I love reviewing things! The fact that I can give an opinion with hands on facts and not the lead people on popularity because of the defacto standard makes me happy! In scratch battle mixer arena just a few years ago Vestax (R.I.P) was the top dog. Today, Rane reigns supreme but with its sale to InMusic speculation is that quality may suffer. Enter the Mixars Duo 12″ battle mixer built solely to compete with the Rane TTM57 series and the Pioneer S9. All three use Serato as their software DVS system which makes a compelling and fair argument of which one is right for you on price and performance.
The Mixars Duo has a street price of around a $1000 while the Pioneer and Rane run about $1700 in most shops in the U.S.A. In Canada the Rane is a whopping $3000?????? Currency Parity?Not!
When I first unboxed the Duo thoughts of a poorly made Rane look-a-like raced through my mind…This was quickly erased! I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the solid all mental chassis and the well thought out minimal design, something that the Pioneer S9 lacks (far too busy for a turntablists). The feel of the RGB pads are spot on and very responsive to the touch. There is also a shift button so the pads can do double duty (set cue/ delete cue) and Mixars have added a toggle switch to enable the pads for Serato’s new 8 slot sampler. This combination will give you access to 32 midi mappable pads. Nice touch!
I continued to marvel the quality from the unboxing to the setup and remembered that my generous distributor ( I can’t thank him enough!) said to me that the Duo was Plug’n’Play. So I logged out of my Serato account to test this out – Voila! Serato is authorized by hardware so there is no serial number or login to worry about. I decided to run Midi Monitor to see what was happening in the back-end, The mixer sends a Midi Sys Ex code to the software to activate. This makes things very, very simple to set up.
The Mixars Duo has quite bit of control over Serato, even though its design is minimalistic. Aside from the 2 channel fader section, Cues and Samples are taken care of by the RGB pads as I previously mentioned. There are endless encoders to Set Loop Length and Loop Rolls, FX knobs to select and adjust FX Amount as well as buttons for FX Beat Length. The Browsing control section directly in the top-middle of the mixer allows you to browse your library and load tracks into Deck 1 and 2 respectively. There is also a SYNC function button – which I’m okay with if your running loops or using the newly introduced Ableton Link Function. These buttons will now become LINK buttons. Most have some secondary functions while holding the shift button and selecting and function. Eg. Sync/Link Off.
I was really impressed by the sound quality of the Mixars Duo as it was incredibly clean and had a nice punch to it. It doesn’t have the warmth like A&H but more of a clean processed sound. There is definitely something tweaked on the output. Let me say this, the Mixars Duo has very flat, powerful sound more so than any Pioneer mixer I’ve heard. Hands down! Which brings us to the EQ section of the mixer the Knobs have a nice feel to them and the filter knob is over-sized which is always a plus. I did find the EQ section to be the weakest link. I found the stated +12db is more like +4db as it is not pushing the EQ frequencies anywhere near +12db. The filter is okay being your basic LP/HP having a slight amount of response peak.
Oh, but what about the crossfader? It is a Turntablists mixer after all! Have you ever seriously cut soft butter with a knife? The Innofader is incredible. The feel of this fader is smooth but exudes control without being too loose. The front panel of the mixer has controls for Cut-In and Curve as well as Reverse for the hamsters. I tightened down the curve and cut-in and would say there is about 1mm of play just enough to move the fader ever so slightly before sound cuts-in. If you have ever tried this with say…. a crappy crossfader the sound cuts-in distorted and unbalanced not so with the Innofader. It cuts-in balanced and clean ….chop-chop like a Ginsu knife! The Innofader is a standard feature, typically an add-on for many mixers, and it is replaceable. I don’t think you would ever have to due to the life cycle of these faders. You may find that Mixars Duo’s are fitted with ProXfaders in the future as rumor has it that there is rift between Mixars and Innofader. Needless to these are not cheap faders and to have it included with an onboard cut-in control, sweet!
Serato has been very busy lately adding features and licensing devices like no tomorrow but what about Traktor? Will it work with Traktor? The soundcard is Core-Audio compliant (OS X) after all. There is a Traktor .tsi available on the Mixars Site but found not the mapping to be the problem but the sound card was not playing nice with Traktor? It could have been my system or some other conflict…but I was not wasting any time trying to figure it out because I was having too much fun with Serato. Mind you, it is there for you to use and the controls did work well for me, except the audio setup was messy. Speaking of sound the back panel of the Duo has some excellent features included such as XLR outputs and my favorite a built-in 2 port USB hub.
I get these review units straight of the boat sometimes and in this case Mixars didn’t even have a Manual posted at the time I was reviewing. This has all been corrected now and Mixars have things in order. Unfortunately, the one thing that I wanted to test was the ability to map Pitch Play. Pitch Play basically takes a set cue point and by using Pitch’n’Time you are able to assign a different pitch to each RGB pad and play it like a synth keyboard up and down the scale. At the time of the review I was under the gun and couldn’t spend enough time hacking the.xml file to test it. We are in luck because my good friend RadiKarl has created a .xml file for us and is available on the Mixars website for you to try out!
Checkout RadiKarl’s video
Overall, the Mixars Duo was a pleasure to use. The mixer is well-built and has functions that have been well thought out in its design. The fact that it is almost half the price of a Rane and Pioneer is a no brainer for some. Those with deep pockets might overlook the Duo because it’s not the “popular choice” (shame on you!) To conclude the Mixars Duo is a worthy opponent to the Pioneer S9 and Rane TTM57L. Don’t associate the lesser price with a cheaply made product. The fact that you get an Innofader as standard and Serato Dj included makes this an easy choice for a lot of people.
- Solid build
- Innofader as standard
- Easily Midi mappable
- Serato DJ included
- USB Hub
- EQ is subtle to say the least
- Manual is basic at best
- Unproven Track Record