Review: American Audio 14 MXR
Looking like any old standard analogue four-channel club mixer, but actually being anything but that when you get under the skin, the American Audio 14 MXR is a well-priced and capable DJ mixer that's got software DJs and mobile DJs equally in its sights, as we find out in today's American Audio 14 MXR review and video.
One of three models in the range (there's the two-channel 10 MXR and the rack-mountable 19 MXR too), it differentiates itself from most other mixers by having a four-in, four-out sound card built in for computer use via USB, but also, by being fully (as in, every single control) Midi mappable. Oh, and it comes with Virtual DJ LE in the box to get you going.
First impressions and setting up
First impressions are of a pretty standard, old-school club mixer - same size, made out of metal, all the controls where you'd expect them, lots of inputs and outputs - no surprises and no disappointments. You very soon notice the extra buttons though - two panels of six buttons on either side, a browser encoder in the middle for software library navigation, a "shift" button... and when your eyes spot the "sync", you know it's definitely more than just a mixer!
However, its analogue features are good: Four line ins (two switchable to phono), two XLR mics with full three-band gain and EQ, XLR/RCA master outs plus RCA booth out, four full channels with full EQ, gain and hardware filters (also a "bandwidth" control to modulate the filters, which was just scary to me!), assignable & curve-adjustable replaceable crossfader, proper split-cue headphones: As a basic mixer, it's clearly been designed by someone who gigs.
To get up and running is very simple. You install supplied ASIO drivers (if you're on a PC, no need on a Mac), install Virtual DJ LE, enter the supplied serial, plug the mixer in to the outlet electricity, plug the mixer into your computer via USB, and power both the mixer and the software up. The final thing you need to do is set the audio configuration in Virtual DJ to four-out sound card and external mixer - and then apart from plugging your amp/speakers and headphones in, that's it.
Want to switch from analogue to digital audio? Select USB on the inner two channels, and Virtual DJ LE's two supplied decks are at your disposal. Alongside your mics and other inputs (CDs, record decks etc) you're got a flexible DJ set-up for little more than the price of the most basic software controllers out there.
The knobs and encoders are rubberised and of good quality, and all the faders are sturdy, which made for satisfying mixing. The crossfader is reasonably loose (as it should be), and the solid metal housing lends a feeling of well-being. The buttons look plastic but in fact are rubberised too, and the 10-bar VUs switch from cue source to master as you'd expect from a club mixer, for easy EQ monitoring despite there only being one stereo pair. I found the sound quality to be good; clean, crisp highs, warm from digital, and very little background hiss even when empty channels were turned up full - a good sign.
The digital mapping is necessarily curtailed with only a limited number of buttons and encoders to apply to controller functions, but nonetheless you get three cues per side, control over four sample slots, control over an effect per deck, full library browsing, CDJ-style pitch nudge, and the aforementioned sync. Remember, though, the full thing is Midi-mappable: If you wanted to use it as just a two-channel mixer, they'd be nothing to stop you Midi mapping the redundant knobs to FX and faders to pitch, for instance, to give you more software control.
One nice feature is that the shift can be made to behave temporarily or permanently. Another feature I liked was the "controller" button. This lets you tell the 14 MXR that you're using a software controller externally, and switch all the mixer's channels back to analogue, feeding the digital master signal to its master out and the digital cue signal to your headphones. Thus you can use the sound card in software, control all other elements of Virtual DJ with your external DJ controller, and also have full use of the mixer for other tasks. Flexible indeed.
So, it's a mixer that thinks its a DJ controller, minus the jogs of course. And what it does, it does well, and for a good price too. But who'd use it?
There are lots of potential use cases. A DVS DJ could use it as his mixer, mapping the extra buttons to negate the need to use Dicers or something similar. (Indeed, I've seen it working "out of the box" with Serato digital vinyl, not sure how though.) It would certainly work fine with Virtual DJ's own timecode, although if you wanted to use it with Traktor timecode, you'd need to use their audio interface, kind of defeating the object of having one in the 14 MXR.
Alternatively, you could use it with other Midi decks - Denon's DN-SC2000, for instance, would give you compact control over the jogs in your DJ software. But that, I think, isn't the main market for this. The main market is DJs who want gear they can gig with - so we're talking dependable, lots of pro inputs and outputs etc - but that they can also take control of DJ software with to give them a couple of digital music sources too. Nothing fancy, nothing too complicated.
And out of the box, the 14 MXR delivers just that. With the supplied Virtual DJ LE, it give such DJs an immense amount of flexibility to DJ with all sources, analogue and digital, but it also gives them the flexibility to map the elements of the software they need should they wish to change things (note, though, that this would require an upgrade to Virtual DJ Pro). Maybe more importantly, it gives them the versatility to add stuff later on, as in extra gear and so on as their DJing develops. For instance, want to add a "real" DJ controller? No problem, use this a your sound card and as your post-controller mixer for adding mics, other sources etc. Want to one day use digital vinyl? When you do add it, this can still be your mixer and also give you Midi-mappable buttons to save having another controller for transport, loops etc.
At its heart, it's a good value analogue mixer, Midi-enabled controller/mixer and sound card, and is both acceptably constructed and good sounding. It should do well with its target audience, and would be a useful mixer to have knocking around for other types of DJ too, as a back-up, as a second system or as a home mixer.
At its heart, this is a good value analogue mixer that also happens to be a Midi-enabled controller with a built-in sound card. Acceptably constructed and good sounding, the 14 MXR is a three-in-one unit that serves multiple purposes for DJ's who want to have control over both analogue devices and software.
- American Audio 14 MXR Mixer
- From: American Audio
- Price: $299
- Reviewed by:
Can you see a place for an all-rounder like this in your set-up? Could something like the 14 MXR be the ideal second mixer, or mobile centrepiece in your system? Please share your thoughts in the comments.