While everyone knows that DJs use turntables for mixing and scratching records, DJ mixers have been criminally underappreciated over the years. The DJ mixer is the seldom mentioned piece of gear that usually sits in between two turntables in the classic DJ set up. What makes the mixer so critical is that it allows the DJ to combine multiple audio sources into one signal, and to fade between different audio sources with ease. If turntables and records are a DJ’s ingredients, then their mixer is their oven; sound goes in a mixture of parts, and is sent out to the speakers as a finished product (Well, actually that’s where the sound engineer steps in, but there’s just not enough room in this analogy for them).
Two turntables and a microphone,” might be the most famous saying in DJ culture, but what about the mixer?
Just like turntables, DJ mixers have evolved quite a bit over the past few decades. By the time the first DJ mixers were being developed, similar mixing interfaces had been around for a while for recording and radio broadcasting. The difficulty was in making a product that was portable enough for mobile DJs, but with the features consumers wanted and good sound quality.
One of the first mixers made for a DJ was a one of a kind piece named “rosie“, made special for DJ Francis Grasso (The guy who invented beatmatching) around 1965. Around the same time, Bozak was starting to make the first “commercially-available” mixers, however they weighed about 25 pounds making them inaccessible for mobile DJs.
These first mixers featured knobs to control the individual channels volume, as opposed to faders which are far more common now. Some mixers today still feature knobs instead of channel faders, as knobs usually produce better quality signal and last longer, however they are more expensive than faders. As Mike Fotais, production manager for Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival, recalls, rotary mixers were too expensive for most, so it wasn’t until the use of faders that mixers were able to be mass-marketed to mobile DJs.
“An original Urei rotary DJ mixer was something I had never seen. It was like a unicorn,” he laughs. “It was like $3,000 in 1980s money. You didn’t even think about it.”
Where does the technology develop from here? For more, head to Cuepoint.
Want to see a mixer in action? DJ Rugged One is giving a free seminar tonight! RSVP: