What is a Mixing Console and What Does it do?
Mixing consoles are what allow a DJ to mix music from different tracks. Without a mixing console, a DJ’s setup is not that different from your run-of-the-mill home high-fidelity system. Mixing consoles have a wide range of prices, features, durability, and effects. If you are not well versed in these attributes then you could make a wrong choice and end up with a too pricey mixing console that you should not have bought. This article will touch upon the features of a mixing console is, the attributes of a good mixing console, the different types of mixing consoles, and which mixing console is the best.
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What features are available in a mixing console?
A DJ uses a mixing console to blend audio waves from different tracks, music, and songs to create something new. Modern music such as electronic pop, electronic dance music, and techno-pop music are some examples of music created by DJs using mixing consoles.
A good mixing console will have sound effects abilities, which allow for crossfading into and out of music. Quality mixing consoles should have at least a six-band equalizer to allow for modifications in the music’s pitch, tone, treble, and bass. The more options a mixing console has the higher is its price, and the more expensive a mixing console the more complex are its functionalities. So keep this in mind and purchase a mixing console that complements your experience as a DJ.
Following are three of the most essential features that a mixing console must have:
Channels: Channels allow the mixing console to be connected to two or more audio devices. The number of channels that a mixing console has depends on the price. For example, professional DJs do not use mixing consoles that have less than four channels.
Software: Pricey mixing consoles used by professional DJs often include free software with the purchase while others have built-in software. While mixing consoles at the lower end of the price spectrum can be worked with practically any software in the market.
Effects: Sound effects are the real tools that allow a DJ to work with the musical tones and create something unique. Examples of sound effects are crossfaders, equalizers, line-in and lineout ports, volume controls, and headphone or earphone jacks. Higher-end mixing consoles also come with USB connections to plug-in your external sound cards, amplifiers, or additional audio ports and jacks.
How to choose the best one?
Mixing consoles come at all configurations and prices. Therefore, to know which mixing console is the best, you must first know what your needs are and what you can afford! As I have discussed earlier, mainstream mixing consoles have two channels, volume controls, and crossfaders. As a DJ, using the two channels the music you create can be fed to your main output in addition to a cue headphone so that you can hear your music yourself.
On the other hand, if you are an experienced DJ then you might want to have more options to work with such as a four-input channel mixing console.
Some factors define the quality of a mixing console such as:
- Stability: The most important attribute of a good quality mixing console is its stability, reliability, and build quality. Naturally, the best brands have all three of these attributes. You should buy a mixing console that is stable enough to be taken with you to wherever you DJ at.
- Price: Cost is determined by the number of options or customizations that a mixing console has such as channels and input/output. The best mixing consoles with the most features are designed for professional DJs. As such, they will most likely be very expensive. Besides, some brands are pricier than others are.
- Purpose: Only you can decide what you want to do with your mixing console. Are you in the market for a mixing console that would be compatible with all your software and digital devices, or do you just want to mix music from CDs or vinyl records? Your purpose will determine the kind of mixing console you have to buy.
- Effects: Mixing consoles must have a decent quality equalizer, high and low pass filter, phase meter, and rhythm delaying software features.
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Types of mixing consoles
There are two main branches of DJ mixing consoles: Digital and Analog. Digital mixing consoles require the use of a tablet or laptop. Essentially, a digital mixing console is only an extension of your computer hardware. The digital mixing console can transform an electrical signal from its input channel into various frequencies of sound. The tone of the sound on a digital mixing console might sound a bit cold and technical.
Here is where the analog mixing console has more charm. An analog mixing console can be connected to a vinyl turntable with no computer hardware required. The resulting music is more natural and has a warm feeling to it. Audiophiles are particularly partial to analog mixing consoles.
Other types of mixing consoles are scratch mixing consoles and rotary mixing consoles. Scratch mixing consoles have a highly capable crossfader, which is much better than the built-in crossfaders available on all mixing consoles. Scratch mixing consoles are less encumbered with customizations and options so professional DJs find it easier to work with. Rotary mixing consoles are the middle ground between digital and analog mixing consoles. Rotary mixing consoles have old-school knobs instead of faders. This produces a warmer sound, which more and more DJs are starting to prefer. However, rotary mixing consoles also have a big price tag. Therefore, you should consider this as well if you think a rotary mixing console would be the best fit for your needs.
Which one should you buy?
As I have repeatedly said up and down this article, your needs define which mixing console is the best fit for your needs. If you are a beginner, learning the basics of being a DJ, then you will want a mixing console like the Numark M6, which is perfect for those on a tight budget. On the other hand, if you are an experienced DJ professional, then you might want a mixing console with many options and customizable features such as the Allen and Health Xone 96.