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Behringer DDM4000 MIDI MIxer
Reviewer: DJ Pegasus • Date: February 2012 • Price: £275/$399/€295 • Link: Behringer

Initial impressions

Behringer DDM4000 Review

Behringer's flagship DJ mixer is a bit intimidating when you first lay eyes on it because of its large number of buttons and multi-function display. But when you look closer, you see that it's actually quite intuitively laid out for anyone that's used a DJ mixer before. Behringer just added a bunch of additional controls and features wherever there was space, and when they ran out of that, they put more in the menus! It's almost as if they combed DJ forums for every comment starting with "It would be cool if my mixer had..." and just added all of those little -- but very handy -- features. Little things add up to a lot, and a lot is what you get with the DDM4000. It comes with a standard cross-fader but an Infinium optical one is available. (My test unit had the Infinium.)

I was at first a bit put off by the lighter weight of the unit and the thinner sheet metal on the bottom (both compared to my Pioneer DJM-500,) wondering if that portended quality issues. I soon found out I had nothing to worry about, and had I thought for a second, it would have all made sense. You see, this is a fully digital mixer, so what the DJM-500 -- over 15 years old now -- required many bulky and power-hungry discrete analog components to accomplish, the DDM4000 can do in just a few chips (and only 20 Watts,) with many more features to boot. Welcome to 21st century electronics, Pegasus.

Connections

Behringer DDM4000 Review

In short, what do you want to connect? Chances are great the DDM4000 has you covered no matter how crazy your setup. You get four input channels, each one supporting _two_ devices plugged in at once, one line-level and another line- or phono-level (selectable per channel;) two XLR microphone inputs (one with 3-band EQ and effects;) a full complement of MIDI In, Out, and Thru (DIN) connectors (yes, you can control your DJ software and sync your instrument chain with this mixer;) an RCA recording/tape output; and an S/PDIF (coaxial) digital output.

As for the main outputs, you get two, separately-controlled (think of one as a booth/monitor output,) both with RCA connectors, but Main A also has (balanced) XLR connectors (good for long cable runs and/or electrically noisy environments.) There's even a separate 'subwoofer' XLR output, which is really handy if you've got separate subs/amps but no crossover, since the mixer provides one internally! (Driving your subwoofers from a dedicated output containing only the low frequencies they can reproduce allows them and their amplifiers to work more efficiently giving you cleaner and punchier bass. Literally more bang for your buck.)

Behringer DDM4000 Review

The DDM4000 has an Output Setup menu on the main menu (hold down the knob under the center of the display to get the main menu) that lets you adjust a number of things. You can choose whether main output B is stereo or mono, the latter being good for supplying speakers in two separate locations or if you have only one monitor speaker. You can adjust the gain of the Tape and Digital outputs together (from -6 to +18dB in 0.5dbB increments) to maximize the dynamic range of your recording equipment. You can set the frequency cutoff for the subwoofer output anywhere from 20-200Hz as well as reduce the gain (up to -40dB in 0.5dB increments,) allowing you to balance the subwoofer volume with that of the main speakers. Then you can enable the internal crossover so that the frequencies below the cutoff are only sent to the subwoofer output, relieving your main speakers & amps from the burden of trying to reproduce sub-bass so they can work more efficiently and give clearer sound. You may be surprised to hear how much better your system sounds when it's set up this way!

Oh and the mixer accepts electric power from anywhere in the world; good for those of you with globe-trotting aspirations (or schedules, as the case may be.)

Layout & features

Behringer DDM4000 Review

If you close your eyes and feel around, you'll be right at home: channel strips in the center, cross-fader at the bottom center, mic controls on the top left, master controls on the top right. You'll just feel quite a few extra buttons near the standard controls, and we'll get into those in a bit. Opening your eyes, we see a full-featured two-bank sampler on the left, headphone controls center right, cross-fader controls on the bottom-right, and an effects section with back-lit LCD display between the channel faders and EQ knobs. The display is used for many things besides effects as well, such as the BPM counters and menus.

Now for the interesting bits: the extra functions. We'll start at the top left and work clockwise, pointing out the relevant on-screen menus where applicable.

The microphone section looks pretty standard, until you press the Mic Setup button. Looking at these menus, it starts to become apparent that Behringer made live mixing consoles long before they did DJ mixers: here you can configure all kinds of stuff having to do with the mics including effects, cutoff frequencies and gain of the EQ knobs (plus bandwidth (Q) for the mid,) low-cut frequency, panning, attenuation for master output B (to avoid feedback from your monitors when you get on the mic,) and Behringer's Ultramic processors (a separate one for each mic input) which include a 2-band compressor and expander that can make you sound more radio-like and compensate for people that feel the need to yell into the mic. You have a button to toggle the Ultramic processor, another to toggle the chosen effect, and a third to toggle the talk-over function, which automatically turns down the music when you start speaking based on more tweakable parameters in the Talk Setup menu.

Behringer DDM4000 Review

Adjustments here include the threshold for auto-attenuation to occur, how much to attenuate, and how quickly to do it. It even has four presets that should cover most needs. I have never seen this level of customizability on a DJ mixer, and we've only just covered the mic section! The available effects (each with their own parameters as well) are the same as discussed in the effects section later in this review, except that the mic section lacks pan and filter. The one downside with the microphones is that though there are two inputs, they are essentially wired together such that the EQ knobs, effects, etc. affect both at the same time. Thankfully you're at least given separate gain controls and the menus provide independent adjustments for the most important settings: EQ gain offsets and Ultramic parameters.

The top part of the channel strips have EQ kill buttons that can be switched to toggle the frequencies corresponding to that button ("single" mode,) or all but the range of that button ("multi" mode.) Pretty cool, but now go to Channel Setup from the main menu and find that you can adjust the cutoff frequencies of each EQ knob and the bandwidth (Q) of the mid knob (just like for the mic section.) You can even enable and adjust a separate sub-sonic frequency filter for each channel, which is great for eliminating rumble from turntables. This is more evidence of the sort of family from which the DDM4000 comes.

The Master section is self-explanatory but for the two buttons beneath it. One toggles the Ultramizer (Behringer gets the prize for coming up with the most marketing terms...) which performs dynamic compression. From its menu off of the main, you can choose from presets to boost the overall volume of the mix, make the music throb (which seems to be a popular effect, but I hate it!) or manually tweak the amount of boost and lag time. Since you can customize so much on this mixer, wouldn't it stink if you had to spend a half hour setting it up the way you like every time you turned it on? Fortunately Behringer has thought of that too: press the User Settings button and you can save the configuration to one of eight preset slots. This is also where you load them and adjust the contrast of the LCD.

Behringer DDM4000 Review

The headphone section has your standard volume and pre/main mix knobs, but also includes buttons to boost the bass and treble in the headphones, as well as a split-cue button which puts the headphone bus in your left ear and the main mix in your right. These all help a lot with beat matching, key matching, etc. especially when you're far from the amplifiers (causing a delay) and must mix completely in your headphones.

Behringer DDM4000 Review

Below that, we have the cross-fader adjustment section. Here you have a knob to adjust the curve from a smooth, even fade to a very sharp cut. You also have a "reverse hold" button that toggles flip-flopping the cross-fader channels. The "reverse tap" does the same thing but only for as long as you hold it. Then you have the interesting "bounce" toggle. When enabled, this gives the sound of moving the cross-fader back and forth at the speed of the MIDI clock signal the mixer is sending, adjustable in multiples of beats. (Though my test unit did the bouncing at like 1/8 of the number of beats I set. That is, I had to select 8 beats in order to get it to bounce the cross-fader away and back within one beat. The manual says that it should work as labeled, so this sounds like a firmware bug.) The MIDI clock needs to be running in order for the effect to work.

Since we're talking about MIDI, let's take a side track here and look at all of the MIDI-related options the mixer offers. The DDM4000 can send a MIDI clock signal (represented by the BPM value shown in the middle of the screen,) to synchronize any connected MIDI equipment. This is especially useful for mixing a drum machine into your set as you can adjust its speed from the DDM4000, taking advantage of the mixer's BPM detection so you don't need to adjust anything on the drum box but the pattern. Set the clock's BPM with the big knob in the center of the screen, and turn it on and off with the blue button beneath that. You can also have it match the BPM from either effects unit using the little Adjust buttons beneath the knob.

Going into the MIDI settings menu lets you selectively configure the DDM4000 as a MIDI controller: you can choose which parts of the surface you don't need and would rather assign to control software. These sections are microphone, individual channels, cross-fader, and sampler. If you opt to have a channel strip send MIDI signals, the analog input will still play through to the master output at full volume (though the gain knob is still operational.) If you don't want that, there's a mute option within the menu for each channel that will silence it if its controls are relegated to MIDI duty. You can also have the mixer send all of the current control positions so your software matches the knobs. The only downside to the controller use case is that you need a MIDI interface for your computer that provides standard DIN connectors. Fortunately these can be found for around $35.

Behringer

Looking now at the cross-fader section, we find a cross-fader enable button just above the center of the fader, and high/mid/low frequency kill buttons on either side of it. These are great for getting a good blend between two tracks, such as disabling the bass frequencies on the outgoing track so the drums of the incoming one dominate. Or when you need to fade between tracks without enough intro/outro beats and there's a risk of clashing vocals, kill the mids on the outgoing track as you fade to the incoming one. Behringer also provides "full freq" buttons which are essentially one-touch resets. Each mixer channel can be assigned to either side of the cross fader, or neither (playing directly to the main mix,) with a little "CF assign" button to the right of each channel fader.

Moving up into the channel fader section, the only items of note are the per-channel fader curve adjust switches (soft, mid, and sharp) and that these faders move very easily and feel good. There are of course PFL (pre-fader listen a.k.a. headphone cue) toggle buttons that put the channel onto the headphone bus for monitoring/cueing, and you'll still hear it at the same volume no matter where the channel fader is (that's what the "pre-fader" bit means.)

Behringer DDM4000 Review

The sampler section is quite elaborate, offering two sample banks of up to 30 seconds each that can be pitch-adjusted independently (using the main knob under the screen) and played back simultaneously, forwards or backwards, momentarily (as long as you hold the button down) or in a loop. You can assign the sampler to either side of the cross-fader, start playback of the active bank when you move the fader, and engage a brake effect 1, 4 or 8 beats long. The sampler can record from from any channel including mic or the master output and can record 1/2/4/8/16 beats or continuously until you either stop it or it fills up. (Strangely, it doesn't record effects operating on the master channel.) The selected recording source channel is also the channel to which the sampler will play, unless you enable fader-start in which case it always plays to the Master output. The sampler has a volume/mix knob so you can use the samples quietly in the background or have them in the forefront. In this vein, Behringer also includes an Insert function which causes the knob to reduce the volume of the target channel, letting the sampler output dominate or even completely replace the channel's. (When you stop playing the sampler, the regular channel comes through automatically.) This is really handy for cutting up a track on-the-fly. The sampler section also has a PFL button so you can taste what you're cooking up before feeding it to the masses. (See what I did there? ^_^)

Behringer DDM4000 Review

Finally, we have the center effects section, which is easily the most complex one on the DDM4000. You have two effects units that can each be assigned to any of mixer channels 1-4 or the master output, and the left effects unit can be chained from the right (so that the input to the left unit is the output of the right one.) The effects on offer are flanger, phaser, delay, echo, pitch shift, bitcrusher, reverb, pan, and filter. Each one has (usually multiple) parameters that can be selected and adjusted with the small knob. When an effect is active, the large Depth knob lets you adjust either how much of an effect is applied (wet/dry) or the dominant parameter (such as the filter center frequency,) depending on the current effect. Many of the parameters can be synchronized to the BPM, and Behringer provides little buttons that move to the next or previous number of beats so you can change the parameter in even steps. While an effect is active, the effect/parameter select buttons flash blue and toggle whether the effect operates on the high, mid, and low frequency ranges of the sound. And as you might guess by now, you can of course adjust the cutoffs for these as well from the FX Setup menu.

Sound Quality

Behringer DDM4000 Review

Donning my good pro-sumer headphones with nothing else but power connected to the DDM4000, I proceeded to search every nook and cranny for internal noise like a bloodhound tracking game. As you might expect from something that touts itself as a 24-bit mixer, there isn't much to be found within reasonable limits. With the headphone volume all the way up, I heard a slight constant whine around 13kHz (with a harmonic at 1kHz) even with everything turned down. It seems to be related to the microphone input because while the good news is that this whine is not persistently present in the master output, it appears when I enable the mics, and I can adjust the whine with the mic EQs. It's not affected by the gain controls, which is interesting. There is also a really slight 50Hz (AC mains) buzz on channel 4 in line mode, which makes sense since it's right next to the mains power input, but it's so slight that you can just barely hear it, and that's only after the gain and EQ knobs are all the way up on that channel as well.

The Line inputs have very little noise. I had to turn the gains and EQs all the way up to hear any, though the dedicated (non-switchable) line inputs are slightly quieter. The phono inputs are quite noisy by comparison, but that stands to reason considering the order-of-magnitude greater pre-amplification they must do. And to be fair, they quiet down a lot when they're actually connected to a turntable.

Please take this noise analysis as more academic than anything, because in nearly all practical cases, these internal noise levels are lower than those of most DJ source equipment (unless you DJ from audiophile-grade CD players) so none of this is detectable in practice. (For example, when I connected and turned on my X^2s, the noise level on the line inputs rose almost to the unconnected-phono level, so the mixer's internal noise floor was already way below that of my decks and therefore not a factor.)

Behringer DDM4000 Review

The DDM4000 features pre-fader VU meters on each channel that have a good dynamic range represented by seven segments which go from -20dB to +9dB, and clipping occurs a little above that. It's easily possible to clip the input stage with the gain range given to you, so set your levels carefully, and do it each time you change songs! (Basically, if you regularly see more than one red LED, the level is too high.) The channel VU meters are also pre-EQ, which is different from the DJM-500. (This might suggest that the EQ is done in the digital domain.)

The master VU meter shows a range of -24dB to +12dB plus dedicated Clip LEDs. (I think the dynamic range is the same as on the input stages, you just have more LEDs on the master output for detail.)

In Use

Behringer DDM4000 Review

I covered usage notes for specific controls in the above section, but in general, the DDM4000 is pleasing and fun to use and it works reliably. The light faders and their caps feel great. The hard plastic buttons all have a distinct click so you can tell by feel if you've pressed one. The extra controls are intuitive, though the effects section takes a bit of time to figure out simply due to the sheer amount of customizability in the limited space. I was able to figure out most of the additional controls without having to look at the manual after several minutes of playing around with them. This, and the fact that there are eight user preset save slots should put club owners at ease if they choose this mixer for the installed system, as any DJ who has ever used a four-channel DJ mixer will already know their way around the essential features of this one, and resident/frequent DJs can each customize the settings as they wish. Of course I strongly encourage reading the manual in any case so you can get the most out of all of the extra features the DDM4000 brings.

While I was sniffing around for sound quality issues, I noticed that the headphone output clips well before the master output does. This might be a cost-conscious move, since you of course want the best sound on the floor and dynamic range doesn't matter as much in the headphones, but it's also handy to give you additional early warning that your channel gain levels are too high so you can fix them before the crowd hears the mess. (There's no headphone clip indicator, it just starts to sound bad.)

In conclusion

Behringer DDM4000 Review

The Behringer DDM4000 is jam-packed with useful features and pro-sound-oriented controls. It's a tweaker's paradise and clearly designed by people who know pro audio. Because of this, the value-for-money is off the chart. Don't be put off by its light weight or low price: the DDM4000 is a solid performer. If a majority of your gigs involve spinning analog sources (CDJs, turntables, iPods, etc.) this mixer has everything you need and won't leave you wanting for a place to plug in "just one more thing." If you're in the market for a new mixer, definitely give the DDM4000 some serious consideration. I personally will be replacing my aging Pioneer DJM-500 with one. (Though I will miss the lamp socket I hacked into it...)

Pros:
- Large number of flexible input connections
- Large number of tweakable professional controls (via menus)
- Good dynamic range & sound quality
- Tape & digital outputs
- MIDI sync & control
- Full-featured 2-channel sampler
- Built-in subwoofer crossover & output

Cons:
- Mic controls affect both inputs at once
- No fader-start connections
- No USB MIDI connection (need a separate MIDI interface to connect to a computer)
- Cross-fader auto-bounce is too fast (bug)
- Sampler doesn't record effects on the master channel

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