Hundreds of DJ mixer models are on the market, but it's safe to say that there is no other mixer like the Red Sound InFader. Just a quick glance at the InFader's unique top-panel triple crossfader, which Red Sound calls the Tri-Fader, reveals that this product is no ordinary DJ mixer. Although the Tri-Fader feature is extremely cool, what's really impressive about the InFader is its modular design: it lets you replace the Tri-Fader module with other custom crossfader modules to modify the mixer to your specific applications or needs.
With the exception of the Tri-Fader module, the InFader's top panel looks much like your average professional-quality 2-channel DJ mixer. Both channels feature separate low, mid, and high EQ controls (+4/-85 dB); a trim control; a level fader; and a switch for choosing either CD/line- or phono-level inputs. There are also separate level controls for the booth and master outputs; a mic/line input channel with its own level control and high and low EQ knobs; and an FX-Aux section with separate level controls for send and return and rotary switches for selecting the signal source and destination. Other standard features include a control for adjusting the crossfader's curve from a smooth blend to a sharp cut and a three-way paddle switch for engaging the effects loop.
The rear panel has a similar no-nonsense design. There you'll find two sets of stereo RCA jacks (CD/line and phono) and a grounding post for each channel, stereo RCA jacks for the master and booth outputs, stereo RCA jacks for the Aux send and return, and a pair of balanced XLR master output jacks. There's also a ¼-inch Mic insert that can be used to connect an external effects processor to the mic/line input channel. The unit's headphone-monitor controls are mounted within easy reach on the front panel. That section includes a Split Cue control for adjusting the balance between channel 1 and channel 2 in your headphones, an EQ Cut control for adjusting the tone of the monitored signal, a level control, and Cue/Master select switch. Overall, the InFader features a functional, straightforward design.
The Tri-Fader module is the InFader's secret weapon, and if you're looking for a way to make your mixes truly unique, you'll want to check out this feature. The Tri-Fader consists of three separate crossfaders each assigned to low-, mid-, and high-frequency bands, giving you fully independent control of the mix of these bands between two different sound sources. Instead of simply fading from one song to the next, you can essentially “cut up” songs into three different parts that you can mix and blend at will. For example, you can create a mix consisting of the bass frequencies of one song, the mid frequencies of another song, and the high frequencies of both songs. Although you can perform similar functions on mixers with rotary kill controls on each channel, the InFader's triple-crossfader design makes it easy to quickly dial in the perfect balance in the heat of a live mix.
Several switches near the bottom of the top panel provide additional performance options. Bright-red Reverse switches to the left and right of the low-frequency crossfader let you instantly reverse the orientation of the crossfaders. For example, if the crossfaders are set to play the low and high frequencies of channel 1 and the mid frequencies of channel 2, pressing the Reverse button will engage the low and high frequencies of channel 2 and the mid frequencies of channel 1. Each Reverse switch is a momentary latch switch, which means that it is engaged only as long as you hold down the switch. That design makes it easy to create rhythmic effects by tapping along to the beat, but it would be nice if, for this feature, Red Sound used a three-way toggle switch (lock on, off, momentary on) similar to the one used to engage the effects loop.
There's also an X-Fader Status switch on the lower right of the mixer's top panel that lets you select whether both channels are on or off in the crossfaders' center position. In the center-off setting, the crossfaders work like frequency kills — as the crossfader approaches the center position, the signal fades to silence. An X-Fader Mode switch on the lower left of the top panel lets you select either the Tri-Fader mode or a traditional master fader mode, in which the low-frequency fader operates as a master crossfader. Because I'm right-handed, I would prefer the X-Fader Mode switch to be on the right side of the top panel, given that I would use it more often than the X-Fader Status switch.
THREE TO GET READY
It doesn't take long to get used to the Tri-Fader. After lining up the beats on a couple of 12-inches, I was blending bass lines, dropping vocals, and swapping hi-hats at will. The frequency range of the Low fader encompasses most kick drums and bass lines, and the High fader seems best for isolating hi-hats, but the Mid fader sounds a little unnatural with most material. Vocals in particular sound nasal and midrangey, as though they are being played through a cheap AM radio. Guitars and some synth parts sound better, but the tone still sounds processed. That may be fine if you want a filter-type effect, but if you desire a more natural-sounding mix, it may not be the best solution. The 3-band EQ for each channel can help you dial in a tone that is more to your liking, but it's still somewhat limited and can't always remove that nasal overtone.
When the InFader is used in the normal Master fader mode, the mixer's performance is outstanding. The sound quality is excellent, and the knobs and faders feel smooth and solid. The monitoring section's rotary Split Cue and EQ Cut controls make it easy to cue records and create the perfect mix in just about any club situation — the features are much more versatile than the standard volume controls in most mixers' monitor sections. With my trusty Sony MDR-V700 headphones plugged into the headphone jack, I could hear the signal loud and clear.
Although the only module currently available for the InFader is its standard Tri-Fader, Red Sound has plans for several other single-crossfader modules for customizing the mixer. To be available in the near future, these options include a bpm module with two bpm readers and audio/MIDI sync; a bpm sync module with 2-channel beat-matching capabilities and built-in effects; a bpm autosync module with a 2-channel CD/turntable-speed control for automatically locking bpm; a bpm effects module with several effects and two bpm readers; and a filter module.
Removing the modules is easy. Just remove four screws on the top panel and the support nut for the headphone jack, lift the module out of the front panel, and unplug four ribbon cables from their socket connectors. The crossfaders are also easy to replace should they wear out.
THE FINAL MIX
Red Sound patented the Tri-Fader design, so you won't be finding it on the mixer at your local club. If you want to use the InFader's unique frequency-crossfading capabilities in a live gig, you're going to have to haul your own mixer around with you. Fortunately, the unit is small and light enough to make that option viable.
The InFader is best suited for practicing DJ skills at home and for making distinctive mix CDs or tapes that stand out from the pack. Although you can plug a third stereo input source into the effects return, the InFader is still essentially a 2channel mixer, so it's too limited for most club installations. It's more expensive than most 2-channel DJ mixers, but it does offer the benefits of professional-quality sound, the proprietary Tri-Fader, and a modular design. Whereas most new DJ mixers are variations on the same old theme, Red Sound is taking the initiative to introduce innovative features that may greatly change the ways DJs mix music.
Chris Gill is the editor of Remix.
InFader Digital DJ Mixing System
PROS: Innovative modular design. Versatile Tri-Fader crossfader system. Professional sound quality. Outstanding monitor section.
CONS: Nasal-sounding mid frequencies. Only two channels.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 3.5