down-with-built-in-soundcards

As time has gone on, the complexity of common features offered on DJ mixers has increased, giving us DJs so much more to play with. First it was faders, EQs, and channel gains. Then filters, kills, and effects processors. Finally, we’re at a stage where audio interfaces are all but ubiquitous in our setups (I’m more than happy to be given a history lesson on this if I’m wrong). All of these things have contributed to the complexity of the hardware, yet we’ve only seen a little increase in price. The inclusion of software and MIDI controllers has also helped massively.

Recently, we’ve seen a renewed enthusiasm for aspirational products: DJ mixers with price tags as exotic as the hardware itself. Don’t get me wrong, there are companies that have been doing this for years. Bozak has a long and prestigious history of manufacturing rotary mixers to die for. Rane had the MP2016. The plethora of boutique mixers floating around. Then I felt attitudes change slightly back in early 2015. NAMM, to be specific. Rane announced the MP2015 digital rotary mixer, and brought these aspirational mixers (and their price tags) to the mainstream consciousness. While previously, the likes of Pioneer and Rane were already manufacturing premium products (though I’d argue that Rane is truly premium, and not just expensive), these were for club installs and the scratch crowd.

One of the biggest leaps in recent times is the inclusion of an audio interface built-in to your mixer. And I’m here to tell you that it’s a bad idea.

DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING

I completely understand why people are attracted to buying a mixer with an audio interface built in. They’re much simpler to set up, and many of them add versatile routing options on-par with wiring up an external box. But mixers with audio interfaces in are short-termist. You end up paying out for a mixer that’s at the mercy of your OS, drivers and so many other factors. Probably for more money than the analogue equivalent.

A great example of this are the Rane MP25/MP26 and OS X. We’re now nearly 10 months in to El Capitan’s release and still no working driver. Whether this is due to technical issues or not, the fact that both mixers are discontinued has got to affect the decision in some way. Manufacturers can’t support drivers for discontinued products forever, and even with active products, there can still be issues (I keep hearing grumblings from Allen & Heath Xone:DB2/4 users about firmware issues, even after all these years). And you can’t blame them for stopping support. It’s going to happen.

My argument is to advocate that if you’re looking to have a premium-level club mixer, go analogue and get a separate audio interface. Both Serato and Traktor have their official hardware, and there’s so many other to choose from. DJ interfaces are built just as much like tanks as mixers these days, and what you lose in simplicity, you gain in flexibility and peace of mind.

ni-multicore-cables

The Traktor multicore cable — a bit cumbersome but they did the job.

If you’re using an external audio interface, it’s way easier to swap it out if something goes wrong or support stops without having a dead feature on your mixer constantly reminding you of the money you wasted. And how much does replacing a gammy cable cost these days? I just bought four 1m stereo RCA cables for £10 on ebay, which I’ll carry as back-ups, and those weren’t even the cheapest. Plus, you can take that to the club if you’re gigging, rather than swap out the house mixer for yours. It’s a bit of a shame that Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch multicore cables never really took off. Those were handy.

The discussion I had with Mark sort of concluded with a thought from me: how would a Bozak club mixer hold up against something like the Rane MP2015 (which even takes its styling cues from classic mixers) after 25 years? There are mixers produced 30 or 40 years ago that are still going strong, but do you really think a digital mixer will not only last, but be fully featured after all that time? Hell, my Xone:62 is probably coming on to 15 years old and still fighting fit.

There’s another advantage of the simpler design of analogue: it’s easier and cheaper to replace components and maintain. You can always find someone to fix a single broken part, but you can’t easily (or, at all) hire someone to fix the firmware or drivers. You’re shit outta luck!

“But controllers can be expensive and have it all built in as well!” I hear you cry. Well… yes. But controllers also tend to be heavily tied to software, so you’re already at the mercy of the manufacturers/developers. And most controllers are barely pocket change compared to what you can spend on a decent mixer. If you go down the controller route, you’re already trading portability and simplicity for resilience. There’s a completely different mindset to the people who decide to own an all-in-one controller rather than separate hardware. I think the more affordable audio interface laden club and scratch mixers would fit into that category into that category.

CAREFUL NOW

I know it looks like I’m ragging on Rane throughout this story, but I’m really not trying to. Well, not specifically or on purpose. Rane is a just a great example to illustrate my point, mostly because as far as Mark and I can remember, they were the first to integrate an audio interface into a mixer (The now-legendary Rane TTM 57SL, I think)(OG skratchworker Professor BX tells me the Rane MP 4 had it a full year before and was the first — Ed). But, inadvertently, Rane also built the MP2016S/XP2016S, the first mixer I ever got to experience on a full club system. That was also the first rotary mixer I ever got to handle, and honestly, one of those memorable moments in my DJ life.

In the end, I’ll always know that buying a high end mixer is an investment. One that shouldn’t carry with it the anxiety of owning a partial product I’ve sunk a four figure sum into. I want to know it can grow old with me. If I sell it, I want to know its life will continue on until it simply won’t turn on anymore, giving joy to whoever owns it (which reminds me of a lovely message I got on ebay after selling on my Stanton C.324 CD decks from the mum of a budding DJ who won the auction). I don’t want it to get thrown to the back of a cupboard because it’s become obsolete…

And that’s why I’d always buy the Bozak AR-4 or Rane MP2016 over the Rane MP2015, any day.

  • B

    You have a very valid point, however when going analogue you miss the digital connections.
    How will this affect sound quality? I was under the assumption that when you connect a cdj digital it sounds better? For example the model 1 is fully analogue, with no digital ins, will it sound better than when you connect the cdj into say the rane mp2015? Or is there no difference?

    • There’s an ongoing debate at DJWORX HQ about the real world measurement of sound quality that people claim to notice. Personally, I’m of the theory that the difference between running audio through a high end mixer from a high end audio interface compared to cheap gear is much more of a leap than compared to digital connections. Yeah, I’m sure there are quantifiable differences, but at which point are they just academic? My biggest leap in sound improvement was moving from a Korg KM-402 to my current Xone:62. As long as your cables aren’t shot and you’re taking care of the audio chain, I doubt 99% of people would notice.

      EDIT: to add… claiming an all digital audio chain sounds better would mean that mid-to-high end all-in-one controllers would be at the top of the pile for sound quality.

      • B

        Yeah i am with you, but for example my xone db4 does not even let me connect cdjs thru the rca’s cause the signal is to hot, so with that mixer digital is the only option with cdjs.
        However, i think you are right that a lot of people dont notice the sound quality difference (every top dog uses cdjs with the xone92 for ages) but the new digital mixers nxs2 mp2015 do seem to sound way better then the x92, is this because of the used components? Or because its digital vs analogue? And dont analogue mixers artefact more then digital mixers?
        Also (correct me if i am wrong) i have read from someone from Rane, that the great sound quality of the mp2015 was not achievable if they made it an analogue mixer?

        • I think a lot of people would dispute that the new Pioneers sound better than the Xone:92. 🙂

          • Bassieu60311@hotmail.com

            They can dispute all they want, but its a fact 🙂

          • B

            Can you delete my post below? Something went wrong, and now my adres is my name…oopsie

          • B

            Thank you!

          • Johnny Simpson

            The overall consensus is that the new NX2 mixer is on par if not better than the MP2015. I work with guys that go to extraordinary lengths to keep mprovething the sound at their events and they said they have extremely impressed with the NSX2. I’ve also spoken to engineers who have run oscilloscope tests on the outputs and say the NSX2 is in a different league from the original Nexus

      • Be

        It’s not about how far down the signal chain the signal stays digital, it’s about the quality of the conversion(s) between digital and analog. A high end sound card like an Apogee or RME sound card sending an analog signal to any high end mixer will likely sound better than a sound card built into a DJ controller going straight to a sound system without a mixer. That would be because all of the conversions in the former case introduce less noise and distortion than the single analog-to-digital conversion step done by the sound card built into a DJ controller. However, a high end sound card going straight to a sound system without a mixer or a digital signal going into a high end digital mixer will sound better than adding the unnecessary DA & AD conversions of plugging analog outputs of any sound card into a digital mixer. Whether the analog output of a quality sound card without going through a mixer sounds better than a digital signal going into a digital mixer depends on the quality of each of those devices.

        Regardless, if the signal is going to a PA system, it is probably going through a digital signal processor after it leaves the DJ booth, which typically have AES/EBU digital inputs in addition to analog inputs. In that case, it would be ideal to keep the signal digital all the way from the DJ’s computer (or CDJ) to the signal processor and only convert it to analog at the end of the chain right before it goes to the power amplifier. This would eliminate the need for quality digital-to-analog conversion in the DJ booth.

      • I never understood what any of this had to do with noticabilty. Playing music is your job. It’s your job to make sure that not only the selection is as good as possible but also that it sounds as good as possible, even if you can’t tell the difference.

        If there is a physical evidence that the quality is compromised then why would you even go down that road. If you can’t notice the difference then that’s even more of a reason to go as high quality as you can.

        If you were trying to make it as a organizer of wine tasting events and knew you couldn’t tell the difference between wines then you would not trust your own judgement to decide which wine to bring to your events.

  • Jared Helfer

    So let’s say 10 years from now my 2015 doesn’t work with Windows. It’s still, arguably, one of the best mixers that’s out there today. The audio interface makes it better (it makes it absolutely fantatic), but I have faith the interface is going to work forever. My Audio8 still works reliably, on my Windows 10 machine over USB 3, and that’s ten years old. And I rarely, if ever, will fault a company for not continuing support on a discontinued product.

    And when the interface isn’t working anymore, if that happens, then I can still hook an interface up to it and miss out on very few things. Personally, I think this mixer is going to last me about as long as I continue DJing.

    • I explain in the article that for me, knowing I have something not working in a mixer I spent a fortune on would drive me mad. Also, I think the Audio 8 is hanging on to life by a thread. Especially on OS X.

      • Jared Helfer

        #shouldhaveboughtaPC :p (kidding, obviously)

        I read the article, and I understand your point. If this mixer lasts me ten years with a functional audio interface and all the bells and whistles, then it was worth the investment. If, after that ten years, I still have a powerful mixer that I can’t connect directly to my machine, but need to have an audio interface in between, then I’m okay with that. By then there will be technology even more amazing than what we have access to now.

      • I agree, I had a lot of troubles with the audio 4 even after official tested drivers were released for el capitan. Once i upgraded to an audio 6 I had no more stability issues!

  • I understand the point completely – but I’ll still take the audio/MIDI routing flexibility of the Sixty-Four, which I tried to emulate for YEARS using patchbays/splitters and all kinds of weird shit you wouldn’t believe somebody actually cared to try.

    • You’re a power user, Ray. You’ll always need what you need.

  • Linz

    I have to wonder if Mixers would be better off with an easily accessible DVS send/return system for Serato/Traktor/etc. boxes to be plugged into. Like how the DJ Tech DIf-1s is set up (but more accessible for club installations.) That way no one has to touch any cdj/turntables that are already plugged into the mixer.

  • Regardless of Apple OS whims that the industry has to deal with, I have always wondered why the industry seems to under spec the USB port. I would love a technical explanation as to why every mixer with an audio interface doesn’t have a USB 3 port.

    • I’d guess cost and reliability.

    • Scott Frost

      RME had a very good explanation of this (look on youtube at Namm 2015 i believe when they launched the Fireface 802), they said the bandwidth for USB2 to 3.0 for audio is not needed. So why waste money on it.

      • I used to honestly think that I’d never need anything more than a 1Gb drive too.

        • Linz

          I guess the answer would be they’re seeing there products as needing replacing before the software is demanding usb 3.0.
          I just bought a djm900nxs2 and I gotta say “, for the price I expect it to be able to handle any industry changes for 10years. Will it??? Probably not.
          So yes. I think you’re right. I don’t think usb 3.0 is too much to ask of $1000+ mixers.

    • dj_penguin

      The theoretical bandwidth of USB 2.0 is 480Mb/s, which translates to 39 separate streams of 32-bit, 384kHz uncompressed PCM audio. This example is a little ridiculous (it ignores controller overhead and uses an absurdly hi-def PCM format), but it does illustrate why manufacturers generally decide that USB 2.0 is sufficient for their purposes.

      If one assumes 10% controller overhead and uses the much more common 16-bit, 44.1kHz PCM audio, USB 2.0 can handle 612 separate audio streams.

      • So theoretically, USB 2 is fast enough for even the most demanding of DJ applications. And if class compliant, a USB mixer should be good for a very long time, provided Apple or Microsoft doesn’t throw a spanner in the works.

        • Oddie O’Phyle

          theroretical 480Mb per sec. divided by amount of ports from the bus line.

        • Dubby Labby

          Not sure Mark… Class compliant speceification has some limitations over dedicated driver (coreAudio or ASIO in windows) so the developer must to created the device with these in mind. The devices which 8 channels in class compliant realm are few (alesis multimix ie) but usually class compliant are 2 o 4 channels and sometimes we find the problem of lost some io when the class compliant driver mode is activated (ie novation audiohub)

          Perhaps someone could point the specification for mutichannel and make it clear.

          • Be

            I think you may be confused by Windows DirectSound’s limitations. DirectSound supports class compliant sound cards without a driver from the manufacturer, but I think it only supports 2 channels. Using all the channels of a class compliant sound card in Windows still requires the manufacturer to write an ASIO driver. Class compliant audio interfaces with lots of channels work fine with Linux and Mac OS X.

            • Dubby Labby

              Yes I read something related to all this mesh but I still not have clear the idea about how limitating is usb 1 against 2 in compliant mode. It’s so directly relation between bandwitch and streams like some of you pointed? It has some limitation by specification itself? There is another limitation drove by hardware involved (usb and dacs)? I have these doubts due gear like the novation audiohub or mixers with only master digital bus (xenyx and so) against other ones like the focusrite or alesis multimix which have some multichannel models (more than 2st/4mono usual combo).
              Thanks for your time trying to explain it, mate. 🙂

              • Be

                USB 1.1 doesn’t have enough bandwidth for more than 2 channels of 24 bit/96 kHz PCM audio. USB 2.0 has enough bandwidth for just about every sound card except the RME MADIface XT with 394 channels at up to 192 kHz sample rates, which uses USB 3.0.

                • Dubby Labby

                  Thanks a lot!

    • It’s mostly a compatibility thing.

      USB2 has enough bandwidth for most professional audio needs (DJing, multitrack recording, etc.) whilst USB3 is not yet ubiquitous. Even though USB3 has more bandwidth, it doesn’t have a significantly better latency which is also important.

      Summa summarum, using USB3 would mean higher manufacturing costs and smaller potential customer base, but near zero advantages in return.

  • Scott Frost

    The thing is you pay LOTS OF MONEY for some mixer (MY DB4 was $3000 CDN), the RANE MP2015 I think is around $3500. You want support for these things. They are advertised as being functional with OSX etc, A&H / Rane / Pioneer know Apple releases an update every year, while I know they are focused on newer products, they need to keep the users who put them in the place they are happy. The only other way around it is to have a modular sound card engine. You buy the mixer without it, and if you want it you can buy it separate. That way if a new version comes out you could purchase it if it’s better.

    it seems everything comes with a sound card these days, Z1, Z2, K2, so it’s nice to have them as a backup. i don’t think a sound card costs that much to implement to be honest, they just need to keep on top of it better.

    When my DB4 WASN”T working, it was a nightmare. Not reliable, I really wanted to ditch it, it took them almost 2 years to get it right. The DB4 is still a current product so there is no reason they shouldn’t provide updates to it. Maybe not new features, at some point you have to cut it off, but pc connectivity support is a must these days.

    • B

      It is actually quite funny, remembering when traktor and stuff came out and everybody needed to buy separate interfaces, we all complained endlessly why these things cant be build into mixers….hence forwarding 10-15 years…we are complaining and opting to get them out of the mixer and buy them separate..

      • I never complained about separate interfaces.

        • B

          Lol..i dont mean people here perse..just in general back in the days.

  • dibb

    I very recently came to the same conclusion when Serato replied not planning to support the MP2014, because of lack of demand. The MP2015 is supported by SDJ but no post fader, ehm, rotary effects possible. That feature request will never make it to development for the same reason: not enough demand. Also no support for the 900NXS2 yet, if it ever will happen. Guess it’s back to DVS boxes again.

  • Think a little bigger.

    Start with the problem you are trying to solve: Built in Audio Interface gets out dated.

    Why not build a mixer with an upgradable/swappable audio card?

    • Steve Brown

      Yes.
      Like video cards for a desktop.

      • Some mixers _are_ built in a modular stylee. Formula Sound (as favoured by Tony Andrews) make the PM-80R and PM-100. Allen & Heath mixers are fairly modular, with their boards sitting vertical.

        I guess it still comes down to support though. How many years would you expect the manufacturer to bring out a new card for their old mixers? Plus, if they can’t even be bothered to update a driver, what chance is there of them designing and releasing hardware?

    • They could be plugged in via RCA cables, for example.

      • What about those of us, who don’t want an unnecessary layer of digital–>analog–>digital conversion? 😉

        • jm2c

          have you tried sending audio through your converters several times and phase-flipping the result? It’s not all black and white

          • Sampling clocks not being in sync already show artifacts after two conversions. Even at the same sampling rate.

          • I’m not saying the signal degradation is significant, or even noticeable, but it does happen nevertheless. Then there’s all the pesky signal-to-noise and signal distortion issues which are a (albeit theoretical) possibility when the signal is converted the analogue.

            All I’m saying why risk it just to save a few bucks – even more so, if you’re mixer already has fully digital signal path handling like many high-end mixers these days do. This is based on an assumption that Dan Morse did not mean to use “not having an integrated audio interface” as a synonym to an “fully analog mixer”.

    • Mackie D2 had that. As far as I know, it has been the only one so far.

  • Kevin Basher

    I love the convenience (and tidiness under my dj table!) the 2015 gives me. Having swapped my mixers by no later than every 5 years in the past I never thought about the lack of updates. I do not plan to sell the 2015 in this timeframe, though – keeping it forever, probably. Unless Rane builds an updated version of it 🙂

  • djMarv

    Even the Rane Boxes SL2 and 4 are not yet supported on El Capitan. Even the ones announced as being supported the SL3 folks over on the Serato forums are still having issues with it.

    I have a Rane 62 and 8 out of 11 times I have to unplug it / power cycle it to have it seen by Serato.

    The Rane forum is loaded with complaints, dunno what Apple did with El Capitan but it’s taking forever for Rane to fix it, and its broken with each incremental update by Apple.
    For this reason I’m still on Yosemite and often have to revert to Scratch live.

    A few months ago I was thinking of picking up a used SL3 box not for compatibility purposes but to use when I’m playing at clubs with a different mixer. I used to have an SL3 and sold it when I picked up the 62.

    Anyways all technology becomes obsolete and when that happens I will still have a great mixer which the 62 is.

  • djMarv

    Another workaround is to enable the soundcard in the CDJs as Traktor and Virtual DJ allows. Serato is not allowing this. That way even if you turn up to DJ with a fairly modern CDJ system,you just connect USB to the laptop and you are good to go irrespective of the Mixer.

  • I agree with a lot of things here but I a lot of those mixers are digital internally and I don’t think I would trade convenience for a double whammy of D/A/D/A conversions in my signal path.

    • Buy a analogue mixer and it’s just D/A. 🙂

      • That is absolutely true but then you should probably rename the article “down with digital mixers”. That’s a very different stand 🙂

  • I think the issue of audio interface adding unnecessary cost is a bit more complicated than that. If you have a mixer that already has a fully digital signal path handling such as Rane MP2015 or Pioneer DJM-900NXS, adding connectivity to a computer is actually not that costly.

    Point being that the mixer handles the input – be it via SPDIFs or via DAC-converted RCAs – in digital form anyway. Adding circuitry to pass said signal to and from the computer does not add a significant amount of components.

    With a external audio interface you’re forced to add one layer of conversion from analog to digital since there isn’t an audio interface on the planet that has multiple SPDIF-outputs for each channel. This is not such a big deal in a club environment, but for those who are recording their mixes, keeping the signal path fully digital without conversions from start to finish is the best way to go.

    As for the drivers…well, if the drivers are bad, it doesn’t really matter if it’s your expensive mixer or your expensive audio interface that has become a brick. You’re gonna be pissed either way.

    While it’s true that Apple doesn’t do anybody any favors messing the USB-interface specification on every other OS X release, sometimes it’s the vendors who are to blame for consistently putting out shitty drivers (Allen & Heath, looking at your direction!).

    Pro tip: Always, ALWAYS go for Core Audio compatible hardware. No drivers necessary. For example, my Denon DN-X1600 bought in 2010 still works great with my recent MacBook Pro.

    • Johbremat

      You’re better off with USB class-compliant devices.

      Core Audio devices were affected in the majority with the release of El Capitan be used of subsystem changes. And HID units will always need drivers specific to the model, provided by the manufacturer.

      • Yes, I should’ve said Core Audio compatible and USB class-compliant to cover all the bases 🙂

  • jm2c

    Oh, what a complex subject of discussion we are getting into!

    well, I think that as long as audio interfaces and midi functionality embrace all existing open standards (class-compliant USB, class-compliant USB MIDI as well as classical DIN MIDI), then there really are not alot of downsides to integrating the controller/audio interface aspects into DJ gear. In this case, the only thing that MIGHT not be future-proof is the quality of the AD/DA conversion, the audio/midi latency and the USB connection port. Class-compliant systems do not need drivers to work, so no drivers to become obsolete etc

    And as for speaking of audio quality (a very subjective topic btw), you cannot compare analog and digital. Never ever. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. This subject in itself is too vast for me to go into detail here. Both can sound good or terrible, but there are alot of other differences in terms of cost/form-factor/mediums/etc that make comparing the two even more impossible (I’d even go as far as to say futile)

    One point I want to make with digital cheapo systems: If someone spills beer on it or it breaks for any other reason, it is easy to replace. One might not be too eager to bring uber expensive analog gear just to fear it facing some terrible accident.

  • toomanygearwhores

    Agreed. Decided not to buy anything so expensive that works with drivers some years ago for the same reason: fast obsolescence.

  • DJ STU-C

    or they could just not be so lazy and keep the firmware up to date to support the computers OS upgrades, i think they are a great idea

    • To be completely fair, you have cases like Rane with El Capitan where the problem was in the OS update, not in Rane’s firmware. They had no choice but to wait for Apple to provide a fix.

      • Паша Головин

        all the other manufactures got their shit working, but my expensive SL-4 still lacks lacks drivers for El Capitan. Dear Rane, thats embarrassing, really

        • I was referring to the MP2015 and the TTM57MKII issues. Those where Apple problems, not Rane.

  • MK

    I think you’ve got some good points, but you miss the entire point of these mixers. It is not made for a DJ’s personal use, it is made for a club. I think it makes a huge amount of sense for clubs to buy these mixers – because I’ve had installed club mixers lose inputs many times in the past (before the 57). After 3-4 DJs plugging and unplugging their Traktor or Serato box every night, eventually the RCA jacks wear out. And also, you end up with dead air a couple of times a night because someone unplugged the wrong cable.

    And if it is made for a club, it is made to be used an abused. I expect most gear in a heavily used club installation to last 3-4 years. Eventually it will move to a smaller back room DJ booth at the club or be kept in a closet for the occasional rider of a guest DJ. Newer or better technology will replace it. At $3000, an MP2015 is a very small investment for a major club – it is going to get used well, but at some point it becomes disposable.

    If I bought a used Bozak today, it would never be installed at a club and I would be damned if anyone else would ever set their grubby hands on it.

    Anyways, for me personally, if the club is going to have it, I want to have it at home to practice on. I just bought the MP2015. I would have still bought it without the audio interface (maybe for $600 less). These mixers are already digital anyways, adding a sound card isn’t a big step for them. I can buy a boutique analog mixer but it will likely cost more.

    Besides, I can always hook a box up to it. In fact, many times I carry my Akai AMX (which can be used as a makeshift DVS box if desperate) or my ancient Rane SL-1 with me as backup. The SL-1 will work fine with newer OSes… but unfortunately the software itself (Scratch Live) does not work reliably with Yosemite or El Capitan (from my experience). But that’s okay, I keep a partition with Mavericks on my laptop just in case.

    I expect Mavericks (or Windows 7 for PCs) to still give another 5 years of solid use if only used for Audio and/or DJing. I don’t use my gig laptop for anything else. And these older OSes can still be installed on brand new computers if you know what you are doing.

    • MK

      Look at it like buying a computer. If you spent $3000 for a Retina MacBook Pro with 16gb ram and a 1tb SSD, you could realistically expect it to last about 5 years of heavy regular use. And if you take care of it it you might get 8 or 10 years out of it. There will reach a point in time where if you truly did take care of it, it could probably still run it forever, but you will not be able to get new updates to software. It works fine if you don’t try to upgrade. Same goes for digital DJ gear. If a new OS breaks the software, then don’t upgrade the OS. I could still use my Stanton Final Scratch 1.2 software on linux if I want to.

      • Jeremy

        That’s exactly right – if you’re happy with a particular version of software and don’t feel the need to upgrade each time then there shouldn’t really be a problem. I think the problems start when you get too hooked on upgrading to get the latest feature that you’re unlikely to use and will ultimately make your gear obsolete.

  • Rob

    I think we need mixers with something like ADAT or MADI multichannel digital inputs instead of USB. Basically some industry standard multichannel digital protocol.

    Then you can use a separate interface to get digital audio from the computer to mixer and still have only a single audio cable going into the mixer.
    Basically something with all the benefits of USB, but more future proof.

    • ShiftFunction

      The PLAYDifferently mixer has DSUB connections. From what I can tell you can have all of the house gear hooked up into them including send/returns, master out and one of the cues leaving the entire rest of the back ports for DJs to plug in whatever the hell they like without affecting the aforementioned house gear.

      I REALLY really want one!

      • Rob

        As Damien said those are analogue connections, which works for the model1 as it’s a purely analogue mixer.
        It’s a different story for digital mixers (Pioneer, Rane, Allen & Heath DB) where it’s utterly pointless to convert digital (music files) to analogue (to connect to mixers inputs) to digital (in mixer) and finally back to analogue for the master out.
        Much better to skip the middle D/A conversion a pipe digital signals into the mixer.

    • B

      Like the model1, with its tascam ports.

      • Those ports are analog. It’s just a way to reduce the number of cables, not a digital link.

    • Dubby Labby

      Like forgotten firewire or like lightning? Few people cares about multichannel mixing in djing terms, the most similar situation in analog gear is dubwise (Madprofessor et al) and its counterpart in digital realm is Ableton live (and maybe traktor stems/remix decks) but this grows up the debate about laptops at booths madness…

    • True. However, to be perfectly accurate, handling multichannel audio is a matter of protocols and and operating system subsystem layers – in short, more of a software issue. What the interface itself should provide is bandwidth, low latency and tolerance to interference/CPU load.

      Thunderbolt fits the bill pretty nicely. The problem with USB is that it was never designed for low-latency and is CPU-reliant, where as FireWire has its own sub-processor to keep the latency low even in high CPU load.

      This is the reason high-end audio interfaces predominantly had FireWire until Apple decided to ditch it making a lot of people unhappy in the process.

      • Rob

        You’ve basically said it yourself, thunderbolt, firewire and usb all have a common problem, continued support is not guaranteed, manufacturers are largely using proprietary protocols so we are reliant on them to update drivers.

        My point was, would’t it be nice to have multi-channel digital connections (say 10 in 10 out over 1 or 2 cables) on the mixer that were not tied to computer / laptop technology. Some kind of standardised audio over Ethernet would be another possibility.

        Then you only need upgrade the interface to keep up with computer / laptop capabilities and the mixer would be free from requiring drivers.

        As a bonus it would allow expansion by connecting to some kind of interface with analogue connections (if desired).

        • From a concept point of view, over Ethernet would be very interesting. Effects units could plug in there too.

          In terms of implementation though, you’re looking at some kind of a TCP/IP implementation so that your don’t depend on anything proprietary and that could be a deal breaker for most devices. Not sure though.

          • Jared Helfer

            And many MANY laptops now don’t have ethernet ports because thinner is ALWAYS better

            • Thunderbolt or USB-C to Ethernet. Shut the hell up 🙂

              • As I’m about to replace all my thunderbolt stuff for the new MacBook pros this summer 🙁

              • Jared Helfer

                Yup, for the one USB c port I have. Need more ports.

                • Be

                  Thunderbolt 3, which also confusingly uses the USB C connector, supports daisy chaining. However, USB 3.1 doesn’t and would require a hub.

                  If this is technically possible, I think someone will soon make a USB 3.1 hub that connects to a computer via Thunderbolt 3 so a single USB C connector on a laptop can connect both types of devices.

                  • Jared Helfer

                    Maybe. I doubt that manufacturers are going to embrace USC-C any time soon, mainly because the ports aren’t ubiquitous enough, which would be ideal.

                    It would be great if that hub existed, though. Hell, it would be great if my mixer was that device :p

        • Be

          ADAT supports 8 digital channels on a single cable.

          There are devices out there that support digital audio over Ethernet cables, for example Focusrite’s RedNet products.

        • Rob

          Some interesting wikipedia articles for those of you nerdy enough to read them.
          AVB a set of IEEE audio over ethernet standards, I believe macs support this, but might be worng.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Video_Bridging

          audio over ethernet:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_over_Ethernet

          This type of thing could lead to a network comprising laptops, controllers, CDJ players, multiple mixers and an DAC next to the amps. It would be great for big festivals, multiple DJs playing back to back with different kit or connecting multiple laptops at once. It could even be managed using a laptop or ipad.

      • Be

        With Windows 10 supporting Thunderbolt 3 audio soon and Intel’s latest motherboards supporting Thunderbolt 3, I think Thunderbolt 3 will be the future for sound cards.

    • Be

      Many digital DJ mixers already have SPDIF digital inputs.

      • That’s a great point. I didn’t think about that. Are there any multi channel spdif sound cards?

        Of course, those sound cards would have potentially had the same problem with the El Capitan update.

        • Be

          AFAIK, no there aren’t. A DJ could use two cheap sound cards with SPDIF outputs, but I’m not sure if that would introduce issues with the two sound cards’ clocks being out of sync.

          • Rob

            If someone would make an interface with at least 4 SPDIF outs and 1 in this would be a great solution providing the price was right so it could be readily updated every 5 years or so.

            Still would rather less cables, but perhaps that is too much to ask.

            • Ruben Silva

              If i’m not mistaken, some of the new Pioneer CDJ have a soundcard and SPDIF outputs. You could link the CDJs via USB, create a agreggate soundcard setup and use the digital outputs, I think.

              • Rob

                Might as well leave the laptop at home if your using £6000’s of CDJ (4 decks). One of my main reasons for using a laptop is cost , a laptop costs roughly the same as 1 CDJ but can output 4 decks.

  • DJ CERLA

    Having used an Apogee Symphony as studio interface for years, before ditching it for a DJM900 because it basically sounds better and it’s hugely convenient for A/B things, I respectfully disagree with the article.

    • Oddie O’Phyle

      I’ve finally heard mention of 64bit ASIO in the next few months (I’ve heard that they are working on it for a while), but I still wouldn’t trade my 850 for many other mixers out there. The 850 and the 900NXS have to be the most flexible mixer out there for the $$$.

    • Be

      It doesn’t matter what the quality of an analog signal going into a digital mixer is, sending it a digital signal will sound better. Using a very high quality sound card like an Apogee sound card to send a digital mixer an analog signal still introduces two unnecessary DA/AD conversions, each of which add noise and distortion (even if it’s a very small amount with a quality sound card).

      I wouldn’t be surprised if an analog output from an Apogee sound card would be better than any output from a DJM mixer though.

      • DJ CERLA

        Of course I was refering to the Apogee analog outs (directly to powered monitors). I was shocked, but my ears had few doubts: the DJM sounds better, very detailed and pleasant.

        • Be

          Hm, interesting. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to directly compare my RME Babyface Pro to a DJM 900 NXS, but I am curious how it compares.

  • Mark

    I’m a little confused… most of these mixers will still function as an analogue mixer if they no longer have supported drivers, right?

    If, as you say, there’s no difference in price with the addition of the interface (“all of these things have contributed to the complexity of the hardware, yet we’ve only seen a little increase in price”) – what’s the big deal?

    • While I’m all for interfaces in mixers, I do tend to agree with the idea that if you’ve bought a mixer specifically for the interface and the features it offers, and suddenly due to software updates it’s a scrapper, then that’s poor form.

      Also in fairness, given that all new things are USB2 now, the likelihood of such a thing happening for a long time is slim. The issues will be down to individual implementations of USB and the drivers needed. I think the industry has learned a very harsh lesson with El Capitan in particular.

    • Be

      No, they’ll function as digital mixers. There are a few analog DJ mixers that have sound cards that use digital-to-analog conversion (namely the A&H Xone 23C and 43C), but for the most part we’re talking about digital mixers.

  • guest100

    Mixers should have separate DVS inputs, like DJ Tech, but two per channel – switching djs solved.

  • This is completely unrelated to the article, but I must say this comment thread is one of the most high quality discussion I’ve seen on DJWorx.

    More often than not every comment thread degrades into a flame war of petty squabbling and/or is filled with borderline psychotic wall-of-text rants – not to mention the “fuk u fake dj putton pusherz fuk sync vinyl 4 life” troll brigade.

    But look at us now! While we might disagree, people are still keeping it civilized, staying respectful, using facts and proper arguments to respond, taking the time to use proper grammar, punctuation and paragraphs.

    Perhaps this thread is exceptional because the topic requires quite a bit of technical know-how in able to participate, but nevertheless I hope this becomes the norm rather than the exception.

    Cheers ya’ll! 🙂

  • xisix

    Feckin’ mixers with their feckin’ interfaces. God bless Father Ted 🙂

  • Be

    IMO if it’s a digital mixer, it should be easy to send it digital signals and not introduce two unnecessary DA/AD conversions. Sure this could be done with SPDIF or other digital inputs, but including a USB sound card is the most straightforward way to do this. I don’t think this should require a separate device.

    As for driver issues, the USB Audio Class standard is the answer. Let the OS handle it so device manufacturers don’t have to be relied upon.

  • postfader

    i agree – got a sl4 4 the club BUT i have no Postfader efx and this suxx if u play arround with software efx. 4 Turntablists these days is the best way to buy a digital mixer BUT we really need ppl in future with 3rd Party driver etc. or maybe the bigger companys give a warranty like “we will support as long as our company is alife” well
    thx 4 the article
    peace

  • AEK

    I can’t say that I agree with this article. Sure there are software updates that can render certain systems useless, but i don’t see why a person would take that update in the first place. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you don’t care for SDJ and are happy with your TTM57SL and Scratch Live, why bother to update?

    • Maze

      The problem arise when a new os won’t work with the old software that doesn’t get updated. That’s has happened to me now with my old trusty sl-1 box. I can upgrade to the latest OS because it won’t work with serato scratch. That can become a problem when other software demands that I upgrade etc

      • AEK

        That still goes back to my “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comment. It’s almost never a good idea to upgrade to a new OS right when it comes out because there are going to be bugs that’ll take months to iron out. That and if you’re a Serato user (I’m assuming you are), they tend to not support newer OS releases until a few months down the line anyway.

        • Maze

          Serato has completely stopped supporting SL-1 and the mixers that had it built in. El Capitan is already giving stability problems, I’ve experienced this myself. These products are obsolete with the current and all future Mac OS updates. No more updates, ever.

          • AEK

            Unless you bought a brand new Macbook that’s from 2015 or newer, this shouldn’t be a problem if you still want to use SSL. That’s my whole point. If you want to use SSL, then you need to make sure your hardware still supports it. Yes, eventually you’re going to have to upgrade, but that shouldn’t be for a good while in regards to OS differences and CPU performance gains.

            Anyone that was using SSL before El Capitan shouldn’t have upgraded (or bought a brand-new Macbook with it) if they wanted to use it because Serato told you they weren’t going to update it anymore.

  • Smokin J

    I just sold my numark v7s because numark hasn’t released drivers for them. I suspect because they are discontinued. Numark or someone who post as numark on their facebook page said they are going to release driver for the v7s… I don’t see it happening because numark has a ns7 3 to sell and also got to make a new product to release soon that will take the ns7 2 and 3 place.

    I agree with the audio interface being built in on mixers, because if you going to spend 3,000 on a mixer to use with a laptop and use time code or midi/hid::. Just buy something like the DDJ sx2 that is basically a 4ch mixer/controller and cost how much and does what? $1,000 – allows you to play music without the need of anything more than a laptop. But if you want to use a turntable or Cdj you can…. Rotery mixers are dope as hell and sure I want one. But not for 2,000-3,000. You know what I can buy for 3,000? A lot of cool and fun stuff 😉 anyway sure buy whatever you want it’s your money.

  • PaulHolland DoubleDutchdj

    This is one of the core reasons why I find the thought of spending 1K plus on a modern digi based mixer a bit eye watery, Any features that requires a computer to be plugged instantly gives that device a 7 to 10 year life span, if your lucky.

    But on the flip side, the pros for having everything in one box all but kills the debate for me.

    (Alternatively buy a Z2, half price tag to all its rivals = less pain when updates drop)

    • DeltaForce78

      the Z2 is rubbish in terms of sound when playing regular records, only good for DVS hence i never bought it and got myself A&H mixer.

      • Let’s be honest, though… The Z2 is really meant for DVS.

        • DeltaForce78

          is why i never bought it, i avoid digital mixers like the plague since i experienced how bad the vestax 08 was in terms of sound

          • Be

            There’s just as much variation in sound quality among digital gear as there is among analog gear.

            • DeltaForce78

              hence the RANES are more expensive, you get what you pay for

            • DeltaForce78

              you dont want a digital mixer when you play mostly analog recordings, makes no sense, maybe 10% of what i own has been digitally recorded

  • Audun Notevarp Sandvold

    Im late to the party, and most have already been said already. Personally I think mixers with built In audio interfaces are a godsend. Yes, eventually there will be issues, just like the separate audio interfaces too. But the ease of connection at the club outweighs it IMO. Im a gearwhore, currently own 3 digital mixers: rane 62, pio djm-s9 & pio djm900srt. Also have the SL4 box, which used to be my go-to device, still, these days its either about the club kit or bring my own dedicated mixer (for cuepads/loop control etc)…

    I do agree that manufacturers/software developers need to open up for software support more, its a shame about the mp2014 and nxs2 being closed IMO.

  • Akiem

    Or you could find the perfect OS, and refurbished laptop…

    • While we’re at it, I’d like a unicorn.

      • Allnhoats

        This is the real point here; that devices expected to fail shouldnt be built or bought.
        Build something that we know will work.
        How to do that, all processing onboard.

        • In many cases, it’s not so much about failing as it is becoming out of date. In the case of Rane for example, they and many others were a victim of Apple’s changes in El Capitan. And i shudder to think what nightmares MacOS Sierra might throw up.

          As for all processing onboard — my Rane MP25 is now simply a mixer (which is part of the inspiration for this article from Dan), unless I keep running outdated installs of OS X to avoid El Capitan. But as someone who does many different things with their computers, I often need the very latest OS X to have new and important features available to me.

          This is the issue — keep running old operating systems to remain compatible but miss out on all the new software and features that come along, or keep bang up to date with software but run the risk of having expensive redundant DJ hardware.

          If I were a playing out DJ, I think I’d have to dedicate a laptop to it to make sure that I was running an optimal system that I knew just worked and pretty much only ran my DJ software of choice. Then I could happily throw the rest of my existence at every beta imaginable and have fun knowing that it was not mission critical.

          Summing up, I completely get Dan’s point, but do enjoy the plug and play fuss-free nature of things too. I’m confident that we won’t experience another USB1 obsolescence issue for a long time. As for another El Capitan meltdown though… I guarantee that will happen again, but it’s pure guess work as to when.

  • Miken

    Hey

    I am trying to keep up with all the awesome comments here but I think we should first establish what we mean by analogue/digital mixer, as people may confuse this?

    Analogue mixer can refer to:

    1. A mixer that has a physical form and not only digital form (software emulation) – an example of that is Akai AMX – it’s only few buttons and knobs to control a digital mixer being emulated in software i.e. digital form (physicalless)

    2. A mixer which handles the signal completely in an analogue way i.e. there are no DACs in the signal path (very rare these days, only Xone:23 and 43?).

    3. A mixer that does not have a sound card/breakout box/audio interface built in

    Before we agree on what we mean by analogue mixer then it gets all muddled up and I have noticed that people mix this up.

    cheers

  • Luke Peter Annett

    I bought an MP2015. The cue button jammed because I apparently unknowingly spilled liquid of some kind in it. Or that was what I was told. And then I was going to be charge $250 to get it fixed.

    I’ve had Ecler mixers most of my dj life and they have copped an absolute pounding. One night I spilled an entire beer over and into the mixer. I expected it to fry on the spot but to my astonishment it kept going. I sold the MP2015, swapped it for a Rane SL4 and grabbed a second hand Nuo4 (so I can use midi). I love it. I miss the rotary controls but it sounds great and I don’t have to worry about it breaking down.

    Personally, I would love a Serato box that had digital in and outs for all channels. Hook it up to a digital mixer and you’re sweet. Plus, it should be a cheap interface, no DAC in it at all.

  • Ewan Colsell

    Just come out and say it, hardware companies are using proprietary sound cards to enforce vendor lock in and planned obsolescence.

    These companies really don’t care about the Users at all, otherwise they would build class compliant audio interfaces, that don’t need special drivers. Often companies try to justify building hardware that needs proprietary drivers by insisting that they have created a new way of transferring data over a USB interface that gives them the edge. They should go talk to the folks at hammerfall who make high end audio interfaces and publish open source drivers. For some reason its not hurting their business model.

    Don’t buy audio interfaces than need special drivers, they only last until the next version of windows.
    Whats crazy about this is that it’s complerely avoidable, just make USB class compliant interfaces already! If you’ve figured out his to stream 48 channels of 32 bit 96khz audio over a USB 1.1 interface with 0.1 ms latency. Just publish a goddamn data sheet, your product will dominate the market on its technical merits alone.

    How we got here was via the serato/range partnership. Which seemed like a good compromise. The SL1 interface was solid, and could even work with class compliant drivers. And the serato software was “free” for people who owned the interface. This was good for users and Good for serato/rane . I Believe it was this desicion alone which make serato/ range The success it was.
    Unfortunately serato got greedy by dropping scratch live and starting a new software project JUST so they could get out of their exclusive agreement with Rane and start charging for software licences.

    Traktor is trying to get in on this game too, now they create mixers which will only work with their software, but the mixers don’t work as a software dongle, you Need their software licence too. The driver hack for traktor proves that they want lock in for commercial rather than technical reasons.

    The problem is not that there are audio interfaces in DJ mixers, the problem is vendor lock in and planned obsolescence. Call a spade a spade.