PRO AUDIO
DJ Scott Mad Flip

DJ Scott Mad Flip
June 23, 2011

Allen & Heath Xone DB4 Review: Witness The Strength


Every once in while a new product is introduced to the world that redirects the path of existing trends. In the DJ world that product is the Xone DB4 by Allen & Heath. The DB4 comes equipped with a built-in 24bit/96kHz, multichannel, fully patchable USB2 sound card and it is also MIDI compatible. It also boasts a Quad FX Core DSP effects engine borrowed from to the Allen & Heath iLive pro touring console with the effects tweaked just a bit to be more relevant to electronic and dance music for a DJ performance. The layout and design is state of the art but you will find some semblance to Allen & Heath’s vastly popular Xone:92 mixer in terms of the stellar filters on the lower left and right of the channel faders. Where it differs most is the inclusion of a a multi-function 3 band EQ (isolater, LP/HP filter, standard EQ), on board looper, effects section, and LCD menu display and effects matrix. This mixer is a beast to be sure and we can go into some intense detail, but instead here’s the cliff notes:

Quad FX Core: Yes, Please!

The heart of the Xone:DB4 is the powerful Quad FX Core DSP engine, enabling each channel to have its own FX bank and BPM detection system, which automatically adjusts all time-related FX and loops to the tempo of the music. There are 5 studio quality FX types optimized for DJ use – delays, reverbs, modulators, resonators and damage – plus each FX type has a patch library of different effect variations. Each FX bank has a dedicated expression control and a rotary pot to set the wet/dry level, whilst further tweaking can be performed using the global controllers in the FX master section. With almost 50 different effects and a multitude of ways to tweak them any DJ can easily create original landscapes of audio within their performance. The effects are the DB4′s Superman cape.

Looper:  A Delicious Roll

Each channel has a built-in looper, with selectable loop length from 1/16 beat to 4 bars. The DB4 will always record the full 4 bars, so the loop can be expanded or shrunk at will. This is an excellent tool to use in conjunction with the effects and filters to create glitchy builds and  breakdowns from seemingly monotonous “tracky” tunes or loops. You can become more technical and accurate with the proper use of an accurate looping section.

Filters:  Double Your Fun

Xone DB4 comes equipped with the Xone dual filter system. There are the same filters that helped the Xone:92 destroy dancefloors. Other mixers have tried to deliver similar filters or filter effects never really hitting the mark and now the DB4 continues Allen & Heath’s tradition of “epic” filtration.

Source select:  Anywhere You Want It That’s The Way You Need It

Each music channel can select any of the available stereo music sources:  Analogue Line 1-4 (switchable to phono on 2-3), digital 1-4 or USB 1-4. This allows for flawless incorporation and flexibility with your input matrix. Plugging in directly from a digital source also ensures the highest quality audio for recording as well as performance. Take that, lesser DJ mixers!

EQ / Filter:  Whistle While You Twerk

Each music channel has a 3-band EQ that can be configured as standard asymmetric EQ (+6/-25dB), Isolator (+6dB/OFF with a 24dB/octave slope), or reconfigured as a High-Pass/Low-Pass filter system with the middle knob adjusting the resonance. EQ knob pointers change color to show which type of equalization is active. This is why the EQ section is slightly offset to designate the mid as a resonance adjust in the filter mode.  Slick, intuitive design coupled with uncompromising performance. WIN!

Mic/Line Input:  Can I Get Some Reverb On My Vocal?

The Mic/Line input has 2-band EQ, gain, cue and mix level. This can also be routed to channel 1 for adding FX. Whether you’re doing a live performance or recording a vocal it is absolutely imperative to have the ability to apply an effect to your vocals. Magnificent.

Integral Soundcard:  Digital Never Sounded So Good!

A built-in, high quality (24-bit / 96kHz), multi-channel, fully patchable USB2 sound card allows replay and recording from audio software for 4 stereo sends and 4 stereo returns.

USB:  Save Me!

User-defined settings such as meter mode, bpm range, USB audio routing scheme and display brightness can be saved to a USB key for recall on another DB4. This is handy when you have to travel and there are many DJs within the course of an event that each have their custom presets saved on a thumb drive. Just pop, lock, and drop it in to the port and you are ready to rock. Firmware can also be updated via the USB input.

MIDI control:  Plays Well With Others

All controls (except mic and phones level) send MIDI data and the mixer can double up as a MIDI controller via the MIDI shift button, allowing the Loop and FX selection controls to send MIDI data without changing the mixer settings. This mixer can be easily mapped to many different production and performance software such as Traktor and Ableton making it a very tactile and inspired control surface. This is key to maximize your performance without adding to your performance space.

 

THE VERDICT

This incredible mixer is destined to be found in every high end night club in Europe and will probably give Pioneer’s DJM series mixers a good run for it’s money here in North America. The Quad FX Core DSP engine is reason enough for the DB4 to stand above the rest but Allen & Heath piles on all the extras with unmatched quality and precision. There are so many features that will keep the super nerdy DJs out there (like myself and Rocket) busy for a full season of True Blood but intermediate DJs need not be intimidated.  A resource CD-ROM is included to help facilitate the transition from nominal mixing to awesomeness. DJing should always be fun and the DB4 takes fun to the next level.  Check out the video and indeed witness the strength. Cheers!

Transcript:

Hi this is Scott Magno, DJ MadFlip, here with UniqueSquared.com and today we have got the Xone DB4 digital DJ effects mixer.
Now this mixer has effects that are based on the popular iLive Pro Touring console from Allen & Heath. This is the most technologically advanced DJ mixer ever produced, let’s check it out. The first thing that jumps out at me is the flexible input matrix.
Now I can take a digital, analog, or even source from USB, plug it anywhere into the front panel of the mixer, and then use this input select to put it at whichever channel I decide to put it.
Now this is a digital mixer, so it has a sound card built in. So every signal that you put in is going to be converted to digital, so you can manipulate it with the effects and all of the filters.
So the EQ section can be used a couple different ways. The EQ filter section can be used as an EQ standard, you can use it as an isolator by flipping the switch, or you can switch it down and use it as a filter for low pass, mid, high pass as well.
Your looping features, now, this takes your audio and you’re able to loop it four measures all the way down to 16 thirty second roll. That’s very nice. When you apply that loop, your sample is going to continue to go, so that loop is just going to exist within the mixer itself.
Alright, moving to the actual mixing section, you’ve got four channels, nice long throw faders, Allen and Heath very popular for that. Good crossfader, these can be adjusted directly on the mixer itself.
Now, if you’re familiar with the Xone ID2 mixers out there, you know they have the award winning filters. You have two different filters that you can apply to each channel on the left and right, just at the press of a button, very nice to have as well.
Alright so, all of this is in a nice aluminum, pretty light weight chassis, but chances are you’re going to find this in your high end night clubs or on the rider for the most popular touring DJ or live PAX out there.
You’ve got XLR balanced outs, quarter inch booth outputs, you also have an RCA record out and also standard, and XLR input right on the top.
Alright so, this might seem really intimidating but Allen & Heath takes care of you. They give you the DB4 resource CD ROM and this CD ROM is going to teach you how to use this, how to make the presets your own.
It’s also going to teach you how to save everything which you can do with this USB port right on the front. So I can take everything that I want, all my effects settings, stick it right in there.
I can go into the menu right here and save everything. It’s also good if there’s like any updates for the firmware, you can just download the update, stick it right in your DB4 and you’re going to be good to go, current, and ready to rock it.
Now, let’s talk about the quad effects core. This is almost fifty different effects like; 5 delays, 19 reverbs, 9 resonators, 9 modulators, and also seven different damage effects like distortion and things like that.
You’ve got all that derived from the popular Allen & Heath iLive touring console, but they’ve all been modified to be more relevant for the DJ or electronic music.
Alright, so we’re going to go through some of the effects here through my laptop, I’ve just got a loop playing through Traktor, let’s check it out.
Alright so first up, you’ve got delay, reverb, resonance, and modulation, and what they’ve got is these distortion or damage effects. You can select that for each separate channel.
Start with the delay here, as you can see on the LCD it’s got that BPM, that BPM is determined digitally in the mixer. Alright, here’s part of the delay, wet/dry we’ll bring it in, and my expression knob is going to change different things based on what effect it is.
It could be rate, or filter, or even delay right there. Then I can also select here and do a three quarter delay and also select from the effects adjust, that affects the filter on that delay.
Then of course dry/wet is going to determine how much of that effect I’m putting in there.
Alright, going on to reverbs, I’ve got a big hall reverb, really nice effect. I’m going to use a decay on this resonator right here, you can really see when I adjust that.
Ring mod, and to go through some of the ring mods, just go to select and you can see that these are all the modulations that I can select from. Same with delays, five delays, nineteen reverbs, nine resonators, nine modulators, and seven different damage effects.
Let’s look at that dicer effect there, I’ll go ahead and select that. You can kind of hear that, but whenever I take the effect completely on, you can really hear it there.
I can select it so that it’s on, kind of every sixteenth, or every two. It’s kind of like a gate, it kind of chops up the audio there. Really nice, so those are the effects.
Now let’s talk about the loop section. The loop is actually going to loop the audio that goes in, but it’s not going to stop your sample. So you can actually do those rolls in there.
You can do up to four measures of a loop, all the way down to half, ⅛, 1/16, and 1/32. There’s the loops, and of course you have the award winning filters on each side.
I can put the other filter on this side. Alright, so there it is, Allen & Heath DB4 Xone Mixer, it is a beast.
There’s a lot of questions you guys might have, leave me a comment and I’ll be sure to get to it. As always follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and check out our blog as well. I’m Scott Magno DJ MadFlip, be you, be unique, at UniqueSquared.com.

Comments

  1. Nice.. I definitely Like it, but wouldn’t be able to afford it..
    The thing someone could do with that are endless.
    When are you giving that one away for free (To me, that is of course) Just joking.

    Respect
    ~Simon

  2. Adam says:

    All this means are clubs will be filled with endless loops and less track mixing be played.I wanna hear the latest and greatest not some wanna be dj/producer looping the crap outta shit.Get enough of that with the abelton users already.Take me back to the old days of fresh tunes and bpm matching and nice eq mixing.Less is more.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I respect your opinion, but I think you’ve lost the plot of what a mixer like this brings to the table. Personally, I’m a “quick mix” DJ when I’m playing electro and house music, meaning I like to play 25-30 songs in an hour whether it’s playing 3 or 4 at once in a long live mash-up or going in and out and back again through vocals, loops, and builds. The Xone DB4 doesn’t change the style of music that a DJ plays, it elevates the manner in which he or she performs and it opens the door for more creativity with the effects and looping functionality that it offers. I can choose not to use any of these features and still play “fresh tunes” mixed flawlessly, musically, and melodically or I can embrace new technology and elevate my music and performance to an even greater level. Either way, it’s not a cool new mixer that defines a DJ or his or her music. It’s quite the opposite.

      1. Adam says:

        Ya but as a old schooler i feel like the original work deserves atleast 3 to 4 minutes of play.After all as dj’s we should show what these producers create.We mash to much and the track never shows its potential.I consider 30 sec only a live remix or mash up and thats something i dont do.

  3. Brandy says:

    My Favorite Effect is the Integral Soundcard: Digital Never Sounded So Good! There are so Many Endless things you can do with this!! WoW! Lots of Bells and Whistles. :)

  4. Dale Fish says:

    The Xone dual filter system!

  5. Chris says:

    The Looper. It all starts there and it should be a good system.

  6. Edgar Ayala says:

    Two effects you’ll always find me using are delay and beatmasher, but my favorite and most used one will have to the beatmasher/beat roller. It just works well with the music I play and I love to get creative with it, be it mashing up two song, chopping up vocals, or adding intesity. Aw yeaah.

  7. Serge says:

    Reverse-Q! It’s really great for creating buildups on mild settings and total craziness on extremes.

  8. Cristiano says:

    Easy to say I love ring-mod…always make a damage on the dancefloor…everyone goes crazy!

  9. Kevin says:

    For starters I really love the digital record on input, but ultimately that dicing effect is sweet!

  10. george says:

    Can I get some Reverb on my vocals? Yes! My favorite, and necessary effect. The added reverb fills out the room when performing with a full band or solo.

  11. daniel ahumada says:

    Hi, I like the delay, or echo, because you can just twist them then turn volume down dramatically, and then start another track, especially if its commercial, everyeon will go nuts! nice review by the way!

  12. Jean says:

    The EQ/Filter because it gives you limitless control over you sounds.

  13. Tae says:

    my personal favorite is the high/low pass filters! not only do they make cool effects, they aid in transitions where i cut off the bottom end of the current track as i introduce the kick of the next track. i think they are the most useful.

    1. Tae says:

      forgot to say this, but P.S. – I studied Digital Signal Processing for my major and the Quad FX core DSP engine is so nice!! All the things you can do with multiple cores!!! You know what they say, two heads are better than one, but four heads are even better!

    2. Andrew says:

      the best effects are the ones you can’t notice!

  14. Andrew says:

    not sure if this effect is on the DB4, but the iceverb effect is one of my favorites. when applied subtly, the track develops a type of warmth that makes it sing.

    1. Andrew says:

      ironically enough

  15. I’m loving the the delay effect.. It just gets me feeling it..

  16. Kendall Kaing says:

    I love the Flanger effect. Flanger is simply a classic sounding effect and it spices up any mix, if used correctly.

  17. Richard says:

    Nice mixer. It has a unique style, and looks like it has a lot to offer. Similar to the DJM 800 but it seems like you can really put more style effects while using this mixer.

  18. Eddy Czar says:

    Cool review.

    I just wish A&H could come up with an intermediate version of this product with all the core features safe for the looper and FX section, which are arguably a bit redundant for people on Traktor. I know each has its own pros and cons for performance, but this would drive the price of the DB4 down, I’d get one, you’d get one and we’d all be happy campers.

    1. STEVE says:

      you cannot compare the effects of traktor to this mixer. the effects outputted in this mixed are way higher quality then traktor. when you buy this mixer you pay for quality

  19. owen kitto says:

    i love this mixer. I dont use the loop function as i still have cdjmk3s and to get a flawless loop you first have to set a loop with the mk3s then use the db4 looper.

    or if you use the the loop function with just the mixer soon as you realise the loop the track skips way past the set loop.. I just cant be assed!!

    but as an effects processor and the sound qulaty this is well worth the cash :)