A Buyers Guide to DJ Mixers

Choosing the correct DJ mixer for your DJ needs can be confusing. There is a variety of styles and ranges to choose from. DJ mixers are designed for different styles of DJing, so use this buyers guide to DJ mixing to eliminate the confusion.

First, you must learn the basics of DJ mixers.  That being said, you must understand that the main function of a mixer is to blend or mix two pieces of music together at the same time. Some of your basic mixers will only have two channels along with EQ, gain, and level controls. In addition, to cue music, there’s usually an option for the mixer to send a signal to the DJ’s headphone. Now let’s cover what the basic functions are actually used for.

Since no two music files are at the same volume when recorded commercially, DJ mixers solve this problem by incorporating gain. It simply is a knob that will allow a DJ to cut or maximize the volume that goes into a channel. Adjusting the gain level eliminates the problem of inputting the volumes and matching them. You can look at gain as a “volume booster” when the channel volume is not enough.

EQ has three bands when it comes to DJ mixers. This will give the DJ control of the tones of the music, from low tones to mid tones and high tones. EQ is also a knob. Some will come with small faders. In addition to knobs, some will provide a kill switch, which cuts the frequency.

The level controls or channels are faders that produce the amount of volume output that is needed. In order to queue the output in a DJ headphone, one is able to select the channel to the headphone, the button situated right above the channel fader that will be used. Most DJ mixers also come equipped with a cross fader. DJ’s can slide the cross fader from one side to the other to mix the two channels together. This is how mixing is done.

If you are a rap or hip-hop DJ, using scratching and cutting techniques is what you will need for a DJ mixer. One important factor to consider is the cross fader and how you can adjust it by its curvature. If you are a scratch DJ, you need a cross fader that is designed for short and fast. Also, you want to have the freedom to reverse the cross fader’s position. Remember your positioning when laying out your mixer because while performing your scratching, the controls can be in your way.

A DJ that is using a club style of mixing, will like the cross fader elongated to smooth mixes that are longer. These mixes can create techno and house music. However, most club DJ’s prefer to only use the channel faders or knobs for mixing.

A DJ that uses a laptop must have a mixer that has a USB connection. You can also use your software for DJing by mapping the mixer controls by using MIDI. If you get lucky, you can also use the MIDI as a mixer. This is great for two things in one if you’re able to integrate a digital and an analogue set up into one unit.

If you are a DJ that is mobile, watch your mixer’s connectivity. As a DJ you never know how the sound system is set up from place to place. So, you need to make sure your mixer will accommodate connections in multiple ways.  Remember you are mobile, so your equipment has to be tough and withstand rugged conditions. Allowing a variety of options will help at a gig. Remember to have a mic for your mixer so you can talk to your audience.

At the end of the day, there are tons of different types of DJ mixers out there. It really is based on your style of music and what you like to do when making the right choice. Either way, whether you DJ professionally or as a hobby, it is very important to have the right mixer at the right moment.

Mark Fragnoli is the creator of Soundista, the ultimate guide for electronic music producers. Read more of his tutorials, guides and reviews at Soundista.com.

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