Allen + Heath DB4: Innofader Installation
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  1. #1
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Default Allen + Heath DB4: Innofader Installation

    So I installed an innofader in my DB4. The process was easier than I worried it would be but still posed some challenges that I'll share here for anyone wanting to do this mod.

    If you're still reading this, you already know how amazing the DB4 is as a 4-channel digital mixer. It does have some issues though; one of them is the curve settings on the stock faders. The faders themselves are quite nice, very smooth, solid feeling, nice fader caps and you can indeed cut back and forth quickly on them. Skratchworx did a nice review of the DB4 when it first came out and there was a response from A+H providing detail about the faders; you can read the review and response here.

    The bottom line is that these are indeed top quality faders that will last a lifetime, but they are not "scratch" faders. The main issue with these faders is the curve setting -- although the curve is adjustable, it does not turn the fader into an "on/off" switch at its sharpest setting the way you find on some magnetic and optical faders. The travel point for the cut-in is also not adjustable as it is on some other top shelf mixers (e.g. Ecler Evo series or the Denon DN-X1700), which means you will have to move the fader a few millimeters to get to your cut-in point, which will slow down your cuts if you are a serious turntable trickster. Nevertheless, you certainly can scratch on these faders, even do some crabbing and twiddling, but the sound will be a bit "smeared" as the fader is still moving the sound from zero to high volume over time rather than just cutting the sound on and off. This can sound ok, but the cuts don't sound as sharp as they would on a true scratch fader. I did a quick video example with the stock fader so you can hear the difference:



    (and yeah I kind of suck at scratching; this is just meant to illustrate the sound).

    If you're going to do this mod, make sure you get the Innofader Pro as the regular innofader probably won't fit. You also ought to check out SmiTTTen's excellent article on installing the innofader in the S4 -- this is a different model innofader and a different host unit, but it helps give you a sense of what you're in for. As smiTTTen points out, when you get the innofader, it comes with a dizzying array of goodies and minimal (but pretty straightforward) instructions:

    Attachment 6885

    The first thing to do is identify the correct adapter board to use with this mixer; that's easy enough as it comes in two pieces. Look at the diagrams on the instructions and match them up to the pieces; the one you want looks like this:

    Attachment 6886

    Then you want to connect the cables to the adapter board; make sure the connectors go in the right places as described on the instruction sheet and make sure the adapters are facing the right direction; you shouldn't have to force anything (though you do need to connect them firmly so some strength is required).

    Attachment 6887
    Attachment 6888

    Easy enough so far; the hard part is getting the thing into the mixer and getting your settings right. Thanks to mixarchitekt I learned that the easiest way to get to the fader is from the bottom of the mixer. I would have spent hours trying to get the top panel of the mixer off but this sage advice saved me all that frustration. Flip the mixer over (I put mine on a pillow so as not to stress the knobs and faders too much) and get to work on the 8 screws.

    Attachment 6889

    (Continued in the next post as I am out of attachment space...)
    Last edited by djproben; 04-19-2013 at 02:11 PM. Reason: updated skratchworx link to djworx
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  2. #2
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Be forewarned, these are not "normal" (aka phillips or straight) screws; you need a bizarre six sided "Torx - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia tool to get them out. If you mess with them with a Phillips head you run the risk of ruining the screws and you don't want to do that. So look for a tool with this tip:

    Attachment 6891

    Here's what your DB4 looks like on the inside - very nice and clean and proper and British:

    Attachment 6892

    OK here's where I started to get frustrated. I couldn't figure out how to get the fader out. Most of you will already figure this out but I'm kind of slow so it took me a while to realize I had to first remove the screws holding the fader to the top panel of the mixer; it came out easily after that:

    Attachment 6893

    A Phillips head screwdriver works fine with these although they are apparently Pozidriv screws.

    The fader comes out pretty easily after that:

    Attachment 6894

    See that orange connector on the fader? We want to connect that to the adapter board for the Innofader. Be careful to connect it to the right adapter on the innofader adapter board:

    Attachment 6895

    We're almost done ... one more post coming.
    Last edited by photojojo; 04-06-2012 at 06:50 AM.
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

  3. #3
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Default part 3

    Next we need to insulate the adapter boards. This will keep the electronic gremlins from your Innofader from messing with the ones in your DB4 and keep all the magic smoke inside. The nice folks at Audio Innovate provide these nice rubber sleeves to do the insulating so you don't have to mess with cardboard and scotch tape or whatever. First put the little velcro strips on the inside of the sleeves:

    Attachment 6896

    Next slide the adapter boards in the sleeves, one board one sleeve, and seal them with the velcro. Obviously you want to leave room for the wires to get through but you can do a nice job of sealing up the boards themselves with these sleeves.

    Attachment 6897

    OK, believe it or not, all that was the easy part. The most annoying part for me was actually fine tuning the innofader using the adjustment screws on the innofader itself. I put it all together without adjusting first, praying for the best, and screwed everything in, and then tried to use it. Well there was no cutoff; the fader seemed to not work at all. So obviously don't do that. I had to take it apart and put it back together a couple of times until I figured out how to have the innofader out of the unit and have the unit plugged into the speakers and turntable so I could test it out as I made my adjustments. I'm sure this violates some kind of basic law of electronics, but nothing blew up and everything seems to still work so it's all good. It wasn't until after about a half hour of doing this that I looked up the detailed instructions on the innofader website -- that should get you sorted; page down to the Customization section. This is a bit of trial and error to see how much cut in and curve you like.

    Also be sure that when you put the mixer back together that you use the screws provided by Audio Innovate rather than the Allen + Heath screws to attach the innofader to the top of the unit.

    Once it's all back together again, scratch away! I did another video of scratching with the Innofader installed. As you can see, it actually did not make me any better at scratching (if anything, my cuts are even more off-time in this video), but you can hear the difference in terms of how sharp and precise the cuts are with the Innofader. It also feels better overall. Even though the A+H fader is also quite smooth, the Innofader just glides back and forth. In fact, if you hold the fader on one end you can see that gravity alone is enough to move the fader from one side to another.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE2xwLMJ59E

    So... is it worth it? That's up to the end user. If you can afford this expensive mixer, adding an Innofader is a no-brainer. If you don't scratch at all, it's probably not necessary. Some people don't use the crossfader at all, so obviously it's not necessary if that's you. And this really isn't a "battle" mixer -- if you're shooting for the DMC you really want a mixer with a nice clean interface like the Rane TTM-56 rather than a busy effects processing digital mixer. But if you like to throw in some quick cuts during your sets and you don't like the curve on the stock fader, the Innofader is a nice upgrade. One drawback is the curve adjustment switch on the mixer is now useless -- it does have an effect on the curve but it isn't a desirable one, and it doesn't seem to be possible to use the cross fader in any mode other than the sharp curve mode, although that may be something that can be adjusted by someone who knows more about what they're doing.

    Hope this helps someone!
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

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    Do the line fader db4 slope adjust switches still function as usual? Just the xfader curve switch is useless, right?

    Thinking about doing this at some point..

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    Cool Tutorial !
    Kontrol X1MK2 <3

  6. #6
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Yeah this has no effect on the line fader adjustment switch (unless you put innofaders in the line faders too...)
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

  7. #7
    DJTT Infectious Moderator photojojo's Avatar
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    Great write up!!! You can get Torx bits at nearly any place that sells tools including Wal Mart. They come in number sizes like T-2 or T-3. What number is the bit you used Ben?

    btw, I fixed the wikipedia link in your second post.
    Chris Jennings FHP

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    Thnx proben for all this info.. I am probly gonna do this soon.. I havent used the xfader much at all on the db4..

  9. #9
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Looks like T-10 fits. I have a set of bits and just tried different ones until I found it. Think I first discovered Torx when I had to take apart my Macintosh Plus, hehehe.

    Thanks for fixing that link - I think it was working right under the old website, I'm not sure.

    kevz - the fader feels a lot better but if you don't scratch it may not be worth the expense. It's a better fader in lots of ways, but the A+H fader is just fine for quick cuts back and forth while mixing; it's just not cut out for scratching, and the lack of precision on the cuts will be noticed if you're doing a lot of them.

    One drawback (depending on your perspective this may be a feature) of the innofader is you can't use the A+H supplied fader caps with their cool logo engraved on them. But the innofader cap is great, better for scratching as it's a bit heavier, and the line down the middle of it is almost the same color so it doesn't look out of place on the mixer.

    Glad you guys appreciate the info! I had forgotten about this post months ago lol...
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

  10. #10
    Tech Guru djproben's Avatar
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    Necrobumping this to ask if anyone actually did this besides me. Now that A+H offer a Pro X fade option, I'm wondering if I'm the only person in the world with an innofader in a DB4.
    "Art is what you can get away with." - Marshall McLuhan

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