10 Best: DJ Mixers 2020

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Whether you’re a beginner DJ looking for a simple two-channel mixer to learn on, or an old hand searching for a specialist scratch mixer or boutique rotary, we’ve whittled down the best options on the market to pick out our recommendations.

In no particular order, we present our favourites, from budget choices through industry-standard Pioneer and A&H options, all the way to hand-built rotary exotica.

djm900

Pioneer DJM-900NXS2

If you’re looking for an industry standard club mixer, there are two main contenders. The first comes from Pioneer DJ, the club-focussed sub-brand of the Japanese audiovisual giant. The DJM-900 isn’t technically the top-of-the-range Pioneer mixer, but the ultra-expensive DJM-TOUR1 that sits above it in the range is a specialist option for festivals, not really intended for club use. The 900 is, to all intents and purposes, the flagship model for most applications, and it’s certainly the mixer a sizeable chunk of pro DJs request on their tech riders.

Pioneer’s approach is ultra-techy. There’s no doubt that the brand has played a significant role in pushing DJ technology into bold new territory over the years, and the 900 reflects that. It’s a four-channel digital mixer, very much designed with CDJs in mind but compatible with any analogue or digital sound source. Working in the digital domain allows Pioneer to focus heavily on sound manipulation, with the DJM-900 packing a huge range of the brand’s trademark effects including filters, delays, bitcrushing and noise.

Pioneer’s more-is-more approach can be divisive, with a minority of people thinking the digital summing and effects sacrifice ultimate sound quality at the expense of added features. On the other hand, thousands of DJs love the versatility it offers. It’s really just a matter of personal taste; if the Pioneer doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of more purist options out there. Speaking of which…

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xone 96

Allen & Heath Xone:96

The main rival to the DJM-900 comes from long-established UK brand Allen & Heath, whose design philosophy is very much analogue-focused, in sharp contrast to Pioneer’s digital approach. The Xone:96 is their flagship model, released in 2018 as a replacement for the Xone:92, which had topped the range since 2003. The fact that it took so long to update the 92 reflects the fact that the formula already worked pretty well, and the 96 sticks to the same kind of approach that made the 92 such an enduring favourite: a four-channel design (plus two additional simpler channels), analogue summing, four-band EQ per channel plus two of A&H’s trademark silky smooth analogue filters.

Like the Pioneer, it’s got flexible cueing features and an array of signal routing options for maximum versatility, allowing you to connect a huge range of sound sources and effects units. The biggest change from the 92 is the addition of USB ports, allowing you to connect up a computer and route audio through a DAW for effects, or just bring in additional sound sources.

The rivalry between the Pioneer and Allen & Heath options is a bit overplayed sometimes, but the truth is that most DJs fall into one camp or the other. Both are superb mixers, which is why you’ll find them in so many DJ booths around the world.

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xone 23

A&H Xone:23

It’s interesting to compare the premium Xone:96 with one of our budget favourites, in the form of A&H’s entry-level Xone:23. The Xone:23 comes in at around 15% of the price of the flagship model, so it goes without saying that we’re not expecting all the bells and whistles of a high-end product here, but it’s a seriously good option for beginners. The 23 is a 2+2 design, meaning it has two channels, each with a phono and line input, both of which can run through the channel simultaneously (unlike most mixers, which force you to pick between the two inputs). The practical applications of this are admittedly limited, but it does provide an extra degree of versatility for multi-deck mixes, additional sound sources or changeovers.

Each channel has three-band EQ, while there’s also a resonant high-pass/low-pass filter, which can be assigned to either of the channels (or both simultaneously). In use, it’s clearly a very much simpler affair than the flagship model but there are hints of the same DNA to be found. The EQ is missing a band compared to the 96, but it’s still clean and musical. Meanwhile, the filter section offers a basic version of that trademark A&H sound.

The 23 is a really solid all-round performer, with a stripped-back feature set that offers everything you really need for basic mixing. As an affordable way into the Allen & Heath world it’s ideal.

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ars-model-9900

ARS Model 9900 STD

Tokyo-based Alpha Recording Systems specialise in premium audio products, offering everything from mixers and amps to full sound systems loosely inspired by classic vintage designs.

The Model 9900 is the most expensive option on our list by some distance, but once you dig into the company’s design ethos and manufacturing principles it becomes easier to understand why. ARS’s mixers are heavily inspired by the iconic DJ mixers of the 1970s and 80s – most obviously the Bozak CMA-10-2DL, which was the definitive version of the first commercially produced DJ mixer. All ARS mixers use modern production techniques and high-grade components, updating that classic approach for the 21st century. As such, the ARS trademark is a clean, relatively uncoloured, ultra-precise sound that can hold its own against anything on the market.

The 9900 is their flagship desktop model, with six input channels, three-band EQ on each channel plus a three-band isolator. Yes, it’s expensive, but you get what you pay for: the pinnacle of boutique audiophile rotary mixer technology, built by hand in Tokyo. There’s a reason that it’s expensive, and we think the end result justifies the asking price. So do a number of top DJs, including DJ Harvey, who ordered a customised model as soon as the 9900 was announced.

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trm202

Omnitronic TRM202 MK3

Until recently, rotary mixers were only really available at the higher end of the market. There’s no real reason why affordable rotaries shouldn’t exist, but manufacturers of entry-level and mid-range mixers tended to stick to the more commercially popular straight-fader designs. Rotary mixers have always had a cult following, but it seems the recent resurgence of interest in the approach increased demand to the point where manufacturers were willing to test the market with cheaper rotary options.

Omnitronic’s TRM202 is the most affordable rotary mixer on the market, first released in 2015 but quickly updated to the MK2 model and then the current MK3. The 202 offers a very simple, bare-bones setup: just two channels, each with two-band EQ, plus a three-band master isolator. It’s undoubtedly basic, but that’s the same approach employed by options at three or four times the price.

Sound quality is solid if unspectacular, but certainly on a par with other models in a similar price range. The TRM202 might not quite be able to match the silky smooth sound quality of high-end boutique rotaries, but it offers just the same kind of ergonomics as much more expensive models. As an entry point into rotary mixer, it’s a great choice.

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ecler nuo 40

Ecler NUO 4.0

Ecler isn’t a household name in the same way as Pioneer or Allen & Heath, but the Barcelona audiovisual brand’s mixers offer huge value for money. The NUO 4.0 is the larger model in their range, a four-channel analogue design with three-band EQs on every channel, an effects send loop and a clean, simple layout.

At this kind of price, you’d expect a certain level of sound quality and durability as standard. This is, after all, the point at which mixers get fairly serious, with products aimed at higher-end home setups or the rigours of bar and club use. The NUO meets the demands of those applications, with clear, neutral sound and sturdy build quality.

Up against mid-range alternatives like the Allen & Heath Xone:43 or Pioneer DJM450, it’s clear that you get a lot for your money with the Ecler. The absence of any kind of effects, master EQ or filters is the only real weakness, but the provision of the effects loop makes up for that to some extent, allowing you the option to add effects and filters to the setup. At the price, it’s a good all-rounder which sounds great.

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numark m101

Numark M101

The M101 is about as basic as a DJ mixer gets, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has to start somewhere, and there’s a very good chance your favourite DJ learned to mix on something very similar to this. Similar two-channel mixers have been around for decades, and Numark are one of the trusted brands who’ve been producing solid entry-level mixers since the 80s.

With such a simple mixer, it’s hard to go into much detail. There are two channels, each switchable between line and phono inputs and each with two-band EQ. There’s a crossfader, a mic input, headphone output for cueing and that’s just about it. The one concession to modernity is a built-in USB audio interface, allowing you to record to a computer via the output or take an audio feed into channel 2.

It’s solid, it sounds clean and it does the job. As a first DJ mixer we’ve got absolutely no complaints – it’s a perfectly solid starting point if you’re on a tight budget.

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reloop kut

Reloop KUT

Your choice of mixer is defined to a certain extent by your style of DJing. Rotary mixers lend themselves to longer, slower blends and smooth, organic transitions between tracks, while crossfader-equipped straight-fader models lend themselves more to cuts, chops and faster mixes. At the extreme end of the scale, scratch DJs have arguably the most specific demands of all, requiring an ultra-precise, ultra-durable crossfader and typically a much more simple approach elsewhere.

Dedicated scratch mixers have been around for a couple of decades now, and the formula is well-defined. Reloop’s KUT is visually similar to the classic Vestax scratch mixers of the 90s, which is surely a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The two-channel design is based around a non-contact innoFADER for durability, with adjustable crossfader curves and ‘hamster’ reverse switch as you’d expect on a scratch mixer.

To show that it’s still possible to innovate while sticking to a classic layout, the KUT goes further, with a built-in USB audio interface for digital vinyl systems, built-in effects and adjustable channel fader curves. It’s a versatile setup which would be our first recommendation for any scratch DJ.

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gemini mm1

Gemini MM1

The most unusual product on our list is this tiny offering from Gemini, which is about as minimal as a DJ mixer can get. The MM1 is a tiny, super-basic two-channel design which offers little more than a pair of line-input channels with two-band EQ, a crossfader, mic input and headphone output.

It’s clear that this isn’t a fully-featured DJ mixer by any stretch of the imagination and, for more conventional use cases, the additional expense of the Numark will be justified more often than not. However, we can imagine various scenarios where the tiny Gemini could be useful, whether it’s to create a tiny portable DJ setup (perhaps hooked up to a phone or tablet running DJ software) or to add an additional channel to an existing DJ mixer (plug the two sound sources into the MM1 and the MM1’s output into the mixer’s line in).

A novelty? Maybe. But a genuinely useful one all the same.

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rane

Rane MP2015

The MP2015 is something of a rare beast: a rotary mixer that eschews the typical analogue circuitry in favour of digital summing. Rane describe it as “an analogue soul with a digital heart”, which hints at the split-personality approach.

It’s actually a fairly unusual setup, falling somewhere in between the tightly focussed simplicity of a purist rotary mixer like the ARS 9900 and the user-friendly versatility of mixers like the Xone:96 and DJM-900. That means you’ve got rotary level controls for each of the four channels but also separate gain controls (which you won’t find on most rotary mixers); you’ve got a rotary-style three-band master isolator, three-band EQs plus multi-mode filters on each channel, but you’ve also got digital inputs for CDJs, and a built-in USB interface.

To some it might be heresy to mess with a rotary mixer in this way, but to most it’ll probably represent a sensible compromise, giving you the best of both worlds. Probably the closest you’ll get to a rotary rival for the Pioneer and A&H, marrying modern flexibility with rotary ergonomics and warm, musical sound.

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