Most DJ controllers have built-in audio interfaces and input/output ports for sound connections.
The usual configuration is that the sound goes through your software and processed. This is the basic principle of a digital DJ control device.
Now, let’s talk about those which include an advanced soundcard and capable of handling external device input.
A “Standalone Mixer ” section is what we see mostly on high-end professional grade DJ controllers.
It means your device can act as a mixer as well as a software MIDI controller. In this case, your computer doesn’t need to be connected or powered on.
Needless to say, such a DJ controller is either DC adapter or AC powered since it consumes more energy than a USB port can provide.
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How Does Standalone Mixer Work ?
Let’s say you have a digital setup and two CDJs on the side. You want to mix mainly on your controller and software, but would like to keep your CD players active as a secondary source and backup. Or perhaps an MP3 player and your iPod.
If your DJ control device is also a standalone mixer, you’d be able to connect your external sources to the available audio channels in the back of the unit.
Look at the image above. You see 6 input ports. Two of them (outer ones) are available for both line and phono in. This means those channels can be used for turntables too. A turntable audio connection needs grounding and these ports have them. Otherwise, sound gets distorted and deformed.
The channel numbers on these ports represent the fader control sections on your mixer. This particular controller in the image has a 4-channel mixer section.
Now, such controllers with this feature pass the sound from the external device straight to the main output. No software integration, no processing. That’s why these controllers are AC or DC powered.
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What Is Standalone Mixer Good For ?
If you DJ at a professional level and play at public gigs, you definitely need this feature. Let me explain why.
The biggest advantage of the “Standalone Mixer” function on your DJ controller is that it doesn’t depend on your computer sources.
In case of software or hardware failure, you may have to reboot your system. Think about it, controller goes off, music shuts down. You don’t want that, do you ?
With the help of a CDJ or your iPod, you’d be able to continue music thru the standalone channels on your mixer. This is not possible with a regular software-only control device.
Buying a 4-channel controller doesn’t mean you’d also have this feature. You should check the specs and make sure it includes a mixer section with standalone feature. Some controllers don’t, which means all channels go through software.
Pioneer DDJ-SX2, Denon MC6000MK2 and American Audio VMS4.1 are good examples of such DJ control devices.