Rotary DJ mixers may seem like a contemporary fad but the reality is quite the contrary. DJs began their reign on these knob-laden machines back in the 70s, with the first few mixers including UREI’s 1620 and Bozak’s CMA-10-DL2. Their revival was, in part, thanks to the release of the portable E&S DJR 400, showcasing the power of isolators and the high-resolution sound analogue rotary mixers could process.
If you’re a DJ that’s learned on fader mixers, the move to rotary mixers may be jarring. Not only is it harder to scratch and battle, but traditional EQ bands are replaced with isolators, which allow you to manipulate a wider band of frequencies and offer more gain per band. This is great for creative mixing and filtering, but can inadvertently lead to extreme, displeasing results for DJs uninitiated with isolators. Practice long enough, though, and you may adopt your own flair of mixing.
In this guide, we’ve listed some of the best rotary mixers available right now, from the affordable to the extravagant.
Best Rotary mixers at a glance
- Omnitronic TRM-202MK3
- MasterSounds Radius 2
- Bozak AR-6
- Condesa Lucia
- Bozak AR-4
- Can Electric Taula 4
- MasterSounds Radius 4V
- E&S DJR 400
- SuperStereo DN78-II
- Rane MP2015
- ARS Model 9900 STD
- Varia Instruments RDM40 £2746
At just £389, the TRM-202 is by far our cheapest selection; German brand Omnitronic is best known for affordable products rather than high-end audiophile kit. The sound of the TRM is certainly a step below any of the more expensive options and the build quality is slightly low (although aftermarket wood kits are available, which make the whole thing much prettier). However, it fits the bill as a first rotary mixer for DJs who are unsure whether they’ll enjoy the feel of rotary faders. You may not get the full hi-fi experience, but the ergonomics are similar to mixers four or five times the price.
Inputs: 2x RCA Line, 2x RCA Phono, 1x XLR
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master Out, XLR/RCA Booth, RCA Record Out, 6.3mm headphone out
Dimensions: 235 x 190 x 95 mm
Retails for $318/£389.
MasterSounds Radius 2
UK-based MasterSounds is at the cutting edge of turntable tech, offering record weights, studio monitors, modified Technics turntables and various other vinyl-themed goodies. The two-channel Radius 2 is its entry-level DJ mixer. You don’t get tons of features for your money, but that’s the point: no bells and whistles, just ultra-high sound quality. High-pass filters on each channel and a three-band master EQ/isolator provide the sonic options.
For best results, it’s designed to team up with the MasterSounds FX unit (£495), which adds analogue-modelled reverb and delay effects, plus true analogue filter and distortion circuits. MasterSounds also has a Radius 4 with four channels to play with, priced at £1,089.
Inputs: 2x RCA Line, 2x RCA Phono, TRS Aux Return
Outputs: XLR Master Out, RCA Record Out, TRS Booth Out, TRS Aux Out, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 230 x 190 x 95 mm
Retails for $1,100/£799. Learn more at mastersounds.co.uk.
Aside from maybe the UREI 1620 of the early 80s, the 1970s Bozak CMA-10-2DL is the definitive rotary mixer. It was originally hacked together from public-address-system mixers by Rudy Bozak, under encouragement from New York club-sound system guru Alex Rosner.
Modern Bozak mixers might be a few steps removed from those classic originals (they’re now produced in the UK by a new company with the rights to the name) and the AR-6 isn’t identical to the classic CMA, but a lot of the DNA is clearly visible, from the no-nonsense front -panel layout through to the discrete analogue circuits inside.
Channels: Six (Two for phono, two for line, two for mic)
Inputs: 4x RCA Line/Phono, 2x RCA Line, 2x XLR Mic, 5x RCA Aux Line, 2x TRS Loop circuit, 6x TRS Return
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master Out, XLR Booth out, RCA Booth Out, RCA Tape, TRS Mono Master Out, 6x TRS Send, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 133 x 483 x 203 mm (3U Rack)
Retails for $2,020/£1,599. Learn more at bozak.com.
It’s a measure of the global popularity of rotary mixers that brands have sprung up around the world to meet the demand for subtly different options. Australia’s Condesa Electronics is one of the more boutique brands, offering a small range of handbuilt mixers with a nice level of customisation as part of the order process.
The Lucia is in the middle of the range, aimed at travelling DJs or purists thanks to its small, portable format – the cheaper Allegra is a rackmount model, while the larger Carmen models add more features. We’ll take ours in blonde wood with a black anodised faceplate and the optional travel case, please.
Inputs: 2x RCA Line, 2x RCA Phono, 2x RCA Return
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master Out, TRS Booth Out, RCA Rec Out, RCA Send, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 250 x 250 x 90 mm
Retails from $2,375/£1,731. Learn more at condesaelectronics.com.
The little brother to the more retro AR-6, the AR-4 is a four-channel desktop unit with a broadly similar layout and feature set to other contemporary mixers. It might be a little surprising that it’s actually more expensive than the more fully featured AR-6. But you’re paying a premium for the nicer case, wooden side cheeks, VU meters, and slicker finish, compared to the rough-and-ready utilitarian 19-inch rack enclosure of the AR-6. Neither mixer is a bad choice by any means, with similar electronics at their heart. It’s a solid option, harking back to a 70s icon.
Inputs: 4x RCA Line, 3x RCA Phono, XLR Mic, TRS Loop circuit
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master, XLR/RCA Booth, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 440 x 430 x 220 mm
Retails for $2,145/£1,695. Learn more at bozak.com.
Can Electric Taula 4 MR
Barcelona’s Can Electric’s newest product is the Taula 4 MR, building on the revered reputation of the original Taula 4 and Taula 2. Given the name, you can probably guess the setup pretty well: four channels, each with two-band EQ and an effect-send control, plus a big three-band isolator section above. Standard stuff for a boutique rotary mixer, maybe, but the sound quality is the focus here and the Taula delivers in spades.
As a single nod to variety, you can specify the exact colour you’d like the faceplate when you order, to be matched using the RAL colour standard.
Inputs: 4x RCA Line, 3x RCA Phono, RCA Send
Outputs: XLR/RCA Main Out, TRS Booth Out, RCA Rec Out, RCA Return, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 400 x 345 x 100 mm
Retails for $1,785/£1,299. Learn more at canelectricaudio.com.
MasterSounds Radius 4V
The flagship model in the MasterSounds range, the 4V is the bigger brother of the Radius 2 in every way. The valve-equipped mixer has a pair of extra channels, three-band EQ per channel, an assignable crossfader and LED-based level meters for each input.
As a complete package, it maybe doesn’t quite match the versatility of more conventional options from brands like Pioneer DJ or Allen & Heath, but the sound quality is on another level, thanks in part to a valve circuit that buffers the VCA stage and provides ultra-subtle compression to smooth the signal. You can also add the optional LinearPOWER power supply (£249), which upgrades the sound quality even further.
Inputs: 4x RCA Line, 4x RCA Phono, 2x XLR Mic, TRS Return
Outputs: XLR Master Out, TRS Booth Out, RCA Record Out, TRS Aux Out, TRS Send, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 460 x 360 x 180
Retails for $2,515/£1,985. Learn more at mastersounds.co.uk.
E&S DJR 400
The recent flurry of interest around rotary mixers can be attributed in large part to Parisian electronic engineer Jerôme Barbé of E&S. Originally commissioned by DJ Deep to repair his vintage UREI mixer, Barbé took on board his creative input and developed a new mixer from scratch, with the intention of updating the classic rotary mixer sound for modern use. A few design iterations later, the DJR 400 is the flagship model in E&S’s small range.
It’s a portable, four-channel unit with built-in isolator and effects loops. A relatively minimal approach by some people’s standards, but it does everything most DJs need. More importantly, it sounds amazing.
Inputs: 3x RCA Line, 3x RCA Line, RCA Return
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master Out, XLR/RCA Booth Out, RCA Send, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 280 x 210 x 70
Price on application. Learn more at electronique-spectacle.com.
Manufactured in the UK by Formula Sound, the DN78 is available in a few different specifications, but the overall approach is common to all models: super retro in design (you can even spec Bakelite knobs if you fancy a bit of a steampunk vibe), but with modern high-end sound quality.
The unique selling point here is the Phantom Valve output stage, designed to add classic valve warmth to the signal. Unlike the MasterSounds Radius 4V, which uses valves as a very subtle buffer, the DN78 pushes the saturation a bit harder but allows you to bypass the valve stage if you don’t want to colour the signal.
Inputs: 2x RCA Line, 2x RCA Phono, 1x XLR/TRS Mic, TRS return
Outputs: XLR/RCA Master Out, XLR/RCA Booth Out, TRS Send, TRS Headphone out
Dimensions: 340 x 100 x 240 mm
Retails for $2,847/£2,250. Learn more at superstereo.co.uk.
A lot of big names have made rotary mixers over the years – including the likes of Pioneer DJ, Allen & Heath and the now-defunct Vestax – but the balance of power has shifted recently, leaving smaller upstarts in charge of the majority of the market.
The one exception is Rane, whose MP2015 remains the last real option from the bigger commercial brands. Notably different in approach to the boutique models, the four-channel MP2015 includes digital inputs for CDJs, plus USB ports for Traktor/Serato compatibility. An interesting halfway house, but we suspect many rotary devotees will prefer a more simple analogue approach.
Inputs: 4x RCA Phono, 4x RCA Line, 2x USB, 2x XLR/TRS Mic, 6x S/PDIF, RCA Aux Input, RCA Send, RCA Session Input,
Outputs: XLR Main Out, TRS Booth, RCA Session out, 2x USB, RCA Return, TRS Headphone Out
Dimensions: 355 x 333 x 830
Retails for $2,899/£2,315. Learn more at rane.com.
Varia Instruments RDM40
Switzerland’s Varia Instruments has upgraded its luscious two-channel RDM20 to a four-channel behemoth, the RDM40. Sporting large knobs and a minimal design, this would fit in an old research lab just as well as in your DJ setup. With a smooth three-band 12db/octave isolator on each channel and a steeper 24db/octave one on the master channel, you should have plenty of options for creative mixing.
The glorious solid-metal mixer has been in the works for a couple of years now, with Varia Instruments sending out the first batch in January 2021. This mixer, with its VU meters, signal level LEDs and robust build, is ideal for retro-future fanatics.
Inputs: 4x RCA Line, 3x RCA Phono, XLR Mic, TRS Return
Outputs: XLR Master, TRS Booth, RCA Rec, TRS Send, TRS Headphone
Dimensions: 345 x 360 x 190 mm
Retails for $3,774/£2,746. Learn more at varia-instruments.com.
Alpha Recording System Model 6700
If you’re looking for the ultimate, this might just be it. As the flagship of the ARS range, the 6700 initially looks similar to a classic Bozak mixer, but closer inspection reveals that it’s a much more advanced affair. Other than ARS’s self-proclaimed “handmade Japanese precision engineering”, the real selling point here is the presence of dedicated three-band isolators on each channel, plus a five-band master EQ.
The Model 6700 is like a Bozak on steroids, built to an insanely high standard and with unparalleled sound quality. It’s big, bold and beautiful… the only downside? That price tag. Ouch.
Inputs: 3x RCA Phono, 9x RCA Line, RCA Loop, RCA Return
Outputs: XLR/RCA Main, XLR Booth, RCA Rec, RCA Loop, RCA Send, TRS Headphone
Dimensions: 482 x 176 x 195
Retails for $6,178/£5,849. Learn more at ars.tokyo.co.jp.
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