Allen & Heath xone:db4 mixer

A&H are famous for their VCF filters. The two filters on the DB4 are digital, not analogue, but they work in the same way as their analogue counterparts and sound great. Perhaps those that own XONE:62s or 92s will notice a difference between the filters on the DB4 and the rest of the clan, but I didn’t.

Allen & Heath xone:db4 mixer

There are two filters and each of the four channels can be set to either one of them or none at all. Each filter lets you select one of three modes – Low Pass Filter, Band Pass Filter and High Pass filter – via three push buttons. You can even select two or three modes at the same time by pressing two or three buttons, but pressing three buttons is pointless, as you won’t filter anything.

The cut-off point of a filter can be swept between 20Hz and 20 kHz using the Frequency Sweep dial and there’s plenty of resonance if you want it courtesy of the Resonance dial. And you will want it because it sounds so sweet. Ordinarily, I can’t be bothered with filters, but the traditional Xone filters are a breed apart from other filters, whether mixer-based or outboard. When you get the opportunity to use them you’ll find you can’t stop.

Digital or not, these are a great set of tools that faithfully recreate the classic Xone filters.

GUI Menu

Allen & Heath xone:db4 mixer

The GUI menu is functional, not beautiful. It gives you the bare information you need to perform and nothing more.

In its normal state you see settings for each of the four FX units, but press the MENU button and you’ll be granted access to a wealth of options, from headphone set-up to Deck Start and USB routing options. You move through the menu using a rotary encoder and you select a menu item by pressing it.

Moving through the menu can be done quickly and the menus respond near-instantaneously to your commands, but it still isn’t as quick as using the touchscreen on Pioneer’s DJM2000. Then again, most of the options within the menu are either set & forget or are used rarely (an example being the attenuation of the headphone signal). What proves most time-consuming is selecting a different type of effect as has already been mentioned in the FX section.

Unfortunately, the GUI is ruined somewhat by a screensaver that kicks in way too soon, replacing the much needed effects info with a pretty animation of a spinning Xone symbol. You can’t turn it off because it’s there to prevent screen-burn, which means you then have to press something to get rid of it. And that can cause something unwanted to happen.

The DB4’s GUI does what it has to and no more, an approach that will be welcomed by some and upset others. It might not be pretty, it’s not even colour, but the DB4’s no-frills, purely functional GUI matches the resolutely focussed nature of the unit and that makes it entirely appropriate for the DB4.

Audio Interface

Allen & Heath xone:db4 mixer

The DB4’s audio interface is a 24bit 96 KHz 16 channel affair, which means you have 4 stereo outputs and 4 stereo inputs. As has already been said, the sound quality is superb, but the soundcard offers much more than top-notch fidelity.

The inputs from your computer to the DB4 are sacrosanct and cannot be routed anywhere other than the four line channels, although you can assign any incoming channel to any line channel thanks to the input matrix. The outgoing channels that are transmitted from the DB4 to your laptop can be routed however you like.

By default the DB4 transmits the audio signals from the analogue inputs to your computer, but press the MENU button and you can assign a different input for each of the four channels.

You could, for instance, have channels 1 and 2 sending data from the digital inputs to your computer whilst channels 3 and 4 send an analogue signal from your Technics. But as they say on the shopping channels – that’s not all. You can also route the output from the headphones, the master output and the channel PFL signals too. I made use of this by routing the record output through channel 4 so that I could record mixes in Traktor. Each upstream channel has 16 different USB audio routing options. That’s more than enough for the most demanding of users.

The audio interface of the DB4 provides immense sound quality and a wealth of routing options. The only thing missing is an extra set of inputs and outputs, as it would’ve been nice to use a dedicated extra channel for recording mixes on your computer or to implement an effect send and return loop.

That, however, is a minor criticism for as of this date this is the best mixer-based soundcard I’ve ever used.

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