There has been a great debate taking place in forums around the digital DJ web. What is the best way to mix songs while DJing: externally on an analog mixer or inside your DJ software? Many DJs — myself included — have always assumed that mixing on an analog hardware mixer is the best option if you have the choice. To put that subjective assumption to the test, DJ TechTools interviewed numerous experts in the industry, including audio engineers, software developers and mixer manufacturers to get down to the bottom of this important question.
THE BIG QUESTION
Let’s assume you have DJ software, such as Traktor, that lets you mix internally or externally. When mixing internally, all of the audio signals from the decks are summed inside of the software and then sent out to the sound card as a single master output. All level controls, EQ and any distortion happens in the digital world before being converted to analog. When mixing externally, each deck’s audio is routed to separate outputs of your sound card. These outputs then connect to a DJ mixer, where the summing happens on the mixer in the analog world.
Before we dive into the audio quality question, each of these methods offers a few clear functional benefits.
At this stage, the contest is fairly evenly weighted with each option having clear pros and cons. The argument gets skewed when subjective experiences of audio quality start to get thrown in the mix. Statements like “external mixing sounds better” trump any pros/cons list, resulting in people making decisions based on assumptions rather than facts. So, to help us all understand the difference once and for all, we got in touch with the people who know this stuff inside and out.
THE ANALOG SIDE OF THE STORY
Our first stop in the analogue world is Rane, a Seattle based company known for making highly respected DJ mixers for more than 20 years. Rane makes analog mixers that sound good no matter how hard you push them, and digital mixers as well. That raises the question of how they get a TTM-57SL, which mixes all of the signals digitally on a DSP (just like software) to sound as good as their analog TTM-56. Steve Macatee, director of new product development, who has a lifetime of experience in designing quality DJ mixers, explains,
“Most people are used to the sound of CDs, which are 16 bits and 44Khz sample rate, but what we do in the TTM is far better than that. It’s a 24-bit world and 48khz sample rate, which increases the dynamic range and lowers the noise floor.”
A lower noise floor and wider dynamic range means that it’s much harder to distort a signal, providing the DJ with more head room. What happens when you do distort the audio though? Everyone is going to push the signal into the red at some point in the night, so isn’t that when analog starts to get more forgiving than digital?
Steve again corrected my assumptions,
“That’s not necessarily true. Because digital mixing technology has evolved over the past 20 years, you have digital converters that clip in very friendly ways. It really depends on the op amps and the circuitry you’re using. You can design an analog product where the audio clips the voltage rails and sounds like hell. [Editor’s note: think Pioneer DJM-500.] You can also design an analog summing buss that doesn’t clip and sounds pretty nice. Whether analog or digital, you can do a good job or a bad job of it. What really matters is the quality design of the summing circuits and the dynamic range you get on the output.”
Okay, so the quality of circuits really depends on the designer, but don’t analog mixers offer certain soft limiting features that keep a DJ mix sounding good even when they are pushed into the red? Not quite:
“That’s a fun question, because in the analog world, a lot of our DJ products have outputs stages with little fixed limiters that are trying to keep people happy and not make the signal sound horribly distorted when the DJ turns the sound full on. When you do the same thing in the digital world, you have a plethora of possibilities, because you can do things in a much fancier way without taking up crucial board space (inside an analog mixer) because now what you have is a software problem. The only limit is the amount of memory your DSP has, which limits how fancy of a limiter you can create and how the audio circuits are built.
So in reality, if you’re comparing apples to apples, then digital mixing has the potential to be more flexible and forgiving than analog… if it’s designed properly. Since each product is going to have different characteristics and qualities depending on how well they are made, you really need to use your ears and put both software and analog mixers to the test before judging.
“First of all, it is important to understand that audio summing circuits in a mixer or a similar hardware device are designed to combine electrical signals in the way of a very straightforward mathematical addition. In that sense, the internal mixing in Traktor – or any other properly designed audio software – is actually superior to a hardware mixer because it combines the audio signals in a mathematically precise way, and without introducing any noise.
One important aspect of digital summing is internal headroom, and this is where the audio quality can potentially suffer. Traktor overcomes this by using 32-bit floating point calculations, so headroom is practically unlimited (with 750 dB), and the mixer in the software can never produce unwanted clipping artifacts. This is not to be confused with the master output stage of the software that drives the audio interface — you need to take care not too overload this stage, and that’s why Traktor also offers an optional master limiter.
In a general you could call software mixing — or basic digital summing — “perfect” in terms of sound quality, and there is not even any DSP magic in the form of especially sophisticated algorithms required.
Obviously, certain analog mixers can color the sound in a way that some people find pleasant (though most mixers are much more likely to degrade the sound unless they have a really high-quality signal path). To cater for this aspect, Traktor offers the choice between a generic, “mathematically ideal” EQ on the one hand, and a selection of EQs emulated from actual high-quality hardware mixers on the other hand. These analog-modeling based EQs even color the sound in a subtle way when all bands are set at the zero position, in the same way as the analog counterparts.
When it comes to audio quality of DVS systems, the signal quality of the audio interface is a huge factor: the quality of the converters, signal-to-noise ratio and sheer output level. Also, software DSP functions such as digital effect algorithms and time-stretching do have a huge influence on sound quality, and require a lot of engineering effort and expertise. The difference in sophistication between a “standard” chorus or reverb algorithm and one that actually sounds good is enormous. Audio summing however is a very straightforward and comparably trivial part.
The Itch Side Story
What about the Serato camp and its relatively new Itch product? How are they doing summing in the digital domain?
“The Itch mixer is designed to have enough headroom to effectively mix songs together without hitting full scale at the output. Itch also has a master limiter on the main mix bus that will kick in if a DJ gains everything on full or is using high gain and lots of EQ, this limiter is to avoid clipping before being sent out to the sound card. We have a feature on the setup screen called overdrive where you can adjust how much headroom is available in the mixer before the output limiter kicks in. By default it’s set to it’s safest setting, which offers the cleanest sound. Some people like more limiting and a crunchier sound, so want this turned up. We also offer 6 or 12 DB boost on the EQs as an option, so a DJ can choose how they want it to sound.
Equipment and software developers have a special expertise to be tapped, but their proclamations can also be biased toward the advantages of the particular gear they make. For some balance on this eternal debate, we turned to experts in the music technology education and journalism fields.
“Experience has indicated that analog summing is superior in creating separation and a better stereo image,” says Paul W. Hughes, a national manager at the SAE Institute chain of multimedia schools. “Tracks that have ‘a lot going on’ tend to lose definition when summing digitally in the box,” he continues. “Fundamentally, your [software] uses math and algorithms to blend the signals. That’s not how your ears process sound, so the more it has to sum, the more the sound will ‘feel’ as though it’s tanking out, losing punch, drive and energy. Pushing it louder will only result in distortion.”
George Petersen, the long-time editorial director of Mix Magazine and an active producer/engineer, says “Really, analog summing is the best way to go, but in most situations, the difference is pretty subtle.” Petersen doesn’t discourage anyone from mixing in the box, but he emphasizes the importance of a high-quality audio interface if you’re going to get the best sound using digital summing.
The quality of the digital-to-analog (D/A) conversion of your interface should be excellent, but so should the analog circuitry that amplifies the the sound after the D/A conversion. “Not only does the converter chip have it’s own sound,” Petersen says, “but the analog circuitry that’s built into a converter makes a huge difference on the sound, probably more so than the converter chip.”
Petersen cites cheap analog circuitry in an audio interface as contributing to the poor channel separation often associated with digital summing. While it’s not easy to verify the quality of the analog circuitry in an audio interface, looking at schematics can help. Petersen notes that low-cost interfaces will often follow the D/A converter chip with a stereo op amp, while his high-end gear follows the converter chip with two side-by-side mono amps on separate, non-touching circuit boards. “Are those cigarette pack-sized USB breakout boxes really treating the analog side of that signal properly?” Petersen asks. “Chance are usually no, they’re not.”
Everyone we asked had different opinions on the importance of summing circuits, but they all agreed on one important fact. The really critical part of sounding good when mixing with computers is the quality of the audio interface. If a sound card has poor D/A converters or poorly written drivers, then your software will sound bad. This is particularly important to remember as more and more DJs buy “all in one” controllers with built-in sound cards of sub-par quality. Wondering which sound card is right for you? Here are a few reviews of audio interfaces that we like, and another round up of “sound cards under $200” is on the way.
Native Instruments Audio 8 Review
Echo AudioFire4 Reviewed
As if this discussion were not already complicated enough, a really interesting fact popped up during the course of our investigation. Which operating system you use can actually play a part in the the latency and performance of audio coming out of your computer. It turns out that the Macintosh native audio drivers are much better suited for high-quality mixing than the native Windows drivers. Expect a full article on this subject in the coming weeks.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s safe to say that there is no real audio quality benefit to mixing with analog mixers instead of in the computer. In fact digital mixing offers greater flexibility in dealing with distortion and soft limiting. Assuming that you have good software, a proper audio interface and the common sense to set them both up properly, you should be able to get a great-sounding mix either internally or externally. The real difference lies in each individual mixer and the quality of your audio interface.
it just so happen that my ears are not digital:)
yup, but did you know that what you actually hear (the signals translated into sound in your brain) is digital? there is a part in the hearing process that resembles an A/D conversion, when the pressure waves are converted into electric impulses and sent to the brain. So to state that what we hear is “analog” is debatable to a degree..
OMG. I though it was a serious webpage… Don’t you really hear the difference? That’s quite sad.
I read somewhere a while back that most recording softwares lower the bit rate as you lower the volume in the program.
I don’t know if that is still currently the case.
If it still is and if it is also true for DJ software programs; then this alone is reason enough to mix externally.
I read somewhere a while back that most recording softwares lower the bit rate as you lower the volume in the program.
I don’t know if that is still currently the case.
If it still is and if it is also true for DJ software programs; then this alone is reason enough to mix externally.
Even if you run a mixer or a computer 100% digital, u need to have a complete digital chain including, mixer, cds / compiters, amplifiers and speakers.
Now how many really have this?, only a select few, therefore the discussion about digtal vs analog is hogwash, in the end the signal is analog if you don’t have a whole digital chain, sorry
and i feel that with more hi resolution audiofiles, 48hz, 32bit 24/96 and so forth, its in my opinion that the negative artifacts tend to increase as the more digital i get away from vinyl and cds.
Heh heh. Well, yeah. No kidding the sound is analog when it comes out of the speakers. That has nothing to do with the article. It’s whether digital or analog mixing is better.
And Editor is wrong to say the DJM500 clipped because of choices in the analog design. The analog DJM500 and DJM600 both had a digital FX section in the signal path that could not be turned off. The sound of clipping you heard was the FX section digitally clipping the tops of the waves.
Now, the statement in general terms is correct: a digital mixer doesn’t have to clip like that. You can use compressor limiters on the channels and master outs to prevent that. Numark has taken the lead in that department on the PPD and DXM lineup. It’s also true that analog mixers can be designed to clip suddenly and almost digital-like. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The 90’s era Biamp/Advantage DJ mixers (designed by the guy from Mackie) did that when properly calibrated to a pro nominal signal within millivolts of hitting into the red. You knew the master was calibrated properly when the it matched the cue meters, but it could be confirmed with a 1khz reference test signal. That was an intentional design, with no headroom and no limiters built in. And it sounded arguably as good or better than anything from Rane when “used as directed”. Just because you have a lot of headroom, doesn’t mean the results will sound as good as they could. This is not Flood wanting to over-saturate tape for Trent Reznor. In fact, designing for wide headroom on mixers often leads to phase misaligned mush in the bottom and a lack of grit-free clean precision up top. Analog compressor limiters aren’t much different.
But it’s also true there’s a finite amount of resolution and an inherent imprecision in the quantization of digital sound (at any bit depth or sampling frequency) that becomes more of an issue the more complex the sound is that’s being summed in the digital domain. Unlike what the article says, though, that has absolutely positively nothing to do with the D/A conversion or analog output stage. I have no idea where they got that. Sure, it does affect the temporary quality of playback from a DAW, but that’s besides the point. It doesn’t affect the data. It doesn’t affect the signal burned to a DVD-Audio, a film soundtrack master fold-down, or that signal sent by toslink or coax to an outboard decoder.
And for high end setups, there’s always the final option to use a passive summing box fed the various tandem tracks and re-inputting the output from that back into the DAW. Heck, if you were cutting to vinyl or playing back live you wouldn’t even need to go back in. You’d have the best of both worlds. Yes, DACs, opamps, caps, and power supply matter in such a situation, but again… that’s a high end situation and if you’ve got a passive summing box I assume yours don’t totally suck to begin with.
“Which operating system you use can actually play a part in the latency and performance of audio coming out of your computer. It turns out that the Macintosh native audio drivers are much better suited for high-quality mixing than the native Windows drivers.”
Clearly you’re a mac user, since PC users know how you use their computers, the nitty gritty of configuring them, and what’s on them. There are no native ASIO drivers for either OS brand. And which hardware and drivers you are using always make all the difference. The OS only plays a role when comparing specific drivers from specific hardware companies for specific operating systems. And that’s the duty of the company supporting their product with good drivers. Has nothing to do with the operating system, except that some companies may favor one particular OS more than the other. And that might be one generation of the OS over another, not Apple versus Microsoft related at all.
Sorry for the extra “the” in paragraph 3 and the “you” instead of “to” in the last paragraph. No edit feature?
Sorry for the double post,but what I meant was.The digital or analog argument,really only matters if you are mastering a mix for recording or remixing a song.As far as DJing goes your digital signal is analog by the time it comes out of the speakers anyway.DJing in a club is not like listening through studio monitors,as long as you send out the best signal possible it will sound good to the people it matters to most.Our fans.
Regardless of wether you use digital or analog for mixing,once the signal gets to the processors,EQ’s,and amplifiers then sent to the speakers it isn’t digital anymore.Right? And as far as stereo separation goes,in most clubs once it leaves the mixer everything is mono anyway.Besides once the room fills up if you are in stereo,the people on the left side would only hear what is in the left channel missing half the music anyway.That’s why most clubs use mono so the crowd hears the whole song regardless of wich side of the dance floor you happen to be on.
There is quite a lot of misunderstanding on this thread….
Im concerned that it is present for the sake of people feelings. When I read that report from Ean I was impressed with its balanced nature. I did expect it to be a ‘digital is better’ whitewash.
I have been a music producer for some years now and have researched and studied the concepts of analogue and digital audio quite intensely for the last couple of years.
First thing to say is that digital internal mixing is usable-and the point of using the best sound interface – specifically D/A conversion is absolutely right. However most interfaces used by DJs are regarded as ‘low end’ in the audio production world – and they have a very complex job to do in DJing. Probably the best quality interface you can buy for low $$$ is the Apogee Duet-which is a storming deal. Native Instruments, Audiofire, TC interfaces are merely – ‘ok’ to be honest. If you are very serious about DJing and are mixing ITB I would recommend looking into higher end interfaces.
At the end of Eans report – the guy who sums (pun) it up most accurately is Paul Huges from SAE. This should really be no surprise – given that SAE are one of the world leading Pro audio engineering education companies. Going to digital DJ manufacturers although interesting will not give the full picture, as they are heavily invested in promoting digital DJ products and moving away from analogue.
Paul Huges says: “Tracks that have ‘a lot going on’ tend to lose definition when summing digitally in the box”. This is one of the most crucial points that many seem to have ignored. Basically – the digital audio in a computer needs to be reconstructed by the digital->analogue converter chips in the interface. That is why the interface quality is so important. It literally turns digital samples into analogue continuous waves. Digital audio is merely an ‘interpretation’ of the analogue audio. When you have all the information of an entire song in 1 digital file, played out of 1 track and 1 D/A converter – that is a hugely complex signal that needs to be re-constructed by that converter. You can see the complexity of a full track by zooming into the wave view of the file. Each sample must be reconstructed at break-neck speed but the D/A converter.
Thus if you mix in the box – you are mashing 2 very complex signals together before they have been reconstructed by the D/A converter to create a signal that is 2x as complex as a full track. Then you send this huge amount of digital audio to be reconstructed to analogue by the converter. A D/A converter is going to have to work harder to convert this signal because it is twice as complex. The result being less punchy audio and because the audio was mixed in the digital realm THEN converted to analogue signal – there is less separation between the 2 tracks you are mixing. It literally sounds more ‘mashed’ together then reconstructed out into analogue.
When I started mixing ITB digitally after using 1200s – I noticed this pretty much straight away-a mixed signal ITB sounded ‘flat’ and it was harder to discern elements of the 2 tracks when mixed together. The fact that digital EQs are much less musical than analogue EQs does not help – as they sound more ‘clinical’ – and the human ear prefers instabilities and saturation in an ananlogue signal.
In terms of audio levels – I agree with hat has been said here – so long as you keep the levels down in digital mixing – that is the more important issue. Although manufacturers claim their digital limiters fix problems – again – digital limiting robs a signal of its power. You DO NOT want to rely on it. OTOH analogue desks often saturate (pleasing low level distortion) when driven which is far nicer to hear than digital limiting-and sometimes even makes a signal MORE punchy. For years audio engineers have driven the gain on their Neve or SSL desks to saturate the sound when mixing songs. However audio engineers know you MUST NOT drive digital audio EVER. Digital clipping and digital limiting degrades the quality of a audio signal.
My conclusion is if you really want to hear it – if you are playing important gigs or are very serious about DJing – use a high quality external analogue mixer and have a separate output for each track. You will benefit from better separation, headroom, EQs and peace of mind that if you do drive the levels when in the moment – it will not degrade the sound (so long as you are using a decent external mixer).
EVERYBODY should purchase the best quality audio interface they can afford – it is money well spent.
Hope that was useful.
Seems like what you’re really describing is coming up against excessive RMS from mashing-up overly-dynamically-compressed digital audio files versus the wider-dynamics of vinyl. Vinyl can’t be mastered all squashed like in digital’s Loudness Wars for mechanical reasons. The rest is just people complaining about Traktor Pro’s colored, processed sound. Pro’s never been as good as the original Traktor fidelity, and that’s not even getting into some of the competition.
say what? you are saying traktor 1.0 sounds better than traktor pro 2.0? Have you conducted a scientific-ish A/B double blind test to reach this conclusion?
Sort of. A/B double blind tests of a large number of laymen listeners is not very useful for audio, such as was shown during the Swedish Radio spurious tone fiasco. Relying on a bunch of statistical averaging of laymen opinions would tell you Britney Spears has the greatest voice on earth, or something else I think we can all agree is absurd. A method in science is only as useful as it has been proven in practice. Applying group A/B blind tests and averaging of lay responses is like using the test subjects’ opinions of whether they feel like they’re dying less in a cancer drug study. It has been shown in practice to lack sufficient resolution to be useful.
Now, using a single pair of expert ears that have previously scored 100% on Thiel blind tests of experimental charged dialectic cables (at least back when I had golden ears) might still be a useful indicator that something has changed. I then ran the standard waveform test tracks into a computer scope and was able to show how the key lock does not consistently turn off completely in Traktor Pro 2.0. Running RMAA proved the general reduction in fidelity even ignoring this. The original Traktor’s identical tests mucked up the sound significantly less, so much that I could also easily hear the difference in the form of a boomier bottom, rounded top, and hint of processing signature added to everything. The original was more transparent.
Now to be fair, while the original Traktor was the best DVS sound around, the competition has largely mucked up their sound, too, sometimes much worse. Torq 2.0’s became hideous, right down to being not only abysmally dark and harsh, but having its impulse response 180 degrees out of absolute phase and barely even looking like an impulse. I don’t think Traktor Pro 2’s sound is terrible, just not as good as its earlier, more simple processing. Deckadance, oddly enough, took their engine and improved it. Their software’s overall implementation is still buggy and clunky, but their v2 sound engine is even better than DD v1, which was already towards the top of the pack.
I can not entirely agree with the article. I find an analogue mixers EQ much better than the software version of Traktor. Mainly because with turning the hi, mid or low with a controller – 25%, most of the signal is gone. With a analog mixer I am not experiencing this.
the TTM-57SL still has a 16bit soundcard. what only the effects section is 24bit. so is steve macatee talking about the SL3 or an improved version of the TTM-57SL?
i’m currently dj off cd’s or traktor depending on the gig. I may hold out and make the move to serato/upgrade my rig at the same time if that’s the case.
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Digital mixers only have the hypothetical “potential” to be as good as analog when processor power has far exceeded current specs to be able to model to the virtual infinite complexity of the molecular level that is the reality of discreet electronics.
So we are far from the “potential” age of digital being able to exceed or match analog processing. It can certainly do different sorts of processing, that analog cannot do. But its different.
Also regarding the portability of midi dj controllers being any more portable or easier to set up? At worst you have to carry both of them, but more likely an analog mixer will be already at a club. Also, for set up, you have to plug one stereo rca pair into the mixer from a ‘internal’ mixer set up, and two stereo rca pairs from an ‘external’ setup. not much harder when your already down there.
I question whether there is a conflict of interest in the impartiality of the comparison.
I say BOTH! I know it might sound lame but I’m using two EKS XP10’s (I guess it considered old-school by now) with Traktor Pro, and mix externally from those. Reason being: the sound quality comes from sound cards inside each of them which (using 320-quality MP3s) sound better and achieve a higher audio output than my Audio8. My XP10’s push out 192000Hz over the MAYBE 96000 I can get out of the Audio8.
Carrying the XP10s allows me to be just as portable and flexible as internal mixing DJs and because they are small, I need less room. Keep in mind that I chose this option not for the portability but for the sound. I used to carry boxes of vinyl everywhere, so toting a few extra wires means nothing to me. I have to say, even if the club mixer is missing some knobs and the monitor is blown, my sound still sounds and ‘feels’ better than other DJs that I know.
DIGITAL ALL THE WAY EVERYONE… THERE’S REASONS WHY WE HAVE MADE STEPS TO WHAT WAS ANALOG DJ SETUPS”… TO WHAT IS NOW ‘DIGITAL’ JUST KEEP IN MIND THAT ALL US DIGITAL USERS ALWAYS ENP UP ATTACHING SOME KIND OF ANALOG PRODUCT UP TO OUR DIGITAL DJ SETUP’S ANYWAY :::::SPEAKERS::::: ANALOG ALWAYS WILL SEEM TO CREEP INTO OUR DIGITAL SETUPS AND ITS A GOOD THING 🙂
@ Horn – I agree, the Xone filter sounds better than the Traktor filter, but that doesn’t mean analog or digital necessarily sounds better. I don’t think the Xone filter sounds any better than the PSP Nitro or the fabfilter plug-ins, and I don’t think it sounds anywhere near as good as a Sherman Filterbank or even a Moogerfooger when used right. Of course nobody would want to try to run a Sherman on stage while spinning, so it’s all about making the right compromises between the various options.
Seems like the only reference any of you have for digital is Traktor Pro.
why on earth not? Running custom filters and fx with your decks would surely get my attention and respect. Let me guess, “the booths are to small”? That is the club’s problem, not sherman’s
Just this morning I was thinking about digital vs analog summing.. LOL. Then low and behold here is an article! 🙂
While I prefer to mix externally, I actually don’t like using other people’s mixers. Most clubs I play in either have A) busted up pioneer or B) TTM-57SL. I find it quite frustrating that (here in Atlanta anyway), nearly everyone else seems to use Serato, and during the switch for me to begin playing either I have to fumble around to hook up my Audio 8 to use with Traktor Scratch Pro, OR I have to end up mixing internally because I can’t access the back of the mixer… I’ve been forced to be flexible in my setup.
I find that for the most part, people seem to appreciate seeing turntables and a mixer (even while doing corporate and retail type gigs), instead of looking like I’m checking my email or playing a video game.
As far as sound, I really prefer the sound of my setup when I use my Behringer DDM4000. I know Behringer usually gets a bad rep, but the quality and sound of this mixer is great (Plus I can even use it as a Midi controller for mixing w/ Traktor also!).
I completely agree with Tito & Horn.
I have tried using all possible setups and I found the near perfect one: Xone 4D + Traktor Pro + Mac OS X.
If you have bad speakers & amps the difference is not so big. If you use good PA systems (Nexo, Qube etc.), the difference is HUGE!
I am only saying this: listen with your own ears a GOOD external setup (Xone 3D/4D, RME Fireface + Xone 92, RME Fireface + Rane mixer, Ecler EVO 5). Once you HEAR it, you cannot deny the difference compared to mixing internally in any DJ software.
Many times, no one form your audience will consciously perceive that the sound is better, but their SUBCOUNSCIOUS mind will. They will feel better and won’t be able to explain why. Same goes with the speakers: go to a club with home made or cheap PA systems. You will feel “tired” after a few hours and you will not be able to talk to anyone near you because of the sound. Then go to a club with good sound (Nexo, Qube). You will be able to talk to other people even if the sound is very loud, and you will not feel tired at all!!!
Just for the record: mixers like Pioneer DJM 800 or Korg Zero 4 are not analogue mixers. The summing is digital. That’s why it does not matter too much if you use one of these or mix internally. But try Rane, A&H or Ecler mixer combined with a good soundcard and you will be amazed.
I guess that the only way for internal mixing to get closer to good analogue mixers would be that someone would design an algorothm that would EMULATE all the real electric components of a good mixer (A&H, Rane)… I have no idea when this will happen, and I don’t know how much computing power it would need 😀
fwiw pro audio engineering people consider Allen&Heath DJ mixers to sound “mediocre at best”, compared to something like formula one dj mixers
You can’t deny the difference once you’ve tried mixing externally with a GOOD mixer! any technical argument is useless, once you HEAR it..
compare traktor’s filter with an Xone’s and you will never have to think about this again! traktor’s filter sounds PATHETIC in comparison, there is just no possible competition.
i’m all for selling cdj to go digital but arguing that there is no difference in the MIXING is just asinine.. don’t blemish this website’s credibility!
Great Article, Thanks Ian, what I got mostly from this article is that for obvious reasons its much easier to mix internally, especially in a changing inviromnt of clubs and ease of use, and since there is no real proof that playing Analog will sound allot better for the audience, then mixing internally for those who prefers it is a great news and another green light confirmation in that direction.
Personal preference = 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro, Traktor Pro, VCI-100 Arcade, MOTU Ultralite MK3, Ecler EVO 4, and Mogami cabling. Sounds great, lots of MIDI control options, the sound card can split 4 channels of audio to the 4 channel mixer (giving analog control of all 4 Traktor decks), and the mixer has 2 master outs- one for the PA and one back to the MOTU for recording into Traktor. Very flexible setup. Just my 2 cents.
@ 6String – I agree 100%, though I have an extra 10 years of guitar playing behind me. I was heavily involved with some people testing ITB mixing systems a few eons ago and I left convinced that properly done digital summing is _at least as good_ as analog. It’s a different mindset, that’s all.
You should investigate Guitar Rig from NI as well. I haven’t gone over to 100% laptop guitarism, but I’m getting close.
External for sure, at least three decks routed from traktor into the club mixer with the LPD 8…seriously all I need. Mixing (cutting, crossfade, etc) on a Midi controller not only feels awful due to size and ergonomics, but looks reallllly wack. Not to mention headphone cueing works ten times smoother on a DJM – 800.
I’d also argue that the external mixer offers way more volume control, which, next to track selection is the most important bit about DJing. Fucking with volume on traktor adds a another layer for volume to get retarded (traktor, channel gain, mixer master, club master).
Luckily here in Shanghai, most of the clubs I play at have DJM-800. Ahhhh color effects…
It just feels better. Proper.
[quote comment=”24814″][quote comment=”24799″]Just curious; for those of you who like the noise”warmth” provided by analog mixers, can you achieve the same effect using effects internally? Or have you played with the different internal mixer options in Traktor to get that warmth? Also, is this effect achieved by routing your internal mix through an analog mixer? (i.e. do all your mixing internally, but send the output through the mixer channel)[/quote]
Yupyup, just choose which mixer you’d like to emulate and set the EQ to the desired setting. As stated in the article, these settings color the sound even when the EQs themselves are at +/- 0 dB.[/quote]
Somewhere in the article they said that traktor had a limiter u could engage too
However I do channels a and b from an audiodj 2 to my Allen and Heath
the filters just sound so much better cause of the midi resolution
however if I do a gig with ableton instead of traktor, I drop a psp xenon on my master
it just sounds amazing, loud clear limiting, and replicates the way that an analog mixer absorbs two tracks playing together vs two digtAl mp3s playin together
I really do both, just depends on the gig, I mean a guitarist doesn’t really use 1 guitar and 1 amp
or at least I don’t
cause I am a gear whore
This article is a good strong piece of journalism and I really appreciate the treatment of the subject. Pretty inspiring actually and great to see the comments and get more first-hand opinions too. A couple somethings I’d like to throw in:
I came to DAWs as a guitarist, and remember seeing a similar debate that still goes on today – is it better to have a vintage 60s Fender 2 12″ amp for ‘that sound’ or can you get away with a digital model and some tweaks thanks to products like Line6? Going toward ITB production was natural for me, as I’m not interested in hauling around a half-stack and 5 guitar pedals anymore…besides, what I can do with an axe and Ableton, a Line6 KB37, a new to me APC40 and a laptop + soundcard pretty much defines one of my personal goals.
A self-powered show almost. I’m no ‘That1Guy’, my technical skills really lack and he’s far beyond what I have in mind (great inspiration though). This modern DJ scene is incredible and it’s a lot more exciting to try and fit 15 years of guitar into this future instead of the dirty stages and low/no-pay dredge of my local scene where you’d find most players like me. It’s all about enjoying making music with me, and cheers to your different ways of doing it, hope to keep learning from y’all.
I have never looked under the hood of the 800 but midi is just a protocol, it is safe to assume that the knob/fader positions are sampled in at least 10 bit resolution, not that many micros have less than 10 bit ADC resolution any more.
Midi might have only 127 variable positions but control TR-Pro with a scoll mouse makes that even worse. You get big jumps in filter and EQ function. Since i use the VCI 100 DJTT it is hardly noticeable. A DJM 800 converts all input signals to digital and mixes and adds effects and transfers the output to analog sinus signal. So any adjustment like filter and EQ are also digitally converted from the pod’s or faders. I have no clue at what resolusion this happens but midi is most logical. I have tried both and can’t detect any difference. In Live sound mixing i am using a GL2400 A&H. For me the best control over all sound in and outputs FOH and Stage wise. Digital like Yamaha or Midas has to many platforms hidden behind the faders and modes.
So live bands my choice is Analog, DJ i use internal TR Pro and VCI….
Interesting read – including the comments –
I have always used Macs and the sound quality on the MacBook Pro IS better – if for no better reason than the complete lack of noise from the connected power cord. On the 3 high end PC laptops I have configured for other DJ’s this has been a major issue again and again. That and the G5 iMac I used to use had a Burr-Brown DAC which was sweet sounding – the new Denon DN-HC4500 controller has this and is worth a look at.
I do most of my shows from the Mac through the DN-HC4500 into a pair of electrix EQ killers then mixed by UREI 1620LE – The EQ killers are like a musical instrument onto themselves and the UREI is like a filter full of awesome and you can easily hear the difference between all digital and digital through the analog. Personally, I’m happy with the results and so are the crowds. If I had to do a gig that doesn’t allow for the 8U rig then I’ll mix all digital with a controller but I feel like something’s missing…
tbh i think internal is the way forward. one of the main reasons i went digital is the mobility of my own personal set-up.
running an external mixer means having to take it with you, and relying on venues allowing you to set it up.
if they make you run with theirs some of the features you rely on might not be available. where as on internal everything is always going to be how you want/use it – and it’s more mobile 😀
I’m in love with this forum lol KEEP IT GOING!!!!! XD
Audio quality aside, the latency of using a midi interface and the limited resolution as opposed to a traditional mixer makes it a deal killer imo.
WOW how loud are you guys using your headphones to monitor? I have Audio2 and think it’s plenty loud. I DJed 3 nights a week for a year in a club with bad sound and really damaged my ears. It seems to be less muffled these days. Maybe we need a future article about how to protect your ears and realistic strategies for DJs.
[quote comment=”24816″]@hurundi I have an Audio2, and the headphone out is not as loud as some mixers unfortunately; although I’ve noticed this, I’ve still been able to monitor fine from it.
@dj ally could the perceived worse sound quality observed by club/venue owners of laptop dj’s have anything to do w/ the (in)experience of said dj’s? It’s just as important w/ digital (if not more so) to gain everything right.[/quote]
I’ve spent most of my DJ career using analog external mixers, even as I transitioned to mostly digital playing several years ago.
Recently I’ve moved to internal mixing using my VCI-100. It has one MAJOR advantage, which is a single RCA out to get plugged in when switching between DJ’s.
It has one major disadvantage for me, which is that a lot of my material I still not have digitized from the original vinyl.
If I’m planning on playing a lot of vinyl, I’ll certainly prefer to use external mixing or cueing becomes a problem having to switch phones back and forth between two jacks.
If I could add one new design to Traktor, it would be to allow the deck input of the Audio 8 DJ bring a standard audio signal into a deck, then I could continue to mix internally.
I’ve read it all the way. All comments. Nice to read both lenghty article and comments.
Traktorists: I’m not sure if you were talking bout version 3 or 4 but in ver.3 I’ve noticed unpleasant coloring of sound while mixing internally.
For the record: I keep my mixing analogue. I agree that one 4 channel (4band eq) midi/sysex/osc/hid controller would be quite a refreshment on the market. Lacking those I had to build one prototype for myself. Interestingly enough, I’m now thinking about improoving it’s resolution from 127 to 1024 just by using existing MIDIBOX hardware.
After compleeting that, all you need is quality analogue summer that will sum-up all your soundcard channels into one (you feelin’ me?).
Fascinating article, looking forward to the promised follow ups 🙂
As someone that does not have a traditional mixer legacy, my preference is for the digital route + good interface. I just find it easier to manage this way and really like the sound quality I get. I can have my software GUI representing exactly the state of my mixer controls and truly virtualise to a control surface I am used to.
IN THE END ITS ALL ON WHATS MOST COMFORTABLE AND EASY FOR YOU TO USE.
Analog and digital are both your friends so embrace them with open arms and better yourself as a dj and producer!!!
Really great article. Very useful information.
@ Rolf Siebelink:
Did you missed the part where he says “Expect a full article on this subject in the coming weeks”. That article should answer your question.
@hurundi I have an Audio2, and the headphone out is not as loud as some mixers unfortunately; although I’ve noticed this, I’ve still been able to monitor fine from it.
@dj ally could the perceived worse sound quality observed by club/venue owners of laptop dj’s have anything to do w/ the (in)experience of said dj’s? It’s just as important w/ digital (if not more so) to gain everything right.
I got so caught up in the moment commenting earlier that i forgot to add my compliments on this article as well. top of the line!
i have a ton of respect for the guys that can rock live it completely in the box, but that’s just not my comfort zone. aside from debate it doesn’t really matter what you use as long as get in your comfort zone and flow. also I think it should be pointed out that even if you mix ITB odds are you are going to be plugging into the house mixer even if you don’t use it so you will get whatever colour the mix itself gives. i don’t think this colour is as important to the argument as the differences between analogue summing AND digital summing.
bentosan has some great posts in this thread, talking about these differences, and he makes great points about why to do ITB as well: http://www.djtechtools.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6757
[quote comment=”24799″]Just curious; for those of you who like the noise”warmth” provided by analog mixers, can you achieve the same effect using effects internally? Or have you played with the different internal mixer options in Traktor to get that warmth? Also, is this effect achieved by routing your internal mix through an analog mixer? (i.e. do all your mixing internally, but send the output through the mixer channel)[/quote]
Yupyup, just choose which mixer you’d like to emulate and set the EQ to the desired setting. As stated in the article, these settings color the sound even when the EQs themselves are at +/- 0 dB.
Wow, I think this is the most commented post I’ve seen on DJTT yet; and I’ve been reading since the beginning.
FYI: I mix externally because I much prefer the tactile feedback from a good mixer to the feel of the knobs on most controllers.
Something that I think has been missed are the fact that by using an external mixer (and I’m just going to assume that the club has a Pio like every other I’ve worked at) you get another layer of effects; and the ability to have the effects work in a post fader manner.
That being said, I have heard club owners / patrons complain about how software based DJs sound worse than CD djs. . .which always made me laugh because they consider DVS systems to be the same, sonically, as CD/TT systems. It’s nice to read a legitimate, fact-based inquiry into the ACTUAL differences between internal and external mixing.
Kudos, DJTT. Articles like this are what keep you ahead of the pack.
[quote comment=”24806″]I had to raise the sh** out of the headphone volume knob and blow my eq´s on the cue channel to get at least a clue if the tracks fit or not. I never discovered this mixing externally, so a statement would be very much appreciated here as i´m waitin for my vestax-tr1 to arrive which is definetely focussed on internal mixing.[/quote]
i gues the headphone volume depends on your audio-interface and has nothing to do with traktor. the audio dj2 should be loud enough so i think you just have to turn up the volume for the preview-channel on the soundcard.
Midi could be 1024 (10/12 bits resolution throught sysex) and OSC could be more… but you need to “upgrade” your gear (nowadays).
Soon some of these issues will be solved with new solutions that are coming…
be patient my friend…
i personally haven´t heard or thought about the “shitty” headphone/cue section in traktor, but as i was playin this weekend on a smaller venue, i discovered just what you said. I had to raise the sh** out of the headphone volume knob and blow my eq´s on the cue channel to get at least a clue if the tracks fit or not. I never discovered this mixing externally, so a statement would be very much appreciated here as i´m waitin for my vestax-tr1 to arrive which is definetely focussed on internal mixing. BTw i used a Macbook pro 2,4 Ghz and my Audio 2 Interface for the gig and the small M-Audio X-session pro which did quite a good job except the cue/volume thing.
greetz and mucho respecto and props for Mr. Golden
best article I’ve read yet! From what I’ve realized here is that external= personal touch/feel and internal= same sound quality(possibly better depending on sound card) but not as “personal” as external. I think what is important to keep in mind is to know your own style and to not own cheap shit if you’re playing live. Dell sells a special laptop specifically for sound quality yet people say they are satisfied with the macbooks even though some of them have realtek integrated in it. again, you get what you pay for. I was just clubbing a few days ago and the DJ had the whole dance floor(full too btw) bouncing to some bang’n electro and he was using Itch on a regular macbook. The week before that a house DJ was spinning pioneer cdj Tables….did I hear a sound difference?….only in the crowd from all the cheering and dancing. SO…..sound quality? I don’t think you’ll need to worry just as long as you own good equipment and as long as you know how to rock the crowd. Hell, I think Paul van Dyk uses a mac book, and so does BT(Brian Transaeu) , and MSTRKRFT, etc., and these guys are celebritys. SO maybe the real question you should ask your self is how do you want to appear in front of your fans when theyve just got done dancing to your mix after 4 hours and they want to know how to be a dj.
I might map my DJM800’s midi controls to Traktor so I will be mixing digitally but using an analogue mixer as the controller. Best of both worlds maybe lol.
[quote comment=”24756″]Great article, however I think one other thing that was not addressed is MIDI resolution. If I turn a knob on a MIDI controller for the purposes of mixing, I only have 127 different levels of that knob, and so some deep variations of sound that could be produced via an external mixer may be lost, especially when we are talking about filters. I certainly notice a jump between even a single value when dealing with filters within Traktor Pro, making it sound perhaps a little less organic… That being said, I do all of my mixing internally for convenience sake, and it still sounds to my liking.[/quote]
Couldn’t agree more.
It means when you’re riding the EQ and filters to slowly subtely tweak the sound you end up having to watch the screen to see when your actions are actually changing something.
Just the nature of digital DJ’ing i suppose.
It isn’t really an issue, just means in terms of crowd interaction you’re distanced a bit from the need to be “in the zone” more.
Or maybe i just pay too much attention to the most minute adjustment i make to the sound? 😉
I really doubt 127 steps on an eq to be problematic. a lpf/hpf filter cutoff is something else though, especially since the traktor implementation only leaves 64 steps per filter! I would recommend sending 14bit CC to a traktor filter control for best response.
Just curious; for those of you who like the noise”warmth” provided by analog mixers, can you achieve the same effect using effects internally? Or have you played with the different internal mixer options in Traktor to get that warmth? Also, is this effect achieved by routing your internal mix through an analog mixer? (i.e. do all your mixing internally, but send the output through the mixer channel)
Analog audio is always “on” and it’s a real representation of the acoustic sound waves. However, it also has floor noise and you are limited to a pretty low dynamic range. In my opinion analog audio sounds richer due to the harmonic overtones that can not be create by digital audio.
Remember there are not truly digital speakers. once the sounds comes out it becomes analog.
There are many advantages to digital audio:
-No noise floor.
-Higher dynamic range however after 148dB SPL your ear will start bleeding.
good article! very informative.
I’ve been mixing digitally for years, but really want a xone 92, mainly because of the feel of the mixer, and because of the layout, and send returns for external FX (though i like the ones in traktor a lot)
The sound of the eq is very important imo, and i know that it is not trivial to design a good sounding eq. Regarding that, traktor wins easily from its competition.
I really like the 4 band eq from xone or its sofware implementation. One of the main reasons i like it is because the cutoff frequency of the low band eq is lower than with a 3 band eq. Cutting the bass on a 3 band eq just takes away to much mid signal, and will cause to much “loudness” difference. Traditionally this can be compensated by adding a little mid and not cutting the low fully (or as on the djm800 with a highpass filter). That is a problem you wont have with the 4 band eq from xone. And I havent really seen a good controller with well layed out 4 band eq pots…
I have been using digital mixing for several years with midi-controllers just to change recently to a XONE92. I personally have to say that the sound is much warmer and simply sounds better than with internal mixing. I know that the XONE is known for being a particular well sounding mixer, but nonetheless, I didn’t believe it until I heard it for the very first time.
That plus the possibility to access 4 tracks and adjust all EQs on the fly plus the monitoring etc, really make me glad I did spend the money. It was worth it.
I know it’s been said on here already but the sheer portability of my digital setup outweighs any possible gain I could get with using analogue.
Also too many times I’ve turned up at a club and the mixer is in shit state, years of beer, food and god knows what else split over it, crackly outputs on the headphones, knackered faders, etc. No thanks. I will stick to my VCI, MAC & Traktor.
…and that’s from someone who was a die-hard vinyl & SL-1210 DJ for many years.
It’s personal choice I suppose.
Soon mix (never better said) the two technologies (analog and digital) will be a reality with virtual control from analog mixers.
It is only a matter of time…
[quote comment=”24776″]And the forecast for DJTT…. A PC vs MAC shitstorm draws near!![/quote]
Bring it on!!!!! A mac user…….
Not regarding the OS war…
I’m somewhat confused by the argument for analog summing (mixing) versus digital. Aren’t 99% of new songs mixed & mastered on digital equipment as it is? plus, seeing as how digital is pretty much lossless till the point it becomes analog… wouldn’t you want to preserve that sound till the last possible moment before it gets to the speakers?
I’ve been analog mixing till this year, mixing up to 4 tracks from Traktr, but now i mix internally using a full SCS.3D/3M setup with Traktor Pro and a DJ Audio 4. Loving it. Being able to walk into a club with only one RCA to plug in is priceless (years before I would haul my DJM-800 around to get 4 track mixing), plus recoding sets is super easy now. Don’t think I’ll ever go back.
I will be looking forward to seeing this mac/pc thing. I’d be surprised if the audio quality was any different between a pc and mac with the same soundcard (provided it was asio compatible on the pc), same music files and same dj program.
I think it is interesting to talk about the latency between a pc and a mac but then not talk about latency of hardware mixer controls vs the latency when using a midi controller. My personal opinion (and its important to see what is opinion and fact in this internet argument) is that you can make songs sit together easier on a decent dj mixer then u can ITB.
Honestly for me I can get a better mix OTB. I have years of experience with a dj mixer though so maybe that has something to do with it.
I think there is some confusion (tried to dispel it on the forums) that a midi controller like the x-session pro is a digital mixer. it isn’t, it is a midi controller. a digital mixer is one like the numark DXM06 or like mentioned the rane TTM-57SL (which i have heard from professional djings i know doesn’t sound as good as the 56)
offtopic but i think it would be cool if these comments became a thread in the forums, it would be easier to read the comments etc.
Nice article, though I don’t feel much clearer on which is “better,” since it really seems to depend on many external factors as well, particularly regarding the sound system you’re on, and whether the mixer is in good condition or not.
I’d love to mix externally on a properly working Xone92 all the time, but since that’s so inconsistent from venue to venue (save bringing your own), I’ve switched to internal mixing w/ a midi controller as well.
Yeah. OSX has a much better sound and MIDI stack than Windows, for a number of reasons. Mostly because OSX is seen as a ‘multimedia’ platform so Apple put a lot of developer time into Coreaudio and related things, but partly also because Windows doesn’t really have a core platform or any particularly consistent environment: and has to support legacy software/hardware in a way OSX doesn’t.
Either way, I got a Mac specifically for audio stuff, cos I don’t think a non-Unix system like Windows is stable enough, and the sound-stack on Linux is a complete mess at the moment.
This discussion is the same like the digital vs analog producing and (sorry) the most boring I ever experienced. Yes, there is a difference between digital and analog but what are you doing? Do you play music for the people and want to bring them a nice night or what is your intension as music player? I am selling now more then 15 years DJ technology and I start up as DJ 1990 with 2x Technics 1210 and 1 Vestax and later Numark and later Ecler mixer and so far…
It`s possible to mix with a 40,- € or 1500,- € mixer. It`s possible to mix digital or analog. Yes I loved to play with my Technics but the time is changing and now I love my VCI-100. Is this the question? Is somebody interessted on my solution? I hope so not! For me is there only one question:
ARE YOU CREATIV OR NOT. Are you an entertainer or not:
The normal music user cant make a different between a highres recording (192 khz and 32/64 bit) or a cheap MP3 (128khz for example). And fair and square, the people looks also to me as DJ with my VCI-100 then on turnis. If you love your own equipment and if you know your own equipment so go forward with your own way. To all you DJ`s out there: Do you love music and do you love to entertain the people? Then forget the equipment! But do you love yourself? Then watch to look nice, clean and sexy.
And the forecast for DJTT…. A PC vs MAC shitstorm draws near!!
Hi Ean, great article. I don´t care about “looking” pro or not, i started with a couple of discman and a radio shack mixer. Nowadays i have play in very important clubes and parties so that´s not the point. But talking about quality here are my 2 pesos:
I use the serato with cdj´s since 2005 and this year i switched to traktor and vci-100. i got an audio dj 4 and i am about sell the scratchlive. I started to notice that the sound definetely change it. In the club that i worked they have xone 62, vortex amps, yamaha eq and nexo speakers and subs so sound pretty good. I noticed at late times, whitn less people on the bar and felt like “Flat”. Next gig i mix externally with the xone and felt more punchier the frequencies not the overall volume.
First i thought it was my perception so in home i grabbed my xone 22 and djm 400 and tested both ways. In home i have a harman kardon 3370 and BW speakers. It is very noticeable the difference, much more with the xone. the high and low frequencies get more filled externally. I recorded on phillips cd recorder and funny, there the difference is just perceptible.
The point is even audio dj 4 has better soundcard than serato, serato sounded more filled and then i noticed the difference and after the home tests there is no doubt about it. Even you take care with all the route gains (Remember that the gains is added at each step so you have to be carefull if the club, has ext. mixer, main console mixer, pre amp, an PA.).
Maybe is the latency, the algorithm or just plain that i like more the “analog” sound.
At the end the point is the music you play and the way you do it. Use whathever you feel more comfortable and confident and it is true that the difference in audio quality nobody will care if you are doing a great job entertaining people (because is so little). If you use four 1200, a xone or just your computer doesn´t make a difference on the long run maybe you can impress some naive owners or people but the people really in the bussines take care of you proefficiency as a dj.
Nowadays sometimes i do externally, sometimes externally it depends if i am sharing the night or going solo and the space dedicated for the booth. One really true point is that the headphone section on traktor is garbage, if you have low gain, have to crank up a lot, if it is high you don´t get the bass so in that case is 200% better do it externally for cueing.
Cheers from mexico.
I have always mixed externally, sound quality has nothing to do with this. I am very used to the layout and workflow of my mixer, I really do feel very comfortable with it. Maybe I should be more adventurous, try new ways of controlling the mixing part, but I think I am too used to the old way for that.
I have the impression that there is no product yet on the market that would allow to control the internal mixer while giving the same capabilities and workflow as a standard 4 channel mixer (pioneer DJM-800/Xone 9:2 namely). I have seen some products but they lack features and the quality does not seem top notch. When the perfect product arises, I think I’ll jump in.
All I need is a QUALITY controller with the following features:
4 channels with 3 band eq, separate cue controls, filter control per channel (to me it’s not just an effect, it is essential in bending tracks)
decent crossfader with curve and assignment control
cue/pgm mix for headphones
powerful headphone amplifier
hardware level feedback
Xone DX was almost there, it’s a shame they did not include a filter control per channel, it has become mandatory to me.
Until I find the perfect controller, I’ll just stick to my DJM800
To cut a long story short this all makes absolutely no difference in a live environment. There are so many compromises that have to be made that no one is ever going to hear these subtle differences. Even if you are recording your mixes there aren’t many people that have gear good enough to pick any of these things up especially when you’re uploading your mixes to the web in mp3 format.
The short version: External because you are an artist. The visual effect is very important. Do you want to see a person (can´t say DJ) just tapping on the laptop or desktop. No way.
CDJ or MIDI (looks like CD)also 1200:s is perfect. For me now 1210:s with timecode vinyl is the ****. Old school in a Star Trek:ish way. And my guests and fans love it. The visual effect. DJ:s don´t hide, think! “Look at me i´m the DJ, love me!” (Guido in Cars accent)
Over and out!
I’ve always preferred mixing externally. IMO, the EQs and fader curves in traktor sound weird and I find them both very “rampy” and tough to work with. In addition, I use a VCI-100, and controls to handle cueing internally with traktor pretty much suck (the cue mix and headphone volume knobs especially).
I also find troubles with getting traktor’s internal gain to play nice with an external sound system. Because of this, I don’t do any auto-gain with traktor and I handle gain control through the mixer. I find traktor’s internal gain-ing to be very touchy, and it’s generally frustrating to work with.
I love traktor and I love my VCI-100, but I’d rather handle the actual sound mixing outside of a computer.
[quote comment=”24762″]I think it’s important to keep in mind that clubs are from from ideal listening environments, and many of the perceived advantages of analog are completely lost. e.g. A wider stereo image isn’t worth much if the system’s in mono! Busted up pioneer mixers are also far too common, which is one of the reasons I’ve been leaning towards mixing internally.[/quote]
Even then I really wonder why they are talking about stereo image.
Digital sources have 100% stereo separation (so 96dB for audio cd’s for example) while vinyl, which everyone used to like so much hardly had 25dB stereo separation or so.
The same with noise levels, which are said to be around -50dB for vinyl, and -96dB for 16-bit digital audio.
Even the quality of DA convertors is hardly an issue regarding this.
Check the results for an SB Live! 5.1 for example, a now very old cheap consumer-grade card:
There are various other factors that affect the sound quality of audio interfaces of course, so there is a quality difference, but it is mostly in latency, driver quality, loudness of the output and electric design that can minimize chances on ground loops or other interference noise.
Even then, if you are talking about mixing with a computer, you are always going to need an audio interface, so if you need to use 2 outputs and mix them using your analog mixer you would also be summing the noise from the DA convertor, so it would be twice as bad compared to using just one output.
If you do the mixing with your computer, then only the final result needs to be converted to analog once.
In practice both ways can work very well of course, and quality of the gear used is more important then which way you use.
As the developer of djDecks I may of course be a little biased, but I personally also prefer the control you get from internal mixing. Recording the sound, and dynamic smart limiting on the output are just 2 of the advantages, but there are other benefits when the software knows the levels.
You can only add a song to your log if it has actually played for example (when using an external mixer the software doesn’t know the difference between pre-listening and actual playback), and you can have a warning about loading another track only if the loaded track is actually audible, making it faster to search for the next track you want to play.
I know what you mean about being new on a scene and having club owners look at you strange when using a controller. The controller I use know has enough lights and knobs to prevent it from looking like a toy which was a big reason as to why I bought it. Curb appeal is important.
One thing I’ve noticed that helps is to encourage skeptical DJs to watch what you are doing from inside the booth. If your good, it won’t take long for them to recognize how fun it is to be able to tear apart tracks, remix, mash and get crazy in front of the crowd.
You will always have old school stubborn DJs but I’ve met a lot of DJs that have tons of questions and interest after seeing it go down live.
I mix internally myself, and I use an Echo Audiofire2 soundcard so the sound quality is pretty superb in a club. I find the only thing that makes me want to mix externally is the professional look of the setup. I know that it shouldn’t be based on this but time after time being the newbey in the DJ scene with my controller, Club owners and DJ’s give me dirty looks for not using the club mixer! I find that its harder to break the scene mixing internally believe it or not.
Although, I would like to see a great quality, strictly digital mixer on the market. Similar to the M-audio X-session pro but with better build quality and just simple features to compliment a midi controller like a VCI 100. Still waiting….I think that alot of people would scoop a product like that up.
YAY for my Mac ang Audio 4 DJ.
I defintely have not regretted these choices.
I have been looking for an External Mixer to control my 4 decks and this article has helped me (or confused me further) on what to do here.
I love mixing internally but the soft takeover thing sucks.
I think I will get the Audio 8 DJ and add to my controller setup rather.
Thanks for the artical Ean!
I think it’s important to keep in mind that clubs are from from ideal listening environments, and many of the perceived advantages of analog are completely lost. e.g. A wider stereo image isn’t worth much if the system’s in mono! Busted up pioneer mixers are also far too common, which is one of the reasons I’ve been leaning towards mixing internally.
Interesting article. I mix using traktor Pro’s internal mixer, and I think what’s important for me is that I know my VCI-100 much better than I know what mixer awaits me in a club. It could be some crackly, beat up something or other with a broken EQ rotary or fader and bad headphone jacks that cut out with the slightest wobble on the cable. I just find it a lot more convenient and comfortable to use the VCI for mixing as well as everything else. Also as mentioned it takes less effort to set up.
Although I understand you are trying to boil it down for those people who just want to know what’s “best”, it’s a pretty subjective area that depends on a lot of factors, the biggest of all for me is simply personal preference.
Great article Ean and great reply Rob Ticho!
This study has arrived right on time indeed, a lot of people was talking about this at the forums and I’m glad you have covered almost all arguments people generraly do…
But I need to know, and when we use ASIO drivers with Digital or Analog mixer? There is any benefit or lose in sound quality? Or will only affect the latency?
This couldn’t have been at a better time as a friend is looking for an all in one mixer as we speak…….. Big up DJTT!
Over the years, I’ve used analog and digital mixers. More and more these days I’m gravitating towards mixing digitally inside of Traktor using my Novation MK II ZeRo SL as my controller-mixer.
My biggest reason is that I know the feel of my own controller. I DJ with various other DJs and, if I mix analog, I have to get used to about 10 different dj mixer manufacturers’ settings. On top of that, each DJ configures their mixer differently. It can often be a mess because someone sets the crossfader to something funky, etc.
Also, I love hearing about sound quality and I know I have a lot to learn here. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that at a lot of my gigs there is so much else going on with the sound that a listener could determine the difference between analog and digital mixing. Examples: bad speakers, poor speaker placement, bad acoustics, people shouting.
Great article, however I think one other thing that was not addressed is MIDI resolution. If I turn a knob on a MIDI controller for the purposes of mixing, I only have 127 different levels of that knob, and so some deep variations of sound that could be produced via an external mixer may be lost, especially when we are talking about filters. I certainly notice a jump between even a single value when dealing with filters within Traktor Pro, making it sound perhaps a little less organic… That being said, I do all of my mixing internally for convenience sake, and it still sounds to my liking.
[quote comment=”24751″]”It turns out that the Macintosh native audio drivers are much better suited for high-quality mixing than the native Windows drivers.”
I’m very interested about the rationale behind this. Before you even jump to conclusions I suggest that you ask the people at Apple and Microsoft first to elaborate on this subject.[/quote]
As far as LATENCIES under OSX, this is true totally true:
In this respect the soundstack in OSX is far superior…
… But for the soundquality itself, it depends on the quality of the DAC and many other components of your soundcard… Since this is not really controlled by Apple , that mostly uses stock parts from Realtek. SOUND QUALITY should not in any way really be superior on a mac.
Thanks for including Itch in the article. I hope you are able to include NIs Audio Kontrol 1 in the cards under 200 hundred section, though it may actually be 250 (black friday it was 200).
I think the external mixing its the better solution because that down proccesed and affect directly to the latency, i have tested with timecode vinyl and its better and with any latency.
SORRY FOR MY BUD ENGLISH
“It turns out that the Macintosh native audio drivers are much better suited for high-quality mixing than the native Windows drivers.”
I’m very interested about the rationale behind this. Before you even jump to conclusions I suggest that you ask the people at Apple and Microsoft first to elaborate on this subject.