How do YOU mix- Inside or outside?

Not inside or outside the house smart guy, inside or outside the computer! If the right controller was out there, would you like it to control all the functions inside the software including mixing? Or, would you prefer to mix on a real mixer and use all the functions of devices like the VCI-100 for other purposes?

INSIDE THE MACHINE

This has several advantages including recording, consistency and centralized control. First of all, if you are mixing inside traktor its very easy to record all of your sets. You can even record them ass mix files live, go back fix any mistakes and then bounce it to audio. Next, consistency is a wonderful thing. You never have to worry about showing up and playing on a janky mixer with terrible EQs. You always get the eq, effects and cue settings you prefer and they will never break! Finally, centralized control is a big factor. while mixing with the vci-100 in a club I often put it to the right of the mixer on top of a turntable. This works out 90% of the time but having all the controls you need in one ergonomic space that you can place right in front of you is better. When I am doing controller-ism or juggling routines then I have to use the crossfader on the vci-100 because it needs to be right next to the controls that are triggering the cue points.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

This has several advantages including sound quality, number of controls, layout and convenience but largely its a personal preference thing. First the sound quality is better when you use an analogue mixer. Not only are the EQs and pre-amps warmer and add more sonic punch to your mix but they are going to naturally distort the signal in a smooth way as you turn it up. Inevitably all djs find themselves wanting to turn up the signal louder and louder. With a professional mixer like Rane, no matter how hard you push it their built in analogue limiters will never distort and the mix always sounds pro. In digital and, there is a very low and unforgiving ceiling. once you push it past that point the signal will start to digitally distort and sound really poor, even if your playing high quality files.

The layout and amount of controls on a mixer of course doubles your arsenal. Often, especially on the vci-100, there are not enough midi controls to cover all the different things you can do in today’s software programs. The mixer gives you solid knobs, faders and gain controls that are usually easy to use and well spaced freeing up your midi controller to really tweak out the tracks. Finally, there is a convenience factor. Dj booths are almost always centered around the mixer. All volume controls for the master and booth come from there and the monitors are placed to make that position the optimal spot for listening. Sure you can stick your controller on top of the mixer but that does not look very pro and without some foam your gear will slide around uncontrollably.

If your mixing at home and you don’t own a mixer chances are mixing inside makes more sense financially. if you plan on playing in clubs, however, you may want to give some serious thought to the best way to handle this import part of your dj setup. Ultimately though, we want to know what you think? Do you prefer to mix in or out of the box?

Dj Basicsdj performance tricksDj TutorialsTips
Comments (41)
Add Comment
  • DoubleD

    where does the s4 fit into all of this. It seems like an out-of-the-box mixer, but its all software based, is it not?

  • ian

    In and Out 😉

    I`ve been using the old hercules mk2 for 3 years now. I want to get something new, but as a travelling dj its leightweight and does the job. Not enough buttons on it though – so i have my software set up with plenty of key commands on top of the mixer, so its a bit of both.

    At the end of the day, as long as i dont use the mouse im happy – buttons and knobs only 🙂

  • J Puddy

    I've been mixing outside for a long time, but this month have moved inside. I got a Numark Stealth Control, and sadly I don't really have room for the external mixer anymore.

  • Leon

    Hi Ean,
    I wanted to ask something about this inside and outside thingy. I watched your videos on youtube about which soundcard is best for VCI-100. And as you, i like to play with mixer (because of feel) but for Traktor i need a controller like VCI, before i tried x-ponent and Novation ZeroSL but they dont give me the DJ’ing feeling. Ok, in short i had problems about headphone cueing with controllers and soundcards with traktor, i searched the web site for any diagram or something like that, but i couldnt find. Now i am using Traktor Pro and Audio DJ8 Soundcard, ? have also M-audio Firewire Solo, if its necessary, i could buy new card, but i dont know how configure the headphone cueing with use analog mixer with it. Can you explain me (detailed if its possible) how could i setup soundcard connections, traktor pro input and output routings for? I tried to many things, but i couldnt use headphones. Thank you, and sorry for my English.

  • Ale P

    Outside.

    Because I re mapped every mixer control on the controller for fxs and beatjumps. I would need a bigger controller with more buttons and knobs.

  • Kurt

    First of all, I obsess over perfect mixes. I have a VCI-100 and as soon as I discovered Traktor's Native Mix feature, I believe it is the single greatest argument for internal mixes. The only thing better IMO would be to have motor faders and rotary encoders with led light rings. But unless the manufacturers can magically make these items appear for the same price at the VCI, forget about it.

  • Ean Golden

    Your welcome Proteus, how did you get my firmware update?

    I am doign some arcade button mods to sell right now- so yes there may be a chance I can do some more for other people. its takes about 5-6 hours of work though so its not that easy to do it right. My current method is much more pro than the first attempt.

  • Proteus Kim

    Ean,

    I am currently living in Tokyo and spin mostly techno/house. I have just purchased a black VCI-100 I did ur firmware update but want to purchase your Ean Golden faceplates so that I can see what I'm doing.

    also, if i mail my vci-100 to you can you do the arcade button mod as well? I of course will pay whatever the cost is.

    Also, I was torn between the VCI-300 and 100. in the end decided on the 100 but thinking back, if i can route the 300 to my korg zero 4 with dedicated channels then i would definitely go that route.

    any advice?

    you rock Ean.

    proteus kim

  • Martin 418

    Inside at home, Outside away using the faderfox Dx2. Best of both worlds?

  • John Gilmour

    Inside the box- mostly because there are so many ways to enhance the sound out of your laptop that are portable. I'm biased since I develop things like this so don't listen to anything I say until you see one in action. But trust me – you can get a much nicer soundcard than a firefox to output into a club system as the firefox was made for DAW's in studios and is not designed for club acoustics and PA's.

    Inside the box is more predictable. You know what you are dealing with every time. Nothing is worse than getting to a club and finding the last guy moved everything around and feeling disoriented.

    Recording is a big deal. IMHO I have never heard a great sounding External mixer outside of the old UREI 1620's and Bozaks..though I am sure the valve A & H must be pretty good. call me old school but they had a eq curve which was the inverse of the combination of transfer function of many dance clubs acoustics and PA speakers.. Those mixers were far from flat in frequency response. What is really needed is a great outboard parametric EQ that can emulate those older mixers sonic signature that has a built in limiter. In the digital domain it is far easier to do room correction accurately Look at the older TACT EQ which did a great job. You just have to spec the EQ to do what you want it to do. Not just flat… flat sucks as does compression.

    IMHO many of the great sound systems that were designed by people who really knew what they were doing in the 1970's and 80's are gone. So many clubs have been redone and the older crews that originally knew acoustic theory seem to be mostly gone. Unfortunately- on the East Coast many of them died of AIDS- and the get "kicked in the chest lower midbass" is gone.

    So it may take a person like Richard Long to design something that would truly be applicable to most situations.

    Certainly designing an physical stand that can hoover without wobbleing or somehow be able to work into existing club layouts would be welcome.

    Starting with a clean audio signal with the EQ quantified in the digital domain is a step in the right direction. BUT the output of these eq's should be done in the analog domain for good sound. For instance in car audio McIntosh uses digital presets with analog filters so you have the best of both worlds. IMHO it is a great step for DJ's who can make EQ presets and execute them immediately.

    The only way to mix outside is to accept that every clubs mixer is going to sound different.

    Also never use the output from a laptop…..ever…. always go through a better gain stage or do the conversion outside of the laptop.

  • Chris Wright

    Let me paraphrase Aerosmith and say "mixing is a journey not a destination" it doesn't make a big difference one way or the other in most cases so I mix from where it's convenient. Personally I mix from where the source is coming from first in the signal chain because the least trips through A/D converters the better it is on the sound quality. If you know how to mix and master it'll sound good either way and if you don't hope I don't have to hear it.

  • Minimal DJ

    i own both the black japanese vci-100 and a xone92 and switched to inside mixing a few weeks ago, as the new rubber pots really have the edge over the old silver vci-100 – they are smooth and grippable.

    i only use the external mixer for preamp in order not to hit the digital ceiling, but my ECHO AUDIOFIREs outputs combined with traktors xone92 emulation sound VERY, VERY professional on large sound systems. better than 2 1210s!

    i can recommend the black vci to ANYONE who wasnt 100% satisfied with the silver one – get one while they last (from japan) !

  • Teggs

    Outside.

    I am still to find a controller that is as nice feeling as a xone 92.

    I had a vci-100 but after using my mates xone 92 i sold the vci and bought scratch and a 92 plus a zero sl for fx.

    I always found the vci controls a bit stiff and plastic feeling… I know that with eans various mods a lot of it can be sorted out but im not to keen on taking power tools to my kit!

    I guess a xone 3d is the ideal solution but my bank ballance isn't healthy enough for one and i like my 4 band eqs! 😛

  • Editor

    we completely agree with you Kobe, if the hardware and software interfaces improve then there really is no reason to mix outside of the box. Some times we tend to keep doing things out of habit without really questioning things (myself included) I never really even considered mixing inside until a few months ago.

    Thanks for the great feedback everyone- your comments are not in vain as the manufactures DO pay attention to this site.

  • Kobe

    inside the box, and if more people are outside of the box, i hope the manufacturers take note that maybe improving quality for the inside the box experience will promote this trend. maybe people go outside the box due to habit, or maybe inside the box just hasn't caught up yet. i think with further development & enhancement, in the box makes most sense from a logical standpoint.

  • Bento San

    Inside the box baby, this is the digital generation! I personally use my VCI-100 as my mixer and other midi controls for controllorism. If you using good VST's on your mastering track this can help to avoid the downfalls created by hitting the digital ceiling (though you should not be hitting this anyway!). If your close to the digital limit, turn up the amp, not the pre-amp !

  • Belford Roxo

    OUTSIDE.

    Decent clubs already have a decent mixer, so I like to use that. So the laptop/software is only replacing the turntables. The problem is, no one seems to make a really good controller for people who like to mix outside the box. Previously the only one I could find was the EKS XP10, which looked a bit small and plasticky. I'm interested in Pioneer's new CDJ-400, though. A couple of them would do the trick, although there don't seem to be enough buttons/knobs on it to use all the available loops and fx in something like Traktor.

  • dj torch

    hey there!

    i mix inside with Traktor3,for sound i have m-audio fast track pro and for control m-audio xponent(the internal sound card is too poor)

    in my country is digital djing on the begining so people(djs) look a bit sceptic in clubs,but i think this is the future.

    but in future the companies should bring out some rock solid midi controler in technics style not these plastic things!

  • benny blanco

    a few thoughts…

    I mix both. but, for my podcasts and half of my "live" performances out, I'll do the INSIDE the box solution.

    Unlike many here, I still rock the Original faderfox DJ1 controller with Traktor DJ Studio. It's super portable and does the basics and I know it well like a traditional vinyl/mixer setup at this point.

    I love the that you can save your entire set as mixer moves on the Traktor Software NMX Mix Recorder. The newish xone 92 digital emulation EQ is pretty damn nice too.

    For audio, pre intel mac laptop days, i used the indigo dj which sounded pretty good in many of clubs. Now with the Intel laptop, I only the audio 8.

    The only other piece of kit i'll use when doing my radio/studio mixes is the bcr-2000 to really just control Traktor FX. but also have level, cross faders, eq, and Looping abilities.

    Mixing a DVS system with a NICE hardware mixer and real SL1200 turntables is still a tad more enjoyable mixing experience. But I hate the hooking up / breakdown of these setups as most places still don't have permanent installs.

  • Dennis

    I mix inside of traktor with my vci-100 but I recognized that the soundquality of a real mixer is really much better – but as you said, somtimes it is important to have your EQs next to the other knobs of the controller.

    But in my opinion the main disadvantage of insight-mixing is the missing shift-funktion of the most controllers, especially if you want to correct the gain of an running track – you hear a midi-jump. I hope, all manufactures take notice of this midi-problem, which can be solved with an easy solution like for example the shift-funktion in faderfox-controllers. (This is no advertising for them, I actually don`t like their controllers that much.)

    Greetz from Germany

  • Editor

    <blockquote cite="#comment-368">The devs on the deckadance forums have mentioned a new midi controller a couple times. They've made a comment or two that suggests it's "the bee's knees" (my words, not theirs). They've said it should change the game and blow everything else out of the water. Typical marketing stuff, but maybe (hopefully) this is actually something big since it's coming from devs instead of PR. I'm hoping for lots of new offerings from NAMM too.

    that certainly sounds very interesting. I myself am very excited to see how the software performs. A matching controller would be very interesting indeed.

  • Will Davis

    <blockquote cite="#comment-368">The devs on the deckadance forums have mentioned a new midi controller a couple times. They've made a comment or two that suggests it's "the bee's knees" (my words, not theirs). They've said it should change the game and blow everything else out of the water. Typical marketing stuff, but maybe (hopefully) this is actually something big since it's coming from devs instead of PR. I'm hoping for lots of new offerings from NAMM too.

    tony what up–i am the one with the motu….hey if your using traktor i would like to know what setttings your running within traktor for smapling rate and latency—just to compare…hit me up wgdavis78@gmail.com

    thanks!

  • Will Davis

    like most of you i have a vci 100….before i bought my vci i took a look at an all in one dj mix station its called the B-52 Prodigy FX…… i really like the way this thing feels….the sound effects are crap…but the mixer, jog and all that mess is top notch….only if they made a dumb down version that is midi capable!!

    http://www.prodigyfx.com/start.html

    also have you guys ever heard of the traktorizer? check this thing out….EAN if you make ur own do something even better…and if you need a sales guy let me know..lol check it out



  • tobamai

    The devs on the deckadance forums have mentioned a new midi controller a couple times. They've made a comment or two that suggests it's "the bee's knees" (my words, not theirs). They've said it should change the game and blow everything else out of the water. Typical marketing stuff, but maybe (hopefully) this is actually something big since it's coming from devs instead of PR. I'm hoping for lots of new offerings from NAMM too.

  • tonykenobi

    i mix inside, and like someone aat the top, i use the vci with a motu lite and in a club, it sounds way better than its own mixer etc.

    3 bits of gear and im set,my macbook pro, vci and ultralite.done about 100 gigs and never a problem.also have used a novation remote for cue points etc.

  • Ean Golden

    I think there will be a lot of exciting things coming out at NAMM this year. I am not sure what but I know of a few devices in particular that could be very cool. if no one builds anything worthwhile then in 2008, I am going to just go and design one myself. We are all tired of waiting! 🙂

  • Guy

    Ean, do you expect any other competitor to come up with a decent unit comparable to the VCI-100 at the NAMM? I just returned my unit just because of your "hunch".. 🙂

  • Editor

    I always thought it would be absolutely bloody awesome if there was some sort of tablet pc running Traktor by touch controls.

    Not so sure – touch screens look groovy, but I'd really miss the tactile feeedback you get from well designed buttons and knobs – center detents, half-depressed keys, finding a key by touch before it's needed. These touchy-feely parts of UI design are called "affordances" and are the reason your home keys have little knubs on them, why keys don't have flat faces instead of being softly rounded humps, and why faders provide some damped resistance to movement in both directions. We need these little things to work efficiently. Completely graphical touch screen UIs are tiring to use if they don't include them.

    I really could not agree with you more. I know a few people that own Lemurs and they never seem to be too excited about them once they have actually used it for a while. Knob twisting will never die! 🙂

  • fatlimey

    Now if you are a very well-behaved dj that keeps his levels in check then thats no problem.

    Discipline, dude! You're picky about getting your beats to match in phrases, about hitting beats on time and providing a quality journey, your levels are just another piece of the discipline.

    I always thought it would be absolutely bloody awesome if there was some sort of tablet pc running Traktor by touch controls.

    Not so sure – touch screens look groovy, but I'd really miss the tactile feeedback you get from well designed buttons and knobs – center detents, half-depressed keys, finding a key by touch before it's needed. These touchy-feely parts of UI design are called "affordances" and are the reason your home keys have little knubs on them, why keys don't have flat faces instead of being softly rounded humps, and why faders provide some damped resistance to movement in both directions. We need these little things to work efficiently. Completely graphical touch screen UIs are tiring to use if they don't include them.

  • Ean Golden

    <blockquote cite="#comment-341">I always thought it would be absolutely bloody awesome if there was some sort of tablet pc running Traktor by touch controls. Now THAT would be truely qround breaking. Imagine, a dedicated tablet device with a massive touch screen (15~20" widescreen) and enough memory to store your tunes. Not to mention a nice internal soundcard..

    there are a few devices out there that basically can do what you are saying. not quite as large but they can get that feel. perhaps I should do a post on the available options

    <blockquote cite="#comment-336">I've never heard the argument that using an internal mixer is worse quality. I don't really understand what you're suggesting. If you keep all of your levels within the bit depth's ceiling and use an analogue amp to up the output from the card, then you're good to go.

    we are not saying the quality is worse but that the digital ceiling is lower so you can't push it as hard. Now if you are a very well-behaved dj that keeps his levels in check then thats no problem. However if you're like me then you seem to always need a little extra gain and in pure digital land I quickly find myself clipping.

  • dbworms

    I always thought it would be absolutely bloody awesome if there was some sort of tablet pc running Traktor by touch controls. Now THAT would be truely qround breaking. Imagine, a dedicated tablet device with a massive touch screen (15~20" widescreen) and enough memory to store your tunes. Not to mention a nice internal soundcard. Maybe even some good internal speakers so you can DJ the shit out of it anywhere, anytime. Would love to see something like that.

    Got this idea on a flight while absolutely bored and going through my ipod touch.

  • Matt

    Inside the box

    but as Tobamai says an adiccional control surface is necessary (we dont want to lose controls for our midi-tricks 🙂 )

  • tobamai

    I've never heard the argument that using an internal mixer is worse quality. I don't really understand what you're suggesting. If you keep all of your levels within the bit depth's ceiling and use an analogue amp to up the output from the card, then you're good to go. You should get better sound quality (assuming you're using good software) because there's less in the analogue signal chain.

    That said, definitely inside the box – but a good control surface is a necessity.

  • jimmymac

    Ean thanks for doing a feature on this, it's great to get a clearer picture.

  • Berlinman

    Inside the Box!

    I operated both an Allen & Heath Xone 92 and a VCI 100 with an Echo Audiofire on a Funktion One Soundsystem (its good to have friends in the right places 😉 ) – and the quality difference was not noticeable….

  • Ean Golden

    Thanks for those great responses guys. A lot of manufactures pay attention to this site and your responses help send them a clear message of what kind of gear you want in the future.

  • NerdKing

    Although many pros and cons either way, I have to prefer outside the box. Oldschool vs. the technology of the newschool, tough for a vinyl loving dj to even brake down and use things like Serato but "times are changing" however I still like to have the control at finger tips as apposed to mouse clicks….

  • jaurelio

    inside is better…for me. i like the pitch controls on the vestax vci-100 and EQ is good too… but i am a bit paranoid for crash system and i sent my output to a tre channel mixer were i have the other two channel ready with two cdjs…..sound quality is not the best but after two drink (and others) you think esoteric quality is important? They want volume, basses and good nu skool beatz…..

  • Will Davis

    i prefer mixing inside the box. I also have a djm pioneer 500 that i can access while playing with the vci — however i find that my soundcard ( motu ultralite ) paired with my vci is sufficient enough as it sounded awesome on a club system.

  • fatlimey

    Inside the box. I'm a cheapskate, and I can look after my own levels and engineering, thank you very much. Just put me through to the amp. Can't beat having external knobs and sliders though, I prefer pure MIDI devices but to "add value" they all seem to have sound cards embedded. I've got my output sorted thank you very much, I don't need ANOTHER device.