You might remember DJ Anubus from our Denon DN-MC6000 feature, but in addition to a killing the YouTube DJ scene Anubus he’s also been working on disco house edits and remixes with Mike Device under the name Disco Llama. Check out their new Mixtape, and download their first EP absolutely free from their Soundcloud. We’ve got some special content in the works with these guys so digest these tunes and check back for more!
The DJ battle circuit has it’s tools of the trade pretty well sorted in two turntables and a mixer. With so many new DJ and MIDI controllers hitting the market though controller DJ’s have been looking for their own place to square off and some “Controller Battles” (like the one promoed above) have started to take root. The limitations of turntables and vinyl force all kinds of creative outcome but with the addition of a computer/controller setup the possibilities become endless. In some ways this raises the creative stakes to take a traditional DJ battle set to the next level. Without a standard “setup” pretty much any piece of technology goes and the more unique and interesting it is to watch the more cred it seems to earn you.
I’m reminded of a pre-existing format where pretty much anything went as well. A perhaps much nerdier corner of the hip hop battle circuit showcases beatmakers in what’s called a “Beat Battle.” In a Beat Battle producers swap turns playing their latest (normally hip hop) beats to hype the crowd. Sometimes the producers are given a sample to work with and a set amount of time time to create a beat in. All in all, the emphasis is on original production, and while flashy finger work may get the crowds attention, letting your beat ride and getting amped on it can also work (see Will.I.Am acting a fool at Root Down Soundclash above).
What’s important is that the emphasis is on THE BEATS with seemingly less regard for how you make them. Lap and desktop computers run as free across the tables as MPC’s, synths, and turntables. It’s a pretty cool way to watch worlds mix as dudes who only rock hardware raise just as much noise as dudes playing off laptops and guys who scratch their samples in by hand. Combing through of the Beat Battle YouTube threads can also be a great way to see how beat makers are taking their sounds out of the machine and presenting them live to rock the crowd.
See the related products below to get your hands on controllers that can help you rock your own beats live!
If you follow our YouTube channel religiously you may have noticed the slow trickle of videos shot by us and our friends at South By South West. We invited Twin Shadow, Jahphet “Roofeo” Landis, and Brian Sweeney to take Zoom’s Q3HD Handy Video Recorders to capture their experiences at this year’s South By South West music festival on and behind the stage.
Twin Shadow are receiving massive acclaim on their debut album (produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear) and took SXSW by storm this year playing all the must see showcases and opening for The Strokes on the festival’s biggest stage. George and Wynne from Twin Shadow live and record in Bushwick not far from the ProAudioStar warehouse. They got some footage between sound checks, frosty runs, and photo shoots for us to check out.
Jahphet Landis is the long time drummer for The Death Set and is more recently guest drumming with TV on the Radio. A producer and DJ in his own right Jah DJ’s and remixes as “Roofeeo.” A Bushwick native Jah lives in Brooklyn when he’s not touring playing drums and DJing. Jah was one of the busiest people we knew at South By playing drums with The Death Set, TV On The Radio, and Spank Rock. We’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with all of it.
Brian Sweeney is one of the masterminds behind Vibes Management and booking and management company also located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Being part of a media-consciousness event curation team Brian was really checking out South By South West with a curators eye and managed to check out more bands then anyone we knew down there. Luckily he got footage of it all.
Your portal to the series starts with the trailer above. You’ll find embedded links to the whole series at the end of that video, or check out the full YouTube playlist here. You can also check out some full songs from bands pulled from this footage on our friend’s channel Music On Video.
Thanks to Twin Shaddow, Jah, and Brian for giving us the inside tip on their SXSW journey. The Zoom Q3 is the ideal tool for grabbing footage at live shows because it’s stereo mic pair and volume attenuation makes sure your audio doesn’t distort. If you’re a gigging musician, promoter, or festival fan and your camcorder or cell phone footage just isn’t cutting it the Q3 could be just the upgrade you need. Follow the links above to see (and hear) for yourself!
Our feature vid on the Numark NS6 has been on the loose for a few days now but I’m checking in from the road to give some first hand impressions and behind the scenes details on this four deck controller before it hits the street!
I’ve been getting lots of questions on the jog wheels so here’s the deal: not motorized, but very responsive. Think of these as an upgraded version of the jog wheels you’d find on the Numark Mixtrack or Mixdeck. Solid metel construction and not too much travel make them comfortable to nudge and scratch on. I also liked that if you put some pressure into the wheel you’d get some tug from the spindle making it possible to get a little bit of resistance. As far as software response, these are some of the better non motorized wheels I’ve tried. They compare too, if not outperform the platters on the VCI-300 and make it possible to get fairly technical with practice. I’ll stick to my mantra, nothing’s the same as scratching vinyl, but as controller wheels go these are definitely workable for scratching in songs at the gig.
The solid metal construction isn’t limited to the wheels alone, the whole unit is cased in brushed metal which makes it pretty sleek looking. It’s still compact and not too heavy to case or bag up and bring to the gig, and the balanced outputs and separate booth out are particularly convenient if you like using an external monitor or need RCA leads for your home system. The mixer itself functions stand alone meaning you don’t need to send the audio from your CDJ’s or Turntables through your computer before it hits the main out. Very handy for integrating the NS6 into your current setup and using it without a computer when need be.
The two effects decks can be assigned to any channel or the main out. You can also put both effects on one channel giving you some extra performance possibilities like in the intro of my routine where I used the filter and echo on one track while tapping in the cue point. The faders for wet/dry are unique to the NS6 and make the effects pretty fun to reach for.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the NS6 for me is that it’s currently the only game in town if you’re looking for four decks in Serato ITCH with scratch style controls. Until the market catches up, if you’re a vinyl control DJ who doesn’t want to give up Serato, but do want to dive into a controller with some extra decks and effects, the NS6 is your best look right now. Thankfully it’s a solid entry to the four channel controller market to boot!
Here’s my playlist for the above video!
Munchi – Gracias
Mr. Vegas – Tek Weh Yuhself
LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great
Daft Punk – Da Funk
Space Cowboy – Always & Forever (Banana Seat Remix)
Banana Seat – Banana Theme
Boys Noize – Jeffer
The RME UFX
Last month, I reviewed RME’s new portable interface, the Babyface (you can read the write-up here), and to say that I was an instant fan is a major understatement. I bought the unit within the first day of playing around with it, and I’ve used it for overdub and location recording on pretty much every project that’s demanded it since. For my own project studio however, I needed something a little more full featured. So, when the UFX – RME’s new 30 x 30 flagship interface – finally came into stock, I figured I’d give it a little test drive. Given how pleased I’d been with the Babyface, my expectations were, no doubt, unreasonably high. After all, the core elements of every flagship technology RME produces, from conversion to clocking to preamps, all went into this little box. If the Babyface looked squarely poised to take on the Apogee Duet, the UFX no doubt is setting its sights on the Ensemble. Having never worked directly with the latter, I cannot compare the two. Butt I will tell you is that the UFX has somehow managed to meet (or exceed) my expectations in nearly every sonic facility. If there is a comparable interface to be had at the price, I certainly have never heard it (if you have, please send me one so I can build it a shrine). The only stock interface I have ever heard that I can say is definitively better is the Prism Sound Orpheus. It also happens to cost well over twice what the UFX does.
Design and Build Quality/Ease of Use
Before anything else, let me just say that RME has to have set some sort of record for the sheer amount of stuff they have crammed into a single RU box with the UFX. The connectivity alone is insane: 30 inputs and outputs, 12 of them analog (if you include the mic pres and stereo HPAs), Firewire or USB 2.0 interface protocol, AES/EBU, Optical S/PDIF and ADAT I/O, BNC word clock, midi … heck, the only thing it doesn’t have is coaxial S/PDIF. Given all that connectivity, it’s a wonder the UFX is as elegant and clearly laid out as it is. The physical inputs are crammed in like clowns in a Volkswagen, and yet nothing is difficult to access, poorly marked or even aesthetically cramped feeling.
For me, however, the single greatest part about the physical layout of the UFX is the front panel input connectivity. The mic pres/DI ins, the headphone outs and one set of the MIDI I/O – essentially everything you’ll find yourself frequently connecting and disconnecting gear to – is placed on the front panel. Clearly RME understood that most potential buyers of this unit don’t have complex enough setups to warrant patch bays, and often have very tight space constraints as well (certainly true for my own small studio space). Never again (well, at least as far as this piece of gear is concerned) will I find myself having to fumble blindly around the back of my rack contorted into some seventh level yoga pose with a flashlight in my mouth just to plug in a microphone. My back thanks you RME.
In every facet, major and minor, the build quality follows suit. Top quality parts (including all Neutrik connectors) are used for every analog input, and the physical chassis itself is pretty much what you’d expect from “Made in Germany.” Knobs and controls feel solid and sturdy, and every connection feels dependable. Small touches like aluminum rack handles for easy mounting and dismounting abound, and even the seemingly microscopic display on the front panel is so well laid out and so high resolution that ultimately it’s both highly functional and eminently usable. Every way you slice it, the UFX is a classy piece of gear.
From the software side of things, the Total Mix FX software I felt was too complex for the Babyface makes perfect sense here, and frankly, once you figure out a couple of the major idiosyncrasies of its design, it’s actually fairly straightforward and extremely functional. The tiny metering on the gorgeous front panel LED screen is understandable, given the physical limitations of a single RU box, and for nearly every function that you can adjust with it, the context menus are quite simple to navigate, and the text very readable. Most importantly, you can adjust nearly every setting either on the physical unit or on the Total Mix FX software depending on taste. This may seem like a minor point, but the flexibility of being able to make gain adjustments with a physical knob while still keeping your DAW windows up front is a major plus for me. My only qualm is that (at least as far as I can tell) you can’t select a single channel and blow up the metering on the small LED screen. It would be very helpful to have a larger set of stereo meters for PPM monitoring on stereo buss mixdown and mastering.
One minor caveat emptor worth mentioning is that there are still a couple of bugs in the firmware (at least as of version 1.79). Every now and again, the digital channels will decide that it’s time to throw a rager and start spitting up digital drek on every channel. It’s nothing that a quick hardware restart won’t fix, and I’ve no doubt that it will get ironed out in future firmware updates, but it can be a bit of a minor annoyance. And to be fair, it’s not something that has ever plagued me in the middle of a session. It either happens within a few seconds of start-up or it doesn’t.
The UFX performs such a staggering number of functions that I’m not even sure where to start here. In my mind, however, the core function of any quality interface should be conversion, so lets begin there. Simply put, it’s stunning. The first thing I do to test an interface is always to run a few carefully picked reference tracks through it, in order to get a feel for the clocking and digital-to-analog conversion, as well as how well the monitor-control (if indeed there even is monitor control), functions. And even with my expectations duly bolstered by the experience I’d had with the Babyface just a month earlier, my jaw hit the floor when the sound first came on. This is a level of quality that’s starting to enter the genuine elite class. Yes, there are some professional studios I’ve worked in with Meitner and Mytek conversion and Antelope rubidium clocks that produce a yet more mesmerizing sound. But they have also paid tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for that luxury. This, at a price the dedicated home studio owner can swing, comes impressively close, and it’s lightyears ahead of anything else I’ve heard within several thousand dollars of the price. The imaging, control and detail on playback are breathtakingly subtle and controlled.
The analog-to-digital conversion is equally good. The noise floor is fantastically low, and conversion itself is effortlessly clean and dynamic. One of my favorite preamps in my rack is the AEA TRP, a super high gain, super low noise, dedicated ribbon preamp, and in using it with lesser converters I’ve started to bring up converter noise well before the self-noise of the pre itself (which tends to defeat the purpose given that it’s designed to work with those picky, low output ribbons). But the UFX converters can match it pound for pound well into the high 70db gain range, which is a feat unto itself. Ideal conversion, as far as I’m concerned, is accurate, detailed, transparent and quiet. Good ADC should more or less do its job and get out of the way, and the UFX conversion does exactly that. Once again, this is a level of quality that is starting to break into the level of boutique stand-alones.
The preamps are clearly of the same family and ethos as the Babyface pres, only a lot more so. Clean and extended, but with a hint of low end warmth and overall depth and roundness that seems to typify the new generation RME pres. I wouldn’t classify these as character pres by any stretch, but they’re definitely not cold or clinical. If restricted to a single adjective, “rich” would characterize them nicely.
Most importantly, they are incredibly versatile: 65 db worth of truly clean gain and parallel converters on every mic pre translates add up to give you a ridiculously low noise floor, so there’s probably not a mic in your locker that these pres can’t shine on. Frankly, as impressive as the conversion is for the UFX, the preamps may yet be another step above; these might be the best interface pres I’ve ever used, period. As far as clear, neutral, effortless microphone preamplification goes, you’re looking at a minimum of about $750 per channel on a truly top tier standalone pre to best these. There are some lower cost, more colored pres, like the Black Lion Auteur or Focusrite ISA series, that I might prefer for certain applications, but within the clean preamp camp, the UFX pres are superb.
The versatility of the UFX is staggering. The breadth of its connectivity and the power of its sound quality alone make it enormously capable, but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. From the software side, the complexity of the Total Mix FX software stems directly from its functionality. The channel, mix and playback routing are all infinitely configurable, all settings are recallable, and a huge number of configurations and presets can be saved and stored for easy repetition. All sorts of useful extras, like M/S matrix processing, pan and volume automation, and phase inversion are there if you need them, and surprisingly good DSP powered reverbs, EQ, compression and echos are available on each channel. It’s not exactly mastering grade stuff, but it’s definitely higher quality effects than you’ll find stock in most DAWs. Best of all, it won’t put any drain on your processor or inject any meaningful latency given that it’s all powered from the UFX itself, so at the very least it’s useful for tracking even if you have higher quality plugins for post.
The UFX can even run standalone and record directly to a usb pen drive or external hard drive via the USB input on the front panel, which given its small footprint, superior sound quality and excellent connectivity makes it a real competitor to the likes of Nagra or Sound Devices for location sound and live concert recording. There’s an enormous range of people, from professional recording musicians, who want a quality all-in-one solution to their personal recording and editing needs, to serious project studio owners, who want a top-notch centerpiece to build around, who could benefit from a unit like the UFX.
At $2100, for many, the UFX may well be the most expensive interface they’ve ever even been aware of, let alone considered purchasing. Keeping that in mind, for the level of quality and versatility the UFX provides, nothing I know of within thousands of dollars comes anywhere close. It does so much, at such a high level, while providing such room for future expansion, that the $2100 almost seems like a bargain. There really isn’t anything else out there, with the possible exception of Apogee’s Ensemble (or perhaps more realistically, the new generation Ensemble 2 that is no doubt close on the heels of the recently unveiled Duet 2) that marries the convenience, versatility, ease of use and cost-efficacy of an interface with a quality level on par with some boutique standalone gear. In short, the UFX, at least as of this posting, has no equal at its price.
The Final Verdict
The UFX is a worthy cornerstone of all but the most esoteric, boutique project studios. It can fill a vast multitude of needs in a supremely classy style, and all for a price that’s surprisingly tame given the quality. The pres are good enough to push all but the pickiest low output ribbons, the conversion and clocking are absolutely top notch, and the I/O capability is rich enough to allow you to integrate any and everything you might need for a small studio. If you want one place to start that will give you huge flexibility to expand and everything you need to begin, the UFX is it. Buy a computer, a few quality microphones and some cables and accessories, and the UFX can do everything else. But the highest praise I can give the UFX is that it’s now the centerpiece of my own project studio. Food for thought…
Dev is a professional jazz-fusion composer, singer, sound engineer and front man for the band Wire Spoke Wheels, living and operating in beautiful Bushwick, Brooklyn. He’s also co-founder and co-chairman of Frost Audio, a small Michigan based audio company specializing in high performance cables and loudspeakers, all hand-made in the USA. He’ll be releasing his next studio album, Tears of Men, in early 2011. To learn more or hear his work, check out www.devavidon.com
ProAudioStar X Eastern District X Jason Grunwald
ProAudioStar (in collaboration with DJ TechTools) is pleased to unveil our first run of artist edition Midi Fighters featuring Eastern District gallery artist Jason Grunwald. Jason has worked out of his Bushwick studio for the last ten years as a painter and graphic artist after cutting his teeth at Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Jason’s work has graced album covers and show posters for musicians like Lee Scratch Perry, Grizzly Bear, Devendra Barnhart, and The Strokes among other national touring bands.
We gave Jason one Midi Fighter top to work with and he was so inspired he designed a series of four! Using high pigment Coloraid paper Jason’s explosive collages mimic the color palette and energy of his large scale paintings. Check out the video above to learn more about Jason’s process and see the completed Midi Fighters below. To see more of Jason’s work be sure to check out Eastern District. Big thanks to Jason we’re stoked on how great these look!
When saw DJ Anububus’s amazing DMC Online routine we sent him a message right away to see if he lived remotely close to us in NY and was interested being in a feature video. Lucky for us both things were true and we met up with Anubus in Brooklyn to hand off a Denon DN-MC6000. He spent a few days with it and came up with the routine you see above.
Anubus had never used a dedicated DJ controller before but was used to his M-Audio Trigger Finger for cue points and effects, so diving into the controls on the MC6000 wasn’t hard for him. He made efficient use of both the virtual decks and sample decks in Virtual DJ and kept one channel switched to analog input to sprinkle scratches in via a Technics 1200. I got a chance to ask Anubus a few questions about the MC6000 while we were on the shoot:
Thanks again to Anubus for checking out the DN-MC6000 and coming up with a totally ill routine on the quick. Watch out for more music, and videos from Anubus in the near future on his website and in the finals of the DMC Online Championship happening in August!
In our quest to bring you the best DJ accessories to keep your set looking and sounding smooth, we knew we had to get our hands on these Crane laptop stands. Already lauded but the top DJ blogs, the Crane stand is light, durable, super fly looking and super innovative with swiveling Z design to let you set it up in a variety of scenarios.
With the bottom arm swung back the Crane stand will solidly prop your laptop up on to the side of your setup with extra flexibility for height since you’re able to adjust the angles of the Z shape.
With the bottom arm forward this stand will slide in right under your Turntable (or mixer with rubber feet underneath) to set right over your setup if that’s where you want it. With the attachable tray you then have the perfect place to keep your Serato or Traktor interface tidy and out of the way.
The locking mechanisms on this stand are beefy and give you piece of mind that there isn’t going to be any wobble when tightened up properly. And the matte black paint and welds make this thing looks super sleek. Check out more from the Flickr set we shot with this on the street to get up close and personal with Crane and call us to grabe one yourself!
What would make you want to buy one of these things more then watching a dance music heavyweight rock out with one in his own studio!?!? Zombie Nation certainly has a grip on synthesis from the looks of his gear list but it’s cool to see him rocking out with Korg’s little analog ribbon synth also.
Zombie Nation has been doing a series of online collaborations with fans via his Soundcloud and Youtube accounts, having fans vote on which parts he would use for songs. He even had fans tuning into a live Ustream broadcast send in their own sounds for him to sequence. You can see a short snippet from that session called Day Of Many on his Youtube. His next single (with video edited by yours truly) is out March 21st with a full length not far behind. Lots to looks forward too from ZN, maybe some of which will feature the Monotron who knows!?
Some of my Boston bros invaded Brooklyn’s best party and held down the basement at The Rub this past weekend. DJ’s Knife and Tommee have DJed Boston’s best hip hop night for years and on this trip to NY they brought DJ Evaready with them as their secret weapon. Craig (Evaready) stopped by and picked up one of the Midi-Fighters I had setup for demos here at the shop. Can’t wait to see him in action with it!
We still have Midi Fighter kits available here for in store customers. If you’re buying online be sure to check out MidiFighter.com for more on the Midi Fighter. We’ve also got some special projects up our sleeves coming together slowly but surely with these little guys. Check out the video below for a sneak peak!