Rotary Mixers: The New Boutique DJ Tool?

A few years ago, the cutting edge of DJs were often drooling over DIY and custom MIDI controllers. That hasn’t stopped, but we’ve noticed a new trend in custom boutique DJ gear: rotary mixers made by individuals or small independent companies. Today we thought it would be awesome to highlight a few unique rotary mixers from around the web and ask: would you buy one of these instead of a “mainstream” DJ mixer?

Why Boutique Rotary Mixers?

We’ve watched carefully as many DJs have slowly started moving away from purely digital-focused gear in recent years. A recent poll on DJTT even showed that over 40% of DJs want to move to standalone hardware in the future.

So it’s no wonder that rotary mixers – which had their first glory days in the pre-digital vinyl era – have become a new hot commodity. In some ways we suspect that Rane’s popular MP2015 and two channel MP2014 were designed in reaction to how sought-after these fader-free mixers have become…

Indie Rotary Mixers

Aside from Rane and a few of the “old-school” rotary mixer companies like E&S, Urei, etc, most of the new rotary mixers that are on the market today are from small-run independent companies. These are often small teams – sometimes a single person, making every part of these mixers.

Below we’ve highlighted a few different, exciting, and admittedly expensive rotary mixers being made by independent manufacturers (know of some that we’ve missed? let us know in the comments).

Worth noting, many of these companies also make custom gear, so if you have a dream rotary mixer, this could be a good place to start.

Model Zero

meza-model-zero

This mixer from up-and-coming new designer David Meza, who appears to be hand crafting them himself in Los Angeles. The mixer is incredibly minimalistic, but at the same time flashy for DJ gear in its all-white case.

rear-model-zero

The mixer has four channels – each of which can be phono or line – and has two balanced and unbalanced stereo outputs. There’s also record outputs and an effects loop option. As is the case with many of these mixers, many of the components are designed for audiophiles, and are heavily touted as being key to the mixer’s sound and build quality. Here’s a sampling:

  • Fully discrete single ended Class A circuitry
  • Precision 1% metal film resistors
  • Strategically placed carbon film resistors
  • Wima FKP film capacitors
  • Custom Cinemag output Transformers
  • Military-grade headphone output jack
  • Carling heavy-duty toggle switches
  • Fully shielded steel enclosure

Lucia

condesa-lucia

Handmade in Adelaide, Australia, the Lucia is one of a number of rotary mixers (and standalone isolators) designed by Condesa Electronics. The company was started by Medhi El-Aquil, who writes of his passion for mixer design:

“Being a record collector and DJ since the late 80’s, building a good quality mixer was always a dream for me. To arrive at this point of building and selling mixers is a great honour.

The mixers are close to my heart. It’s not a bandwagon, knee jerk trend, its the product of DJ culture and my craft as an tradesman.”

All of Condesa’s mixers have a discreet audio circuit (instead of an integrated circuit):

“Proponents of discrete circuits argue that because discrete components are larger, they carry a higher voltage and are less susceptible to electrical interference. Condesa discrete circuits have a ‘rich full & dynamic sound’ this is much harder to obtain with IC audio circuits.”

Lucia-condesa-electronics-rear

We really like the design of this mixer because it’s incredibly versatile compared to many other rotaries. There are EQs for each channel and a master isolator. There’s XLR and RCA master outputs, and 1/4″ and RCA booth outs. Each channel can be sent to the send/return independently.

The design of the mixer is beautiful, with analog VU meters, a wood case (choose your stain of wood – blonde, black, dark), and a relatively minimal faceplate.

Model 9000

model9000

  • Manufacturer: Alpha Recording System (Japan)
  • Price: $3,650
  • Availability: In the US, available from The Sound Of New York

This mixer is unique – it has four channels, each of which has full isolators. One of the fair criticisms of many classic rotary mixers is that they lack a way to send specific channels to isolators. On this mixer, there isn’t an EQ on each channel, there’s a full frequency isolator. Awesome!

model-9000-rear

There are also two FX loops, 8 inputs (3 phono, 5 line), and master/booth outputs in both XLR and RCA.

DN78 Phantom Valve

DN78-Phantom

  • Manufacturer: Super Stereo (United Kingdom)
  • Price: around ~$2,000-$2,200 (depending on options)
  • Availability: On Superstereo’s site

The DN78 is a two channel analog DJ mixer, with a valve/tube output stage that is designed to “add warmth and depth to the sound”. It’s particularly unique because it has a built-in soundcard with two stereo USB channels (up to 32bit/384kHz).

There’s also a rotary crossfader, three band isolator EQ, effects send and return, and is entirely hand built in the UK.  The design is pretty similar to the Condesa Lucia – but we can see why, as it’s a clean layout.

Know of a new and exciting boutique rotary DJ mixer that we’ve missed in this round up? Share it in the comments!

Want a taste of a rotary mixer style mixing but without the huge cost? Our own Midi Fighter Twister has a rotary mapping on Maps.DJTechtools.com

  • rich trenowden

    I’m tempted by the Varia Intruments RDM 20 or the Bozak AR-4.
    I’m struggling to find any info/feedback on the AR-4 other than from Bozak themselves. Anyone played the Bozak – any thoughts?

  • Colin Shakh

    Nobody has mentioned this beast: http://www.bozak.com/product/ar-4-desk-top-mixer/

  • Lab Yan

    Mmm first one Model Zero class A. No bells and whistle just purity .

  • Stuart Merchant
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  • EmDash

    There’s a DN78 up for sale here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/-/282106189580

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  • DJ Zest

    Nice mixers for a lot of $$.

  • Akinkunmi Cook

    If I had the cash I would go for the Model 9000 in a heartbeat! However, in the digital world (if you know what you’re doing) you can get some AWESOME sounding kit without breaking the bank! While I admit I have never heard a sound system like the one at the Paradise Garage (they used a Bozak rotary mixer) you can get a “good enough” sounding system. While I’ve heard, that it all comes down to personal taste, if you heard the sound coming out of the Urei or Bozak using vinyl & the Stanton 680 phono cartridge, believe me, I think more people would opt for the classic rotary mixer. While I understand the Urei & Bozak had no individual eq on each channel & could be a turn off to some I think not having those things forced you to really “program” & “know” every piece of music that you played. My opinion. Great article!

  • nattyphysicist

    Low end recording mixers are typically rotary and very cheap. Add some RIAA preamps and you have a rotary for vinyl.

  • MoMo

    The new FUNKTION ONE FF6.2 has an R model in the catalog which I read somewhere that it means Rotary.

    Playdifferently should definitely make a rotary mixer because it would make sense in this day and age. I’ve heard that Andy Rigby-Jones used to collect Xone: V6s so he has to be a fan of them.

  • MoMo

    Also, David Meza is of the DUO-AUDIO fame. For years he made the best customized stick headphones around. If you have always been into rotary mixers and vinyl, no doubt you should know about DUO-AUDIO. I’m still hanging onto one he made for me over a decade ago,

  • MoMo

    Hey…on this side of the world there is also the SP3 by Audio Solutions, Italy which you can see in action weekly on 180gr.it [ https://www.facebook.com/180gr.it or https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCerprbJ1pJ3BrhHo5Iy2lEQ ]

  • Ezmyrelda

    Still not really impressed with the first three.. Well.. the two FX sends on the Model 9000 is intriguing.. But I have been drooling over the DN78 Phantom Valve for several months.. It’s.. just really sexy.. VUs.. LEDs, Crossfader, Tubes.. and the knobs.. really lovely looking.

  • DJ Rube.e

    I’m guessing it would be a hassle to try and use these with Traktor DVS, and I’d have to get a separate audio card, no?
    The site says “The USB interface can be used for playback from most popular DJ software platforms on both MAC and PC” but it doesn’t offer any specifics on which softwares or how.

    I love the design and sound of these rotary mixers, but if I would need a separate audio card (i.e. an A6 or A10) that would just reduce the quality and defeat the point of the high quality mixer components, right? Or would I just need the audio card for the turntable DVS and the mixer would be fine to use via USB? Any advice or experience?

  • I bought a XONE 92 Rotary last years. I love it. It’s the perfect mixer imo.

    • Yes, great mixer!

    • Envinite

      O shit, that looks sexy as fuck.

  • White Wulfe

    Slightly surprised to see no mention of the stpVx that’s coming out in the near-ish future from the founder of Vestax..

  • Christopher Allen

    what about the allen & heath one?

  • Mehdi El-Aquil

    Dan: the Lucia is $3000AUD (Australian Dollars), this is equal to $2250USD, Thanks.

  • Leo

    Hi guys. I am debating between the E&S DRJ400 and the ARS 9000. Any thoughts? Thank you

    • pixelbreak

      ARS 9000 hands down, it has a cleaner sound and the customer service is better. DRJ400 looks nice but the portable rotary market has become quite competitive and I’ve seen a great number of people parting ways from their DRJ400 to buy from another company. It is a great sounding mixer on its own right but others offer more superior quality and service.

  • blulabel

    What it really comes down to, in my opinion, is your mixing style and to some degree the style of music you play. If you don’t mix like say a Doc Martin (yes I know I’m old) and mix more like Laidback Luke, then a linear fader mixer is better suited to your style, plus you’ll likely get effects thrown in. Now if you’re a house DJ or someone who likes to create long precise mixes, then a rotary mixer may be right up your alley. Especially if you’re looking to purchase any of the high-end linear mixers, because some of those are in the same price bracket as some very nice rotary mixers. So it really comes down to your style and approach to the craft; again in my humble opinion.

    • dirty steve

      Nailed it. Let’s give you a +1

    • pixelbreak

      correct, it all depends on your mixing style and workflow.

  • sebastian coelli

    What about custom made Isonoe mixers? Anybody know how much it costs to have one of those?

    Dixon got one a few weeks ago

    http://www.isonoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Features-UPDATE_031114-print.pdf

    • pixelbreak

      That’s a one off production and USD$10k a piece.

      The ones in the article are produced in higher number than the Isonoe ones. Justin is in the works of a more comercial rotary mixer, but besides some pictures floating around and part of the specs, I have no idea of price and release date.

  • thedaniel

    Dan: please next write an article about rotary mixers for working schlubs. (I know the answer is probably ebay a djm3000/600/700 and buy a rotary kit but still, i want to hear it in your voice)

    • Going the cheaper route there is a rotary A&H Xone:92. Pretty nice, I used play on one in Philly all the time.

    • John Rodriguez

      A used Rane Rotary Empath is another option.

    • Spacecamp

      Dan: noted. We’re looking into what the cheapest combo rotary kit / used gear is, but sadly Pioneer DJ has stopped making the rotary kit. Stay tuned..

      • here_comes_the_sheik

        Omnitronic just copied the E&S DJR400 and I heard it’s better than what you were used from Omnitronic.

        Called Omnitronic TRM 202 mk2

        • pixelbreak

          yup, sounds good for the price. A good deal for an entry tabletop that features 2 channels.

      • Alex Voravong

        Anything is possible if you try DJM-2000R
        Djm-1000 rotary kit mod + DJM-2000

    • SupaSandeep

      People always forget that the Xone DB4 can be run as a rotary mixer without any mods… they also just dropped the price of it

  • None of these rotary mixers is appealing to me. I don’t like the designs. They even look like vintage/obsolete dj mixers. I’d rather buy a second hand DJR400 or save money to buy a Rane MP…

    • Beet Salad

      Ever since I was lucky enough to fool around on an acquaintance’s Rane 2016 years ago (yeah poor bastard who clearly didn’t have an expendable income), I’ve coveted a rotary of my own. Hopefully this trend leads to more affordable options like with the explosion of various and cheaper midi controllers in recent years. It seems as though the word “rotary” equals an exclusive and elite market these days. It would be great if that could change. Rotary(s) inherantly force you to mix differently (well, me anyway), and I’d definitely be in the market for something sub-$1,000 to swap out with my DJM 700 from time to time. I certainly cannot justify dropping $3000 for a rotary that would have to become my “forever mixer” unless I sold it later for a considerable loss. Either way, good article and I’m anxious to see what the future holds for adding more variety to the mixer choices out there.

      • Quan Leongrae

        For a rotary kit… mod squad has a rotary for the djm 900n and other pionneer mixers

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