Allen & Heath Xone:DB4
Allen & Heath Xone:DB4
Objectophilia. You might have stumbled across the term on the internet by accident when searching for exclusive Flickr snaps of Richie Hawtin's live Plastikman setup. It's a term used to describe people that have emotional attachments to inanimate objects.
There was a recent case of a woman marrying the Eiffel Tower, for instance. You might have once scoffed at these nutters and their unrequited love for lifeless belongings. Scoff no more.
We wouldn't be at all surprised if you caught a DJ or two fleeing in the dead of night to Gretna Green, with the Allen & Heath Xone:DB4 tucked lovingly under their arm.
Feast on features
To be honest, this mixer is a little saucepot. After you pop it out of its tight-fitting carry case and bring it to life, your face lights up. Thanks in no small part to the beautifully-lit rotary faders and digital display menu.
Then, like a fat man at a buffet, you don't know where to start first on this feature-packed minx. Picture a Rane Sixty-Eight or a Pioneer DJM-600, but with no gag reflex.
She's light, so perfect for the DJ on the move, and sturdy as hell. The build quality is barely worth mentioning. As soon as you see the Xone logo, you know what you're getting.
DJs familiar with the layout of the Xone:92 will feel at home, and then get a twinge on when they fumble around the redesigned EQ section, and spot the new Quad FX Core DSP effects engine. This is the heart of the machine.
It's powerful and delivers stunning effects. Each of the four channels has its own FX bank and BPM detection system, automatically adjusting all time-related FX and loops to the BPM of your beats.
Something for everyone?
A quick fiddle about with these studio-quality tweakers and you're in heaven.
You could spend the night tickling the customisable delays, reverbs, modulators, resonators and damage functions, before exploring each one's patch library of different effect variations.
Also, the effects can actually be chained so each one has its own dedicated filter.
You've also got dedicated expression controls and a fat-knobbed rotary dial to freak out between wet and dry.
As the resonance knob rightly points out, it takes you on a journey from 'mild' to 'wild'. Those schooled on the Pioneer DJMs should be in their element.
Fans of the famous Allen & Heath filters will be pleased to know that the wonderful scope found on models like the Xone:92 is still up for plundering.
The DB4 also benefits from a built-in 24-bit/96kHz, multi-channel, fully patchable USB 2.0 soundcard and MIDI compatibility.
The soundcard means that this hybrid mixer will sit nicely in a club booth for most of the night if DJs with certain mixing software or DAW preferences are on the bill. Rocking Ableton Live or Traktor? No worries - stick in the USB cable and you're up and running.
With Traktor, all four decks are routed to all four channels on the mixer. With Ableton you can also route your audio to any of the four channels on the mixer. It's like the days of fiddling with phono cables are coming to an end.
Pioneer CDJ heads can also plug their decks into the DB4's digital inputs, while Serato or vinyl jocks get analogue inputs round the back. Bouncing between the two is easy, with a simple switch at the top of each channel.
If top-end MIDI-laden four-channel mixers teaming with effects, knobs and lights baffle you, then you're gonna need to sit down with the manual for quite a while with this one.
Quick mix turntablists might do themselves a mischief if they try to rock out on this with a DMC-style set and no dry run beforehand. With buttons activating channel FX sitting snuggly next to the crossfader, chances are you might just activate a cavernous echo by mistake as you're crabbing merrily away.
Plus, the crossfaders, although robust, high quality, dual railed and fitted with an integral dust shield, don't really feel battle-ready.
The adjustable cut might have three settings, taking you from blending to scratching, but it still takes a few mm to get sound, which is vital for twiddles and other scratches. Those types of DJs need a two-channel mixer with simple kills and a clean, uncluttered plate.
Those wanting to punch in samples or bounce around cue points are best off sticking with your Dicer. The DB4's target market is the club DJ with a few quid to spend.
Oh, and the sound quality on this thing... On a decent club system this mixer booms. Not since rocking out vinyl (remember that) will you have heard such a quality loudness and range in both dynamics and frequencies.
The next level
The grand curtain-dropping reveal for this next level mixer might have been slightly undermined by some internet leakage, but being in its presence just causes goosebumps. It really is all that and a bag of chips.
Top Dance bods like Pete Tong and Dubfire have been all over this like a cheap suit since they got their sweaty mits on it. Lord knows what they can do with it now.
The surface has just been scratched on the potential of the Xone:DB4. With so much functionality and this level of multi-layered sound architecture at your fingertips, it really (no, really) could be the one to change the game. No wonder it picked up a Nammie this year for best top-end mixer.
Hats off to Xone Design Manager Andy and the chaps at Allen & Heath. You've pulled it off. For once the marketing hype is bang on the money. It basically is "The Dog's Boll*cks".