Now, here’s a demonstration of the proper way to jump on a bandwagon. Rane appear to be doing rotary DJ mixers right.
This week’s NAMM show is accompanied in the DJ section by the usual, dreary parade of massive gear sold to deep-pocketed DJ hobbyists. Somehow a mixer integrates with a control surface integrates with giant decks integrates with a sound card integrates with Serato integrates with colored lights and screens. Then, that’s bolted into some mostly-black, oversized coffin of equipment that looks as though it would be right at home in the nursery playroom of an Imperial Star Destroyer. In some reality somewhere, these things are purchased and used, I’m told. But seeing as clubs have the same standard assortment of turntables, CDJs, and Allen & Heath mixers, that Imperial Star Destroyer crew sometimes seems a more realistic target audience.
Then there’s this Rane MP2015. It’s fantasy, to be sure, but it’s a fantasy you’d want to be in. And there’s no question it’s drawing from the boutique rotary mixers that have been enthusiastically embraced of late by techno DJs of the slightly-snobbier variety. (Locations where they’re getting fondled include places like Trouw in its final days and on regular rotations at Panorama Bar.) And yes, the requisite laser-etched wooden side panels are there, just to indicate to you that the sound is warm and the craft is high, or whatever.
But let’s give Rane some credit: they’ve got our attention, and there’s reason to even sort of covet this thing. The layout is elegant, and balanced. Rotaries might be a fad, but they can also be practical.
Now, don’t count on Rane to immediately start talking about the reasons this mixer is cool. Instead, they of course say confusing things like this, for the audiophile DJs among you. (If that’s a thing now, I’m going to take a cognitive dissonance vacation for a week. I mean, it’s almost as stupid as deaf middle aged rockers telling us the nature of soun– oh. Strange days.)
“The MP2015 is designed for playback of High-Resolution Audio (HRA) 24-bit studio master quality sources; its sonic signature has no equal, satisfying the most stringent vinyl purists. And the dynamics are perfect for DJs preferring the uncompressed sound of WAV and FLAC files.”
Translation: it has 24-bit audio support on its audio card, and, well, hopefully it sounds good? Vinyl MP3 compression words words no actual correct meanings more words words ooh you hate MP3 words words love records doncha?
If you like that sort of thing, then sure. I expect the rotaries here will be nicely complimented by a Chianti. Look to 2009 vintages from northern Italy; the rainfall from that season should keep the acidity content balanced properly with the Isolator Section on this Rane mixer and — oh, look, you’ve gone and spilt your wine on this very expensive mixer. Poo on you.
No, before we start saying things about bit depth, digital compression, and the dynamic and frequency performance of vinyl LPs, let’s move rather to the stuff that is true about the Rane.
1. Rotary mixers are a good idea – with a history. One glance at the panel tells you a rotary layout can be smart. DJ mixing really started here, with Rudy Bozak’s legendary CMA-10-2DL, correctly name-dropped in the Rane launch. If you’ve never heard of Bozak, just know that this is more or less how the DJ mixer was first invented – not the bastard child of a compact studio mixer we have now. Rane was there over a decade and a half ago, with their MP2016/XP2016.
2. This mixer will likely help fulfill DJ demand. Rane tells us they’re working with “Doc Martin, Dixon, Ata, Oliver Hafenbauer, Anthony Parasole, Martyn, Gerd Janson, Ben UFO, Derrick Carter, Tim Sweeney, Efdemin, Brian BeeZwax, James Patrick, a handful of Seattle’s best DJs and many more.” I don’t doubt it. This Rane isn’t cheap, but it’s priced in a way those very names can start to request mixers in clubs and festivals that aren’t, say, Panorama Bar.
3. It’s got damned nice converters. Computer connections use AKM Audio 4 Pro converters. Rane has spec’ed these and the outs to a 116 dB range, and there’s a nice 24-bit filter included, as well. And the specs (on Rane’s site) all look good enough.
4. There’s a handy Submix group. Group your inputs here for easier access and playability – useful for people doing live sets or bringing in additional gear. Make them a discrete input with a switch; cue them separately. Useful – and if switching to rotaries makes more space for such things, I hope this trend does catch on.
5. You get some superb switchable filters. Perhaps we can finally banish terrible DJ filters and use something that actually sounds nice. Here, LP (low-pass), HP (high-pass) or L-H (low-pass, high-pass combo) with steep, sweepable 24 dB/octave (4th-order) slopes. In fact, the only danger of these things – having seen some DJs get distracted, cat-like, by the lovely filters – is that people will start messing with the filters and forget to DJ. But… well, don’t do that.
6. Plus a three-band Isolator section. More ear candy for filter nerds, here of the “Linkwitz-Riley” variety. (Seems CDM needs a filter feature soon.) Basically, at the top, you get an additional 24 dB/octave 3-band filter and you can continuously adjust the crossovers at low-mid and mid-high. Again, useful stuff – and neatly laid out thanks to the rotary design.
7. And the I/O make sense – including dual USB, mic, turntables, and Neutrik outs. Because there are two high-quality audio interfaces in there, there are also dual USB ins. That seems perfect for back-to-back Traktor and Ableton sets, among other things; this is just something DJ mixers should have at this point. You get 10 playback and 14 records channels, class-compliant, driver-free (or ASIO if you want it).
And there’s a mic pre from THAT – with a Neutrik combo connector (thanks).
And you get four ins, with proper phono connectors. For some stupid reason, the phono pres have been getting short shrift from some makers, even as vinyl surges. Don’t ask.
And the main outs, sensibly, use Neutrik connectors (dedicated XLR plus jack).
8. Plus there’s one-eared cueing. With pan control, introduced by Rane on their MP 24, you can put program in one ear and cue in the other. Why don’t more audio interfaces and mixers give you this option and some additional control? I’ve no idea. (There’s a reason people like the Allen & Heath Xone.)
9. And MIDI. This is from Rane, so yes, you get class-compliant MIDI.
There are some nice details to fabrication, which Rane slightly overstate (EU compliance on chemicals isn’t all that cool). You get a US-made metal chassis, and a Lexan front panel overlay. There’s some gold-plated voodoo and whatnot, but the specs seem reasonable enough.
Now, some sticker shock: yes, this is US$3,499 suggested list. But expect a street below that. And, frankly, expect your club to have no problem paying for it (yay, gin and tonic revenues). And that’s a lot less than a boutique mixer. And it’s not much more than a bunch of Imperial Star Destroyer crap no one needs or will buy.
In other words, this is the moment when Rane made rotary mixers something that a significant number of clubs might actually buy. Past some gobbledy-gook about audiophile buzzwords that makes it sound like you’re DJing off a pair of Neil Young’s Pono players, well — you’ll actually find a very high-spec bits of hardware, intelligently selected.
And you have an approach to mixing, cueing, filters, submixing, USB inputs, phonos, and MIDI and audio driver compliance that really ought to be the exception rather than the rule.
With all due apologies to Pioneer, Native Instruments, Numark, and their ilk, you also get the specs you actually need without a bunch of flashy features and slick promo videos trying to sell you something you don’t.
So Rane, you deserve some credit. Do this right, make the sum of these parts work properly, and this is a piece of mixer news that actually counts as news. That’s saying a lot.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear some screaming from the nursery, which means perhaps Darth Vader play time needs to be brought to an end.
Rane also made this, for Serato, unveiled this week. But… oof, kinda ugly, and not sure why all the controls are crammed together at the top. It’s almost a study by Rane in why the Rane MP2015 is so nice.