There are more rotaries on the market than ever before, and many top DJs swear by them. So what, if anything, makes them special? Stephen Titmus investigates.
Few DJs can use a rotary like Claussell does. In fact, rotary mixers are unhelpful for many DJ styles. If you're a DJ who likes to scratch or mix lots of records quickly, a rotary mixer is probably not for you. Yet rotaries have amassed a cult following. DJs like Motor City Drum Ensemble, Hunee, DJ Harvey and Sassy J all prefer them. World-class clubs such as Jaeger, Robert Johnson and fabric have them permanently installed in their booths.
The appeal of the rotary remains mysterious. Rotary mixers use knobs to control the sound rather than faders. Few have flashy gimmicks or effects. Many models are filled with expensive components, promise high-definition audio and come with a hefty price tag. And yet, rotaries do not necessarily equate to great sound. Using a knob to control sound is not intrinsically a good thing. But vintage models hold a legendary space in DJ culture. Nowadays, newer rotary mixers, such as the ARS MODEL 6700, are among the best-sounding on the market.
The rotary mixer's appeal is as much cultural as it is practical. Rotary mixers were there at the birth of DJ culture. The first commercially available club mixers, the Bozak CMA-10-2DL and UREI 1620, were rotary. Heavy, expensive and powerful, these handmade mixers were made with the best components to generate amazing sound. They were adopted at legendary clubs such as Studio 54 and Paradise Garage. Today, this gives rotary mixers an aura of authenticity that's alluring to dance music's traditionalists.