The largest community for DJ and producer techniques, tutorials, and tips. Traktor secrets, controller reviews, a massive MIDI mapping library, and more.

Mix Externally? DJing With Hardware Mixers

Even though a big chunk of DJ product sales are going towards all-in-one controllers like the Pioneer DDJ-SX or the Kontrol S4, many of the DJs you will see live these days still rely on traditional DJ mixers in lieu of mixing inside the computer. Why is this? What benefits do hardware mixers have over internal software mixing and which style is right for you?  In today’s article I hope to cover both types of mixers and then some.



Before we discuss why so many DJs mix externally, what does “mixing externally” even mean?

Mixing externally is routing all decks out of your DJ software to individual channels on a mixer, usually via an external soundcard.  Each channel is summed together (gain, effects, levels) on the hardware mixer, with internal controls limited to transport and effects are used.

Mixing internally is summing all of the channels inside of the software and sending the combined audio as a stereo mix out to speakers and/or headphones, often through a controller’s built-in sound card.



As with any gear purchase or workflow decision, it makes sense to think about your most common use case.

For many DJs, home sets mixed with the occasional mobile gig are a common stage, however almost everyone finds themselves in a bar or club at some point. For the purposes of this article, we will be focused on the demands and needs of those environments.

In a club, the monitor and master sound systems are already pre-wired into a house mixer that is usually placed dead center in the booth. Often the most ergonomic, convenient, and sound system-friendly way of playing a set is to play off of that mixer.

If your setup is modular and can use any hardware mixer as the center console, then you can easily adapt to most club environments without requiring all of your own gear at every show.  While many top acts request their own specific brands and models of mixers, you will almost always find a good mixer on the rider.

While the deck of choice has evolved from turntables to CDJs, and now controllers, one element still remains relatively constant – the stand alone mixer. There are some examples of all-in-one controllers such as the Pioneer DJJ-SX or Traktor S4 in use on major stages or clubs, but they are the exception rather than the rule. While being more affordable and convenient, the S4 and related devices are usually spotted at small bars, mobile gigs, and most of all, in the bedroom. This makes perfect sense, in those environments all-in-one internal mixing is often preferred. There are, however, many instances where external mixing can be advantageous.



Audio Routing

Using an external mixer means that you’ve got clear dedicated hardware control and independent outputs for everything imaginable. This means routing to the booth, record outputs, master speakers, and headphone jacks – all with clear related volume control.

Controllers tend not to have a dedicated output for everything because of the added complexity and cost they require. These outputs (especially the headphone) can often be quite a bit louder on full-sized mixers due to the fact that they always have full power. Many small controllers, like the Traktor S2, are forced to compromise on output levels due to the fact that they run on USB power alone.

Mixing Controls


Dedicated full-size mixing controls on a well designed surface usually beat out controllers (especially some of the smaller ones which compromise performance space for portability). Having proper space between all of the faders and EQ are critical to keeping a good mix and feeling comfortable in the heat of a set. Many mixers, like the Pioneer series, have their own built-in hardware effects that make it really easy to add dynamics and flavor on the fly with complex routing possibilities. One example I love putting an echo post crossfader and then using the fader to cut out the track, leaving a nice echo trail behind. Try to set that up in DJ software!

Integration Possibilities


When mixing externally, the potential for experimentation with FX units and inputs is endless.  Many mixers have a full FX send/return, meaning that the world of dedicated effects hardware is wide open. A few potential uses include:

Additionally, the microphone inputs and options tend to be much more robust and usable on a “real” mixer than on a controller. With levels, EQ, and sometimes a “talkover” feature (ducking) – mixers are almost always more microphone friendly.  This mic input is then routed directly to the master output for zero latency. With all-in-one controllers, the mic is often routed through the software, creating latency as your voice makes the roundtrip in and out of the laptop.

Not All Mixers Are Created Equal: Summing


On most analog mixers, the audio headroom and forgiveness for distortion is very high. This makes it possible to mix four decks together without the final mix sounding crunchy and cramped for space. Running four decks internally can get messy very quickly if you don’t keep a careful eye on your levels. Technically speaking, almost all digital mixing (in the computer) has a wider dynamic range and should sound better if audio levels are kept in check. That last part is the kicker – how many DJs do you know keep their levels in a reasonable range? Let’s be honest – in the heat of the moment, and with ear fatigue, DJs almost always end up in the red. This is where the gentle forgiveness and sometimes unique sound of analogue summing can be good.

Traktor attempts to help you out as well with a master limiter that gently compresses distortion. Read about this and other unknown settings in this article.

The problem is that analogue is almost always much better at handling distortion. True analogue DJ mixers, like many early Rane products and the Xone 92, are very forgiving with gentle analogue distortion and compression on each channel. Sadly, this argument starts to go out the window for many modern mixers since most consoles (like the DJM series and all new Rane mixers) are actually mixing digitally (just like Traktor) allowing them to use the fancy digital effects that you all love.

In some of these cases DSP can be really good and some digital mixers offer good headroom AND audio forgiveness to the drunk DJs that slam the reds (the Rane TTM-68 is a great example). Other mixers are less audiophile friendly, but with many great features they still find their way into most clubs. The DJM-900, for example, is notoriously crunchy to the ears of picky front of house engineers, but is loved intensely by DJs around the world.

Be Redundant (Be Redundant) [Be Redundant]


Choosing to mix externally gives you the ultimate opportunity to create redundancy in your setup. By separating critical systems (the soundcard, the mixer, and the controllers), you get a number of big wins:

  • Failure-proofing: If one thing fails it doesn’t bring down the whole ecosystem. If an all-in-one controller dies, your options for mixing suddenly become pretty limited.
  • Backups on the ready: External mixers installed in clubs typically have a good backup solution installed (turntables, CDJs, line-in) in case everything goes south.
  • Experiment With Controls: separating the soundcard/mixer from the rest of your setup makes it easy to try a new workflow for controlling software – easily drop in a new MIDI controller without re-investing on a big piece.

Price and Build Quality Considerations

It’s true that buying an all-in-one controller will often save you quite a bit money – which is why so many casual DJs start out with that type of solution. Just remember what your grandfather used to say: “you get what you pay for!”

  • Good mixers hold resale value better than controllers
  • Decent mixers often have better quality components while most controllers always using the low cost parts from China.
  • External mixer allows you to splurge on a sound card and purchase an audio interface of the highest possible quality.




Especially if you have a modular setup, the complexity of wiring all of your channels to a mixer can become a big challenge.  One way to make this process easier is to construct a custom audio or USB snake. Another way to benefit from mixing externally while GREATLY simplifying the setup process is to use mixers with built-in USB sound cards which allow you to route digital outputs from the computer directly to each fader.

Recording Sets

It’s way easier to record sets when mixing internally – just turn on your DJ software’s mix recorder and you’re good to go. When mixing externally, you’ll have to run an external stereo pair back into your software. Some USB sound cards have issues handling this much bandwidth. Always test your sound card while recording in this fashion before playing out to make sure you don’t encounter any stuttering or latency.

A Different Height / Portability

External mixers are mixer height (around 4.5 inches) – which means that if you want to use other controllers along side it, you will want to raise your controller up to mixer level for ergonomic reasons. Accomplishing this can mean hauling yet another piece of expensive gear with you on the road.

Additionally, mixers just aren’t that portable. You can’t throw it into a bag and jet off to your friend’s impromptu house party.

Practice On One Mixer, Play On Another

The mixer you have at home isn’t coming with you to every gig most likely, and unless you’re a big star, requesting a specific model might be out of the question. You’ll have to get good at using all of the main types of mixers found in clubs (Xone:92, DJM-800/900s, and Rane 57s continue to be the most common in our neck of the woods).

Look out for a follow up article next week where we will offer some affordable external mixing setups. Have experience mixing internally and externally? Tell us what your preference has been with each of these setups.

  • Pingback: Online Djing Mixer | Computer DJ Equipment()

  • Pingback: Djing Drunk | Computer DJ Midi()

  • Pingback: Best Djing Mixers | Computer DJ Equipment()

  • Pingback: Online Dj Mixer With Sync Button | Computer DJ Software()


    One question: how does Richie Hawtin mix externally since he uses an audio interface (RME Fireface UFX) that it is not Traktor Scratch Certified?

  • Göran Svensson

    Hi Ean will the A&H DB2 work both as an internal and an external mixer in traktor pro, if so will it mdicontrol all four Channels with the faders & XF ?

  • patrick

    pretty cool butt you are forgetting the vms 4.1 from american audio. i use the external hardware mixer of the vms. therefore the mic and all the exits are analogue but i use traktor to spin my records. and i can hook up analogue decks if i want. i use it in combo with vinyl allot. for a mobile dj this is a good solution. and i wish i could get in sync with the mixers that they use in the clubs but there expensive like hell XD

  • Mauri Moore

    “In some of these cases DSP can be really good and some digital mixers offer good headroom AND audio forgiveness to the drunk DJs that slam the reds”

    are you serious ?? when you go to RED you are going to distortion , end of the history.
    Most of the djs are using RED , OK , then we can say : most of the djs are using the mixers in the bad way .

    • Reticuli

      Depends where on dBFS red is on a given digital mixer.

  • Mauri Moore

    ” in the heat of the moment, and with ear fatigue, DJs almost always end up in the red. This is where the gentle forgiveness and sometimes unique sound of analogue summing can be good.”

    the sound can NEVER GOOD in these conditions !!! Come ON !!! when a dj goes to RED he goes to SHIT sound .
    If you have e
    ar fatigue USE YOUR EYES . Red is SHIT all the time .

  • Mauri Moore

    In Traktor, 0dB means maximum output , this is the big problem . It makes more sence when we use 0dB in every channel (same as we do with a real mixer)

    With a rea mixer like a djm900 you can stay at the same level all the time , something that all we need , specially when we work with big PA .

    It would be good to see a controller with an analogue mixer in the middle , something like a Denon 6000 BUT with the posibility to do the mix externally …… or wait for a decent Traktor update , something that will never happen ( in my point of view)

  • DJ Possess

    Great article! After reading I changed and tested my setup lastnight. I have a Roland VM3100 mixer and a NI AK1 soundcard. I routed 1/2 out to mixer channel 5/6 and 3/4 from the card to mixer channel 7/8. Since I dont have a cross fader I taped the knobs together to fade up and down easily.

    I have 2 X1 controllers and the F1 controller and using a Macbook Pro w/ Traktor Pro2. What I’d like to know and maybe I missed this in the article, if I use the external mixer am I reducing any load off my laptop or does it matter since I’m still using the same AK1 sound card anyway?

    Im more mobile DJ than club DJ so I can take the gear I need depending on the gig. I might try this way for awhile but the one disadvantage is no headphone cue ability w/ this studio style mixer. Otherwise I use Traktors internal mixer and have one X1 controller custom midi mapped for mixer controls. Works well for me.

    • iernei

      AK1 has a headphone cue you can use, but that way you can’t hear manipulations done on the mixer.

  • deejae snafu

    The internal/external mixing dilemma was what inspired me to modify my akai apc 40 with an innofader and a riser that brings it to turntable height. There just wasn’t a good option for a scratch capable mixer with more than 2 channels and room to map hot cues, effects , remix decks, etc. to get that I needed a pile of controllers, cables and a mixer.

    Link if anyone wants to see it

  • guest

    When using a mixer with USB like the Z2, is mixing done externally? As in, the separate tracks go out of the computer via the USB cable and are mixed in the analog domain?

    Or, is mixing done internally, with the Z2’s faders controlling the software- and then the MIXED audio travels out over the usb cable to the mixers outputs?


    • chayan

      Z2 is a hardware mixer w/ an audio interface, something like DJM-T1, hence mixing is done externally, would have appreciated if you have researched a bit before asking the question.

      • elmooso

        Incorrect actually. Z2 in Traktor mode mixes internally. The only time a Z2 would be used as a fully external mixer is if someone were to play vinyls or cds on a cdj through it (which would be a waste of a very capable Traktor mixer).

        • chayan

          wow! yes you’re correct, I was wrong, sorry, what a waste man, but I found this “..that the Kontrol Z2’s method of controlling Traktor’s internal mixer
          actually makes scratching with DVS feel tighter as the small amount of
          latency added to the fader puts cutting more in sync with the software
          translated record movements.”


      • Sagar Samtani

        z2 mixes are done internally. with traktor it works as a midi controller, which is sad, and it sounds like crap honestly.

        guest, you are right about that.

        • elmooso

          Agreed on the sounding like crap part. Thankfully the club i play at has a DJM-900, I just plug into the audio card on that and use the Z2 as a control surface.

      • DiiGiiTAL

        If it was such a drama for you to answer this question then you should have simply not responded.

  • chayan

    Spot on article Ean, there were also older djtt articles about this, external mixing in a club definitely makes more sense cause the gear is already there, personally I like the combination of a kontrol x1/audio 2/8 dj and the club mixer.

    Now a quick question, I’ve heard a lot about how the internal audio interface of DJM 900 doesn’t sound as good as external audio interface like say audio 8 for example, would be great if anyone having DJM 900 can throw some light on it?

    Also one factor regarding the sound quality, if we are plugging the sound card then the signal chain looks somewhat like this D/A (soundcard)-> A/D (mixing stage/dsp)-> D/A (final out), though I understand the DACs and the ADCs are really good but still there can be quality loss compared to say for example someone using a sound card with an analogue mixer (like what Richie uses- RME with xone 92 or someone using cdj’s digital outputs).

    I use all lossless files and my aim is to sound as good as possible considering I’ll be mostly using the club mixer which is DJM 900 on all venues here.

    • Reticuli

      All analog mixers, including the most expensive ones, do a lot more to the sound, particularly the bass, than even many cheap digital mixers.

  • Alexio Beez

    Great article DJTT ;),nothing compares with eq-ing and mixing with a hardware mixer..But ,talking from my experience,sometimes it dosent matter if you signal comes out clean from your mixer,most clubs,venues,etc are equiped with poor sound system or great sound systems that are badly configured. I had found myself in this kind of scenarios very often! I check the signal from the amplifiers,crossovers,compressors,equlizers if I am alowed.Most of the time I find levels in peak or bad eq-ing ,very bad eq-ing….Once I found an eq that wast in this shape ^ …and the resident dj from that club wonderd why he had to raise the low levels from his mixer in order to get some bass in his speakers .And the list continues…So,if you are alowed,check some equipment !

  • Ewan Collins

    Anyone know any relatively cheap scratch mixers?

    • chayan

      DJ Tech’s DIF-1S

  • thedjally

    For the record, the SX, while being an all in one, still uses a hardware mixer.

  • Anthony Woodruffe

    I like this article because it does bring home that controllerism isn’t just about all-in-one units. Over the past few years I’ve noticed this being more of the trend and it’s nice to see DJTT reminding readers about external mixers. I felt anxiously sick when I ordered my Xone:92 back in 2009 because I’d only just started my business but knew I needed something not just good but great but the cost did make me feel sick. It really is the best piece of DJ equipment I own. I have considered a controller and bought a VC1-100 mk2 and the Vci-400. I no longer have either and I’m still using the :92.

    However I was a bit surprised about some of the points in this article.

    1. “For many DJs, home sets mixed with the occasional mobile gig are a common stage”. I don’t consider myself Mr. Jet setting DJ but I am out at an event virtually every weekend. meaning for the past month I’ve been trying to do a mixset and not got round to purchasing the music yet. I guess I should count my blessings

    2. “how many DJs do you know keep their levels in a reasonable range? Let’s be honest – in the heat of the moment, and with ear fatigue, DJs almost always end up in the red.” This has to be my biggest pet hate in the world. I drives me insane seeing a mixer lit up like the 4th of July. Worse still is seeing TOP Djs (Dubfire, Chuckie, and Hawtin occasionally) hitting in the red. More annoying than than is having some expert controllerist telling me that the Xone:92 needs to be pushed because it’s so quite. There is no denying DJ endo’s Traktor Knowledge but considering I can get 97dB out of a 900 watt RMS system keeping my PFL levels at +3dB and the masterout at 8, only proves that there is no reason what so ever to push an analog mixer into the red. Even the manual states that PFL levels should be held between +3 and +5dB. Ear fatigue means nothing because hitting that red light means you’ve got sight fatigue too. Thanks to sound wars it’s even easier to keep your levels in check. Everything is compressed to shit anyway so if you make sure your PFL is on +3dB, the peaks won’t go above +6. Warm distortion my arse. Play in the red and it will sound like shit; Fact. For anyone reading this and does clip their channels, save your bleating for someone who’s gullible enough to listen to the BS. I’ve done about 200 gigs since 2010 which doesn’t sound a lot but it’s an average of 6 gigs a month and never have I ended up in the red due to the “heat of the moment”. please don’t set your levels so it sounds like someone farting through soggy sand paper.

    • chayan

      Mate, you won’t believe how many headliners and the BIG names actually hit the red, they keep saying that DJM 900 actually has a lot of headroom, ha

      The sound guys here are also noobs, I once asked ’em to increase the volume at the PA and they were like “increase the master, nothing will happen with an assuring nod”! #facepalm

      If I’m right pioneer says DJM 900 has 19db of headroom and the 0 dBfs= +4dBu?

    • Oddie O’Phyle

      if feel your pain… years ago i switched to a digital format. i feed my S-4 through an Allen and Heath ZED10-FX and turn my S4’s master to the point of clipping red and dialing it back a hair. If i want it louder i just turn up the master on my A&H (S-4 only ever hits 70%). It’s a DJ’s job to bring gains under control, but all too often i see levels being driven into the red (doesn’t matter if it’s digital or analog source). This is the reason why i have stopped calling myself a DJ and rebranded myself as an audiophile that enjoys playing music. It’s the difference between pushing noise and playing a track.

      • Anthony Woodruffe

        I like your style. I have a ZED-10 FX myself. Booked a DJ for a wedding and had him go through the ZED, He said his tracks have never sounded so warm… 🙂

        • Oddie O’Phyle

          A&H makes some nice hardware, i currently have my desktop, S4 w/lappy, SH-201 and MC808 patched to it with the record out chaining back to my desktop for recording. i don’t know how i managed without it.

  • samuel

    nothing like a real mixer!!!! the way you slam the faders up and down, that cant be done in a controller! it can be done, but not for long periods of times, since any controller will break way more easy than any mixer!!

    • tothecloudd

      I do not agree. “any controller will break way more easy than any mixer!!” proof?

      • Chaser720

        Agreed (with tothecloudd). That was a pretty useless statement.

  • stefanhapper

    Really happy that my Denon MC-6000 controller is one of the very few that combine the best of both worlds: good quality stand-alone mixer and controller in one – and still portable.

  • VL

    i use a hardware mixer every weekend when I spin on Ableton. there is simply no other way to do it properly. hardware sounds better. especially when you have to drive it hard when playin tracks that are mastered to different volumes. doin that in the box sounds like garbage. jus sayin. #practicalexperience

    • Oddie O’Phyle

      you do realize that you can manually set the gains in live so they don’t clip…

  • technicaltitch

    I disagree with most of this article. This article is just saying that the audio circuitry in external mixers is better engineered than audio circuitry in controllers. External power and decent audio circuitry obviate most of these points. DJTechTools please stock a wider range of manufacturers!

    Perhaps I’m being unrealistic, but to DJ in the red is inexcusable – it just means the engineer has to introduce the headroom later on, so you’re compromising on sound quality running everything below zero dB. No professional DJ would be so sloppy and no drunk DJ is touching my mixer or playing my parties and I’m not buying kit so I can play sloppily. Are these DJs not even listening to the two tracks together before subjecting their audience to them? Matching EQ, timbre, etc? This is just lazy and amateur in my opinion and adds meat to the arguments for vinyl, which forces that discipline. On PAs designed for decent DJs you’re just going to overheat the amps and be booed off if you’re not kicked off by the PA owner first.

    Most controllers, even at $1000+, are still just a load of digital circuitry with USB-powered D-A converters slapped on the outputs. I have no idea why many controllers can be bus-powered, in my opinion you shouldn’t drive a rig from a USB port. Why NI did this with their S4 etc I have no idea, but this is an argument against USB-powered controllers, not against controllers in general. If they have their own power supply there’s no reason why digi controllers can’t drive even the most thirsty PA, (ie, high levels and low output impedance), with plenty of nice headroom to be run at their limits, and rich, generous depth.

    I also think controllers will become increasingly analogue, with digital just for the MIDI. This makes sense for engineering, but also means channels that work through a laptop crash. Check out Denon’s controllers – huge output signal, very little output impedance, dedicated knobs, mic ducking, gorgeous invincible analogue circuitry, (although the 3000 lacks booth outs).

    In short I think what this article talks about is the crap state of most controllers’ audio circuitry, which some manufacturers (unfortunately not stocked or reviewed yet by DJTechTools) are beginning to address, not the choice between internal and external. Controllers will inevitably incorporate the engineering strengths of external mixers as they reach higher levels of quality.

    • interesting points – could you provide some examples of controllers that provide independent analogue summing on each channel and digital surface control all in one unit? I am not aware of a single model.

      • technicaltitch

        I was thinking that it would theoretically be possible to have a controller like this, with Traktor set in external mixer mode, but I’m not aware of anyone who has done it yet. But I don’t think this is an advantage as long as you keep below zero dB.

        You should try the Denon models though if you haven’t already, you will know what I mean as soon as you plug them into something. There is a major difference by putting the D-A converters earlier in the signal chain (but post-faders, Traktor is in internal mode), and by feeding the amplifiers with a 48 watt supply and using tried and tested analogue audio circuitry. The Traktor master out is converted, then amplified, then mixed with purely analogue channels (then diverted to the monitor output) using analogue circuitry that works independently of the digital parts.

        Little things change, such as the monitor out working when the controller is being used purely as an ASIO interface, because the channels are linked with analogue circuitry instead of by Traktor, and of-course the mixer still works without a computer plugged into it and those channels mix with the Traktor master out, but the major change is connecting it to a PA. I’m sorry I can’t put it more eloquently but I’ve used both the S4 and the Denon 3000 for a couple years each and the Denon was like going back to analogue mixers after the S4 – the sound just comes alive when pushed hotter, the sound is fuller. It is exactly the shift I feel you are describing when you talk about crunchiness and depth, except I think there’s more to it than just coping with distortion. I’m beginning to sound like a vinylist, but the quality of the sound as it is pushed is different, pushing it deepens the sound instead of clips it. The Denons sound best when the master is pushing just into the red, just like those gorgeous Vestax PMC mixers I’m sure you have used, with just two EQ knobs but an irresistibly rich and silky full sound.

        • Sagar Samtani

          ah yes, VOXOA C60 also works in external mixer mode w/ Traktor, it is an all-in one controller like the MC-3000.

          The headroom on those are sick.

        • Tito

          With the xone 4d You can have traktor in ext. Mode control each channel in the mixer analog channels (filters, eq, volume, gain) And all transport controls, library browsing, fx, with the digital midi controls in the sides And You have A master output to PA of +24 dB vía xlr. All analog summing

      • Tito

        Errr!!!! I have something called xone 4d

        • Sagar Samtani

          Xone 4D is still considered a mixer mate! It just has controllers attached to it’s sides.

          • Anthony Woodruffe

            However it is an all in one controller which is TS-Pro certified.
            I also believe the Denon mc6000 and the ADJ VMS4 can act as a stand alone mixers meaning you can use then as a midi controller and attach an external Audio soundcard (Ni Audio 6 / Audio 10) to it.

          • technicaltitch

            The MC3000 also acts as an external mixer, but is equally limited to just trim, mix and mic ducking on the purely analogue channels.

            I’ve never had my hands on one, but the Xone4D baffles me – doesn’t seem to have enough MIDI controls to work without another controller or a lot of keyboard/mouse use.

          • Anthony Woodruffe

            I Haven’t used a 4D either but my setup is a :92 with twin 1D’s which is almost the same thing. Virtually every action in Traktor is mapped and for 4 decks but yes I still use the laptop to find the track I want, It’s just quicker that way.

          • technicaltitch

            I use jogs too much but many don’t. The grid layout for buttons that aren’t related in that way also seems confusing, but I guess most of my buttons and knobs are re-mapped anyway and you soon get used to your layout. I bet Xone is rock solid reliable.

          • Tito

            I am only responding ean’s question. Definetly Youhave no idea what a xone 4d is. It has 10 in, 10 out integrated soundcard And You can route each traktor channel to each analog channel using traktor in ext. Mixer mode And at same time control everything via midi

      • The_KLH

        If you ignore what they are being pitched as (controller or mixer), you’ll find this in the following equipment: Denon MC6000, Denon MC3000, Numark NS6, Numark 4Trak, A&H Xone 4D, Pioneer DDJ-SX, Korg Zero4, and Korg Zero8.

    • Sagar Samtani

      Controllers becoming increasingly analogue IMO will not happen mate. It doesn’t make financial sense to the manufacturers.

      Denon is a different story, they focus on sound on their controllers – but you see their sales aren’t that great – because they are expensive, less marketing, less innovation. Look at the Traktor S4, Z1, DDJ-SX – they sell like freakin’ pancakes – because there’s a paradigm that’s been happening for years now where young and bedroom DJs are the main customers these manufacturers have to satisfy – and 90% of them care less about sound quality – which is why the Traktor S4, S2, and all those controllers sell really well.

      Look around forums and reviews about controllers, most of them don’t even mention sound quality, they just say it sounds good, sounds great – that doesn’t mean anything right?

      My point is, controllers will not become “increasingly analogue” since for manufacturers it doesn’t make sense to do so. Analogue is expensive. Digital is cheaper. Even mixers are going the Digital Route.

      I am not happy with how things are going, but it is the sad truth.

      • technicaltitch

        I know what you mean, iphone ear buds and laptop speakers are the bane of my life, and you might be right. But prices edge inexorably downwards, and the Denon MC 3000, which sits somewhere between the S2 and the S4, is just $450, a fraction of the price of than the S4 and it sounds better on PAs, is more reliable and feels nicer to play and engineer into a system. (Granted it doesn’t include a Traktor licence but you can pick that up amazingly cheaply from NI. Also, it has been deeply discounted since it’s original RRP.) I think the bigger difference is in marketing, which Denon seem to spend almost nothing on, and which NI have really gone for, sponsoring all sorts of big names and vendors to reach people. Unfortunately in this age of a wealth of kit to choose from and shopping online sound quality has become a casualty of shopping by numbers – if it is 24/96 then it is the best, which is of course nonsense. But the S4 is by no means the last stand – it was innovative a few years ago but plenty of people are having technical issues with it and as the MIDI engineering becomes vanilla, you can incorporate a lot of audio engineering for a mass-sold unit $1000 a piece.

        • Sagar Samtani

          yes agree, if only manufacturers would put some money into sound quality as well.

          Agree, Denon and sadly Allen & Heath also have put less effort into marketing. Denon should really start to innovate if they want to succeed – for example Numark is gaining alot of success now – with all the exciting new controllers they are coming out with. Pioneer is doing pretty well too.

          the sad truth about today’s industry is that due to online purchases, people can’t test sound quality, and are duped into thinking other manufacturers are the best because their product is more well known. Like i said earlier, a lot of people judge products due to online reviews, including myself before purchasing a product. But reviews now are very poor when it comes to sound quality – at least an A/B test on sound quality would really suffice.

          I own a DJ Store myself and its sad looking how a lot of people just go for the item that’s flashy, and marketed well. PS. that too after me telling them the truth about each and every product.

          Point being is, a lot of manufacturers now understand this and take it to their advantage. Premium sound is less priority now. I’ve tried a lot of controllers and haven’t found anything that sounds as good as the Denons except for Numark NS6/NS7 which I haven’t tested. VOXOA C60 and S60 rivals the Denons in SQ.

          S4 is rumored to come out with the MK2 shortly, let’s hope the sound on those is alot better.

          • technicaltitch

            WOW I hadn’t come across the VOXOA C60 before – prefer my beloved Denon’s layout, but, booth out, dual mic, more encoders, FX2 & 4, pitch range..and most important – equivalent sound, Is the jog as good? Is the MIDI implemented as well? Are the drivers as rock solid as Denon’s? Innofader compatible?!?! I must be dreaming.. Sadly after some facebook stalking I’ve discovered your shop is a bit to far away, but I really, really, really want one of these!

            Re S4 Mk 2 – great news NI is sticking with us non-cue-juggler traditionalists a little longer. (Although they need to re-write the PC drivers as well as the sound engineering.) Thought they might be leaving us old-fashioned jog-wheel users to Serato.

            Damn shame you confirm my fears about shopping by numbers and glitz, but I do credit Denon as being one of the first (of many, I’m sure) to properly engineer a controller.

          • Sagar Samtani

            Yeah, the booth knob is unfortunately mapped to Traktor’s Loop Recorder, gotta talk to the manufacturer about that. MIDI is implemented well, drivers are solid, innofader compatible. Jogs have sensitivity adjustments. Yeah, we are based in Indonesia. Hit me up @, will see what I can do regarding shipping.

            Yea sad truth 🙁 .. hopefully denon comes out with something real soon.

          • technicaltitch

            Guess you can remove the Loop Recorder link mapping if you use the booth out. Nice that an analogue audio button also sends a MIDI signal though – the Denon is similarly over-engineered.

            I was being a bit disingenuous – I’m still over the moon with my Denon. Also I’m in Ethiopia, where the import tax on DJ controllers is an unbelievable 300%, so my controller must last – another reason why I love the Denon – it seems to be carved from a solid lump of steel. I’ve also only just started to settle on my custom controller mapping..(hopefully!) – a problem many on this site will probably recognize..

  • Rayalon

    Quote: “One example I love putting an echo post crossfader and then using the fader to cut out the track, leaving a nice echo trail behind. Try to set that up in DJ software

    • Guest

      This is also easily done with Traktor’s post fader possibilities + Freeze mode on the Delay fx……

      • Filippo

        or just using properly a Delay T3 amount(group mode) combined with the D/W

        • nucleartoaster

          on my s4, i use post fader , group mode: delay t3 rate + play with dry wet. throw in some filter to cut off the bass and voila super cool echo fx

    • The Freeze mode on the delay is a VERY different sound from a post fader DLY roll, however you are right about putting a delay post fader. I never noticed they snuck in post fader FX routing, when did that get in there?

      • Rayalon

        They ‘snuck’ it in when 2.6 came out 😉

        BTW I’m able to get the right sounding effect with freeze mode as well.
        It’s all a matter of how you tweak it (with the right amount of filter and feedback, also 1/8, 1/4, 3/16 rate is recommended).

  • 031999

    External….for the win!!

  • Dr Beatz

    I think having an external (analog)
    mixer in your setup is a no brainer. I personally started using
    an external after my computer crashed during a show. Luckily it
    was a slow time of the night, but the anxiety stuck with me the whole
    I found a Eucler Smac First mixer on craigslist for
    $50. I love this model because it is pretty thin and portable,
    yet full featured. When going on a gig, I leave all the cables
    plugged into it, so setup at the venue is faster also. I run my
    soundcard into deck A, a kaossilator into deck B and have an I pod on
    the 3rd aux channel

    Another benefit that I would add,
    is the ability to bypass the clubs mixer. Sure, larger and
    legit venues have a pro setup, but smaller no name bars and clubs
    often are missing the essentials. Having your own mixer allows
    you to go right to the sound system. I have also been in a
    situation where the house mixer had only 1 set of inputs. I
    used my mixer to connect in the other DJ, making sure the keep the
    set changes flawless. You also have the ability to plug in a
    microphone, which smaller clubs may also leave out as well.

    an external mixer also allows you to play outside of the
    booth/stage. I often play shows with bands that use the stage,
    and you the DJ, are relegated to a corner or far away place, playing
    while the bands do stage change overs. Again, points for the
    analog mixer.

    I sum I would say, if your trying to be as
    professional as possible, an analog mixer is essential. Even if
    you only use it as a backup, you have more options. In the
    event the other DJ forgets a cable, or the house system
    fries, or the sound guy takes too much acid and wanders into the
    forest (yes these have all happened to me), you the boy scout of the
    DJ world, can step in and save the day, thanks to your analog

    • Feroxz

      Most of the things you mentioned are possible with a decent controller. I use a VCI 400, which is able to act as stand-alone mixer if the computer would crash. I can plug in directly to the soundsystem due to XLR/Jack outputs on or off the stage. I can input external audio sources, and when another DJ wants an input, I can use the line input and route to master outs. Etc.

      Long story short, most of the points you are trying to make against controllers are incorrect. This goes for my controller, but even more for something like the Denon MC 6000 which has more mixer functionality then a lot of cheap mixers I know.

      • Dr Beatz

        Cool. I have never really looked into these all in one solutions, but am glad they exist. I am not arguing against controllers, (I use a M Audio Xponent as my main DJ inter face, and use the external to mix in other stuff/as backup).I just think it is good to have those options, For me it has added a level of professionalism, having “saved the day” on a few gigs I mentioned above.

        My only counter to VCI route is the price point. I found all my gear/controllers for less than $300 ( a cheap mixer is ~$100), not including my laptop of course. IT would be great to see a controller that is in the $300 range yet still has its own sound card and external stand alone options. Of the 2 Hercules controllers and my xponent (and all the other soundcards I have owned) none work if the computer is turned off.
        True I have not gone the route to drop some real money on gear, but this is such a crucial point to me, I had to find an external solution.
        Thanks for the tip yo. Are you aware of any other sound-cards/ctrl combos, that allow use, even without a computer? Specifically in the under $500 range?

  • D3RKIN

    I personally just started using the z1 and x1 for playing out. The setup is quick because I leave a rca coupler on my rca cable and unplug the rca out on the cdj that is not being used and plug it in to the coupler. That way I don’t have to mess with the back of the mixer and guess which line I am plugged into. Then I also bring my ipod with Traktor dj on it in case of equipment or laptop failure and plug that into the z1, and I also bring a mix cd to play while hooking that up.

  • Filippo

    Great article DJTT!! I mix externally at home and in the clubs with the same setup… i’m lucky… i’ve 2 Xone K2s with my own mapping in traktor for 4 decks, but in the 4 channel i’ve maschine, as a sequencer, synced via midi with Traktor… The dream is that i don’t need an audio interface just because i aggregate the two k2’s soundcard… on the 4th channel i route maschine… at home i’ve a Xone 62 and also in clubs where i play i find often Xone 62 or sometimes 92 that is allmost the same… the only drawback is cables… i’m looking for cables as Ean Golden shows in one of his video where cable are connected each other to avoid unconfortable tangles… bye From Sardinia, IT

  • Dj XXX

    I recently bought the traktor z2 while I do usually take my home sytem (two technics maschine and the z2) with me in an odesey coffin to house parties it has been phenomenal being that I can switch from external to internal with the press of a button I hope to see it being used more often in the clubs until then the standard rane and pioneers aren’t a problem for me

  • Zendible

    This article is spot on.

  • Michael.C

    This, IMO, comes down to a personal preference. In the live environment, I always play on an actual mixer, the cable routing is a pain, sure, but nothing can take the place of confidence of knowing where things are on the mixer without having to actually look at it. Especially, as mentioned in the articel, if one channel goes you have 3 others to work with. I find most controllers to be too tight on space and feel plasticky. It becomes a bit of a buzz kill if you have to stop and look where your fingers are. I currently use a midi mapped X-1 as a mini mixer at home (until I get a new external one) and while sufficient for simple tasks, it falls well short of ‘feel’ and performance. I find the response rate of volume levels to be too sensitive ( a minor adjustment often results in a significant jump up or down) – granted, I have experienced this on some mixers as well. The main reason I have not gone the route of a S$ or similar at home is the fear of relying, becoming familiar with a set of features/use at home and not have that in the club (using an S$ or similar in the club is not for me as most booths do not have adequate space for another big piece of equipment.). Nice article.

  • lingk

    Sometimes I mix internally and other times I mix externally.
    It all comes done to how much setup time I have and if the person before and
    after me are using controller’s or not. If that’s a yes, I’ll mix externally because
    it’s easy to setup and tear down, with out getting in someones way. If they are using anything else I just mix
    internally simply because I don’t want to be all up in their stuff connecting /
    disconnecting cables. DJ’s get mad when
    your all in there space at the end of a good set. It’s also nice to have everything there ready
    to go for the person after you.

  • Andrew Ivan

    “Look out for a follow up article next week where will offer some affordable external mixing setups. Have experience mixing internally and externally? Tell us what your preference has been with each of these setups.”

    you wrote will rather than we’ll or we will. 😛 I’ve used a lot of pioneer mixers djm 800 900 1000 even a 500 ive used the xone 92 as well but thats it. I usually use it with cdjs considering trying with controllers and a mixer instead.

  • Ed Paris

    i think one thing to be mentioned is, that in most cases the mixer is always in the center of the booth. that means, i as a dj am always standing in the middle and in the “focus” with big all-in-one-solutions it is mostly the case that the dj will be somewhere near the edges of the booth.

  • Shogun

    I’ve used a Rane Sixty-Eight to mix with only the mixer as my controls. I MIDI map two of the faders to the pitch control on the screen and use the other two channels for audio. The Sixty-Eight has controls for everything else and is MIDI assignable. Where does that scenario fit in? Good article BTW, I like the topic.

  • wyatt agard

    rane does not make a TTM67. otherwise spot on.