Do you want to learn more about DJ & audio mixers? Here are a few videos to get you started.

Understanding Audio & DJ Mixers

I apologize, but the audio is about three quarters of a second out of sync with the visuals for the first couple minutes of this first video. But this one has three quarters of a million views, so I don't want to re-upload it to fix it.

This page contains all of my videos relating to mixers. The first explains the difference between audio mixers and DJ'ing mixers. Most can technically be used for both purposes, although they're typically designed to cater to just one market or the other. The second video explains what is means to "cue" on a DJ mixer, which will be especially useful for learning DJ's. The rest of the videos relate to specific brands, with a slight emphasis on mixers that are designed for DJ'ing.

Further down this page, I'll include a short write-up to explain more about how mixers work, but if you'd prefer, you can just right into the videos.

How to Cue on a DJ Mixer

Detailed Review of Allen & Heath's Xone 4D Mixer

Learn to Use Effects on Pioneer DJM-600 Mixer

Learn to Use Effects on Pioneer DJM-900 Nexus

Mixer Basics

Mixers are audio devices used to combine, process, and manipulate multiple sound sources into a single or multiple outputs. They are essential in various audio production settings, including live performances, studio recordings, broadcasting, and DJing.

The primary function of a mixer is to blend audio signals from different sources, such as microphones, instruments, and recorded tracks. Each input channel on a mixer can be controlled independently to adjust volume, tone, and other parameters before merging them into a cohesive output.

Controls and Features:
- Volume Controls: Each input channel has a volume fader or knob, allowing the operator to set the level of each sound source.
- Equalization (EQ): EQ sections enable the adjustment of frequency components to shape the sound of each input, typically offering controls for bass, midrange, and treble frequencies.
- Effects: Some mixers include built-in effects like reverb, delay, or chorus, which can be applied to individual channels or the overall mix.
- Auxiliary Sends/Returns: These allow external effects processors to be connected and used with the mixer, enabling more complex sound processing.
- Routing: Mixers provide routing capabilities to direct the output from each channel to specific outputs, sub-mixes, or auxiliary sends for additional flexibility in managing the audio.
- Pan Controls: These adjust the stereo positioning of each input signal, contributing to the spatial distribution of sound in the final mix.

Applications: - Live Performance: Mixers are used to balance and enhance live sound, ensuring clarity and balance across all instruments and vocals.
- Studio Recording: In the studio, mixers allow for detailed sound adjustments and the integration of various sound sources into a recording.
- Broadcasting: Mixers facilitate the combination of spoken word, music, and sound effects for radio and television broadcasts.
- DJing: DJ mixers enable the blending of tracks with features like crossfaders and EQ, allowing for seamless transitions and creative performances.

Mixers have evolved from simple analog devices to sophisticated digital consoles with features such as digital signal processing (DSP), automation, and recallable settings. Digital mixers offer enhanced precision, flexibility, and the ability to handle complex audio processing tasks more efficiently than their analog counterparts.

Audio versus DJ Mixers

Audio mixers and DJ mixers both share the fundamental purpose of combining multiple audio signals into a cohesive output, but they're designed with distinct features tailored to their specific operating environments. The primary differences lie in their functionality, control layout, and intended use, which cater to the requirements of live sound engineering and DJ performance, respectively.

Audio mixers are used in a wide range of audio production settings, from live concerts and studio recording sessions to broadcasting and podcasting. They typically feature a large number of input channels to accommodate various sound sources, including microphones, instruments, and line-level devices. Audio mixers offer extensive control over each input, with features such as multi-band equalization, auxiliary sends for external processing, and subgroup routing for complex mixes. They're designed to provide precise control over sound balance, dynamics, and tone.

The layout of an audio mixer includes a channel strip for each input, with dedicated controls for volume, pan, EQ, aux sends, and sometimes onboard effects. Larger mixers may also include advanced routing options and integrated digital effects processors.

DJ mixers are specialized mixers designed for live DJ'ing performances. They're the most essential piece of equipment for a DJ's setup, the central controls which allows a DJ to transition between songs from multiple playback devices. DJ mixers focus on features that facilitate live mixing and creativity, including crossfaders for smoother transitions, cue buttons for preparing tracks, and effects controls. They often include features tailored for beat matching and tempo synchronization.

The layout of a DJ mixer is more streamlined than that of an audio mixer, to make it easier to use during a live performance. It typically includes fewer input channels, each equipped with a volume fader. You'll probably have EQ controls for adjusting the sound of each track, and a crossfader for blending two tracks together.

The fundamental difference between audio and DJ mixers lies in their intended use. Audio mixers are designed for sound manipulation in a broad range of applications (but typically within studio settings or live broadcast) which require a high degree of control over each sound source, sometimes with up to dozens of possible sound sources. DJ mixers are optimized for live DJ performances, prioritizing ease of use, quick access to essential features, and the ability to perform on-the-fly adjustments and effects. DJ mixers rarely have more than 4 possible input channels.

While both types of mixers offer volume control and EQ adjustments, audio mixers provide a more comprehensive set of features for shaping the audio input, including more detailed EQ bands, routing options, and auxiliary sends for external effects. DJ mixers concentrate on performance-oriented features, such as beat effects, loop controls, and crossfader curves, which are less prevalent or absent in audio mixers. Audio mixers are generally more flexible in terms of input types and routing capabilities, making them suitable for a wide variety of audio tasks. DJ mixers may offer features that are critical for the specific needs of DJing, such as tempo matching and cue mixing.

DJ Mixers

Let's explore DJ mixers in more depth. I'll cover three critical features of DJ mixers: cueing, effects, and cross-fading.

Cueing is a feature that allows DJ's to listen to a selected track in their headphones without sending it to the main output. This lets you prepare and control the timing when you bring a new track into the mix. This is accomplished by having a cue system that includes a cue button for each channel. When activated, the cue button routes the audio from that channel to the headphones. This lets you hear an upcoming track, adjust the start point, or match the tempo to the track currently playing. All of this can happen without the audience hearing, as long as you keep the channel volume off. DJ's use cueing to preview tracks, to ensure that they fit together before making the transition from one song to the next. This involves beat mixing, where you align the beats (tempo) of two tracks to ensure a seamless blend. I have some videos to teach that skill. Cueing is also used for checking levels and effects on a track before it goes live.

Effects on DJ mixers allow you to modify or enhance the sound of a track or mix. Common effects include reverb, echo, flanger, and filter. Effects units in DJ mixers can be hardware-based or software-based, either integrated into the mixer or as external modules (they're usually internal, a core part of the mixer). You have the option of applying these effects to individual channels or to the entire mix, often with controls to adjust the intensity, duration, and other parameters of the effect. You can apply effects (FX) creatively to enhance your performance, but be subtle. Most beginning DJ's overdo it.

Cross-fading is a fundamental DJ mixer feature that gives you another option for a smooth transition between two tracks. It involves a crossfader slider that blends the output of two channels. The crossfader is located at the bottom of the mixer and can slide from left to right. Sliding the fader to one side sends more of that channel's audio to the main output, while reducing the volume of the opposite channel. This creates a fade-out/fade-in effect between the two tracks. Cross-fading is used for transitioning between tracks. You can manipulate the crossfader in conjunction with the tempo and beat mixing of your two tracks to make a smooth blend. The speed and style of cross-fading can vary depending on the genre of music and the DJ's personal style, from quick cuts to slow, gradual blends. Note that you can still mix tracks without a cross-fader, by raising the volume on the new track while simultaneously lowering the volume of the old. For a lot of DJ'ing styles, this two-fader method is equally if not more effective. DJ's mixing hip-hop or doing beat-juggling are more likely to use a cross-fader, while DJ's mixing house or techno-based beats, or traditional music, are less likely to bother using a cross-fader.

Traditional Audio Mixers/Consoles

Traditional consoles (mixers) are essential for live sound reinforcement, recording studios, and broadcast environments, giving the audio engineer precise control over all sound sources. Consoles often have at least 12-16 input channels, and sometimes as many as 48 or more.

Sends are outputs used to route audio signals from individual channels to external processors or effects units. Returns are inputs that bring these processed signals back into the mixer. This setup allows for the addition of effects (like reverb or delay) on specific channels without affecting other channels. Pre-fader sends allow the signal to be sent independently of the channel's volume fader position, ideal for monitor mixes. Post-fader sends are affected by the fader position, suitable for effects processing.

Cueing and monitoring systems enable engineers to listen to specific parts of the audio signal without sending it to the main mix:
- Pre-Fader Listen (PFL) allows listening to a channel's pre-fade signal, useful for setting initial input levels.
- After-Fader Listen (AFL) enables listening to the post-fade signal, reflecting the mix's current state.
- Solo and Mute functions are essential for isolating or excluding channels during mixing.

The channel strip is the heart of the console, where signal processing and routing occurs for each sound input source:
- Input Section: Includes a microphone preamplifier with gain control, accommodating various signal levels.
- Equalization: Most strips feature a three or four-band EQ, allowing for frequency adjustment to shape the sound.
- Auxiliary Sends: Permit sending signals from each channel to external effects or monitor mixes.
- Fader: The volume control for the channel, determining its level in the final mix.

Various input types cater to different audio sources, ensuring the mixer can interface with a wide range of equipment. Here are the common three:
- XLR Inputs: Balanced connections for microphones, providing high-quality signal transmission.
- 1/4" Inputs: For line-level instruments or devices, available in both TS (tip/sleeve, unbalanced) and TRS (tip/ring/sleeve, balanced) formats.
- RCA Inputs: Unbalanced inputs, commonly used for consumer audio devices, usually come in pairs to give a stereo signal.

Pre-Fader Listen (PFL) and After-Fader Listen (AFL) are used for checking signals through individual channels or buses, aiding in mix adjustments. PFL is used for gain staging, while AFL helps in evaluating the mix's balance and integration of effects.

Proper gain staging is important for optimizing sound quality, and ensuring signals that are strong enough for processing (but below distortion levels). Gain control adjusts the incoming signal level, foundational for clean sound reproduction.

EQ (equalizer) knobs adjust the frequency response of audio signals, allowing for for tonal balance and removing unwanted frequencies. You'll typically have optoins for low, mid, and high frequency bands, with some consoles offering parametric EQ for precise control.

Pots are short for potentiometers. They are control knobs used for adjusting volume, EQ, pan, and other parameters, altering electrical resistance in the signal path.

Output options determine the signal's destination post-mix, including main mix outputs, group outputs, auxiliary outputs, and headphone outputs:
- Main Outputs: The primary output path for the mix, typically balanced for noise-free transmission.
- Group and Aux Outputs: Allow for subgroup mixing and external processing, respectively.
- Headphone Output: Provides direct monitoring for the mixer operator or performers.

Sounds Cards & DAW's

Modern audio production has evolved thanks to multi-channel sound cards and Digital Audio Workstations (DAW's), which allow audio engineers to emulate traditional physical mixers inside a computer-based environment. The transition to digital platforms has given us enhanced flexibility and efficiency.

Multi-channel sound cards serve as the bridge between the analog world and the computer, capturing audio signals from various sources and converting them into digital data. They also perform the reverse process, converting digital audio back to analog signals for monitoring and output purposes.

Sound cards offer multiple input and output channels, enabling the simultaneous recording and playback of several audio sources. This is important for complex recording sessions that require multiple microphones and instruments to be recorded at once. Modern sound cards have high-fidelity audio conversion.

High-end sound cards provide low latency, which is essential for real-time monitoring and overdubbing without perceptible delay between input and playback. Nowadays, low latency is often found in low-end affordable sound cards too.

Digital Audio Workstations (DAW's) complex software apps that emulate the signal routing, processing, and mixing capabilities of traditional mixers, while also offering additional features that were either cumbersome or impossible to achieve with analog gear. A DAW provides a virtual mixing console, where each track corresponds to a channel strip on a traditional mixer. You can adjust levels, pan, and apply EQ and effects with a few clicks, just like in a physical mixer but with greater recallability and precision.

Internal signal routing in a DAW is usually extremely flexible, allowing for complex signal paths to be created without the need for physical patch cables. This includes the ability to route any track to any bus or output, create parallel processing chains, and configure advanced side-chain setups.

DAW's support a wide range of plug-ins that emulate classic hardware processors (compressors, EQs, reverbs) or offer entirely new sound manipulation capabilities. This virtual effects rack is infinitely expandable and customizable, providing tools that go beyond the limitations of hardware units. This is limited by how powerful your computer is, of course (CPU speed, amount of RAM).

One of the most powerful features of DAW's is the ability to automate virtually any parameter over time, from fader levels and pan settings to effect parameters. This allows for dynamic changes in the mix that can be controlled and repeated across multiple playback sessions. DAW's also operate on a non-destructive editing principle, meaning that the original audio files remain unchanged regardless of the processing applied. This allows engineers to experiment freely with different mix ideas without the risk of losing the original recordings. Also, by using multi-channel sound cards, DAWs can integrate external hardware processors into the digital workflow, which allows you to keep analog warmth while working with digital convenience.

In a typical recording session, an audio engineer uses a multi-channel sound card to capture the performance of various instruments and vocals, each routed to a separate track within the DAW. The engineer can then mix these tracks within the software, applying EQ, compression, and additional effects as needed, much like they would on a traditional mixer. For live performances, the same setup can be used for playback of backing tracks, live processing of instruments or vocals through the DAW, or even for live mixing if the performance venue has the right sound reinforcement system. In post-production, the DAW's capabilities are great for editing, mixing, and mastering audio for music, film, television, and interactive media. The flexibility of routing and processing, along with the precision of automation, makes it possible to do things that are practically impossible on a physical console.


Learning the basics of a 2-channel DJ mixer will help you understand more complex 4-channel mixers with additional features. Similarly, the principles learned on small 8-16 channel audio mixers will help prevent you from feeling intimidated the first time that you sit in front of a large studio mixing console. The fundamental concepts of signal flow, EQ adjustment, channel control, and output management are consistent in all of this equipment. After you've learned the basics that I've shared here, you'll definitely be able to transition from small, simple mixers to more complex systems. Good luck!

More training resources: djbolivia.ca/training