Review: DJ-Tech X10 2-Channel Digital Mixer
The humble two-channel mixer has always been to DJing what the Swiss Army knife is to camping: small, handy, not always necessary, but you’d be foolish not to have one close by if you’re in any way taking things seriously. Since digital blew the DJ world apart, mixer technology like everything else analogue has had some catching up to do. The DJ-Tech X10 is one product that’s risen to the challenge: It’s the ubiquitous two-channel mixer, thoroughly re-thought for the digital age.
Why a two-channel mixer at all?
So why would you want one of these things if you’re a digital DJ? Surely, you may be thinking, the two-channel mixer used to sit between two turntables or two CD players, helping pre-digital DJs to do their things, but it’s pretty irrelevant nowadays – no?
Well, while it’s true that with an all-in-one DJ controller you may never need any more gear (and that’s a great thing!), there are still lots of circumstances when you may want the flexibility that a humble two-channel mixer can offer you – especially one as insanely adaptable as this little gem from DJ-Tech.
Having one of these in your DJ bag can protect you if your digital gear goes bottom-up, cover you if the mixer at a venue isn’t up to scratch, and open up many other creative possibilities for you that just your DJ controller maybe can’t – especially if it’s a budget model. To find out how, let’s take a closer look at what the X10 can do.
First impressions and setting up
The first impression of this unit is that it is exactly the same as the classic pro two-channel mixer ever was. Same size, same layout, same materials (metal, basically), same layout. It’s a time-proven design, and will be utterly familiar to anyone who’s ever owned or used a classic two-channel DJ mixer. It’s only when you look a little more closely that its “Swiss Army knife-ness” starts to become apparent.
(It comes, by the way, with a mains adaptor, a USB cable, and a copy of Deckadance LE – a competent if not market-leading DJ program.)
The X10 has (obviously) got two channels. Each channel has a decent line fader, and low, mid and high EQ, plus cue buttons (they’re both independent, so you can have any combination of both or either on), gain, and input selector.
There’s a pro quality crossfader, which is replaceable, although unusually you unscrew the faceplate (which comes off without having to remove any of the knobs bar the fader ones) in order to do so.
The input selectors are tiny, almost-flush-to-fascia toggles, which would have been better being long-throw toggles like the microphone on/off/talkover toggle is, so you could use them for easily cutting the channel in and out of the mix.
There’s another low-profile toggle for the bright, clear, two-channel VUs to switch monitoring to cue or master.
On the left-hand side of the channels is the microphone section, which has the aforementioned on/off/talkover button, plus a master level and a two-band EQ. The booth output volume is also over here.
Meanwhile on the right, there are master volume, master balance, headphones level and cue/master balance knobs, and a headphones split cue button.
The knobs are OK quality-wise, being plastic rather than rubberised – they’re not the best I’ve ever seen, but then again nor are those on the some equipment at the opposite end of the price spectrum. It’s not a big thing.
So – a pretty comprehensive basic mixer. Anyone who’s ever wished for a decent microphone stage on their DJ controller, or proper headphone monitoring including split and balance, or a master balance, or “real” gain controls will no doubt approve of the inclusion of all these features. Most were once taken as standard before digital dumbed them down or did away with them completely, as in many built-to-budget controllers.
But it’s when you look at the front and back panels that you understand how flexible this mixer really is, and start to get the impression that it’s been designed to fulfil a real need among today’s working DJs.
On the front
The front has jacks for the microphone (a professional XLR) and the headphones (1/4″ and 1/8″). It also has crossfader and fader start toggles a little like Pioneer (for instance) has on its hardware, so the crossfader or fader can auto-start a media player upon being opened. Officially these work with DJ Tech gear, although anecdotally they work with some Pioneer, Reloop and American Audio hardware too.
This device, of course, looks like a great little scratch mixer, and this suitability is confirmed through the four knobs on the front for adjustment of every part of the crossfader slope across two channels. There is the desirable addition of a crossfader reverse switch too, but there are also two line reverse buttons that make the faders get quieter as you open them, until they’re at zero volume when they reach the top of their throw.
Overall I don’t think I’ve ever seen such versatility on any mixer as regards configurability for scratch DJs.
Round the back
Flip the unit round, and the picture becomes complete. For a tiny mixer, this is seriously designed to be used anywhere. Let’s look at the digital side of it first. There’s a USB-in to plug it into your laptop. It has a built-in sound card, so no need for a sound card once you’ve got this wired in – your DJ software will recognise it and you’re off.
There are also two USB outs, meaning you can use it as a powered USB hub, plugging other digital DJ gear into it. This not only saves you needing to use all the USBs on your computer, but makes set-up easier, and gives you more USBs overall for more complicated digital set-ups.
(It also apes the old style way or working with a two-channel mixer, where you’d plug your decks into the mixer directly. With this unit, you can plug Midi control devices straight into the mixer too.)
So that’s the digital stuff. Analogue-wise, there are two pairs of RCA-ins for each channel in addition to the digital inputs. They’re labelled CD and line/phono: The former is a straight line-in, the latter has a phono/CD switch so you can use it with record decks too. To this end, there are two ground tabs for earthing your Technics.
Output-wise, there are RCA outs for master and booth, and a pair of balanced 1/4″ TRS outs for master, although no XLR outs (there’s physically no space). Two 1/8″ jacks for the remote start function, a 9V jack for the sturdy, thick-leaded power supply, and a chunky on/off switch complete the picture.
So what we’ve basically got is a two-channel, seven-source (four analogue, two digital plus a microphone) mixer with built-in sound card and powered USB hub, with a gamut of professional features, built to a high standard, that has a tiny footprint. There’s a hell of a lot to like here.
Having loaded and checked it all functioned as expected with Deckadance as supplied, I decided to put it through its paces with Traktor Pro 2, and the Kontrol X1 – a more typical set-up for modular digital DJs. On plugging it in to the computer and launching Traktor, the software automatically recognised the sound card in the X10, and I simply had to select it. (I use a Mac; ASIO drivers are provided for PC users).
The only configuration required was to set the software mixer mode to external, and check the output routing. Strangely, the four sound card channels are referred to as “front left and right” and “back left and right” in Traktor. I don’t know why, but once a set was assigned to each deck, the mixer took one digital channel per side and we were off.
Next I plugged the X1 into the back of the X10. Again, Traktor recognised it immediately, I ran the wizard to double check it was as it should be, and that was that. Now I had a Kontrol X1 giving me transport control over both decks, and an external hardware mixer for mixing and monitoring. A small, powerful and flexible DJing set-up in itself.
Just to use a “real” mixer felt great – the crossfader is excellent, the scratch adjustments a real boon, the gains and EQs are old-school (ie you can distort the sound by overriding them – you have full control over making things sound good!), and my only gripe here is that there are no kills and the EQ isn’t 100% cut. But the faders are VCA, and pro quality, and so in use, it’s lovely and clean.
Likewise, having “real” VU and headphone controls felt like an old friend coming to visit after getting used to the limited control on many budget (and not-so-budget) DJ all-in-one devices; the cue/master pan and split cue functions are great for checking mixes when there’s no monitor or you’re practising late at night with headphones, and over on the microphone side, very few digital DJ controllers offer even a simple talkover feature. Combined with the fader start, the talkover function alone means that the X10 is going to appeal to mobile DJs looking for a compact mixer at the heart of a portable, pro digital / analogue setup.
Sound card wise, it seems to be a 48kHz/16-bit system; although DJ Tech told me it was 44.1kHz/16-bit, Traktor Pro 2 told me otherwise. Either way, it’s low latency (nothing discernible to me) and sounded great – I had no qualms about the sound output at all. One thing to remember is that this isn’t a Midi mixer – you can’t map its controls to Traktor’s crossfader etc – it’s designed for you to tell the software that, thanks anyway, but you’ll be taking care of all that elsewhere.
DJ-Tech has designed the X10 to pair stylistically with their own uSolo FX digital media player – add it to two of those and you’ve got their vision of a complete modular two digital deck DJing set-up. The uSolo FX is actually another intriguing product that on paper punches well above its weight (fully Midi-14-bit hybrid mode, plays from a variety of media), but we’ll hopefully review that at a later date. The bigger point is, though, that flexibility is built-in.
I plugged in the Kontrol X1 to control both channels, but instead of an X1, you could plug in two Midi single-jog controllers interfaces for control over two decks (although of course that’s where the four-out sound card obviously limits you) of any brand, not just the DJ Tech models.
The X10 would be great in a bar or small lounge, with two CDJs or two decks plugged permanently in, and then digital DJs could just roll up and plug in their PCs and/or controllers. No fuss. Likewise, analogue DJs could roll in with extra inputs such as decks, and again, just plug in.
Should you have a friend who has a DJ controller and wants to play back to back with you, they could plug straight into one of the spare channels. Or, of their controller had two separate outs, one for each channel, they could plug both into two of the four analogue channels and share your mixer.
If you’re playing in a venue with no booth speaker, you could take this along and plug it between their PA and your DJ set-up, in order to give you both a master and a booth out. (Having a booth output on a mixer this size is highly unusual and a definitely selling point.) If you have a simple DJ controller with no back-up in case of laptop crash, you can easily plug an iPod etc into one of the spare inputs in order to give you a fallback, plugging the output from your DJ controller through the other channel, and the main output would then go to the venue’s PA or powered speakers.
Likewise here’s an easy way of adding a proper, talkover microphone to a digital set-up. Want to do podcasts or “radio”-style mixes from home for the web? The X10 in this way has you covered here too.
For DVS, the unit plays nicely with Virtual DJ, MixVibes, and Deckadance DVS systems although not with Traktor Scratch Pro 2 or Serato as these require NI and Rane or other licensed hardware (like the new Pioneer DJM-T1 in the case of TSP2) to work.
I hope you’re beginning to see the picture here – a decent two-channel mixer can give you pretty much all the flexibility you might want in DJing, allowing you to concoct a set-up to suit many needs. Throw in a built-in USB hub and a decent sound card, plus all the other pro features we’ve highlighted, and you can see why I’ve given the DJ-Tech X10 the “Swiss Army knife” moniker.
The unit is only really useful for two-deck digital control, due to its sound card being four-out. Also, as mentioned above, it’s not going to help you if you imagine it being a one-stop-shop DVS mixer/sound card for use with Traktor Scratch Pro 2 or Serato Scratch – that’d be too much like good news!
Also, any onboard FX at all would have been nice – a couple of filters, or some reverb for the microphone, would have made this a truly unbelievable mixer. However, that brings us on to the final point I have to make about this device – the price.
We’d normally leave price stuff to the summary below, but this unit is on sale officially for €249, but street for as low as €179 or £161 (lowest US I could find was $299 – this is a rare time when it seems Europeans get a better deal than US DJs). But whether US, UK or Europe, that is an outstanding price for what you get. When you consider a decent sound card will cost you more than half of that, this is pretty much worth your consideration over buying a sound card in the first place.
Buy this in place of just a sound card and you get a fully featured, pro-quality, multi-input/balanced output scratch mixer too, plus a powered USB hub, and balanced master outputs plus a booth output (the latter could be used for recording too). I have to say that in an industry where gear can sometimes feel overpriced and over marketed, it’s refreshing to see a diminutive little product that packs so much value and is squarely aimed at working DJs who need flexibility as well as value.
The two-channel mixer got sidelined as controllers swept through the DJ world. But the DJ-Tech X10 may have just put it firmly back on the map. Every serious DJ should consider owning a mixer like this.
Do you use a controller with an external sound carD? Would you consider a mixer like this instead of the audio interface? Do you use a two-channel mixer in your set-up? How? Please let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.