Wreak serious Kaoss with this pro DJ mixer.
Numark and Korg have had a baby! Well, actually, it's more likefraternal twins. Numark's new line of professional DJ mixerscombines the company's excellent board-building skills with Korg'spatented Kaoss Pad dynamic multi-effects technology. The firstproduct of this series to hit retail stores was the EM-360. TheEM-460, its sibling, boasts more inputs and features and comes withan identical onboard Kaoss Pad.
THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS
The EM-460 is a nice-looking mixer with a red anodized-aluminumfinish and a surplus of lights — it has several LED meters,and the Kaoss Pad's touch surface is illuminated. The 19-inch-widerack-mountable unit takes up seven rackspaces and is about 3¼inches deep. A removable IAC Type II cable supplies power —very practical and much more convenient than those cumbersomewall-wart power supplies. A rocker-type on-off switch is located onthe mixer's backside. You can easily change voltage between 115Vand 230V using a switch that's also on the unit's rear, so takingthe EM-460 overseas is a breeze. A 12V BNC connector on the frontpanel accepts a standard gooseneck lamp to provide extra light indark DJ booths.
The EM-460 offers a total of four input channels, all switchablebetween different source inputs. Channel 1 is either mic 1 or line;channels 2 and 3 are phono-aux or line; and on channel 4 you have achoice among phono-aux, line, and mic 2. The phono-aux selectswitches are located on the mixer's rear panel. As you wouldexpect, toggle switches on the front panel — just above eachchannel's fader — allow you to select between the sources.There are two ¼-inch microphone inputs on the backside (mic 1and mic 2); a Neutrik combo connector on the front accepts either¼-inch or XLR. Though it isn't labeled as such, thefront-panel microphone jack is also a mic 1 input. Both mic 1connections are available simultaneously.
The mixer features four sets of RCA stereo outputs: Master, Zone1, Zone 2, and Rec. It also includes balanced XLR jacks for themaster outputs. These professional-quality output connections makehooking up the EM-460 directly to a sound system, powered monitors,or recording consoles a snap. Zones 1 and 2 have associated levelcontrols on the front panel. The Rec output is handy for recordingyour performances on cassette or MiniDisc. The Zone 1, Zone 2, andRec outputs are all pre-master fader.
PROPS TO PROPER CONTROLS
Each channel, including the master output fader, features a pancontrol and three bands of EQ (low, mid, and high). Each EQ bandcontrol offers a +15 dB boost and -30 dB cut range and is centeredat 40 Hz, 1.36 kHz, and 20 kHz (low to high). The EQ provides amplerange to pump up or cut out bass, vocals, or synth lines. Eachinput channel has a prefader level gain control, and a toggleswitch above the master fader allows you to switch the main outputbetween mono and stereo operation. You can assign the mixer'ssmooth crossfader to any two of the four input channels.
The input channels all have their own dedicated 10-segmentprefader LED meters, wonderful for monitoring the signal going toeach channel: you never have to question whether signal is cominginto the board. Two easy-to-read, 12-segment LED momentary peakhold meters handle metering of the master left and right outputlevels.
A headphone jack and an associated volume knob are located onthe unit's face. You can set the headphones to monitor cue send,master out, or a mix of the two. A handy button lets you choosewhether playback is split (you hear the cue send on your right andthe master out on your left) or blended (you hear both the cue andthe master outs in stereo). Each input channel has its owndedicated cue button, and there's even a cue control for the Kaosseffects. Red LED indicators let you know when the cue buttons areengaged.
The onboard Kaoss Pad is identical to Korg's standalone version.Run your fingers across the translucent pad to morph betweeneffects parameters for some crazy signal processing. The 60 presetpatches include lowpass filters, delays, reverbs, phasers,pitch-shifting, distortion, and sampling. Though you can't writeyour own patches, the unit does provide plenty of great-soundingpresets — especially the filters and multi-tap delays. Aninfinitely rotating, detented knob lets you scroll through theprograms, and a big 2-character LED registers the program number.Six buttons just above the pad act as quick keys, allowing you tostore the presets for instant recall — very convenient.
The Kaoss Pad provides up to 5 seconds of sampling at a fixed 48kHz sampling rate. The unit can automatically trigger samplerecording when you input a sound, or you can record samplesmanually by pressing the Rec button (which incidentally doubles asthe Effects Main on-off button). When you press the Sample Recordbutton to end sampling, the sample automatically loops. Presets 51to 60 are the dedicated sampling patches; select one of them tocreate and play back a sample. The sample playback presetsincorporate time-shifting, pitch-shifting, and amplitude andloop-point changes to create incredibly wild sounds. Unfortunately,the unit does not offer a way to save samples: if you select apreset other than those between 51 and 60 or turn the power off,your sample is history.
The effects unit integrates nicely with the mixer, and itsergonomic controls are easy to master quickly. Each input channelincludes an effects send button. Press one of these buttons, and ayellow LED shows you that the effects send function is engaged forthat channel. A single master wet-dry effects mix knob found abovethe master fader's EQ section lets you dial in the balance betweenthe original and processed signals. A Hold button to the left ofthe pad freezes the current effects parameter setting, allowing youto remove your fingers from the pad and operate the mixer.
A MIDI Out jack located on the mixer's rear transmits ContinuousController (CC) messages from the Kaoss Pad's controls. You canchange the CC numbers as well as the MIDI channel. This featurewould mainly come in handy for controlling additional MIDI effectsunits; however, a function for saving samples probably would havebeen a better investment of resources.
IT JUST FEELS FLY
The EM-460's sound quality is very good, though the effects dobleed into the headphones a hair, even with the effects unitdisengaged — but that's not a big thing when you consider hownoisy most clubs are. The Kaoss Pad's program-select knob seems abit delicate, but luckily the quick keys will serve nicely forheavy-handed patch recalling. A built-in bpm counter would havebeen a nice addition, especially since the unit offers a MIDIoutput jack that you could link to a sequencer or drum machine.Maybe Numark will add this feature in a future model.
The unit's manual is rather oversimplified, and the numberscorresponding to the explanations of the Kaoss Pad's controls arewrong. If you aren't familiar with DJ mixer operation or don'tunderstand much about effects sends, don't count on the manual forelucidation.
The EM-460 feels great and offers a wide variety of profeatures, such as EQ for each channel and balanced XLR masteroutputs. Despite its lame manual, the unit is very intuitive touse. The crossfader feels smooth, and the up faders are just stiffenough to remain in place after you've adjusted them. The Kaoss Padis a blast to experiment with. The EM-460 even offers faderstart-stop jacks (of the standard miniplug type). I pluggedTascam's CD-302 dual CD player — which also has faderstart-stop — into the EM-460 and was in DJ heaven. What rawmixing power! This board isn't cheap, but it's well worth the buckswhen you consider all that it offers. However, if $950 is too muchto pay, you can always settle for the mixer's less expensivefraternal twin, the EM-360, which lists for $650.
Erik Hawkins is a producer and remixer working in Los Angelesand the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit his Web site at www.erikhawkins.com for more equipmentand project-studio chitchat.
EM-460 DJ Effects Mixer
PROS: EQ and meters on every channel. Two zone outs withindependent level controls. RCA and balanced XLR main outs.Built-in Kaoss Pad is well integrated into the mixer.
CONS: Weak manual. Kaoss Pad doesn't provide user presets orsave samples. Somewhat pointless MIDI jack.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4.5
Contact: tel. (401) 295-9000