With the exception of just three components everything on the DB4 can be MIDI mapped, including the line and crossfader switches. Most components can be mapped directly. For instance, if you want to assign the DB4’s crossfader to control the crossfader in Traktor Pro you simply hit the LEARN button in Traktor’s Controller Manager and move the crossfader. It’s the same with the other faders, the EQ dials and the crossfader curve switch, but there are certain controls, such as the loop dials, effects buttons and FX adjust dials that must be used in conjunction with the MIDI SHIFT button that is located at the left of the mixer. It is these controls that the vast majority will want to map to software, particularly if they are using a DVS, which means they’ll be pressing MIDI SHIFT a lot.
A&H mixers are pretty tough and most of the controls will stand up to years of abuse, but the weak links for me are the FX, FX ON/OFF and CUE buttons, the reason being that the buttons are plastic with a flimsy feel. They showed no signs of damage or fatigue during the test period and only time will tell if they can take a pounding from hot-cue happy DJs. A&H have stress-tested each component with over 30000 actuations to ensure that they can cope with being pressed, but that still doesn’t stop me worrying about their premature failure.(See official comment from Allen & Heath at the foot of this review)
Although the MIDI controls work perfectly and the DB4 interacts with your software as well as you would expect, you need to plan your maps carefully, as manipulating the majority of controls will affect both the incoming audio and your software.
You might think that makes the transmission of MIDI data by faders redundant, but that isn’t the case. As an example, if you’re using video mixing software such as Cue or VDJ you could assign the DB4’s crossfader to the video crossfader in those applications. The audio mixing would be done via the DB4, but the MIDI data transmitted by the crossfader would mix the video within VDJ.
The DB4 doesn’t offer as much scope for MIDI control as Pioneer’s DJM2000, but everything considered A&H have provided a sensible complement of MIDI controls whilst adequately differentiating the DB4 from MIDI behemoths like the 4D.
DB4 with Software
During the review period I mapped the controls for use with Traktor in both Internal and External Mode, though why anyone would want to use Internal Mode is beyond me. Instead, use External Mode for everything.
If you want to use the DB4 as the sole controller for Traktor you can map the transport, sync and tempo-bend controls for each deck in Traktor to the FX buttons on each channel of the DB4.
You can even control looping in Traktor with the loop controls of the DB4. As the loop dials on the DB4 will only emit a MIDI command when the MIDI SHIFT button is pressed there is no conflict between the two systems, which means it’s impossible to simultaneously engage a loop on the DB4 and Traktor with the press of one button. This means you can create a loop in Traktor and then loop it using the DB4’s loop recorder to stutter or shorten it.
The DB4 really can be used as a standalone Traktor controller, even if you are limited to basic transport and looping controls, but it’s an even better companion for Traktor Scratch Pro.
I mapped the FX buttons on the DB4 to the hot-cue buttons in Traktor and used them as I would my Dicers. The FX buttons were a good substitute, but their size and proximity to each other meant that you had to be extra careful when engaging in a spot of button-bashing lest you accidentally hit the wrong one. I’m also concerned that the FX buttons won’t stand up to intense bouts of button-bashing, but only time can see if that is the case.
The DB4 is crying out for Traktor Scratch certification. It’s undeniable and despite the best attempts of A&H it seems that certifying the DB4 isn’t at the top of NI’s to-do list. This is a real shame.
Not only do you have to use an Audio 4 or 8 with your DB4 (with all the attendant wires and mess that involves), you also need an extra USB port on your laptop to accommodate the MIDI messages transmitted by your DB4. Plus, there’s only four sets of RCA inputs on the DB4, which means you cannot use the full complement of RCA connectors on the multi-core leads. If you want to listen to regular CDs or vinyl you’ll have to select Audio Through on a Traktor deck instead of having that audio routed through the MIXER TT/CD leads of your multi-core cables. One way of getting round this if you’re only using two channels is to plug those leads into channels 3 and 4 and use them for non-timecode tracks.
Traktor Scratch certification would allow users to use the full four channels of TS Pro and would tidy up the workspace considerably. Here’s hoping that happens.
The DB4 is equally good with Ableton Live.
Again, the best way of using it is to route channels in Ableton to the channels on your DB4 and then mix the audio on your DB4. The FX SELECT buttons make excellent triggers for clips. It’d be good if there was an extra set of inputs and outputs so that you could route all incoming audio to the master. Then you could map the DB4’s faders to the faders in Ableton.
Until the DB4 gets TS certification it makes a better match for Ableton than Traktor. Indeed, the A&H have been clogging Ableton in their videos since the DB4 was first announced.