Rane MP2015 Rotary DJ Mixer Review

Analog Heart, Digital Soul

With its MP2015 DJ mixer, Rane has hit one out of the park. In drawing from a 40-year history of rotary mixers and creating in collaboration with an all-star cast of DJs — Doc Martin, Derrick Carter, Mark Farina and more — Rane has given us a mixer that is a sheer joy to use, straight out of the box.

Aimed at audiophiles, techno DJs and house jocks — there is no crossfader for turntablists who like to cut and scratch — the MP2015 is the latest baby sprung from a long lineage of esteemed rotary club mixers: Bozak’s CMA-10–2DL, first introduced 1971; UREI’s 1620, introduced in 1982; and Rane’s own MP2016 and XP2016, introduced in 1999. And now, we have the aptly named MP2015.


Aesthetics & Build Quality

Compact and brutishly feature-comprehensive, the MP2015 is a beauty to behold, with laser-etched wood side paneling, lustrous aluminum knob caps, sturdy metal switches, chunky, illuminated push-buttons, and recessed level meters, each featuring 16 individual segments.

At just 12.6 pounds, the MP2015 is lighter than most of its analog mixer counterparts, yet it maintains a familiar footprint — 14-inches high by 13.1-inches wide by 4.3-inches deep — making it portable and easy to integrate into existing DJ setups and club installations.

The MP2015 is designed to last a lifetime. Rane made the clever decision to print the non-illuminated indicator labels on the reverse side of a Lexan plastic overlay, which will prevent any rubbing off of the white-on-black labels as time progresses. According to Rane, the Lexan front panel is designed to prevent glare and to enhance readability in low-light conditions due to its matte-black surface.

But are these labels as easy to see in the dark as LED indicators? Shortly after Rane announced the MP2015, I was lucky enough to catch Doc Martin rocking one while performing at Output nightclub’s Panther Room in Brooklyn. That night I noticed Martin was using a gooseneck lamp to illuminate his mixer, so once my own review unit arrived, I knew I had to experiment in my studio to see if I could easily see the MP2015 in the dark.

As it turns out, standard LED indicator lights are far easier to see in low-light conditions. In Rane’s defense, LEDs will burn out over time and prove expensive and difficult to replace, making the printed indicator labels a more durable choice, even if an accessory lamp is required in some situations.


Sound Quality

The most concise description I can give the MP2015’s sound is “faux analog.” It’s an incredibly high-quality digital wolf wearing analog sheep’s clothing.

How so? Well, the MP2015 is designed for playback of high-resolution audio produced from 24-bit studio master sources, supporting sample rates of 44.1, 48, or 96 kHz in both inputs and outputs. With 113 to 116dB of signal headroom line-to-line (or 128dB using digital S/PDIF ins and outs), the mixer’s dynamic range is ideal for DJs that prefer playing uncompressed WAV, FLAC or ALAC files. And with a nearly non-existent noise floor, it’s one of the best-sounding DJ mixers I’ve ever heard.

If you suspect I’m being hyperbolic, try routing the mixer — carefully, with no audio sources running into it — into a sound system, and then crank the gain and channel knobs all the way up. You’ll hear none of the telltale hissing that most mixers output; instead, silence.

Audiophiles, take note: the MP2015 features Audio 4 Pro delta-sigma modulator converters (for encoding analog signals into digital signals, and vice versa) manufactured by Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) that meet the highest sound-quality standards of professional recording studios. The balanced, differential input converters are designed to minimize group delay and enhance linear phase response, and the output converters feature AKM’s proprietary digital filter, designed to decrease distortion.


Inputs & Outputs

Serving as true “studio-quality” preamps, four sets of analog Phono/CD inputs accept line-level audio signals through traditional RCA inputs as well as S/PDIF inputs. All RCA and S/PDIF input sources have gold connectors, meant to reduce electromagnetic interference, radio frequency interference, and electrostatic discharge.

As for outputs, the mixer has balanced XLR outs built with Neutrik connectors and booth outs built with Neutrik TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) connectors. The mic input channel accepts both ¼-inch and XLR cables, supports phantom power input, and features tone controls on the surface of the mixer.

When it comes to headphone cueing, there are an unprecedented three headphone ports on the MP2015: one ¼-inch jack on top of the mixer, one ¼-inch on the front, and one 3.5mm jack also on the front. All three headphone ports work simultaneously, and the mixer supports split-cue headphone monitoring with adjustable level and pan knobs.

Incredibly, the MP2015 allows computer users to input five stereo channels of audio for mixing and to output seven stereo channels for recording — all on a single USB cord. This output recording can be done twice, in fact, when using two computers plugged into the mixer via USB.

Additionally, the seven stereo USB record outputs can be assigned pre or post-fader options (in this case, pre or post-rotary knob), allowing a DJ to record the main mix, submix, session output and the four individual channels all at once!

Why would you need to record all those channels separately? Well, for instance, let’s say you really rocked your set at the club last night, but you made an embarrassing mistake in a pivotal mid-set transition because your friend spilled his drink on you in the booth. Not to worry! With the MP2015, you can take your individually recorded output channels and fix that spotty section of the mix in your favorite DAW.

Another use case for all of those output record channels is for recording a jam session at home, perhaps with an army of drum machines and synthesizers. Simply pick the best parts from your improv session and arrange them accordingly in your DAW of choice. A further interesting possibility is chaining mixers together by routing the session output of one mixer into the session input of another. (A Tip from Rane: When connecting two MP2015s together, connect the Session I/Os of the two units via S/PDIF to keep all audio in the digital domain.)


Traktor & Serato

In addition to being Traktor Scratch-Certified by Native Instruments — meaning DJs don’t need to run their control vinyl signal through a Traktor-compatible audio card to use timecode vinyl with Traktor — the MP2015 is the only Traktor-Certified mixer with two USB inputs. Because of this, the MP2015 is, without a doubt, the easiest mixer that I’ve ever used to perform Traktor DJ changeovers.

No external sound cards are necessary, meaning you never have to worry about the audio dropping out or dealing with a bunch of messy RCA cables. All a DJ has to do is turn the input knob from USB A to USB B, or vice versa, and they’ve now taken over that channel with their DJ software.

As for Serato, the Serato DJ Club Kit — a bundle for purchase consisting of a Serato DJ + DVS license — supports Rane’s MP2015 (in addition to hardware from other manufacturers). The first rotary unit to be supported as a Serato DJ and DVS Upgrade Ready mixer, the MP2015 enjoys plug-and-play with Serato DJ when used with the bundle — no need for external interface.


Submix Channel

The MP2015’s unique submix input channel will make sense to production-oriented DJs immediately, as it allows DJs to group (or “bus”) a number of inputs into one channel for easy, multi-source mixing. DJs that mix using loops or Traktor remix decks will love this feature, as they can explore the possibilities of playing a single, full track on one channel, bussing in two or three independent loops into the submix channel, then EQing or filtering all of the loop channels independently from the “main” track, as if they were one.

The submix channel can also serve as a standalone fifth channel for audio routed into the mixer, such as that from a hardware synthesizer. Alternatively, DJs can choose to route a fifth stereo audio channel — like the main output from Native Instruments’ Maschine — from their DJ software into the session input and then the submix channel.


Filters

Each of the four input channels and the submix channel features a unique tri-position metal toggle switch that allows you to select a sweepable low-pass filter, a high-pass filter, or a combination of the two. The latter option is the only option found on most pro DJ mixers today.

Particularly unique is the resonance (sometimes referred to as “color”) knob found in the submix section, which controls the shape of all four deck and submix filters. I really love the adjustable resonance, as I often run into the issue of mixers revealing my filter actions to a listener when I’m attempting to make a long, smooth transition.


EQs & Isolators

All four input channels and the submix channel feature 3-band EQ controls with customizable crossover points of either 150 Hz between low-mid and 6.0 kHz between mid-high, or 300 Hz between low-mid and 3.0 kHz between mid-high. These crossover points can be selected in the user control panel when a computer is connected via USB.

The 3-band output isolator at the top of the mixer is a unique feature unlike what you’ll find on many other mixers today, offering three-band EQ on the MP2015’s entire main output as well as adjustable low-mid and mid-high crossover points via dedicated knobs.

Mixer isolators were commonplace “back in the day,” with a classic booth trick seeing the DJ slowly taking out the bass over a course of 30 minutes or so, only to slam it back in again at a peak moment. The isolators also allow a DJ to color the sound to better fit a room before and after it fills up with more warm bodies. And most importantly, they’re incredibly fun to manipulate when playing suitable genres of music like house and techno.

A huge benefit of the MP2015 being highly cutting-edge — yet still masquerading as retro — is that every knob, button, and switch is MIDI-mappable. If you have no use for the isolator section for its intended use, then why not map your Traktor effects decks to the isolators, with the on/off button serving as a toggle for your effects? Alternatively, you could try mapping the push-buttons and knobs in the mic section or the FX Loop section to things like deck key lock, output record, or even the master clock functions.


Final Thoughts

While the chunky rotary knobs in place of the faders will take some getting used to for some jocks, I find the MP2015 much more enjoyable to DJ with than your standard club mixer of today. For the first hour or two, when learning how to use the mixer, I found myself accidentally leaving the channel volumes up when cueing or playing new tracks due to the decreased amount of visual feedback that you get from “normal” up-faders, but I became acclimated to this eventually.

Another plus: The internal power supply accommodates voltages from 100 to 240 VAC, at either 60 Hz or 50Hz, and is fitted with a detachable universal power cord — which means the MP2015 can be used worldwide, if you want to travel with it.

In conclusion, Rane’s MP2015 is one of the most versatile club mixers providing the highest sound quality available to DJs today. At $2,899 MAP, it’ll cost you a pretty penny, but if you are keen on the rotary knobs and fancy yourself an audiophile house DJ, techno DJ, or a live performance wizard looking for a mixer to accommodate your intricate hardware or digital setup, then the MP2015 is for you.


This was originally published in the October 2015 issue of DJ Times.