By Melissa Keogh
South Australian DJ and electronics technician Medhi El-Aquil’s old school-inspired DJ mixers are in high demand from sound appreciators worldwide.
From his workshop in Blackwood, the English-born craftsman manufactures analogue rotary mixers bought by DJs and nightlife venue owners in Paris, New York and London.
His company Condesa Electronics is well-known by disc jockeys, but also those who want to simply reconnect with the high quality sound only a handcrafted mixer can bring.
Rotary mixers – popular in the days of vinyl records – have analogue volume unit (VU) meters, circular controls and are minimal in their design.
Medhi says rotary mixers – which are used to transition from one song to another and to control sound output – offer more character and soul than mass-marketed, digital equipment.
“I think there’s a problem in the industry in that most people think that what is new and digital is better sounding, but that’s a misconception,” he says.
“Digital mixers can be more flexible and do more than the rotary mixer, but the quality is not as good.
“So there’s a trade-off … a rotary mixer isn’t as perfect and clinical as a digital mixer, but it’s got more character and there’s something special about it.”
Raised in the UK in the 1970s and ‘80s, Medhi was always tinkering with audio and recording equipment.
He left school at the age of 16 to undertake an electronics apprenticeship that mainly focused on security systems.
“There was a little bit of an audio component in it and I was always interested in that side of things,” he says.
Medhi has also DJ’ed at nightclubs on the Spanish party island of Ibiza.
Fourteen years ago he relocated from London to Adelaide with wife Kerrie, whose parents are Australian.
Medhi says the pair was drawn to Adelaide to be closer to family, as well as the lower cost of living and laid back lifestyle.
“The cost of living here is cheaper, so there’s not as much pressure to be working longer hours and I’m never stuck in traffic,” he says.
“All of these reasons are why I’m here.”
Six years ago Medhi completed the construction of his first rotary mixer, taking him one-and-a-half years.
It went to a Melbourne buyer before a second order came in, followed by a third and before long Condesa Electronics was born.
Medhi’s mixers are bought by clubs and sound studios in Scotland, the UK, America, Japan, Korea and Mexico, as well as popular musicians such as electronic duo Disclosure.
“They seem to be much more of a personal thing sold to people who appreciate them,” he says.
“We put hours and hours into making them. They are built to last decades.”
Condesa Electronics has a team of four staff who help construct the equipment, made from steel and sustainably-sourced wood – either Tasmanian oak or Australian blackwood.
Medhi can also be found filling eardrums with beats at popular Adelaide CBD nightspots Udaberri and Bank Street Social.
He hopes appreciation of classic, old school music gear will live forever.
“When we started making the mixers, they weren’t really a trend, but it’s actually grown in popularity,” he says.
“I intend to keep making them as long as there’s demand and I hope there will be.”