When you look at the top 3 mixers of the moment, the DJM2000, Xone:DB4 and Rane 68, their designers all had the same intention: To create mixers that seamlessly and transparently integrate with software. But their separate approaches produced markedly different beasts, each with their own idiosyncratic way of working with a laptop.
Pioneer’s approach, for example, resulted in a machine that apes many of the functions traditionally undertaken by a laptop, whereas Rane’s approach was to marry the two systems together, to forge a symbiotic entity.
The DB4, however, makes a clear distinction between its role as mixer and the laptop’s role as provider of audio. It doesn’t imitate the functions of the laptop and neither does it cuddle it like a Care Bear. The DB4 is a formidable mixer whether a laptop is connected or not, but plug in a USB cable and it treats the computer as an equal. The sound quality of its audio interface is the best you’ll find in any current mixer, you get a sensible complement of usable MIDI controls and the effects are so good it’s unlikely you’ll be using those on the laptop again.
The DB4 needs to be Traktor certified. There’s no hardware impediment to Traktor certification, but there are political ones and they need to be removed. No one will benefit from a Traktor-less DB4, not even NI. I didn’t get the chance to use the DB4 with software other than TS Pro and Ableton, but I’m sure Cross, VDJ or Deckadance will make excellent bedfellows for the DB4 (I did – DB4 and Torq 2.0 rocks – Gizmo).
The recent price tumble has made the DB4 extremely good value for money. £1800 is a lot of cash, but you’re getting your money’s worth. The DB4 isn’t for everyone, suiting the more ponderous Ableton style of DJing, but seeing as that describes the majority of DJs in A&H’s target market that can only be a good thing. It’s equally at home in the bedroom or studio – possibly more so – as it is in a club. Indeed, the DB4 is very much intended to be a personal mixer, hence the trendy carry-sack in the box.
Every manufacturer drops a clanger eventually and given the adulation and praise heaped upon them no-one would blame A&H for being complacent, but they haven’t been. The DB4 is every bit as good as it appears. Not perfect, but for the right type of DJ, close.
The DB4 truly is the Dog’s Bollocks.
Features and Implementation
The DB4 features all mod cons, such as loop recorders, FX and an audio interface, all of supremely high quality. You also get 3 different EQ modes, an auxiliary channel and scope for customisation not seen on other mixers. The DB4 gives you everything you could possibly need from a modern mixer.
Value for Money
I never thought I’d say this, but at £1800 the DB4 really does represent great value for money. To purchase a Xone:92 and separate units for each of the extras that the DB4 offers would cost much more.
Truly excellent. The effects integrate with the original audio in a sophisticated, natural manner and the audio interface sounds every bit as good as the audio from the digital inputs.
The DB4 is tough, but I do have concerns about the buttons in the FX section if used as MIDI controls, particularly when mapped as hot-cues.(See official comment from Allen & Heath at the foot of this review)
The Bottom Line
The DB4 is one of the top 3 mixers currently available. It’s impossible not to like it, whatever your style of DJing, but it is most suited to EDM DJs performing long transitions and intricate, layered mixes.
Massive thanks to David Kirk, Victoria Clark and Andy Rigby-Jones for loan of the review unit.
Regarding Andrew’s concern in the product review for the long term reliability of the DB4 faders and FX switches.
The DB4 is our flagship Xone product and is fitted with high quality, top spec components including the faders; these faders are standard fitment in other high-end Xone mixers and have proved to be both robust and reliable. They are high quality, dual rail faders, fitted with an integral dust shield, and were a development from our 45mm crossfader design, which is why they have a slightly loose feel, however any fader robust enough for a crossfader should be more than adequate for a channel fader; the twin rails ensure that the fader wipers are kept in linear contact with the resistive tracks, as well as diverting excessive force away from this delicate area.
These are custom tooled components, manufactured out of high impact plastic and metal plated using a deposition technique. The switches incorporate a robust mounting that securely clips to the circuit board, and directly operates a tough micro switch. We have carried out extensive testing on these components and found them to be completely reliable. Pre-production DB4’s have been constantly used in the field since last December by top name, professional DJs, and we have had no reported failures of the switches.
The xone:DB4 is one of the nicest mixers I’ve ever had to shoot – shiny with lots of lights. Hope you like the pictures. And I’ve added in the above supplied A&H pictures so you can get an idea of component quality.