Dj's in the red

So I am wondering… If I check DJ playing, very often they play in the red (sound level). I actually thought this distorts the sound and kills the dynamics. Why do so many (famous or not) DJs still play with red LEDs blinking. Doesn’t matter if they use a Pioneer or an Allen and Heath. Almost always I see red lights.

embarrassingly i was djing a couple of weeks ago on one of these dumb monsters and i was trying to adjust what i thought were the gains, but no. they have four-band eqs. the whole time i thought i was turning the trim knobs down, i was turning down the hi-freq eq.

so blame the “reds” on the dj before me who had the gains up to high. i thought i was helping.


Sometimes the master volume on the board between the mixer and speakers is too low and DJ’s end up compensating going into the red. On digital mixers especially you will definitely hear very annoying clipping, even at low volumes. DJ’s, get to know the sound engineers working the venues!

If you ain’t redlining, you ain’t headlining, baby.

Or, as Mario says, the sound engineer should really be your friend.

It’s always amazed me when DJ’s play at maximum volume in each channel. I mean, where do you go from there?


I thought this was gonna be about DJs in debt :sweat_smile: Was looking forward to some scurrilous gossip


Has anyone ever felt the need to have a 6 channel mixer?


You go one louder…


I’ll line 'em up, you tap 'em in :wink:


Rather than this turn into the usual boomer moanfest, could we look at some of the reasons this is so widely done?

I have heard from people i semi-respect that certain mixers sound “exciting” when pushed slightly into the red. I also heard another dj complain about a certain mixer in a club not sounding good unless you really pushed the volume quite hard.

Also, i have noticed that when i play on gigantic systems like festivals, or just big club rigs that any slight input of the volume on my end can be very noticeable on the other end. This could be because i can hear a bit clearer with my earplugs in, but i did try out doing the same mix with both songs in the red slightly, and the compression that the mixer had applied did effectively hide any volume inconsistencies.

This same approach does also mean that, if you were to be a headliner, you are playing at the loudest/loudest sounding level possible, or at least as loud as the djs on before you/after you.

In all my years of having to endure big name house and techno djs constantly redlining, i have never heard any of them clipping. I have noticed even big djs who produce indie bands also whack it straight up into the red as well.

So, in conclusion i don’t believe that every single person doing this redlining is doing it because they are some idiotic moron that is an inferior human being to you wise old sages. I reckon there is a way to work it to your advantage, if you are a certain kind of dj.

I think i am going to continue to try to master smooth volume transitions without just smushing the sound into the red, but i also don’t have to worry about sounding quieter than, i dunno… Mall Grab, or Brandon Block or whoever…


I must admit on occasion where I know for a fact the house / venue system has enough headroom and can handle it, I have played in the red because the experience on the floor just isn’t having enough impact. Perhaps that’s also the reason others do it?


I guess every mixer is different as to where it’s sweetspot is too. The Carmen, for example, really sings at around 7 on the dial.

But surely a club should have it set up so you don’t need to max out to achieve the impact you’re after?

We aren’t talking about Carmen’s and boutique rotary mixers with flawless sound, and understanding sound engineers who have a great relationship with the djs performing though, are we?

The people redlining are often on, as the above person said, on Pioneers and A&H mixers.

No we’re not, but my point was, what is the sweetspot on a Pioneer or A & H? There must be one? And if so, the club installation should surely be set up so there isn’t a need to thrash the shit out of it.

I’d say a more heinous crime is having the monitors at ear bleeding levels, which in turn results in the headphone levels being absolutely ridiculous. Both probably because the DJ is redlining the system…:rofl:

I’ll preface this by saying I know nowt about club systems but surely they have some kind of limiter after the mixer to protect the system? So anything you do on the faders beyond a certain pre determined (by the engineer) level nothing will be going into main system?

To a doctor to get ear plugs fitted before tinnitus truly takes over, I’d imagine.

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Right, my apologies i misread what you were meaning.

I honestly don’t think it would matter where the sweetspot on a mixer designed for mass club installs was, you have to be pragmatic (and realistic) about how these mixers are going to be used in the real world.

I think in both cases, the upfader is meant to be used at the 100% point, and the gain knob is then used to trim the volume back to under the red-line, or into it, or whatever…

I just don’t know if i believe there is a sweetspot with mixers like that tbh.

On the other end of the speakers though, i do believe there is a certain contingent of clubbers that doesn’t feel like they have got their money’s worth if they don’t leave a festival/nightclub with their ears ringing, or “feel” the soundsystem, or hear kickdrums being overdriven. People talked about putting their heads in the bassbins at The Musicbox and other legendary venues with loud soundsystems.

The Hard House & Gabba scenes played with that concept within the actual productions, overdriving the 909 kicks to make them sound blown out, like a speaker almost popping.

Same principle as when you try to turn a radio on a building site down slightly so it isn’t distorting like crazy, and everyone is all “oi!!! turn that back up, i can’t hear it now!!!”

So i think there is an almost subconscious element to this, that some of these djs will be playing with, purposely or not.


after fucking about with it for an hour or so, i decided it was a “2x4” mixer - it had two completely separate cue functions (supporting discrete cue paths for two djs at once, which was stupidly confusing at first).

it also didn’t have a crossfader, which again kind of made sense if it was going to have two djs’ hands on it at the same time. though my pal that i was djing with that night noted “that’s a $3400 mixer, for an extra $100, they could have included a crossfader that you could easily turn off”.

anyway, for my purposes that night - it was a dumb mixer. however, not being able to read the knob functions was my fault, not the mixer’s.


A Dorrough or Wohler will actually tell you something about dynamic range and loudness. As for DJ’s, deafness is a reality as it is in the punters.

When your gigs are in a pub or similar sound system it doesn’t seem to make much difference to me whether in the red, it’s just slightly extra volume. In a proper club the engineer will usually walk over and point at the mixer and tell you off if you push it into the red. That’s how I manage my levels.