Rotary mixers! They always have and always will elicit something… and it’s usually a very visceral response. So, a little over a year ago when Rane (the noted and established mixer company) hit the National Association of Music Merchants convention with a rotary mixer that checked off a ton of boxes that had previously not been addressed by standard rotary-based models… well, DJs, club owners, gear heads and tech aficionados took notice.
Out of the chute, the Rane MP2015 Rotary Control DJ Mixer sold briskly, even at prices that approached $3000 due to strong demand that even exceeded supply early on. It didn’t hurt that Rane had done their homework by gathering input, suggestion, and direction from House and club veterans like Derrick Carter, Mark Farina, Doc Martin, Dixon, Ben UFO and several others.
A year later the lowest price you’ll pay for an MP2015, unless you are an authorized dealer or know one, is $2899. Price stability is usually an indication that you have a premium product and/or that “perceived” competitors are absent.
But let’s step back to provide a little background on why all the hype for a mixer. Rotary mixers were the standard from the early days of vinyl mixing, blending and segueing magic. No faders: horizontal (think cross faders and the OG Radio Shack and Numark mixers that many of us learned on) or vertical (think of the “up” faders that are now the now standard on Pioneer and every other non-rotary mixer today). DJs out there, think about this: you take the vertical/up faders to the top virtually all the time, so where is there room for the music to “breathe” or to play with the dynamics of the track?! Also, the constant adjusting of the channel EQ that is de rigueur today isn’t needed or wasn’t used nearly as often with rotary mixers in the past. It’s all about the KNOBS (nerd trivia – they are called “potentiometers!”) You get a more precise volume control and subtle nuance in the mix… Fact!
Enter The Void: A Brief History of Rotary Mixers.
There has long been a void for a “new” rotary mixer. The history and evolution is fairly simple to outline. In 1971, Bozak (our boy Rudy!) introduced the CMA-10-2DL that eventually became the mixer as club life took off in the mid-1970s. It wasn’t until the launch of Urei’s 1620LE in 1982 that any competitor of note went mainstream.
Fast-forward seventeen years when Rane’s dual unit combo (MP2016/XP2016) brought a newer rotary to the ever-growing DJ community. If you’ve never seen them – Google their image and notice that the XP2016, in addition to adding treble-mid-bass crossovers, also had a curious and small cross-fader awkwardly crammed into the lower right of the XP unit. This “new” rotary mixer was attempting, meekly, to be all things to all people.
The Rane dual unit was definitely not portable as they were rack-mounted. As the 2000s continued and the digital world created 7,428,501 new DJs (do I need to caveat that I am exaggerating a bit?), portability became more of a concern. DJ Deep & Jerome Barbe’s French company Electronique & Spectacle with their now iconic and tough to get E&S DJR400 mixer began to fill a niche gap for the travelling DJ with its compact size and serious isolator section. Sam Sheppard aka Floating Points called the intersection where a great recorded/produced record met most mixers “a bottleneck.” This prompted the Isonoe company to build the FP mixer and they have a much-anticipated ISO420 portable mixer coming out soon. Japan’s Alpha Recording System and its Model 900 analogue desktop mixer has received some great feedback from some friends who have recently purchased it. And now other companies have also created or are in development of their own – self-proclaimed – “next best rotary mixer.”
The Rane MP2015: At First Blush & After the First Kiss.
Let’s examine what we (and I) have had now for a year: the Rane MP2015 Rotary Control DJ Mixer. Spoiler Alert: this will not be the super technical review that we’ve all already read when this mixer first came out. This is about the relationship after the first kiss!
Admit it: we’re all into the visuals today so why would that not be the case with a review? I admit myself to having used hashtags like #mixerporn and #DJporn on Instagram & Facebook photos of my home set-up with the stunning MP2015 prominently positioned. Who wouldn’t with this “Made in America” beauty, complete with quality wooden side panels that are removable? The last point is important if you need to get it into customized set-ups, as I had to remove one side. In addition, the knobs are solid and good-looking in aluminum, although mine had a couple where the notch for “center” is a bit off (it doesn’t affect performance). All of the lettering is clear and the matte finish takes a beating without showing much wear. Finally, the lights on the peak meters and push buttons are pretty. I mean, seriously: they look great and provide precise visual confirmation of “where you are and where you should/shouldn’t be.”
In terms of portability, it is as nimble to move around as my Pioneer DJM800 with a rotary conversion (not available on the 900 or brand new 900 Nexus) but clearly not as truly portable as my five-pound E&S DJR400 (we will save a full review on that for another time). I’ve found only a couple of clubs in the U.S. that have the MP2015 as their permanent install. Instead, it’s generally been available based on who is playing that night and has it in their rider.
The workflow is great with everything “right there” and very intuitive… even for the most die-hard Pioneer loyalist. Illuminated cue push buttons are well-positioned and the oft-used filter effect is turbo-charged by the addition of a low-pass, high-pass and combo low-high sweepable filter on each channel – also engaged by the same great push buttons. In both home mix and club application, the resonance was really spot-on. I found the filter to be more accurate and clean than the Pioneer 900 or Allen & Heath Zone. I also love the dual options (top and front) for headphone jacks. They help with various set-up constraints and also allow both sets of headphones to remain “in” when playing B2B sets.
The Isolator Section & Submix Channel
One of the biggest features for me, since I love it with my E&S and when I play in a club that has a rack-mounted Rane 2016 with a separate SBS Designs ISO Q2… is the ISOLATOR section of the new MP2015! Not only are they balls-on accurate but with a higher-end pump of +10dB down to a full-kill (read: hear nothing), you have the versatility and creative ability to have a literal “on-board instrument” at your disposal! Rane has also added “nice to have” adjustable crossovers for each of the three isolators which allow even more ability to customize and color.
Another feature of the isolator section that is not available on my E&S or most stand-alone isolator units, is a great illuminated push button allowing you to move in and out of the desired boost or cut seamlessly. One suggestion and request: go easy and learn its power and impact to avoid the dreaded “Every Song Has EQ Madness Syndrome.”
I’ll touch briefly on a really cool component of the MP2015 I still haven’t used to its potential (nor have many of my colleagues who provided me feedback). This is the Submix channel. In essence, it can function as a fifth channel or any combination of the other channels can be routed there for more control, flexibility and ease when you are in full beast mode (which I guess I haven’t been yet!) Like the other channels, you have EQ and filters but no gain (really not needed if you have your gains correct on the source channels you are moving to the Submix). There is an additional resonance control on the Submix’s filter though – that’s nice and allows you to tailor the output in some cool ways.
Interoperability, Effects & DJ Changeover Nightmares.
Another nice feature of the MP2015 is the Session In and Session Out which enables you to send stuff in via line, USB, etc. and also record even from just one channel if, for example, you moved that channel to the aforementioned Submix.
And while I’m not a Serato, Traktor, or Ableton guy, many are and there are two USB ports that should help alleviate the DJ changeover nightmare that often occurs. The Rane site and my computer/controller buddies substantiate that the ports allow hook-up to any Mac OS X gear. There is a problem however: Traktor and Serato interfaces are not compatible (although I’ve heard that there are some “fixes” online, there’s nothing yet from Rane). Ableton Live however is good to go. Finally, I hear that virtually all of the MP2015 component controls can be mapped, a good thing if you need it.
I know, I know… this all sounds great but I need my Pioneer 900-like effects because I can’t live without echoing, sweeping, roboting, phasing and generally FX’in with my hands in the air. The MP2015 will allow you to add a little brother FX unit onboard and control it with the FX Loop section… including a cool and easy to use Wet-Dry knob. I use a Pioneer RMX-500 that I like even better than the more expensive, larger and more complex RMX-1000, especially since you don’t need that model’s isolator as you now have the MP2015!
I rarely have used the mic other than for an occasional, quick end-of-night announcement but it suits that basic need unfortunately, without the ability to add any FX. You also can’t assign it over to the Submix, which might have some utility, oh well.
In The Red.
We can discuss the soundcard, digital converters, total harmonic distortion and a dozen other metrics of sound but what matters is what we hear and think. For me, there is a warmth with digital inputs via my CDJ 2000 Nexus decks using USBs. While Rane clearly promotes that this mixer is, “designed for playback of high-resolution audio” (better known as HRA), I’ve found very good quality output when using my Technics 1200s and vinyl. I’d challenge most people to differentiate, especially in a club environment. It also was non-discriminating in that my home/club experience playing various formats (Funk, Disco, Soulful/Deep/Tech House, Techno, Hip Hop) on the MP2015 brought out the best in each genre’s subtleties. Other DJs and I have all commented on the consistency across lows-mids-highs as well. The critical “bottom” has punch but might need a tad more for some. Finally, it’s hard to make the MP2015 “go bad”. That is, even when I’ve seen others go “too red” (and trying it a bit for this review at home), you really don’t get the distortion like other mixers. It’s like there’s a fail-safe in there – should be for the price!
The Rane MP2015: One Year Later.
While this mixer might not be right for DJs who like to cut and scratch, Rane has a video on YouTube that shows “Steve” impressively “baby” scratching and cuttin. I’ll leave that to you to decide.
I imagine as vinyl grows in prominence (or at least “vinyl nights”), rotary mixers will become more commonplace. It will also require that a generation or two of DJs that have only cross-faded or up-faded learn the subtleties of a true “blended mix.”
Bottom line: everyone that I know that owns or has used the MP2015 really loves it. Rane has demonstrated that they understand the market, effectively gained insights in the creation, and have built the next generation in a short line of classic rotary mixers since their inception 45 years ago. What are you waiting for? Go buy it!
# Warm sound and dynamics;
# The overall sexy look – admit to loving #mixerporn;
# Isolators with adjustable crossovers;
# Low-pass/high-pass/low-high combo filter on each channel;
# Wet-dry Fx knob;
# Top and side headphone port;
# 16 segment peak-holder meters
Note: others will love the dual USB ports for ease in DJ crossover in clubs
# The Roman numerals on the channels. Call me traditionalist but, this ain’t a watch!
# The isolators, positionally, were swapped with the channel selectors at the very top of the mixer;
# It had a four-band channel EQ – although that may be pushing it given the isolator section;
# I could think of more real-time uses for the cool Submix section;
# You could hear the isolator effect in your headphones while cueing;
# There was the ability to ad Fx to the mic directly;
# They made a more portable 2-channel mixer… wait, they just did – the MP2014!
Note: others will argue that it would have been great to sneak a cross-fader in somewhere… I am not one of those DJs.