Are "DJ Mixers" Different from Other Mixers?
At the most basic level, DJ mixers and standard mixing boards work the same way; they take incoming signals, process and combine them, then reroute them as a mixed signal. Think of DJ mixers as highly specialized mixers, built around the particular needs and habits of professional disk jockeys. For example, a typical DJ only needs one microphone to perform, so most DJ mixing consoles have one - maybe two - XLR inputs. DJ's are always setting up for the next song, which is why DJ mixers also include a cue feature. Cueing allows a DJ to send one mix to the audience, while his headphones preview whatever's coming up next. This way, he can plan transitions ahead of time. Cross-faders are also unique to DJ mixers; these horizontal faders allow a DJ to smoothly transition between songs.
Like any mixer, DJ consoles rely on exterior signal inputs. Instead of guitars or piano, a DJ's sound sources include turntables, CD players, controllers, or samplers. It's common to see a DJ connect a controller to either side of his mixer - although some DJ's will use four turntables, a computer, and more. A standard DJ mixer deals primarily with levels and EQ'ing, giving you control over the EQ shaping, gain, and volume of each channel. In this way, DJ consoles leave the heavy FX fireworks to exterior controller units, or computer software. Multiple outputs are also standard for a DJ mixer: master for the dance floor, booth for immediate stage monitoring, and cue for headphone monitoring.
A Few Notable Examples
Sweetwater carries a wide variety of DJ mixers, from basic units to fully loaded tanks. For beginners, Allen & Heath's Xone:23 mixer is a simple, well built place to start. The Xone:23 can handle two stereo inputs (or four decks), as well as a separate XLR mic for MC'ing, etc. Both active channels have a 3-band EQ, and the extra mic input even has hi and low EQ. For more versatility, check out the 4-channel Numark M6 USB mixer. The mixer's USB port connects into any computer, allowing you to record your set, or pull audio from your laptop. Like the Xone:23, Numark's M6 has a 3-channel EQ for each channel, along with an XLR mic input.
DJ mixers typically only have two or four channels, but certain models go above and beyond. The Behringer Pro Mixer VMX1000USB, for example, boasts seven separate channels: two XLR mic inputs, and five stereo inputs. Two BPM counters, 3-band EQ's, and USB connectivity round out this feature-heavy model. DJ mixers typically cost a few hundred dollars, but exceptional units like Pioneer's DJ DJM-900NXS2 are bigger investments. Pricier, yes, but the 4-channel DJM-900NXS2 has a 64-bit/96kHz processor, dual USB ports, and 23 built-in effects. With such a wide spectrum of sizes and features, it can be hard to decide which mixer is right for you. Whether you're just starting out or gearing up for E-Zoo, don't hesitate to call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer for expert advice.
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.