This new mixer from Xone designer Andy Rigby-Jones is a joy to use, but it won't suit every DJ (or every DJ's wallet)
In any field of human endeavour, there'll always be a small cadre of people who insist that the old ways were the best, or that a certain way of doing things is superior to other ways of doing the same thing. Hence hipsters' love of fixed-wheel bicycles, for instance... or the near-fetishistic obsession some DJs have with rotary mixers.
We're not gonna get into the rights and wrongs of that debate right now. Suffice to say there is a certain sector of the DJ population who prefer rotaries to faders, but that sector hasn't been particularly well catered for over the past quarter-century or so, with high-end hardware from Rane, Urei and Bozak dominating the field. Recently, though, a number of smaller, boutique manufacturers have got onboard the rotary train - the likes of LA's Meza Studios, Australia's Condesa Electronics and Japan's Alpha Recording System.
So the news, a couple of months ago, that high-end turntable company MasterSounds and Union Audio, the company run by ex-Allen & Heath engineer Andy 'Xone' Rigby-Jones, had joined forces to create the Radius 2, a new two-channel rotary mixer built with audio fidelity as the driving principle behind its design and engineering, caused something of a stir in DJ Land. But can it live up to expectations?
The first thing that strikes you about the Radius 2, as you lift it out of the box, is how heavy it is. The second is the satisfyingly firm, tight action on those all-important rotary knobs: you get the feeling they could take years, nay, decades of nightly club use and live to tell the tale. Just handling the Radius 2, in other words, is enough to tell you you've got your hands on something a little bit special.
Speaking of nightly club use, it's very apparent that the Radius 2 has been built with the installation market firmly in mind. That's thanks partly to the separate Master (XLR) and Booth (phono) outputs, but mostly to the price tag - we don't know many bedroom DJs who can afford to spend £1,200 (or £1,350 if you go for the Premium model, which has even more la-di-da audio circuitry) on a mixer! Let alone a simple two-channel job with no built-in FX (though there is an Aux loop for hooking up external FX units) and fairly basic EQ (there's a high-pass filter on each channel, but full three-way EQ control can be applied at the master output level only).
No, the Radius 2 hasn't been built, it's fair to say, for bedroom DJs. It's been built for putting into professional DJ booths, where what matters most are sound quality and durability. The Radius 2 definitely has the latter, but what about the former?
Here's where we come a bit unstuck, because we only had the Radius 2 for about 36 hours and as such, testing it in a real-world club situation wasn't feasible. But plugged into a fairly respectable hi-fi setup at home, it sounded great: bass was rich and warm without being overpowering, mids were clean and highs were crisp and clear, never brash.For our money, 'high-end analogue' (for the Radius 2 is an all-analogue beast) will beat 'average digital' any day of the week, and with digital mixers increasingly the norm, the Radius 2 sounded like a blast of comforting, warm fresh air.
Despite our unfortunately limited testing, we have every confidence that would translate to the club, particularly given Rigby-Jones' pedigree with the Xone series and Hawtin's PLAYdifferently. He's hardly going to sully his reputation as one of the world's leading audio engineers at this stage of the game, least of all when it's his own company!
So, great sound, great build, and we should probably also mention styling that makes you feel like you've got your hands on some esoteric piece of vintage hardware, the kind of thing you might have found Delia Derbyshire messing around with if you'd wandered into the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the early 60s. There's plenty here to love, all right.
Full marks, then? Er, not quite. Five stars would mean "this is a product every single iDJ reader needs to rush out and buy immediately", and we can't in all honesty say that about the Radius 2. Firstly there's the rather obvious point that, sans faders, for some styles of DJing this mixer will be completely inappropriate; secondly, there's the price, which will be a big stumbling block for most.
But if you've got the cash, and if you want a mixer that sounds great and brings the kind of granular, hands-on control for which rotaries are so revered in certain circles, then you won't go wrong with the Radius 2: it really is like the Rolls-Royce of mixers. Just bear in mind that Rolls-Royces aren't for everyone, and nor will the Radius 2 be.
Words: Russell Deeks
Review score: 4/5
More info: Mastersounds.co.uk