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.
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.
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.
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.