I used a DJ mixer once as a replacement to my audio interface. It was fine except that the mixing desk I was using was that of an entry-level desk, and I noticed a few differences, so I decided to write this article to help others who be in the same situation.
A DJ mixer can be used as an audio interface if it has a built-in soundcard and can act the way an audio interface does with a laptop or PC. That is, it can record, process, and playback an audio signal. Just remember a DJ mixer has more functionality than an audio interface.
You can use your DJ mixer as an audio interface if it allows you to; however, there are pros and cons to why you should or should not use them. Let’s also have a look at what a DJ mixer is and what the differences are between it and an audio interface.
What is a DJ mixer?
A mixer is a type of console used by DJs (disk jockeys) to manipulate and control audio. There are different types of DJs, and they use the mixing console to achieve different things.
Radio and club DJs use it to make seamless transitions from one song to another on the radio station or at the club. Other DJ’s use a mixing console to mix and manipulate different audio signals that can come from turntables, CDs cassettes, DJ software, or even their laptop or PC.
Watch DEX101TV explain what is a DJ mixer.
What makes a good DJ mixer?
All DJ mixers will come with these components. The quality of the material and how it is used will determine the quality of the mixing desk. Here are the components that make up a DJ mixing desk.
Inputs and outputs
All DJ mixing desks will come with various inputs and outputs depending on the mixer. These can come in the forms of balanced connectors such as XLR and RCA inputs and outputs. Then, also in the form of unbalanced inputs and outputs such as TS and TRS connections.
Read this article, which details the differences between a TS and TRS connection.
Depending on whether your DJ mixing desk has a built-in sound card, then it will also have either a firewire or USB output for connecting it to your laptop or PC.
Most DJ mixers will have knobs located on the desk for gain. Gain is a means by which you can increase the overall volume of a specific channel.
It is important to note that gain controls the volume being input into the channel. This is different from the volume output of the channel, which is controlled by the faders.
The EQ knobs of the mixer can usually be found above the faders of each channel of the mixing desk. These knobs are used to control the frequencies of the individual channels.
The frequency knobs, depending on the mixer, will have as few as 2 knobs, which could be used for the high and low frequencies. You can then get other knobs that can cover a range of frequencies, including the mids, the low-mids, and the high-mids.
Needless to say, a high-quality DJ mixer will have many EQ knobs giving you full control of the frequency range.
The pan controls are knobs or sliders that allow you to pan the audio signal, which is leaving the desk to either the right side, left side, or central control for an evenly panned mix.
Mute / Solo / On
All DJ mixers should come with mute, solo, and on and off buttons or switches on each channel. These are used to mute a channel or a few channels. The solo button is used for soloing a channel, and then the “on” button, well you guessed it, it turns it off and on.
Fader is the term used for those vertical volume sliders on each channel. These are used to change the volume on each channel to the desired volume.
Watch Ezvid Wiki go through the top 10 best DJ mixers of 2019
What is an audio interface?
Learn more details about audio interfaces from my article here. This next definition is taken from that article. We won’t go into detail about audio interfaces here, but instead, give a short description to give those of you who don’t know a better understanding.
“An audio interface is an external DAC (digital to analog converter) that you connect to your laptop, PC, and now, with the help of adapters, even to your iPad.”
It is used to record high-quality audio from microphones, guitars, keyboards, and any other instruments. It converts an analog signal into a digital one that can be read by your device. Nowadays, Most audio interfaces are connected via USB cable, thunderbolt, and firewire”.
Watch Music Repo explain exactly what an audio interface is.
What is the difference between a DJ mixer and an audio interface?
Well, from reading the definitions above, we can see that a mixer is used to manipulate audio signals, and you can vary them slightly with the help of EQ knobs adjusting the high, mid, and low frequencies of a channel.
An audio interface is used to record external audio and convert it into a digital signal that is processed by the DAW.
An audio interface will, more than likely, have a gain and volume knob. The gain knobs will be for each channel on the audio interface and can be used to boost the incoming signals. Then it will have an overall volume know to control the playback or output volume.
A DJ mixer will route the same as an audio interface, except now you have an addition to the volume and gain knobs; you have the EQ knobs, channel volume control, and any other effects or functions the mixer may have. These include limiters and effects such as delay and reverb.
Output differences in DAWs
Depending on your mixing desk, only 1 or 2 inputs from the mixing desk will allow you to use it as a digital input within the DAW. An audio interface uses all the inputs from the interface as inputs within the DAW.
Also, depending on the quality of the mixing desk, the sound card may not be as good for recording and playback as an audio interface. This problem comes in the form of latency (that delay you here in the audio once you have played or sang).
The better the soundcard, the lower latency it will have, and this will come in the form of having almost no delay between the played audio signal and the one which is herd.
Watch Matthew Stratton explain in detail what the differences between an audio interface and a mixing desk are.
Reasons not to use a DJ mixer as an audio interface
There may be few reasons you would not want to use a DJ Mixer for an audio interface, include the quality of the recording soundcard in the mixing desk, as we discussed earlier.
Another reason could be because you are new to recording, and any function or effect that is on your mixing desk and on those recording channels could interfere with your recording.
So the number one reason why not to use a DJ mixing desk is if you are new to recording, then it will be more difficult in some ways to understand the audio signal routing. Hence it is better to stick with an audio interface.
The conclusion we arrive at is that if a DJ mixing desk has a built-in soundcard, then it is definitely worth using as an audio interface. This will save you from having to shell out some money to buy a new audio interface.
All the details of an audio interface are captured in the sound card of a DJ mixing desk, plus you have the added extra features of the mixing desk itself.
The only time you would not want to use a DJ mixing desk is if you are new to home studio recording (it would be simpler using an audio interface). The other time you would not want to use it is because the soundcard contained within the DJ mixing desk will be less superior than that of an entry-level audio interface.
Finally, watch this video fro Pri yon Joni on whether DJ gear can be used as an audio interface.