Rotary mixers have been in the slipstream of the vinyl’s steady rise in popularity over the last years. The rare E&S DJR400 and MP2014's bigger brother, the MP2015, have been appearing in DJ booths worldwide. A growing number of artists now prefer the smooth touch of a rotary mixer over the commonly used fader mixers (such as the Allen & HeathXone, which has become an industry standard over the last ten years).
Anticipating this change of fashion, Rane presents its smallest, two-channel home model—the MP2014, which has a design and circuit almost identical to the MP2015. Many praise the warm sound, smooth equalizers and endless creative mixing joy that the dedicated filter and isolator sections offer. Let's give this baby a test ride and see if its more than just a trophy for the DJ-fetishist. Don’t believe the hype?
How it looks
With its wooden side panels, vintage design and sizeable rotary knobs reminiscent of the classic Moog modular systems, it's hard not to instantly love this device. "They don’t build ’m like that anymore," my dad used to say. Well, they do, but it's not cheap.
For a rotary mixer, the Rane MP2014 is surprisingly compact and has a familiar layout: two main channels centred on the device, each with gain control, with a three-band equalizer and a larger volume control at the bottom of the device. Even a first time rotary-mixer user will know his way around in no time. The top end of the mixer is reserved for the isolator section, with three steep 24dB/octave filters with adjustable crossover to manipulate your main mix.
How it works
Rane has come up with a good mix between the classical Rotary mixer and a DJ mixer we are all familiar with, as well as incorporating a range of tools to blend your tracks together creatively.
The 12 dB/octave (2nd-order) Linkwitz-Riley channel equalizers are incredibly smooth and accurate, which makes it a pleasure to mix with. You can fine-tune the equalizer section to your taste using the the selectable crossover points of 150 Hz/6.0 kHz or 300 Hz/3.0 kHz . Unlike the isolator filters, the channel equalizers don’t have on-board rotary control for crossover points, but you can control them from the Rane Control Panel on your computer, when connected via USB.
Besides the sublime isolator section (which we will come onto later), each channel is equipped with a switchable filter section, and a single resonance knob controlling both filters simultaneously. The filter can be switched to highpass, lowpass or "Pioneer style" high/low mode, with a reach between 20 to 20.000 HZ. Together with the resonance control, this is an extremely powerful tool for creative mixing.
In high/low mode, the filters are bypassed when the rotary is in a neutral position. The filter knob sweeps either the lowpass or highpass filter depending upon rotation direction from center, with the lowpass filter on the lefthand side. Rotating the knob from fully counter-clockwise to center sweeps the lowpass filter from 20 Hz to 18 kHz. Rotating the knob from center to fully clockwise sweeps the high pass filter from 35 Hz to 20 kHz. This feature allows you to manipulate the sound intuitively without having to switch filter modes.
The mixer also comes with a MIC and AUX section on the left hand side. The MIC section comes with its own tone control, with a single rotary controlling the equaliser. This tool can, for example, be used to illuminate feedback when performing with a live vocalist in a loud club environment, or simply to color the voice to taste. The AUX section, which is typically used to run your output signal from the mixer through an external effect, has a filter control to control the return signal. This enables you to only mix the desired frequency band of your wet signal with the dry signal playing on your main mixer.
If you have ever heard Theo Parrish work the crowd using an Isolator, you know what damage they can do on the dancefloor. But where Parrish is taking the use of the isolator to an extreme (by, for example, completely cutting all the low and mid frequencies in a build up, leaving only the highest register to be heard to later kick in the muted frequencies simultaneously) this tool can also be used in a more subtle way. Small adjustments to the output signal can be made on the spot. Older, less powerful productions that lack presence in the bass region can be instantly made more powerful by slightly pushing a certain frequency band using the low control and crossover adjustment.
The crossover points are 80 Hz to 640 Hz for the low-mid range, and mid-high crossover is adjustable from 1 kHz to 8 kHz.
Besides that, it is worth mentioning that the knobs are a pleasure to mix with and have just the right resistance for precise mixing. Buttons that activate the various equalizers and filters on this mixer (unlike many other mixers) are of a comfortable size and are luminous, which makes night time DJ mixing even more pleasurable. The same goes for the LED audio input indicators in the main mixer and master section.
How it sounds
With that said, the question remains: does it sound as good as it looks and feels? The answer is yes.
Even with all the filters and tone controls deactivated or in neutral positions, the sound is notably clear and warm, due to the high quality circuitry. The expression "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" is especially true when it comes to audio, and if you want to make your carefully collected vinyl sound as good as possible, this mixer is definitely recommendable. Even your jazz and classical vinyl will shine when passed through the superior phono pre-amps of the MP2014.
When compared to the industry-level Allen & Heath Xone mixer, the Rane excels on every level. The punchy lows, the warm tone in the mid and the crispy but friendly highs remind me of my high-end studio equalizer. The different mixing and blending tools make this more then just a mixer; rather, it could be an expressive instrument if used by the right person.
With long waiting lists for the E&S DJR400 and no real other options for a compact, high-end two-channel rotary mixer, the MP2014 is perfect for DJs and hobbyists that are willing to pay for quality—it is money well-spent.
The Rane MP2014 retails at $1.999,00.