PROAUDIOSTAR & NOVATION Present The TWITCH.
From the early days of CDJs, right up to the current state of digital DJ controllers, manufacturers have been trying to emulate the functionality of the turntable with jog wheels. But, a jog wheel is not a turntable and will never feel or function exactly like the genuine article. So, the sight of two, tiny, “Hey you can scratch on me! But, not really.” screaming, no motor having, circular pieces of emptiness generally give me the feeling that I’ve been duped. Enter the Novation Twitch.
Wait… what? No jog wheels! Call me crazy but, for this turntablist, the lack of two plastic little wheels really opened the floodgates, filling that void of betrayal with genuine excitement and curiosity. With no jog wheels in sight, there was no longer the desire to emulate my performance as if I had turntables. Instead, my intrigue grew, creative wheels started spinning and my need to touch every button possible came alive as I pondered new ways to perform as a DJ.
The Twitch works with both Serato’s Itch and Native Instrument’s Traktor right out of the box. However, Novation includes Itch right in the package so, let’s start there. For those of you that do not know, Itch is Serato’s digital DJ solution that utilizes beat grids and all the functionality of Scratch Live to bring the Serato experience to controller based DJing.
The first benefit of the Twitch is revealed upon first set-up. “Set-up” being the key phrase here. One USB, a pair of RCA’s and I’m Djing. That’s it! The buttons, faders and knobs are exactly where you’d expect them and are clearly labeled, covering nearly every function of the Itch program. Some functions require a double button press, which can be a bit confusing at first but, after a few minutes it’s fairly obvious what does what. The result of this intuitive layout is less time in front of the computer and more time actually DJing. I looked at my laptop only a couple times in the first fifteen minutes or so of use and, that was only to choose tracks. It was an incredibly freeing feeling to know what my effects, levels and assignments were all doing without so much as a glance at my laptop. As digital DJs we all know how easy it is to get lost in the computer screen. So, to have a clear, immediate program feedback right in front of you is a huge step towards DJs re-engaging the crowd.
The most exciting feature, unique to Itch, is the “Slicer.” Novation says: “The ‘Slicer Mode’ on TWITCH uses ITCH’s powerful ‘Beatgrids’ system to chop sections of your track into eight equal slices.” These slices are represented by the eight sample pads. Each pad lights up in sequence as the track goes on, showing you exactly what pad represents what segment. Pressing a pad will cause its respective “slice” to repeat. So, if you hit the pad that is lit up when you hear a kick drum, that kick will repeat until you release it and the track will continue playing in position as if you never hit it. Basically the pads act as eight separate “loop roll” triggers. This makes for a lot of fun and a great new way to be creative, composing and remixing on the fly. My only problem was that I found it a bit hard to be consistent in my use of the Slicer right off the bat. I think, as with anything, a little practice will remedy this. Just be prepared for mild sensory overload during that first session.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the Twitch is the touch strip. After a moment of fiddling with it you will find that the touch strip allows you to change the speed of a track, rewind or fast-forward it or skip to a new point in the song, all with a fair amount of accuracy. I also found the strip to be a very organic source of creativity. The flick of a finger gets you an incredibly natural rewind and a slow pull can result in a very smooth pitch bend. Combine these with some quick cueing, looping or effects and the possibilities are immeasurable. But wait, there’s more! For the Slicer, loop and loop roll functions the touch strip acts as a way to adjust the desired looping area and length each trigger pad represents. By using a two-finger pinch or spread, like how you would zoom on a touch screen, you can decide the general scale of the loops. For example, when pinching your fingers all the way together the smallest loop scale is selected. This means pressing pad 8 will give you a two bar loop, pad 7 a one bar loop, pad 6 a half bar and so on down to pad 1 which is nearly nothing at 1/64th. On the largest setting pad 1 becomes an eight bar loop, pad 2 a sixteen bar loop and on and on. Get it? Good. When you’re not pinching the Twitch’s cheeks you will find a stationary light bar on the strip. Dragging this to the left or right will also adjust the looping period. Using either, or a combination of these methods you will be able to make adjustments before, after or while triggering loops. This takes some getting use to but, again, with some practice, becomes another great way to keep you off of your laptop and into your performance.
All in all my experience with Twitch and Itch was a lot of fun and very easy going. This was my first time on this controller and Itch and I was up and running, comfortably, in a matter of minutes. Features like the Slicer and the ability to assign effects to the volume faders (the repeater on a fader is a thing of beauty) really took this controller/ program combo above and beyond expectations.
As a recent convert to Traktor I couldn’t wait to see what the Twitch had to offer this powerful program. As with Itch, it simply works right out of the box. With an intuitive layout, assisted by a provided plastic overlay, all of Traktor’s most important features are easily accessible, making for another quick start-up. However, the functionality of the effects section leaves something to be desired. The effects section is designated to a bank of eight small buttons and only four knobs. This results in only being able to have full control over one effect at a time so, tweaking out two effects at once is not an option. On top of that, the effects presets seem to only function if you have your effects engines set to a single effect, as opposed to the three per engine possible. But, with solid construction, consistent program feed back and enough knobs, buttons (eight pads for all eight cue points is a serious high point) and faders for a fluid performance, the Itch still stands out as a front runner in the world of Traktor controller options
While meant as an all in one Djing solution, I found the Twitch’s true strength in simply being a controller. As most DJs these days use a supplemental MIDI controller, these controllers are usually meant for production programs. That means reprogramming these controllers to fit a DJ’s needs. This leaves many struggling to find a comfortable layout and, in the end, having to forfeit many desired functions. The Twitch surpasses these controllers simply in that it is made for DJing. Weather you’re setting it up to control Serato Scratch Live or as a way to gain control over decks C and D in Traktor, the two clear-cut sides and a multitude of pads and knobs tailored to a DJing makes the Twitch a comfortable companion.
Use it as a sound card, use it as a controller, use it for whatever you want! Novation really hit a home run with this one and for the price you really couldn’t ask for more.
Pros- Tons of Pads and Knobs, Quick Set-up, Size, Construction, Price.
Cons- Faders are mediocre, Poor Traktor FX layout.