Tech Talk

PLAYdifferently MODEL 1.4 review

The all new 4-channel edition of the award-winning MODEL 1

Four years on since one of the most anticipated pieces of DJ equipment; The MODEL 1 was launched to critical acclaim, a compact 4-channel, smaller brother has been released. Introducing, the MODEL 1.4

Designed with the same uncompromising approach as the MODEL 1, it may be a lot slimmer but it’s by no means smaller in power. An all-analogue powerhouse mixer from PLAYdifferently; designed in collaboration between minimal techno heavyweight Richie Hawtin, creator of the Xone mixer Andy Rigby-Jones, and one of the most respected audio specialists in the industry, Allen & Heath. It’s an incredibly technical piece of equipment built with a specific type of DJ/performer in mind.

It’s no wonder that PLAYdifferently’s official ambassadors include an array of world class DJs like Chris Liebing, David Morales, Dubfire, Fabio Florido, Hito, Loco Dice, Louie Vega, Luciano, Matador, Nicole Moudaber, and Paco Osuna, as well as artists like Carl Cox and Hot Since 82 seen using them too.

It’s clear that this mixer is designed for more than just two CDJs and 2 turntables. The 1.4 is essentially the MODEL 1 in a smaller frame, a welcome announcement for many artists who wanted the feature set of the bigger brother, but without 6 channels and the hefty £3,000 price tag.

£1,999 RRP

Closest rivals  
Allen & Heath Xone 96: £1,399
Pioneer DJM 900 NXS2: £1,869

So, who’s the Model 1.4 for then?
Much like it’s older brother, the 1.4 is filled with technology normally found in the finest studio consoles, such as a fully balanced mix bus and seamless filter & master EQ routing. This should come as no surprise, as the 1.4 isn’t your traditional DJ mixer.

First of all, there’s no crossfader, built in FX, or traditional 3 band channel EQ, no mic input, or any digital connectivity – it is after all a 100% analogue machine. If those things are essential to you, then this is not the product for you. However, if you want unrivalled control over your audio, here’s what it does have.

An array of inputs and outputs
Like the MODEL 1, there’s XLR and 1/4” master outputs, a 1/4” booth output, two pairs of 1/4” Send/Return  for external FX, etc. and four RCA Inputs, two of which can be switched from line to phono (with each phono input having its own earth grounding). The phono preamps sound fantastic, but it would have been good to have four of these to connect multiple turntables.

There’s a DSUB In and Out port (TASCAM DB25 standard), which are only really useful if you want to connect pro audio equipment or external soundcards. The mixer also has a linking port for connecting multiple MODEL 1 or 1.4 units – making this an ideal companion of existing MODEL 1 users who want 4 additional channels. There’s also a front mounted record out, making for easy switch overs, and the power supply is external too – so make sure to factor that in when planning your work space.

Packed full of features
Like the MODEL 1, each channel has studio grade TKD 60mm faders, precision sculpting EQ, and separate high-pass and low-pass filters. These filters do not have resonance though (think that whoosh/sweeping sound) and instead only subtract frequencies for a really clean and clear sound.

The precision sculpting EQ takes a bit of getting used to. Effectively, you can cut up to 20db and boost by 8db a specific frequency from 70hz to 7khz. This sounded great as an effect when playing with CDJs/turntables but became even more creative when we connected some synths/drum machines.

Each channel also has analogue overdrive, which acts similar to a compressor, creating harmonic distortion. This, combined with the precision sculpt EQ, really brought the synths and drum machines to life. Running a Roland TR-8 drum loop became incredibly fun to use, and felt like being in the studio. The fully balanced summing mix bus is killer for bringing audio sources together, and the 3-band master EQ was great for making subtle tweaks to the sound.

The filter button routes the audio through to the master filter, with both high pass (this time with resonance) and low pass filter. There’s also a DualCue system, where two DJs can independently cue at the same time, great for b2b performances. Each cue has a 1/8” and 3.5mm jack for added flexibility. The booth has a 2-band EQ for highs and lows, and the fully balanced summing mix bus has has a 3-band master EQ.

What’s it like to play on?
Although it’s noticeably smaller than the MODEL 1, it doesn’t feel cramped or tight to use. The all-metal finish adds an air of quality, and it feels like it’s been built to stand the test of time, and with all analogue circuitry there’s nothing for the sound to become “out of date” as with some digital mixers.

While the design does look complicated, after some time the layout is incredibly user friendly. All of the different knobs are marked differently, making it easy to use in a dark setting (club), and being able to change the brightness of the LEDs was helpful when using in the daylight.

The sound quality is truly phenomenal and the summing bus mixes audio sources together seamlessly. Bringing in two kick drums and bass lines at the same time? On other mixers, this could get muddy and coloured – but with the MODEL 1.4 you can distinctly hear each audio source.

The studio faders feel a bit strange at first, and the fader curve also takes some getting used to. Most of the volume arrives in the final third of the fader, so if you’re used to long slow blends you’ll need to adjust. A simple fader curve setting would fix this issue.

Studio use
The MODEL 1.4, like the MODEL 1, is also a fantastic studio tool. The summing bus, and creative control that the 1.4 affords makes this an even more versatile tool than a regular DJ mixer. Whether ripping vinyl into your DAW though the high quality phono preamps (I liked to add some overdrive too for that beefy sound), or summing your studio audio together, to using the crisp HPF/LPFs to sculpt your synths – the 1.4 has you covered.

The MODEL 1.4 is not aimed at your regular DJ. While you absolutely can use it to mix records together (and with high quality audio output), it’s just not designed for that purpose. The precision EQ is great for sculpting the sound, but felt more creative in use with studio gear vs CDJs and vinyl.

Overall, I really enjoyed using the MODEL 1.4. High quality sound, unparalleled control of audio, and silky smooth filters make it a joy to hear, but better suited for live performers or artists who want to introduce loops and samples into their performance. If you’re looking for a high quality 4-channel all-analogue mixer for playing vinyl, you may be better suited to a mixer with more than 2 phono preamps. If you wanted the MODEL 1, but thought 6 channels was too many, now’s your chance to scoop up the 4 channel edition.

For more info and to purchase – click here!

Words: Eliot Harris

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