Rane’s all-rotary digital / analogue hybrid is as beautiful as it is pricey. It’s hard not to want one, hands down. For DJs brought up on faders the idea may take a bit of getting used to, but for the sweeping, building style of mixing preferred by house DJs over the years, the mixer is just awesome. It ain’t cheap, but for something to aspire to when you make some extra cash out of your DJing hobby or career that connects you solidly with the past of our profession yet has one foot firmly in the future, it’s a total belter of a product. We love it.
First Impressions / Setting up
It is a classic-looking mixer, and a beast of one at that. Wooden sided and with a metal chassis and faceplate, and high-quality knobs, buttons and switches throughout (note: no faders!), it screams class, durability and overall high-quality. It’s the type of mixer you just know is still going to look good in 20 years’ time (just like the 20-year-old Technics SL1210s we paired it with for this review).
While it just “plugs in” in place of your usual mixer, there are a few set-up options. There’s an app you can run on your laptop to tweak various aspects of it (see the accompanying video), and as this is actually a fully digital mixer, you can feed the S/PDIF digital output from your CDJs straight into digital inputs on the back of it, to save unnecessary digital to analogue and back to digital conversion. The MP2015 has very high-quality converters built in, so it makes sense to use them for the highest fidelity possible instead of those from your CDJs’ analogue outputs.
It is Traktor certified, indeed its the first mixer to feature dual USBs for seamless DJ switchovers that is, so if you want to use it with Traktor (as we did for this test, with timecode vinyl), you can set that up via USB.
So much fun to be had! While on paper what we have here is a four channel rotary mixer with a mic in and an aux in plus some quality filters on board, and not an awful lot else, that’s to miss the point of this unit pretty much entirely. As well as being extremely high-quality throughout and having that very unusual retro feel, it has some insanely fun routing options too.
One totally new idea is the “sub mix” section. At the touch of a button, you can route any channel to the sub mix channel; point is, you can route two or three if you like. So if you have three loops in Traktor tied together, you can suddenly take control of them “as a whole”, EQing, filtering, and even sending them to an external FX unit (we reviewed just such a unit, the Pioneer RMX-500, recently), while continuing to mix “as normal” with your other channels. This means you can do stuff you’d require too many hands to do in any other way. When you get your head around this, it’s very liberating and empowering.
What is a sub mix?
In sound engineering, a sub mix is a grouping of instruments that are sent to a mixing console’s channel fader (either stereo or mono) that goes out to the master fader. This gives the engineer added routing flexibility and has a variety of uses. Sub mixes are traditionally the realm of recording and live sound engineers.
In recording, it makes for a more practical solution for adjusting levels in an overall mix and adding effects since all the channels are consolidated to one volume fader, say a “Drums” sub mix. It also gives the engineer the ability to “sum” multiple channels into a stereo input on a tape deck or audio interface.
In live sound applications, the sound engineer can create a monitor sub mix for different members of the band. If the vocalist wants a particular mix of instruments (eg No bass, all guitars!), the engineer can tailor a sub mix for him that’s different from the rest of the band.
Another feature we liked was the Session In / Out section: On the face of it, it’s just an aux in with a volume control, but having the Session Out option with another volume control opens up options such as daisy-chaining mixers, and we think this would be a great place to patch in Maschine, for instance (staying within the Native Instruments ecosystem), especially if you have it Midi synced with Traktor. DJ/producers performing live sets will instantly see the benefit in this.
But our favourite addition was the frankly lovely Isolator section at the top. This is basically a three-band EQ across the Master Out, with crossover controls to decide where each knob starts and ends its section of the job, but that’s to totally undersell the fun you can have affecting your overall mix with this section. Based on the separate Isolator units from the disco days (when the actual mixers themselves often had far less versatile EQs than this one), this allows “macro” control over your mix – colouring your sound slowly, over a long period of time, against the “micro” control offered by the other EQs and mixing controls.
There are loads of other great features: a huge number of digital ins and outs across both audio interfaces, full Midi mappability across the whole control surface, 16-bar three-colour VUs (for all four channels, the sub mix, and master); a powered mic input with duck control (only one tone control for this, though), and per-channel filters (with one overall resonance control) to name most of them, but in truth the beauty of this mixer is the basics done brilliantly, a few really thoughtful extras, and that combination of classic appearance with cutting edge digital architecture.
It’s hard not to want one, hands down. For DJs brought up on faders the idea may take a bit of getting used to, but for the sweeping, building style of mixing preferred by house DJs over the years, the mixer is just awesome. The Isolator is lovely, the sub mix useful, and the all-digital architecture belies the mixer’s classic looks.
It ain’t cheap, but for something to aspire to when you make some extra cash out of your DJing hobby or career that connects you solidly with the past of our profession yet has one foot firmly in the future, it’s a total belter of a product. We love it.