Exclusive In Depth Look: Smithson Martin KS-1974

The Smithson Martin KS1974 is one of the more interesting products at this year’s NAMM show, because it’s a really laterally thought out product. What the guys at Smithson Martin are doing is bringing touch capability to your workflow without having to make any sacrifices to the raw power of your existing software setup. We had a chance to take an in-depth look, and a video overview and interview with Alan Smithson himself- click through to watch! 

IN A NUTSHELL

What we love:

  • Touch screen design brought to your existing software
  • Highly configurable overlays
  • Constant development
  • The look

What we don’t:

  • Price!
  • The nagging sensation that all you’re buying is a screen

Price: $2500

Availability: Not quite yet, but very soon (end of January, fingers crossed)

 

HARDWARE

The KS1974 has no audio interface, no embedded computer, nothing but a screen in a cool looking box. We were a little surprised about this considering the price, but were told that the whole point of the KS1974 is to augment your setup – and what’s a setup without a computer or sound card? We can definitely see the logic – but it would still be nice to have everything totally embedded so that the unit was all that was needed.

BUT… WHY?!

Why not just use an iPad? Well, iPads are nowhere near as powerful as the computer you’re used to running Traktor, Live, or Scratch Live on for a start. The KS1974 is a way of translating your existing workflow into a touch based environment, and doing it totally head on; using an iPad as a touch controller to control your computer defeats the object of the design that Smithson Martin want to realise – a single screen, single interface, and single hub. Of course, your existing controllers will play just fine with the KS1974, because it’s the same software you’ve always used sitting underneath the Emulator software.

 

EMULATOR

Emulator is actually a very clever way to tackle the issue of making software that’s designed for mouse or external control work with touch. You create an interface that overlays your software, and assign MIDI values to the controls as you add them. This way you can learn them in software and suddenly you have controls that are actually usable. That’s not the clever bit, though: in order to see things like waveforms, you can cut sections of your overlay out so that there are little windows through to the underlying software. This allows Smithson Martin to neatly sidestep and potential licencing issues and give you their controls but the software you’re using’s GUI.

The software’s being updated too; we were told about new features like animated GIF support which sounded a little gimmicky but maybe there’ll be ways we haven’t yet thought of to utilise them creatively, as well as modular ‘instrument’ tools for interface creation. The ability of Emulator to be updated parallel to the music software that it controls means that you’re not going to be obsoleted in a month when the new version of your favourite software comes out with cool new features.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Why not just buy the touch screen that Smithson Martin are using? The guys concede that you definitely could, and if you wanted the absolute cheapest way to get Emulator to feature in your setup, it does seem like a viable option. You’d also have to think about how it should be angled, housed, deal with cable tangle, and so on though – and all that in mind, suddenly it doesn’t seem like such an attractive proposition compared to getting something off the shelf.

The KS1974 isn’t for everyone. To be honest, it’s probably not for most people, but the thing with boutique projects like this is that for the comparatively small number that Smithson Martin can make, there will be takers for whom it’s absolutely everything they’ve been looking for.

What do you think- will Smithson Martin be getting your hard earned, is it too expensive, or is it just not something that interests you?

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  • Discodalle

    look like they stoled the lemur layout lol

  • I WANT!!! Take my money!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ajo

    This is just dumb enough, Deadmau5 will have it soon…lol

  • DiiSiMO

    I would surely love to have one of these set down in my studio!
    The mixer capabilities in a touch surface that you can just slide and move across is just what I was looking for. I’m using Ableton Live so I can see this being easily integrated into my workflow. 
    The price is a bit steep but then again this isn’t for everyone…this is a serious piece of hardware that can seriously speed up recording/production/mix/master sessions.
    I’ll start saving from now lol.

  • Dom T.

    Wayyyyyy over priced. This thing is just a damn touch screen. An iPad really can do everything this can do, plus you can run some dope synths like Nanostudio, Sunrizer, Alchemy, Animoog and NLog on it for a fraction of the price, that’s why the Lemur died. It’s a beautiful piece of kit, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t even have a damn soundcard in it. At the very least one would think this would be included at this price point. Plus when I’m doing a filter sweep live, I much prefer twisting an actual knob. I agree that this could be a cool tool for production, but still far too expensive. And the iPad 3 is supposed to be coming out with a quadcore A6 processor that would rival desktop performance. If this is the case, they might actually run OSX which would make it capable of running Logic. If I could take Logic with me to the coffee shop on a tablet, I’d be in heaven. For me it’s all about bang for the buck. If I was a spoiled rich kid, I’d probably buy one though. 

  • Anonymous

    $2500 for what is, essentially, just a touchscreen? Wow. Talk about overpriced.

  • Gennadiy Poryes

    $2500 paper weight

  • Personally, I doubt I would use it for DJing, just as I already have an S4 and actually prefer physical knobs and buttons in a live performance context, but in the studio, this thing would be an absolute dream. I use Reason 6, and being able to work with the mixer and sequencer on a touch screen like this would be amazing. Although I think the rack would probably prove too tough to emulate. Time to start saving my money…

  • DJ Freshfluke

    i’m absolutely loving what they’re doing. touch displays ARE the way to go.
    but, totally unclear to me is, why the article refers to the ipad, which has no horse power and no real use (except being a toy).

    go buy/use sth considerable, or at least sth with enough power, like the asus eee slate or similar (gigabyte s1080, thinkpad x220t etc pp).

    since years there are better touch solutions out there than the ipad…

    • because

    • The Ipad is a good option because a 1Ghz dual core processor is more than enough to run a midi control application and it’s lighter, more portable and a lot less expensive. For example the thinkpad x220t is from 1300 to 1500 for the basic configuration wish is expensive just to have a touch screen, if you need a new laptop it may be ok but even then not everybody would want a laptop with only a 12.5 inch screen

      • DJ Freshfluke

        sorry, but the asus eee slate costs the same money like an ipad and you get a fully equipped computer with that to run traktor scratch the one day and the next the lemur/touch version just with the screen besides doing office stuff etc pp.
        no offence, if you’re happy with an ipad, then be happy, but for me personally, i see no use in it. the first thing i would do with an ipad is sell it ^^

    • ARE the way to go?

      i think that’s a bit absolute. i rarely if ever look at my kit, i play by touch, touch displays are not necessarily a good thing.

  • Skinny

    Okay, just gonna state the obvious, I’m a Serato Live user so I’m still going to need a mixer!  Are they going to play nice with Serato and Itch?  Or is this going to be a Traktor prefered device?

    Also, forgive the ignorance, but as a form of mixing, backspins, braking and scratching seem to be OOQ for these devices…or am I wrong?

    • 1. You’ll still need a sound card, this device does not handle audio, only software.  It doesn’t have a sound card.  But you could go without a mixer if you mix within your DJing software, and then you could control the software’s mixer using Emulator.

      2. It’ll play nice with Serato, but you’ll have to make (or find) your own Emulator mapping for Serato.  KS has made one for Traktor already, but not for Serato.  I’m sure they’re working on it.

      3. You can still scratch.  They have a type of rotary button that’s a DJ plate, so you can use those in your Emulator screen and map them to control your DJ software’s jog function.  Obviously it won’t feel anything like vinyl, and I’d imagine it’d feel even worse than using a jog wheel, but you could do it.

  • dj_mosquito

    you guys missed the aspect that you can get the software separate and run it on your own touchscreen, which is exactly what i’m going to be doing in about 2 hours. 😀

  • Michael Nelson

    shit for that price i can buy a macbook pro and a traktor s4

  • Pablo Martin

    Thank you for this nice review!………..one of your readers!

    Pablo Martin , from Smithson Martin Inc.
    Best regards!

  • bobj

    Hey!  Could you guys use a better (hand held) microphone in a noisy environment so we can better hear what’s being said?  The audio sucks!!!

  • TJP

    I just can’t wait to hear more about the EKS lab!

  • Newmaschine

    “Richie Hawtin (official page)
    Breakfast with Ean Golden and a sneak peak at a new Controller that gives new ways of expression! @djtechtools #NAMM #InnovativeIdeas”  … must be pretty sick

  • Escapemcp

    Waah! Can’t log in to forums – is there an issue (sorry to post here, tried to post in forum, but… ! 🙂

    • Destrukto

      Neither can I

  • DJNickMiller

    Terrible location sound recording, I’m struggling to make out the words over the background noise

  • DSC
  • EpicKidd

    I would definitely grab one of these for at home use! I am currently using an S4 among other gear for my live set and the idea of this would be a great replacement but I don’t think it would be a great “bring to a show” kind of deal. However I do have a few questions on how it runs.. For one, when you are viewing parts of the program you are controlling through that little window thingy, does the corresponding program need to be open underneath it?… or?…

  • Quenepas

    There are far better ways to “augment” your setup for a lot less money. 

  • Thanatos

    i hope for them it will last longer then lemur

  • Wooden BackPack

    Still not sure how they can justify $2500- and was that Vanilla Ice in their vids that is playing over his shoulder?

  • Anonymous

    Its more about the software than the screen..

    I hate that rotary style though.. maybe I just hate the way they work in touchosc.

  • 4 iPads with Touch OSC is cheaper…  LOL.

  • It does look beautiful, and would certainly be nice for a home install.
    Not sure I would want to take it out though.