The product we’ll review here is the Allen & Heath Xone: DB4 DJ Mixer. A fitting review of this product would however be incomplete without an examination of the company behind this product.
Allen & Heath is British company based in Panryn, Cornwall.
It specializes in the manufacture of audio mixing consoles although it also deals with the manufacture of DJ mixers for nightclubs as well as sound management systems utilized in industrial installations.
The company was founded in 1969 and only gained fame following involvement with Andrew Stirling, Ivor Taylor and Andy Bereza. During this time, these engineers hand built mixers for the era’s top bands, including names such as The Who, Pink Floyd and Genesis (ALLEN & HEATH, 2017).
Allen & Heath is famous for its extremely good build quality, novel design ideas, and great audio quality.
The product in review belongs to the Xone series which comprises various DJ mixers.
According to the manufacturer, the Xone:DB4 mixer is a groundbreaking product, holding position as one of the most advanced products designed by the company. The company applied technology from another of their product series, the iLive series, to design this product.
Specifically, development of FX algorithms with BPM conscious parameters was based on the iLive pro-touring FX system.
The product incorporates tight special controls that are perfectly customized to suit the DJ environment. Due to the synchronization of the FX and loops to the track tempo, it is thus easier for DJs to construct some spectacular groves without worrying about low fidelity, latency, as well as the overall hassle associated with use of laptops and software.
Furthermore, the product allows selection of audio sources on any or all channels due to the flexible input matrix. A single track can undergo different processing via separate channels, whereby the DJ can choose to fade between the different channels, or add a phrase sampled in one channel’s looper to the mix later on in the track.
The DB4 has a superior sound quality as compared to other mixers due to its entirely digital setup. The sound quality produced by this mixer reminds me of the days when DJs relied primarily on vinyl. The digital to analogue converters on the DB$ are quite effective.
There are a number of this product’s features which will be examined in further detail below:
- Quad FX Core – The Quad FX core DSP engine is the bedrock of the xone:DB4. This feature enables each individual channel to possess its own BPM detection system and FX bank. A factor that enables automatic adjustment of all time-concerned loops and FX to the music tempo. The product has 5 studio quality types of FX optimized for DJ use – damage, resonators, modulators, reverbs, and delays. Additionally, each FX type has a patch library with a horde of effect variations. Furthermore, each FX collection contains a dedicated expression control as well a rotary pot to aid in the setting of dry/wet levels. The FX master section also contains global controllers which can be utilized for further tweaking.
- Pro-X-Fader Option – This is a retro-fit option for the Xone:DB4 which utilizes a wider stem and 100% conductive plastic tracks for extended fader life. It further allows both adjustment of the fader feel and the cut-in point by the DJ in manner that suits their individual style.
- X:LINK – a standard RJ45 connector enables power and data distribution as well as connection to X:LINK compatible devices hence minimizing the need for use of USB ports on the DJ’s computer
- Looper – a built-in looper exists for each channel with an option of loops lengths from 1/16 beat to 4 bars. The loop can be shrunk and expanded at will since the DB4 always records the full 4 bars.
- Filters – DB$ contains a Xone dual filter system
- Source Select – any of the available stereo music sources can be selected on each channel: USB 1-4, Digital 1-4, or analogue Line 1-4
- EQ/Filter – a 3-band EQ exists for each music channel and it can be configured as Isolator (+6dB/OFF with a 24dB/octave slope), standard asymmetric EQ (+6/-26dB), or reconfigured as a Low-Pass/High-Pass filter system with adjustable resonance. A metal switch within the EQ section enables toggling between the three earlier mentioned modes, and each mode selected will be identified by a unique color displayed on the knob.
- Mic/Line Input – this input has a mix level, cue, gain, and 2-band EQ. it can further be routed to all main channels overriding Matrix analogue input channel 1 for adding FX and accessing the loopers.
- Integral soundcard – The built-in soundcard is a fully patchable USB2, multi-channel, and high quality (24-bit/96kHz) card that permits recording and replay from audio software for 4 stereo returns and 4 stereo sends.
- USB – A number of options can be saved to a USB drive for use on another DB4 machine including user-defined settings such as display brightness, USB audio routing scheme, BPM range, and meter mode.
- MIDI Control – All controls with the excpetion of phones and mic levels send MIDI data, hence the mixer can also function as a MIDI controller through the MIDI shift button. This ability allows the FX and loop selection controls to transfer MIDI data without changing the mixer settings. The DB$ is built to generate an internal MIDI clock that can be utilized to control the tempo of a connected DAW via USB and the ability to change the mixers MIDI channel.
- Lightweight Chasssis – Touring with the DB4 control is made easier due to the lightweight aluminum chassis
- High Visibility Display – The display is a OLED that is quite visible even in the presence of bright light. It displays the current BPM, channel FX selection plus functioning as a simple interface for the Menu setup functions.
- Output Patchbay – Phones, record and booth – level trim and source selectable. Main and booth – level trim and phase c0ntrols
Flexibility with Multiple DJ Setups – Any DJ Setup can work with the DB$ whereby Pioneer CDJ users can plug their CDJ’s in digitally to the DB4’s “digital” inputs while Traktor DJs can plug their USB cable directly to the mixer.