The best 4 channel mixers will give DJs plenty of flexibility while staying portable enough to travel easily from club to club, and can also suit the needs of small in-home recording studios. Whether your primary concern is ease of use, range of effects, or straight durability, one of the 4 models below is guaranteed to suit your needs.
Denon DJ DN-X1600
The DN-X1600 is an extremely versatile mixer. It’s Traktor-certified and can also work seamlessly with turntables or digital files inputted through a USB drive or laptop, while the MIDI control works equally well with Apple and Microsoft computers. In terms of sound, it stays true to the source, with a clear and robust tone. Its independent 3-band EQ has full kill capabilities and the tension and resistance of the sliders can be customized. The sturdy construction means it’ll stand up to daily wear and tear, and while those new to mixers might find the interface overwhelming, experienced DJs will find the layout to be intuitive. This is a great small 4 channel mixer!
Allen & Heath Xone DB4
This is the ultimate mixer for a DJ. The sound from the DB4 is crisp and punchy with clear details, and the effects are not only fully-customizable but can be chained to give a dedicated filter to each effect. Upgrades over past Xone models include the addition of phasing and delay options and new stereo settings. This product (see full specs) would also be a great club mixer since it can work well with a wide range of mixing software and gives enough options to satisfy a visiting DJ’s digital audio workstation requirements. The extensive functions do mean a somewhat complicated interface, though those familiar with mixers will get used to it with after a little fiddling, and Xone has added some nifty features—like knobs that change colors depending on the mode—to increase its usability. It’s pricey, no doubt, but if you want the best 4 channel mixer period, this is it.
Pioneer DJM-900 Nexus
Pioneer mixers are the industry standard for clubs, and with the 900 Nexus (see full specs) they’re once again two steps ahead of the competition. They’ve added a touch pad to the display, letting you activate and control an effect with one swipe of your finger. It offers all the necessary effects, including upgraded reverb and roll effects, as well as an extensive array of echo, flanger, phaser, and delay options. New effects include melodic and spiral, an especially interesting loop and delay effect. The audio quality has also improved over past DJM models and the Nexus is Traktor certified, with timecode support and MIDI capability. This is easily one of the best DJ mixers on the market.
American Audio 14MXR
This is the ideal mixer for a hobbyist or a professional who’s short on funds. It’s the only mixer in its price range to be fully MIDI mappable and have a four-in, four-out sound card designed for use with computers via USB. The solid metal housing and sturdy knobs mean it’s well-equipped to deal with heavy use, and the faders won’t feel flimsy under your fingers. It’s got a 3-band EQ with rotary kills and low/high pass filter with per channel bandwidth control. Not as flashy as pricier models, but it gets the job done and sounds good doing it. This is likely the best 4 channel mixer if you’re on a budget.
DJ versus Studio Mixers
While they’re ultimately aimed at the same goal—the seamless manipulation of sound—a sound engineer in a recording studio places different demands on his mixer than a DJ on a club stage. Professional studio mixers tend to have more channels, as well as direct outs from the channel to the recorder and a secondary mix on a shared fader to monitor the overall recording output, instead of just the individual instruments. A DJ mixer omits these features. DJ mixers also typically have a global EQ (affecting the entire mix) in addition to channel EQs, and to have more sends to communicate with monitors. Since they get moved, used, and sometimes abused, DJ mixers tend to be built tougher, with knobs and faders that are easy to replace.
The best 4 channel mixers, in general, are intended and designed for professional DJ use, but that doesn’t mean they’re unsuitable for use in a home recording studio. It can be easily adapted by turning off the global EQ and using the busses (places where the channel outputs meet) to send an isolated signal to your digital audio workstation. While you may find you never use half the available features in a home recording setting, it might still be a cost-effective alternative to larger mixer with more channels.
Ins and Outs
If you’re shopping for a mixer, you should know the abbreviation I/O, which refers to the inputs and outputs of the mixer. The number of inputs and outputs you need will be an important part of your decision. A DJ needs a minimum of two inputs and two outputs. For a live band, you’ll need enough inputs to handle all the microphones and instruments, and enough outputs for your monitors and speakers. If you’re using the mixer to record, you should think about how many instruments you’re recording simultaneously—if you’re recording a band as a unit, you’ll need more inputs than if you’re recording each part separately and then mixing at the end. Even a fantastic mixer will be of no use for you if you can’t plug in every piece of your set-up, so make sure you check the mixer’s I/O before making a purchase. Generally speaking, the higher-end mixers are going to give you more input and output options; the more complex your needs, the more inputs and outputs you’ll want to have. Good luck!