They’ve been a long time coming, but effects have finally made it onto a Xone mixer and what a fantastic set of effects they are. We’re not talking DJ quality effects here, but studio quality. The way the affected sound integrates with the original audio is sublime and sounds so natural it’s as if the effects are part of the original recording.
Each one of the DB4’s four channels has its own independent FX engine and each channel has access to no less than 5 different effect types, with each effect type having more than one effect available for use. To change the currently selected effect you press the SELECT button for that channel and then use the menu controls to choose a different one.
There are 5 effect types available for use: Delay, Reverb, Resonance, Modulator and Damage.
Each effect type offers more than one effect of that type. For instance, the delay type offers 5 different delays and the reverb type no less than 19. Getting to know each effect intimately takes time and practice, but isn’t that a fantastic problem to resolve?
You can quickly see the effects that are currently primed for use on the DB4’s GUI including all pertinent information about them, such as timing and the BPM of the track playing on that channel. Each channel has a chunky dry/wet dial to control the extent to which the source audio is affected and an expression pot to control a further parameter, such as pre-delay and oscillator frequency for the resonator effects and LFO depth for modulator effects. The movement of the dial is super-smooth and yet it can be quickly set to extreme left or right with a twist of your wrist.
On top of that you have an extra control located to the right of the GUI menu that lets you adjust a third parameter, typically a filter sweep, and a control for adjusting the time of an effect. What’s great about the DB4 is you’re not limited to a set number of beat fractions as you are with other mixers. Yes, the delays can be set anywhere between 1/32nd of a beat to four bars, but others, most notably the reverbs, can be set to times as avant-garde as 3/8ths and 7/16ths.
All effects are pre-fader, but you can simulate post-fader echoes using the DB4’s ‘Kill Send’ feature. This is activated by pressing an effect button and the FX Adjust button simultaneously. When activated, the feature can be engaged by rotating the dry/wet dial fully right. The original signal that is submitted to the FX engine is muted and all you hear is the affected, returned signal. This is a great feature and you can have great fun gradually adding a delay to a track during a breakdown, adjusting the timing, sweeping the filter and then spinning the dry/wet control to the right to create an echo during the last bar of the breakdown before turning it fully left as the track kicks in again.
Switching from a delay to a reverb is as quick as pressing the relevant button, but selecting a different type of delay means pressing the select button, navigating to a different delay, selecting the delay and then altering settings to suit your needs. This takes time and requires intimate knowledge of the various effect types. If you prefer to add effects on the spur of the moment then you might find the effects on the DB4 inaccessible. In contrast the beat effects of the DJM2000 are more easily triggered thanks to sets of push buttons.
It’s not perfect; I don’t like having to waste precious seconds trawling through menus to select the exact effect I want. The Pioneer DJM2000 and even DJM800 allow more immediate access to the effects you need when you want them. The fact is the DB4 is primarily a performance tool to be used by DJs that have planned and rehearsed a set to perfection. And when you hear the effects warp your music all is forgiven.
You’ve got to love Allen & Heath. Such is the loyalty of their fan base they could’ve integrated a Major Morgan into the DB4 and it still would’ve been revered above all other FX mixers. I honestly thought the DB4 would just be A&H’s means of testing the effects water. As it is, A&H haven’t just made an excellent effects mixer they’ve surpassed all expectations and produced the most sophisticated effects mixer currently available.