When Allen and Heath announced that the Xone DB2 and DB4 mixer were going to have native DVS compatibility with SeratoDJ at NAMM 2015 it put a happy face on a lot of people. Finally, the Xone DB mixers have come of age. They can now have their cake and eat it too!
They have great sound, the best effects, and now the ease of just hooking up a couple of turntables without the hassle of extra audio devices to get things rocking! So lets take a look to see if it’s all that.
Firstly, you must purchase SeratoDJ 1.7.5 (as of 4/25/15) this is the very least to get things going. If you are going to use a Xone K1 or K2, CDJs or another midi controller your SeratoDJ ($129 USD) is all you need purchase. If you also want to add DVS then you need to purchase the SeratoDJ + Club Kit ($169 USD) this will enable the timecode option. There is also other In-App purchase options for other things like FX packs and Video, but having the most insane effects of any mixer on the market why waste your money on FX packs?
Now I’m using OS X (10.10.3) for my review and can’t comment on any PC installs or problems. As such I dove a little deeper inside the Serato app to take a look around and found that Xone driver packages are included in the install. So I uninstalled my current driver to see if Serato would recognize my DB2 when connected. Happily, Serato recognized that no drivers were installed and prompted me to install the included Xone drivers. So if you travel with your mixer and plug into a Serato system it should load the drivers as long as they are running 1.7.5 or later. One caveat, the system will need a reboot after install.
Once Serato is installed and your system rebooted. Open Serato and select the button “My Serato” in the lower right corner and will display the Xone DB2/4 as compatible DJ hardware.
It’s now time to enter the “Setup” area of Serato. Choose the “Audio” tab for your setup of decks 1 and 2. This is in relation to how you setup your Xone mixer in a 4 channel situation. Your selection is assigning decks 1/2 to channel 1/2 or channel 2/3 of the Xone mixer. In most cases DJ’s use channels 2/3 for their main decks. Now if you fully understand how the routing matrix works and you should, it doesn’t matter what you select because you can just use the matrix knobs on the mixer to sort it out. Latency seems to be a big topic of discussion and its a no brainer here. Default latency is 10 ms and can be lowered to 5, 2 or 1 ms if your system can handle it. I’m not Qbert and can’t scratch so 5ms felt fine to me. The other tab that would seem relevant to the mixer is the “Mixer” tab ….surprise! Everything is greyed out because you are using a hardware mixer. If you’re coming from a Traktor environment and wondering where the mixer section is there is none, No EQ, No crossfader, No internal mixer! The Xone mixers are the hub of this party.
Now if you have purchased the Club Kit to use a DVS system you need to go to the “Expansion Pack” tab and select Vinyl/CDJ control and make sure the “Enable Vinyl/CDJ control” box is checked. You will now see the calibration boxes for 4 decks appear if it is not already. Calibrate your timecode and your ready to spin. Back to the front top panel you have a choice of functions like recording, sampler view and waveform views (a nice touch). In waveform view you can choice from horizontal ,vertical and stacked as well as others.If you’re coming from Traktor horizontal will feel most comfortable for you at first.
Another great aspect of the Xone DB2/4 is the midi implementation. With no extra hardware you could map Serato easily using the MIDI SHIFT button on the mixer. In fact lets just say you had 2 -1200 turntables running timecode vinyl. You could then assign midi functions to the FX buttons on the mixer using MIDI SHIFT to control samples , deck controls or browser functions. Serato has made assigning midi very easy, a sort of wysiwyg. Not as sophisticated as Traktor, but in my opinion, Serato has made it much more user-friendly to map a midi device. The only thing I would hope is that they would open up midi mapping on the jog function in the near future.
The Xone DB2/4 is a dream to setup with any audio source whether its digital or analog source and the fact that no extra device is needed for using timecode vinyl with this mixer is wicked! When you hook up turntables and switch the routing matrix on those channels to USB it gives you this sense of freedom. I’ve always been a supporter of both Traktor and Serato but with this collaboration between Allen and Heath and Serato will make a lot of DJ’s using Traktor start to look at both companies in a different way. The Xone mixer can be outfitted with ProXfaders for the scratch-a-holics making it very versatile as far as the type of DJ using these mixers.
Serato setup overall as you can see is simple. It just works! Very little in the setup section to even touch, which means more time to play. Stability has not been an issue. And as far as Allen and Heath’s support for their products it has been nothing but stellar. I had a firmware question about the Xone DB2 and submitted a support ticket. My question was answered within 24 hrs with a real answer not a scripted reply. This is a lot better than some of my previous experiences with some other companies I wont mention. Allen and Heath’s background in sound is legendary and that shines through in their mixers. The built-in sound card on both DB2/4 offer 4in/4out(stereo) which can use 2 sets of drivers (core audio and bit accurate). Bit accurate drivers offer lower latency so I’m pretty sure Serato is using these, again no need to select its chosen for you. The EQ section of the mixer has an interesting interaction with the Serato. By selecting “Library + Display” tab and selecting “EQ colored waveforms” the mixers EQ L/M/H knobs all interact with the Serato’s onscreen waveforms. Low(Red), Mids(Green)and Highs(Blue) will boost or cut color from the waveform to give you a visual EQ reference on screen.
The FX section in Serato in my opinion are far superior to Traktor. Other comparisons have been done in other reviews but the source material was not a good sample to use. Some people criticize some of Serato’s FX as being distorted. They have in fact a touch of bit crush to give a bit of grittiness to some FX tails. Perhaps this sounds distorted to them because they are not using a Xone mixer with a proper monitor? Yes, these mixers can make that much of a difference when monitoring. Back to FX….Serato has some serious FX combos and the FX really get detailed when in single mode. So how does the software FX compare to the Xone DB’s onboard FX? No comparison. The Xone FX are Studio Quality and the adjustment parameters make things wickedly fun and quit mesmerizing. You can cascade 2 FX to create a combo but I found it best to use Serato’s FX as an accompaniment to the onboard FX. As far as using the software filters……you have Xone filters!!!! Traktor doesn’t try an emulate them for nothing? When I try to explain the filter section of the DB series I lose people because they just don’t understand. So here goes, you have a separate high and low pass filter with resonance using the EQ sections H/M/L knobs. You then have 2 H/L pass filters that are assignable using an X/Y switch which also defines FX routing. Individual FX also have their own bandpass and L/H pass filters that are applied directly to FX engine. For instance you could have a delay on a 4/4 loop and bandpass everything but hi hat frequency or sweep the whole frequency range, simply awesome.
As an audio player whether you’re using timecode vinyl or a midi controller SeratoDJ is very responsive and very stable. In fact comparing Traktor’s browser and library functions vs Serato’s is like night and day. Serato’s library is just so fast at loading tracks along with smart crates for filtering through thousands of tracks is a breeze. It’s amazing that Traktor and its slow loading libraries have not taken this flaw seriously in recent releases. Having the ability to load tracks via Vinyl or using the Xone’s midi shift functions is very handy requiring no extra midi controllers. The sound engine of Serato is very clean and the Xone DB series transfers this sound with solid enforcement to the mixers outputs.
One thing I love about the Xone Mixers is a sound setting called spatial crossover allowing you to adjust bass focus and effectively allowing you to set the crossover frequency, then setting the lower frequencies to mono preventing low-end muddiness.Its this type of detail that Allen and Heath thinks about when designing mixers….its all about the sound!
Modular systems allow you to have the best components to fill your personal need. Whether your going to use turntables, CDJ’s or midi controllers you need a superb foundation and that is the Xone DB series mixer. As some DJ’s like to use all in one controllers these controllers all have their flaws. And one of the most common flaws is the mixer section. Starting a modular system with Xone mixer and then adding Serato as your software choice gives you that ability to choice your weapon of destruction without compromise.
So lets take an overview of the whole thing
Solid mixer with the industries best onboard effects
Serato Timecode Vinyl compatible without extra hardware
Easy setup (Pre-Mapped)
Audio drivers built into install
Simple midi mapping
Great support from both Allen and Heath and Serato
In a test setup from scratch I was able to map an Allen and Heath Xone K2 completely in about 15 min. and can easily be mapped on the fly while tracks are playing. Don’t try this with Traktor in a LIVE situation you will embarrass yourself! So having a mixer that can do it all and software that is rock solid you should be able feel confident with this setup in any environment. Allen and Heath have been kind enough to help me with my next review by loaning me a Xone K1 which is supported by Serato natively.That should make setup using Xlink port extremely fast and easy and still have minimal cables to manage.