First, you need to know: What kind of DJ are you? What techniques and skills are most important for you? What kind of control do you need? These simple questions will guide you in your decision making. Most mixers will allow you to do all the essentials, but let’s customize a little further.
Scratching is important to me, so I want a mixer with an adjustable cross-fader curve. Here’s a quote from hiphop-directory.com:
A crossfader curve adjustment on a mixer allow you to gradually alter the way how fast a crossfader will cut in the second sound. The settings of the curve range gradually from an X-curve into an inverted U-curve. The X-curve means that when you move the crossfader from one end to the other, the sound that is playing will fade out gradually, and at the same time the sound playing on the other turntable will become louder gradually. With an inverted U-curve, as soon as you move the fader even a little off the other end, the new sound will be audible at full volume, but you will also hear the original sound in the background. Thinking of the settings visually might help in understanding it – with X-curve, both sounds increase and decrease very linearly. With an inverted U-curve, sounds cut of very abruptly at both ends of the fader, making this setting very essential for any type of scratching.
So there you have it. This was my first hard lesson in mixers. My first mixer came as part of a DJ-in-a-box kit. My friend had bought it for himself but then decided that he didn’t want to learn to DJ. I was so eager at the time AND I was getting a discount on it, so I bought the whole set from him. I didn’t realize why I wasn’t sounding like my favorite DJs. You can still learn technique with any kind of mixer, but you’ll be at a handicap if you get a DJ-in-a-box kit. I am grateful for that kit, since before then I had NOTHING and would not have ever gotten started. If you can wait, and you can get a little more money; I recommend saving up for a better quality mixer.
What else? Do you need EQ control? Effects Send & Return or even built in? How many channels do you need based on your situation? For mine, I can get by with the basic 2 channel mixer. Although for a typical show, I max out that mixer (2 sources per channel). One feature that I like to see in a mixer is a transform switch. My most recent mixer has the switch but I’ve worn it out and since the mixer is discontinued; I can’t get replacement or compatible repair parts. Long story short, each channel on a mixer can go phono or line. You can switch between the two, but you can also have a transform switch allowing you to switch quicker and you can actually “scratch” within the two sources from the same channel. Anyway, look at MixMaster Mike as he does this (at 2:00, 2:35, & 6:04):
Okay, so you know what kind of DJ you are; you know what you need your mixer to do and what features it needs to have. Now, you have to look at cost. Do you want to get buy and then try to upgrade later? Or do you save up for the best possible mixer and get it first? You might spend more money in the long run doing the buy-low/ upgrade strategy. But you make up for it because you have a mixer actually with you. Depends on how fast you can make money. While, I don’t think all mixers are created equally, I do think that if you know what you’re doing and what you need the mixer to do; you can have a great experience.
And here are my favorite mixers:
1. Rane TTM 57SL with Serato Scratch Live – The Crown Jewel of Mixers. Complete with Serato!
2. Vestax PMC-08Pro – This one does just about everything.
3. Vestax PMC-05ProIII VCA – Has all you REALLY need.
4. Stanton SA.3 – Stanton has pretty good mixers; usually at a lower price. I’ve used Stanton for a long time.
5.KAOSS Dynamic DJ Mixer – What’s cool about this one is the KAOSS pad built directly into it!
Okay, to recap:
1. Determine what type of DJ you are.
2. Determine what you need your mixer to do.
3. Decide what mixer features you need.
4. Look at the cost.
What do you think is important when trying to find your mixer?