The mixer - the nerve centre of any dj setup,
and in scratch dj terms, perhaps the key piece of equipment
that has seen the most improvement over the last decade.
Prices have come down and quality has gone up. Nowadays we
are blessed with very high quality contact and non-contact
style faders and an ever increasing range of mixer choices
tailored specifically for scratch applications.
Having said this, the overall layout of the traditional scratch
mixer has not changed greatly. The classic familiar design
of the Vestax PMC Pro series has held firm and it still generally
the format most scratch mixers follow. The design ethos of
these mixers are that the faceplate and fader area should
be clear, uncluttered and accessible. Hence, the generic
scratch mixer usually has a large amount of space given over
to the cross - and channel faders. This is usually combined
with recessed screws on the faceplate or similar design features
that remove any obstructions to movement or performance.
Although I consider all aspects of mixer design to be important,
the foremost and first concern for the scratch dj will most
likely be the main faders. Scratching obviously places a
huge demand on the faders to be extremely durable, reliable
and perhaps easily serviceable for routine maintenance.
The last few years have seen quite a lot of progress in fader
design, with the introduction of Dj
Focus's optical 'Focus
Fader' to the Stanton sk- mixer line being the main catalyst
for development of non-contact based faders eg. Rane's proprietary
magnetic fader found in the TTM-56, Ecler's 'Eternal' magnetic
fader found the Hak-360 and Vestax's 'Digital' fader found
the Samurai series.
Hand in hand with this has been the proliferation of Penny & Giles faders
into many mixer lines. Respected as being the highest quality
contact dj style fader available, the P&G faders
have been introduced as standard in many mixers such as the
Stanton SA-5/8/12, Rane
Empath & Denon X-1500. They are
also available as optional upgrades to the Vestax PMC line
and the Allen & Heath Xone02. Also soon to be introduced,
DJM-707 and DJM-909 have non-contact based faders
which also have tension adjustment functionality.
Believe it or not, there was also a time when fully curve
adjustable crossfaders were a luxury item. As scratching
has become more popular, manufacturers seemed to have wised
up - regarding it to be an essential option. It is now seen
as a standard feature for a scratch mixer, which normally
takes the form of a rotary control that allows the crossfader
profile to be adjusted from a long gentle blend style upto
a very sharp instantaneous cut-in more suitable for modern
scratch techniques. Some mixers also implement different
crossfader profiles by having a 2- or 3-way switch that changes
the profile from a dipped blend curve, to a dipless curve
upto a quick cut-in scratch curve. Ecler also introduced
a cut-in time + shape adjustment feature on their Hak
360 model, allowing the curve to be rounded or squared as well
as allowing the actual initial fader cut-in point to be adjusted
from 0mm upto 3mm.
Most scratch mixers also have some form of channel fader
/ upfader curve control which allow the profile of the channel
fader to be altered from a long graceful volume adjustment
to a more sharp cut-in resembling that of a crossfader. Some
mixers also implement this as a 3-way switch, either recessed
near to the channel fader or actually under the faceplate
(eg. Vestax Pmc-05/06 Pro).
Other common features include reverse ('hamster') switches
for the faders, which cause the fade profile to switch
to the opposite direction. The term 'hamster' refers
to dj crew
The Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters (now Bullet Proof Space
Travellers) who pioneered the technique of connecting decks
to the opposite channels to give a reversal of the typical
channel set-up. There are also overall 'Program Reverse'
switches found on various scratch mixers which route the
audio to the opposite channels (normally post-gain but
pre-eq). This, combined with reverse switches on all
maximum flexibility for personal fader set-up and assignment.
Further to this, Rane introduced different fader 'modes'
TTM-56 mixer, allowing the channel faders to operate
as left/right pan faders for that channel and allowing
the crossfader to have a centre cut-in effect. This trend
ever more customisable faders seems set to continue on
The final mixer feature that has seen some refinement specifically
for the scratch dj is probably the phono/line or 'transform'
switch. Originally people would use the phono/line input
selector switch to cut the sound source in and out. This
led to the use of ever more robust switches specifically
for this purpose which were also rotatable to allow the
user to choose in which direction the switch would
on from this came distinct separate 'transform' or cut-in
switches which removed the problems associated with switching
to another input source (as was the case in a normal
phono/line switch). This has lead to cut switches which have
noise, clicking and popping when used.