An all-in-one rotary—one that DJs could get used to seeing in clubs and at festivals—would seem like a sure way to bring the mixer style from niche to norm, and there have been a handful of candidates over the last few years. The French company E&S scored a hit with the DJR 400, a compact, gorgeous-sounding, four-channel rotary mixer, but it was never mass-produced, leaving DJs and clubs with a lengthy waiting list to contend with. Isonoe's FP Mixer, cosigned by Floating Points, drummed up lots of attention when it was announced, but it was too high-end to ever be built to scale; it's unclear if anyone other than Sam Shepherd ever owned one.
Rane's new MP2015 could be the rotary the industry has been waiting for. Though unmistakably high-end (and with a price tag to match), it's got the backing of a big hardware maker with loads of experience in the DJ world, and with rotary mixers specifically. It isn't exactly portable—its stocky wooden frame and horde of black-and-silver knobs make it look like something that might help steer a yacht—but it's an all-in-one mixer, so it can be swapped in and out of the booth or brought out to a festival stage without too much effort. And if you think the biggest advantage of a vintage or bespoke rotary is the sound, then the Rane, all warm tones and punchy bass, should scratch the itch.
That was the first thing I noticed after swapping in the test unit for the Allen & Heath mixer we typically use in the office. Both vinyl and digital files sounded notably warmer, but individual tracks also had more cohesiveness. On the usual mixer, it would sometimes be hard to find the right playback level—lows could get boomy and highs could get shrill even when everything in between sounded too quiet—but the MP2015 sounded even and balanced at the low, medium and high levels I tested. The bass made an impact without overwhelming you, the highs had a shimmer but not a distracting one, and everything in between sounded wonderfully musical. (A side-by-side test with the Allen & Heath backed this up.) The acoustics at our office are rather bad, but they're a bit better where I have my setup at home, and it was there that I really noticed this mixer's precision. Both the Rane and my usual home mixer, an Ecler, have a warmer character than an Allen & Heath Xone, but the MP2015 wasn't sweet or overly forgiving—as soon as the first hi-hat hit, I knew it was time to replace my needles, and it had been for awhile.
Great sound is a major advantage, especially considering what you'll pay for one of these. But the price tag also means the MP2015 is pitched to professionals, i.e. clubs and sound services organizations. If the least appealing facet of rotaries as club or festival installations is that there isn't one setup that's universally accepted, then Rane has solved the issue by brute force. If you're interested in classic rotary-style mixing, you can blend with the three-band, 24 dB/octave, fat-sounding isolator at the top of the unit, with big, smooth-turning knobs that each offer full-kill all the way to a +10 dB boost. Don't like how the crossovers have been configured? There are adjustments for each of them, which can vastly augment the character of the isolator. (For the most part, I found the 12 o'clock position for both, 225 Hz and 2.8 kHz, sufficient.) Don't want to use the isolator at all? Click it off and move on to the EQ section, which offers three bands on each of the mixer's four main channels. There's a further filter control below each EQ, switchable between low-pass, high-pass and a Pioneer-style low-high mixture, with an Allen & Heath-style knob to control resonance (low to high) for the whole filter just to the right. At the bottom are the four rotary mix knobs, but given the number of options you get to help you blend, you'd almost expect an optional bank of linear faders below that—I honestly can't think of a mixer that provides more options for making a blend. It's also worth noting that each main channel can support every input the mixer offers: phono, CD/line or digital, via S/PDIF or the input from one of two USB plugs, plus whatever's coming in through the auxiliary. Other than for those who insist on a four-band EQ, the MP2015 should please everyone.
The possibilities go beyond standard mixing. There's a fifth channel, called Submix, which combines the signal from any of the other channels (or can be configured as a fifth main channel) and has its own EQ and filter control. I couldn't really find a use for it other than in conjunction with the internal effects loop, which is easy to route and simple to control. The built-in sound card (offering up to 24-bit, 96-kHz conversion) makes the mixer ready out-of-the-box for digital DJs. (If you want hands-on control over your digital DJing software, though, you'll have to bring your own controller.) But sound can go the other way, too. You can pull up each individual channel in a DAW or just get the signal off the main mix, which is what I did to record a few of my testing sessions. The recording sounded great, suggesting the converters are of good quality and have a transparent sound—it kept the warmth and punchiness of the mixer intact.
The abundance of options and the sheer number of knobs means the mixer takes some getting used to, especially if you're not so set in your ways. In my own practice, I ended up using the isolator mostly as an subtle output-channel tone control, not for wild Theo Parrish-style accents, and used the EQ and the mix knobs to achieve smooth blends. Part of this is probably habit and personal preference, but I wonder if it's got something to do with ergonomics, too—I wish the isolator and the mix knobs were closer together. Early in my testing, I would have said that I also wanted more resistance in the knobs. But now that I'm used to them, I don't have the same complaint; once you've got the muscle memory down, they allow you to be exceptionally precise. All in all, the mixer just feels and sounds amazing. Though there's a certain pleasure to playing on a vintage Bozak or Urei (or, I'd guess, Floating Points' beast), I'm not sure there's a mixer I'd rather be presented with. As more make their way into professional installations, I have no doubt DJs will come to regard the MP2015 as a very welcome new standard.
Ease of use: 4.1