Modular Analogue DJ Mixer

I use DJ equipment to create and perform original electronic music and I have been working on an approach to performance where I cut my music to vinyl and use three turntables to remix stems. I have also been experimenting with three deck mixing/scratching as part of Pure Phase, where two DJ’s perform together at the same time. I am looking to create a modular DJ mixer that has a range of analogue filters allowing me to sculpt the sound during performance.

I have been using a Korg Zero 4 DJ mixer as my main DJ mixer for the last couple of years. It has come in really handy for midi control and use with Ableton Live and Traktor Scratch Pro, but as the main mixer on a big sound system, it doesn’t quite live up to the task. I am one of the DJ’s for the Biscuit Tin Sound System (UK) and have tested out my modular system at a few gigs over the summer.

The mixer performed well at gigs so far and I’m still at an experimental stage with it, seeing what works best. In some ways, there are too many filters, so it’s knowing what to use when and knowing how hard you can push things. If you want to boost particular frequencies, it’s better to boost on the sound system itself rather than the DJ mixer, so the filters are best used for cutting frequencies during a mix. The isolators and hi/low pass filters work really well for this and there is an added layer of control compared to a normal DJ mixer. Its not as straight forward as having an all in one mixer though, with the more equipment you put in the chain, the more there is that could go wrong and plugging in or re-patching in a dark club is a nightmare! Despite this, I think working in a modular way will give me more flexibility as I can change my set up for different styles of music.

I’m using Vermona and Stanton filters as preamps for the turntables and for high/low pass filtering. The signal then goes into two Vestax DCR 1200 isolators, which is then fed into a Rane MP 2016 mixer with Rane XP 2016 EQ and cross-fader unit. I’m also experimenting with a Vestax DCR 1200 Pro (4 band isolator) on the effects loop.

The Vermona Action Filter sounds much better than the Stanton filter, despite the Stanton filter being also made by Vermona. But there are some other nice looking filters such as the Allen&Heath VF1 that I’d like to try out too.

The Vestax Isolators are great fun for mixing, but there are much higher quality products out there. I tried out a Bozak ISO-X during the summer, which sounded really nice, but it also has a nice £600 price tag! Worth it if you can afford it..

The Rane MP 2016 sounds good but I’d like to compare it to a few more rotary mixers. I would prefer to have the effects post cross-fader and have at least two effects loops for delays and reverb.

I’m keen to build my own DJ mixer and filters, which is going to be a project for the next few years at least. There is a great project called Bozure that is developing DIY kits.

I played on the new Bozak range during the summer, which are hand built units with incredible build quality and attention to detail.

The mixer and Isolator sounded great and has two effects loops, but the cost for the full set up is £3,400 and I’d want to add a passive crossfader to it. If I had that money going spare, I’d rather buy a studio mixing desk, a Neumann TLM 103 and a few bits of outboard studio equipment!


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10 Responses to “Modular Analogue DJ Mixer”

  1. njay Says:

    Just thinking about changing to the bozak with an empath mixer for 3 deck business and selling the 07’s & dcr pro. I’m finding a whole lot more noise from the vestax mixers since running it throughout the new desk/monitors and am hoping that combo will warm up the sound as well as give me 3 deck options.

    What u think Laz?

    BTW give me a shout when u next in town.

  2. Alan Hayes Says:

    Hey James,

    I just happened to be browsing the web for rotary mixers and ran across your Blog. How timely! I am in Indianapolis, IN, USA. I have been spinning House since 1990 (not too much over the last few years with wife and kids…), but my x-fader finally gave out on my Numark PPD. It was great since it had a paremetric EQ AND an Aphex Exciter BUILT IN. So you can guess I am sad to see it go (i will still mix for a while using the verticle slides..).

    So I have bee researching Rotary Mixers like you. You have a great list going…. have you also looked at these models? :

    – E&S DJR400 with built in 3 band isolator
    – – a passive mixer with line inputs
    – Hi-Level 5000 – rotary with a crossfader
    – Formula Sound FF6000 – rotary with assignable crossfader
    – Rane Empath 3 band “battle” rotary

    There are many choices….none of them are inexpensive, I thing the DJR out of france is probably the most expensive…but it is getting a cult following similar to the Urei.

    I am trying to find a “passive” in-line outboard crossfader that I can possibly simply add on to the solution…to have the best of both worlds.

    In the back of my mind though…if I transition to a “Serato” system….I am wondering if I am throwing my investment away since compressed audio is really not the analog the rotary systems are designed to highlight.

    Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have as I am going to try and decide before end of 2012.


    Alan Hayes

  3. Lebob Says:

    Alan, go for the DJR400 and dont go digital ever 😉

  4. Alan G Hayes Says:

    Say hello to my new friend!
    A real alternative to the DJR400.
    I must have one of these!


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