The majority of DJ controllers come with a built-in audio interface and ports for a sound connection.
A more advanced set-up includes a sound card and is capable of supporting an external device input – usually an independent gadget.
A standalone mixer is an example of a gadget that is capable of creating mixes even without the help of a software application.
So what does this mean in terms of usability?
With a high-end professional DJ controller and a standalone mixer, you won’t need a laptop or PC that has a processing software anymore since you already have an input device that can directly process sound.
Needless to say, all of these gadgets will have to be powered through an AC or DC adapter since USB ports are too low power to support the set-up.
How Do Standalone Mixers Work?
Imagine this for a second:
You have a digital set-up with two CD players on each side.
You are trying to mainly mix on your controller but would like to keep your CD players on standby as a secondary input source.
You can think of any other backup input like an MP3 player or iPod.
You will have limited input with this set-up.
But, if your DJ controller has a standalone mixer feature, you will have audio channels or ports in the back where you can connect your external sources like the CD players, iPods, etc.
Take for example a DJ controller with a 4-channel mixer section.
You will be able to see 6 ports. Two ports on the outmost sides can be used for line and phono inputs.
They can be used for turntables as well.
Turntable connections require grounding to avoid the sound getting distorted and deformed.
The two mentioned ports have grounding.
Moving to the other four ports, you need to picture out that sound travels from the external device through those ports up to the main output.
You will find no integration or processing.
Advantage of the Standalone Mixer Feature
If you are a DJ with regular public gigs, the number one advantage you get from the feature is independence from computer sources.
In other words, you won’t need a laptop anymore for processing sound.
What’s not good about relying on laptops is the possible hardware or software failure of the device.
With a standalone mixer, all you need is a music source like your tablet or mobile phone as an input and then be able to create mixes directly.
It is a very convenient set-up especially if you want to travel light for a quick gig.
To summarize, having the feature allows you to continue mixing music without any software.
Take note that buying a 4-channel controller doesn’t necessarily equate to having a standalone mixer feature.
Be vigilant when buying your equipment and always double-check the specs.