A DJ mixer is the centre piece of any separates DJ set-up, the thing you plug everything else into. Unless you DJ using an “all-in-one” controller or console (that therefore has a mixer built-in), you’ll need one of these.
As well as mixing the music sources together, mixers nowadays tend to have built-in audio interfaces, meaning they give you a way of plugging in a laptop and using DJ software. Furthermore, they can also be Midi controllers, meaning you sometimes use their knobs, buttons and faders to control your DJ software.
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In this article, we’ll look at the different types of mixers, give you some of the questions you should be asking when choosing a DJ mixer, and then look at 9 of the best DJ mixers on the market right now. We also link to full Digital DJ Tips reviews for the majority of them.
- Different types of mixers
- Questions to ask when choosing a DJ mixer
- Best all-round club mixer
- Best purists’ club mixer
- Best mid-range club mixer
- Best budget club mixer
- Best pro scratch mixer
- Best mid-range scratch mixer
- Best budget scratch mixer
- Best digital specialist mixer
- Best analogue specialist mixer
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Different types of mixers
On the outside, mixers fall into two main categories, scratch and club — we’ll discuss those in a second (there are also specialist/niche mixers, and we’ll look at a handful of those in this article, too).
As far as how mixers work, the big “divide” is whether the mixer is analogue or digital, which describes how it handles the signals fed to it, and whether or not it can interface with computers. Let’s look more closely at these differences:
A club mixer has the classic “four-channel” layout, and this category describes the mixers you’ll typically find in nightclubs, in a sector led by Pioneer DJ. That said, there are notable models from other brands too.
They tend to be designed to fit all kinds of purposes, and therefore have lots of inputs, outputs and features, for maximum flexibility.
Sometimes called “battle mixers”, they usually have just two channels, and a very clean “bottom third” around the crossfader, to facilitate quick crossfader tricks.
Scratch mixers usually also have Midi controls and a built-in audio interface, so you can use them to control DJ software while DJing with control vinyl on traditional turntables. (That software, folks, is nearly always Serato, the hip-hop/scratch DJs’ platform of choice.)
Any mixers that don’t easily fall into the “scratch” or “club” categories. These could be purist mixers designed for certain genres of music, or rotary mixers with no faders… look hard enough, and there are lots of weird and wonderful, super-niche models out there…
Digital mixers process audio signals digitally, accepting digital inputs from media players, and also converting signals to digital if needed, converting them back to analogue again to feed to speakers and headphones etc.
This type of mixer is usually also designed to work with laptop DJ software, without the need for separate audio interfaces, because they have analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue converters built-in.
Internally, an “analogue” mixer contains no digital audio circuitry, simply working with the analogue audio signals fed to it from media players, microphones and turntables.
These can be the simplest and cheapest, the most “traditional” type of DJ mixer, but at the same time, audiophiles may prefer high-end all-analogue mixers for their sound quality and audio characteristics.
However, to use this type of mixer with DJ software, you’ll need an external audio interface.
Read this next: Club Mixers vs Battle Mixers – Which Is Right For You?
Questions to ask when choosing a DJ mixer
Do I want a club-style mixer, a scratch-style mixer, or a specialist, niche model?
This will depend very much upon the type of DJ you are or want to be — but it’s worth getting this right, as the mixer types are very different in appearance and to use.
Do I want analogue or digital?
The answer will usually be “digital”, but if you’re not going to use the digital features (eg you want a mixer to just mix vinyl, or you already own an audio interface), or you just prefer the analogue “sound”, you still may want to consider an analogue mixer.
Is there a mixer that matches the media players I’m going for?
If so, it might be a good choice as it will match looks-wise, but more importantly it may have features that only work when you pair the units up.
Does it have replaceable faders?
At the very least you’ll be looking for a replaceable crossfader, but in many mixers, all the faders are replaceable.
What kind of on-board effects does it have?
Some mixers have few or none, others are comprehensive offering both manual controller effects, and “LFO” effects, which cycle in relation to the beat/BPM.
How many inputs does it have?
If you want to DJ with four decks, make sure your choice can accept four inputs and has four channels to control them. Mixers designed for scratch DJs only have two main channels, for instance.
Mixers tend to have more inputs than channels, which is normal, as you can normally switch which input you’d like each channel to handle at any given time.
How tightly can it tie to DJ software?
If you’re planning on using your mixer with a laptop, what controls can it give you over the software? Some mixers are designed to give you lots of this, others, not so much.
Do I really need to buy a mixer at all?
If you already own an older mixer, it could be that you can just add an audio interface to it in order to “convert” it and your existing turntables or media players into a DVS (Digital Vinyl System) to use with software, saving you the expense of replacing it.
9 Of The Best DJ Mixers For 2023
Best all-round club mixer: Pioneer DJ DJM-A9
The new “flagship” mixer to replace the pretty much club-standard DJM-900NXS2, the DJM-A9 wisely doesn’t stray too much from the path trodden by its predecessor.
That said there are some meaningful differences. Firstly, the sometimes derided sound quality of the DJM-900NXS2 has had a hefty lift with ESS Technology 32-bit high-quality converters. There is a nicer FX screen, some additional FX, Bluetooth input, phantom mic power, dual Type B or C computer USB inputs, dual headphones sockets, and a new Sound Color FX Center Lock. The latter particularly is a feat of engineering and we have grown to love it.
Still no Ethernet hub, but overall they’ve done a good job – it’s strictly aimed at pros and pro venues though, hence the price tag.
✅ They’ve fixed most of the shortcomings of the ‘900NXS2, sound quality being a huge one
❌ It’s evolution, not revolution – this is designed for a very specific task.
Best purists’ club mixer: Allen & Heath Xone:96
Hard to believe it is five years ago that the Allen & Heath Xone:96 was launched, but it still very much holds its own against people who don’t want the bells and whistles of the Pioneer DJ DJM-A9, but who do want the insane controllability, awesome sound quality and best-in-class filters of Allen & Heath, all here in their flagship model.
It’s all about the ability to sculpt your sound finely (look, for instance, at the four-band EQ per channel), yet with enough flexibility to work with all types of DJs and styles of music. So if that sounds like you more than the “fun” appeal of the DJM-A9, this could be the one you ask for on your rider.
✅ Everything that made the Xone:92 great, updated for the digital age
❌ No onboard effects except filter
Best mid-range club mixer: Reloop RMX-95
Reloop’s RMX-95 gives you a lot for your money: Club looks and build quality, lots of effects, decent built-in sound card and digital connectivity – plus it’s Midi mappable, and very configurable. It works best when paired with Algoriddim’s djay Pro AI software, and we liked it with the Denon DJ LC6000 controller decks for an easy, fast full-sized club set up – for less than the price of a single “pro” CDJ!
However, be aware that at the time of writing, it doesn’t work with Serato, as you might expect it to, which we think is a big disadvantage over the previous Reloop RMX-90 DVS.
✅ A lot for your money
❌ No Serato? Really?
Best budget club mixer: Pioneer DJ DJM-250MK2
Looking to get started on your DJ journey, or play out already but want a simple home set-up for practising on? The two-channel Pioneer DJ DJM-250MK2 has all the basics (including a great crossfader and per-channel filters) and the familiar Pioneer DJ club look and feel, but is also an audio interface that can work with Rekordbox DJ software (which it unlocks) as well as Rekordbox DVS, for scratching using turntables.
With pro XLR outputs and both mic and aux inputs, it could just as easily be used in a minimal pro DJ environment too – a good, basic all-rounder.
✅ Familiar Pioneer DJ look and feel
❌ Comes with a power brick rather than a built-in transformer
Best pro scratch mixer: Pioneer DJ DJM-S11
Pioneer DJ’s flagship two-channel scratch mixer and Midi controller, that works with both Serato DJ Pro and Rekordbox DJ software. Unusually for a scratch mixer, this can also give you rudimentary control over decks three and four in software, via the touchscreen (most scratch mixers are strictly two channel).
That means for DJs wishing to combine traditional scratch performance with more modern DJ tricks, it may well hold particular appeal – bot on the downside, for everyone else, it may feel a bit too fiddly/complicated. (Lucky, then, that Pioneer DJ also has the DJM-S7, a more direct replacement for the iconic DJM-S9, which may be a better choice for many.)
✅ The best scratch mixer out there
❌ Steep learning curve to use all its features
Best mid-range scratch mixer: Reloop Elite
A Serato DJ Pro-enabled two-channel scratch mixer and Midi controller along the lines of the Pioneer DJ DJM-S7. You get a lot for your money here, and it is a mixer with the endorsement of no-one less than our very own DJ ANGELO, the man behind DJ Angelo’s Tricks & Transitions course – praise indeed.
If we were to criticise it, we would say that its effects don’t sound quite as good as the best in class, but nonetheless this is a classy package.
✅ Pairs nicely with Reloop’s own RP-8000Mk2 turntables
❌ No paddle FX
Best budget scratch mixer: Numark Scratch
We’re not 100% sure this is still made, but at the time of checking (May 2023) it was still widely available, so it stays here for now – primarily because it is an excellent value Serato DJ DVS mixer, that comes complete with Serato’s DJ Pro with DVS licence, making it hands-down the cheapest way to get started in digital scratching.
Features-wise things are kept basic, but it has all that you need, including FX paddles, mic input, balanced XLR outputs. Just add some Serato control vinyl (that’s one thing that isn’t provided) and you’re good to go.
✅ Amazing value and a great way to start your scratch journey
❌ Only four performance pads per channel instead of eight
Best digital specialist mixer: Pioneer DJM-V10
This six-channel digital mixer is aimed at DJs with more complex mixing, routing and performing needs than average.
Many DJs turn up to the booth armed with FX pedals and other outboard gear in order to “hack” the existing kit to be able to produce their sound live – often these are DJ/producers playing hybrid-type sets, for whom these mixers are proving a godsend.
If that sounds like you and you want highly flexible routing, a powerful, great-sounding onboard sound card, and plenty of channels for all your gear or sources, this may well be the perfect mixer for you. (Note that the LF variant has no crossfader but longer line faders, hence the “LF”.)
✅ A unique mixer, with many features you won’t find on anything else
❌ Surprisingly limited filters, and a tiny control screen
Best analogue specialist mixer: PLAYdifferently Model 1
Fully analogue, the PLAYdifferently Model 1 has features designed to appeal to purist electronic DJs, a la Richie Hawtin. In some ways, then, the ethos here is similar to the Pioneer DJ DJM-V10 (see above), in that the mixer is designed for endless sound sculpting, and is also designed to work nicely and flexibly with other equipment.
However, being 100% analogue, it is in other ways very different to the Pioneer model/s, and you probably already know which one appeals to you more. Note that there is also a Model 1.4 which is identical to the Model 1 except that it has four, not six, channels.
✅ There’s nothing else quite like this mixer out there, meaning for the niche it appeals to, it’s perfect
❌ You may miss the crossfader, or an onboard audio interface
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While there are many more mixers out there than just those listed here, if you’re planning on building a system of separates, you’re probably also looking to spend good money on it, so we’ve not included some of the very cheap, cut-down mixers that are out there.
This is a representative selection from the masses available, across the price ranges, and for the main use cases. Plus, you can’t go wrong with any of these – they are all “battle proven” and should give you years of service.
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