might find yourself using it for most of your set, instead of working your mixer.
On this last point, the array of effects, sub-parameters and other features is so vast I culd write a whole post on it.
Just know although this unit comes at a pretty hefty price, it is hard say it’s not justified. If you’re looking for endless possibilities in a single little box, this device will do it.
For an in-depth hands-on video I recommend you watch the following video:
Check it out:
2. Erica Synths Zen Delay
Although this delay effect was not designed specifically with DJs in mind…
The truth is that it is simply too mind-blowing not to include here.
Latvian company Erica Synths partnered with famous independent electronic music label Ninja Tune to create an incredible delay “pedal”.
Check out this video to hear it in action.
Don’t tell me this is not beautiful, right? Notice how at around 8:10 he actually turns off his sampler but can keep playing on the delay alone? Pretty crazy if you ask me.
Now just imagine the possibilities of this thing coupled to a mixer and a decent DJ…
Check it out:
3. Your Favorite Guitar Pedal
As I mentioned earlier, you can use pretty much any effect with your mixer, INCLUDING your favorite guitar pedal;
And guess what? I happen to have just what you need to sift through the best ones in this article:
To have a better idea of how to daisychain guitar pedals to your mixer, check out this video:
And That’s All
So there you have it, The Ultimate Guide to DJ Mixers for Ambitious DJs.
Hopefully you now know enough about DJ mixers to make an informed decision when purchasing one! Thanks for sticking by and I’ll see you next time.