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.
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.