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A Sea Of Blue (2009 Messe Wrap Up)

The recession officially hit Messe this year, with a tiny dj section punctuated by wide open areas of normally precious trade show real estate. Even on Friday, the final day for industry professionals,  the halls were markedly sparse with long open lanes and a few casual djs perusing. This makes sense, companies have clearly felt the hit over the past 6 months and many are trimming back big time on un-necessary expenses.

Friday only told half of the economic story though. To get the other half it was essential to go back on Saturday, when the fair opened up to the general public. In stark contrast to friday’s eery quiet, Saturday was rammed with people and loud as hell. They seeming to be carrying the general sentiment felt around the globe. “We may not have much spare money but I am not about to give up on my music passion! So screw the recession- lets go look at some cool gear.”


If you looked carefully around the dj area there were still  several new midi controllers to be found this year including the Otus Raw, Novation 25SL mk2, Rane SL3, the “next beat” and a new Akai pad. Lets take a quick look at each of them after the jump.

Novation 25SL MK2

As many of you may know, the 25SL Mk1 was my exclusive dj weapon or a few years. Ample midi controls give you more than enough ammo to tackle Traktor or Ableton if you can only wrap your head around djing with keys.  The Mk2 does not change in any major ways but makes several nice improvements that result in a very compelling package. Some of them include touch sensitive knobs and faders and back lighting on all the buttons. The 8 pads have been revamped with more hit surface and velocity sensitivity. Good news for you, Novation is sending us our own unit so you can expect a fully bad ass Traktor Pro mapping available very soon.

Otus Re-Worked

The stripped down version of Otus was introduced at the fair this year and the Finnish team with a flair for creative design has made some good improvements. They ditched the touch strip pitch fader and instead added not one but two 100mm pitch faders side by side. Not sure if the idea will really work but its a creative concept and just might be a one of a kind thing.  While you lose an audio interface and a few knobs the RAW version gains more useful controllerist controls like MPC style pads and bigger buttons for setting loops. This is another controller to keep your eye on in the coming months as its very likely there will be an official dj TechTools mapping for this bad boy as well.


The MidiFighter was not officially at the fair this year but quite a number of people had their eyes on the one I was using in my sets. That controller was one of 10 made by our very own MidiFidler. While its not available commercially right now, we have created a list for people to sign up if they are interested in knowing if they become available in the near future.  I was using the midi fighter to execute a new concept in the works called “Sample Chords”  which I will be demonstrating in a video some time soon. In the meantime, a bunch of people filmed my sets so there should be some video popping up on Youtube soon.

The Akai Pad

While the $60 nano pad is basically impossible to beat at this point, that didn’t stop Akai from bringing out a lower cost and compact pad controller of their own. We don’t have a word on price but Akai has been contacted for more details. Since they are the bench mark for quality in that dept, expect this unit to be a good value with some nice features like velocity sensitivity that the nano lacks. Hopefully it will last longer too, as the nano’s seem to break just as fast as they sell.

Open Labs D Beat

Cant tell you too much about this controller now but more info is on the way. Its large, dj focused and very expensive: $3999 including an enclosed computer, touch screen, audio interface and lots of controls.

more info

Hercules Sound Card

looks interesting and is probably priced very low. Appears to be a dj focused version of the RME fireface 400 with just the right number of inputs and outputs.

Next Beat

I was excited to check out the final version of the Next Beat ever since they invited me to be involved in the first rounds of artist discussions about the concept one year ago. While the idea seemed on shaky ground then, a dj solution from Wacom sounded like it could be interesting and a good solution to keep an eye on. While the detachable player concept is interesting, and it is indeed fun to play samples on the dance floor wirelessly I was not terribly impressed. In fact, I walked away from the booth feeling like Wacom might want to stick to tablets and stay away from the dj world entirely because the product designer really is not in touch with djs in 2009.

When asked why they didn’t offer automatic tempo matching, the Wacom product manager/designer explained “Automatic adjustments are bad.. Djs want to do everything manually”. Bad automation tricks like that are software features and apparently the designer is not very fond of software or computers, he added ” I don’t like computers, I like hardware.. ” and continued to inform me that djs feel the same way.  “Many djs really hate pcs…Djs only like computers because they can email from the dj booth”.

The automatic BPM matching was the really sticky point. The next beat forces you to match tempos manually using a set of short touch sensors which are not very accurate for small adjustments.Those touch sensors by the way only work if your pressing them with the bottom of the finger and wont detect a finger tip motion.

I would respectively suggest that the djs who really want to match tempos automatically will do it with a more accurate tool like a 100mm Technics pitch fader- not a 40mm touch sensor.  If you really want professional djs to mix on collection of small touch faders then you have to automate some non-critical functions- like BPM matching.

  • Chris

    The new EKS Otus Raw looks great, I recently purchased an Otus and the loop buttons are way too small and the touch sensitive pitch is slightly annoying but other than that it's a great controller. Wouldn't switch to the Otus Raw though as I like the fact I have a built in soundcard which you lose with the Raw. Anybody know if EKS are planning on updating the Otus after the Raw is released? If they do I hope they lose the touch sensitive stuff and replace with proper fader, mpc-style pads and make loop buttons bigger.

  • Do you remember the "Ean Reunion with other djs and vestax guru"?

    They said Future = tactil.

    It cost me a "flame" with him (because I leave an "or" in my comment)


  • The whole "Djs want to do things manually" is laughable.

    Djs like options and by not giving the user options like this i wouldnt be at all suprised at all if this unit is an epic flop. Its a shame because wacom could have come onto the market with a more innovative solution than this, while also sticking somewhat to their market of computer users.

    Sounds like they should have more closely listened to what Ean had to say in the earlier days.

  • Dj Anarchy

    [quote comment=""][…] reviews and more information about these controllers at the DJTechTools […][/quote]

    [quote comment="17390"]VCI-300 has cuepoints on each deck since day one. What do you mean?[/quote]

    my bad dude.. didn't know.. hmmm I'm trying to down size my set up.. but damn I love my tables.. but the vci 300 looks like a good controller… damn.. small space.. save my back .. from all the weight I gotta carry.. fuck.. well see… u guys think the itch program will support video .???

  • Cool wrap up Ean!

    By the way, what's the name of the song used in the vid? It's awesome!

  • VCI-300 has cuepoints on each deck since day one. What do you mean?

  • Dj Anarchy

    damn the economy is hitting hard… not too many controllers… any news on vci 300 getting cue points like the ns7…. ???

  • Grizu

    As far as I know they are still working on the new 05 and 08 mixers with MIDI. And I saw a video today that says "the tank" (an audio-interface with xlr-outs) is on sale in Japan now.

  • fdisk

    Anything new from Vestax?

  • jimspree

    No video of me swimming across the sea of blue! haha

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=""][…] reviews and more information about these controllers at the DJTechTools […][/quote]

    The Next Beats Price is LAUGHABLE, what a joke

  • I completely disagree that Djs want to do everything manually. Don't get me wrong there are some things that Djs love (and need to do manually), but there are some things that I would actually want a better automatic feature to implemented. Matching BPM is definetly one of them.

    Traktor Pro does an ok job of it, but I wish it were better. Beat-grids help to, but I have a large selection and I don't have time (either at home or live) to sit and beat-grid every song.

    If auto-BPM-sync worked better, it would free up more time for me to play with the song I am now, instead of worrying about the BPM of the next song. I could drop in more samples, play with more effects, etc.

    What is even more absurd to me is that the product tempo fader is even that great. If you are gonna make a statement about doing things manually, then that manual interface needs to be spot on.

    The detachable part is very cool though…

    This is one product I won't be buying (unless they do some major overhauling)

  • ToS

    Hey, let's post here all QUALITY youtube videos from Messe.

    Hercules has a great idea by adding a USB hub to the unit. I like it.

    That MidiFighter case is really nice work. I hope many will want to build one themselves (for the sake of experience gain and new/different interface solutions). Hopefully, there will be enough market for MidiFiddler to sell some (idea: signed and numbered units).

  • delirious86

    Here's something on the Stanton scs.3m

  • I filmed almost the complete set at the Vestax booth but my cam only shows me some blue screen 🙁 Hope to see some footage of the Battle and the Messe showcases soon. Midi Fighter is dope and I should try to fit in some arcade buttons into my vci-300.

  • wavegroom

    No word about the stanton scs.3m?

  • mekon_ca

    whats the name of the song in first video?

  • kilbot

    no write-up on the 'Reloop'? it looked rather interesting in the video…

    was it that entire controller? or just the sound interface portion showed by itself? or both?

    also, when the interface part was showed by itself, when the camera pans down there is a fancy looking white controller(?), what was that!?

    ahhh, the video was a big tease

  • davemex

    Ean, make sure in the next VCI-100 TSI file to include a button that toggles email on/off, after all, isn't that why we all use laptops to DJ?

    I think these companies that are making all of the self-contained hardware are missing a major component of the popularity of digital djing, and that is that now almost everyone has invested in a laptop for one reason or another. We already own the computing power so what we need are the tools that allow us to creatively interface with that device! Ok I've got to get off my soap box now before I type up an essay in the comment box.

  • luv2xra

    OTUS is making a great controller

  • nan

    Great… I can't wait for the mappings on the new remote!!! I assume this mapping in traktor pro will work also with the older version of the remote? at least involving minimal adjustments right?