SBS Designs ISO-Q2

Last week Shorty from SBS Designs dropped by our office with some new gear for us to try out. One of the products was the ISO-Q2 isolator. This is already in use by a number of a-list touring dj’s, and if you’re a fan of outboard gear or are putting together a club installation the ISO-Q2 has some unique features that definitely make it worth taking a look at. I set up the ISO-Q2 and gave it a quick run through:

SBS ISO-Q2

On the front panel of the ISO-Q2, right in the middle you have the standard knobs you’d expect on any DJ isolator – Bass, Mid, & Treble. What sets this one apart is the addition of 2 extra knobs that you won’t find on other isolators – bass frequency cutoff and the treble frequency cutoff. These are super nice for a couple of reasons. First, because you can tailor your frequency cut offs to the particular track or genre you are playing – you would want a different cut off point for techno and disco for example.  These are also useful for creating some neat effects where you can, for example, cut the bass gain and then change the cut off frequency for an added sweep effect.

SBS-ISOQ2 Back Panel

 

On the back panel you can find 2 more features that set this apart from other isolators out there. The ISO-Q2 has an effects send / return (I set up with a Mini Kaoss Pad to test it out) that is by passable with a switch on the back panel.  The other notable feature on the back is a Master Gain knob, which can be useful for a couple of things. You can use it to provide a little headroom for your system to protect from dj’s who go a little heavy on the gain, or you can use it to boost a signal from a lower-output mixer.

I recorded a quick demo using the ISO-Q2, you can listen below. Track info: Beto Cravioto – Inherent Vice (Cameo Culture Remix), out now on Plant Music. 

Numark Mixtrack Pro vs. Vestax Typhoon

We get a lot of questions at the warehouse about which controller a beginner should get when entering the controller DJ world.  The Numark Mixtrack Pro and the Vestax Typhoon are the heavy hitters in the entry level price range right now and I’ve seen a lot of debate in the forums about which one is better.  Check out the above video for my personal take on the strengths and weaknesses of each.

As I stated above I’d have to give the edge to the Mixtrack Pro when it comes to responsiveness of the jog wheels and faders, but I like the construction and layout of the Vestax Typhoon.  Software may be another thing you want to consider when checking these both out.  Once you learn to DJ you’ll be able to apply your skills to any software or scenario, but getting used to the nuances of one program often happens with the first one you really dive into.  The Mixtrack Pro comes with Virtual DJ which has a strong and well supported user base.  The Vestax Typhoon offers an entry level version of Traktor which is widely used by industry professionals.  You can map either the Mixtrack Pro or the Typhoon to upgraded versions of VDJ or Traktor but if you don’t want to purchase additional software you may want to keep in mind what comes in the box.

These controllers are both USB bus powered and have on board sound cards meaning all you need is a set of headphones to start rocking.  They’re great for anyone just starting out without a big budget.  Check out the  video above for the full rundown!

The Traktor Kontrol S4

Native Instument’s Traktor Kontrol S4 has arrived at our warehouse and is now shipping.  There was a lot of hype around this unit and we were lucky enough to get our hands on it a few days early to give you the lowdown the day it dropped.  Check out the video above to get the overview on the Kontrol S4 and see parts of a routine from yours truly.  Read on to get my initial impressions on using the Kontrol S4:

The biggest difference between this and other controllers I’ve tried has to be the jog wheels.  As a turntable guy, I’ll preface my point of view on this by saying that I don’t think any controller will ever truly simulate what it feels like to scratch on vinyl.  Even if the controller market comes close just the action of playing on a smaller unit makes the user experience vastly different.  Where as other controllers rely on a touch sensitive surfaces to enable the scratch control in Traktor or ITCH, the S4’s jog wheel actually presses down like a button.  Depressing the top of the jog wheel to scratch seems like a more fail safe system over touch sensors, some of which I’ve found tricky on other controllers.  The wheel itself is raised with a rubberized rim much like a CDJ, so for those used to mixing on CDJ’s these jog wheels might hit closer to home. Vinyl DJ’s looking for a perfect turntable simulation wont find it here, but if you’re jumping into a controller setup these wheels are highly responsive and leave a lot of room for practice and improvement of your current scratch techniques.

Native Instruments has also introduced new features to a version of Traktor built custom to the S4.  In Traktor Pro S4 (ships with every unit) you can run four decks in traditional song playback mode, or put decks C and D into “Sample Deck” mode enabling you to load up to four loops or samples into each.  Once loaded you can launch these loops or samples from the cue point pads built in to the S4.  The pads themselves are a heavy rubber and definitely capable of handling some MPC style drumming.  The greatest feature of the sample decks is that they synch to your other tracks and you can scratch them with the jog wheel the same way you can a normal track.  In essence it’s like having eight Ableton Live style clips available within traktor.

Controls for the new built in loop recorder are situated in the middle of the mixer layout.  The loop recorder itself is an innovative feature that functions almost like a fifth deck letting you record a loop live from any audio source in your software or your analogue and microphone inputs.  Those loops can then be dumped into your sample decks and synched to your other tracks and preprepared loops.

The effects and filters are the same you’re used to in Traktor Pro.  The knobs on the S4 have a nice feel and the larger filter knobs are particularly fun to reach for in the mix.  The unit itself is solidly constructed and the black on black brushed metal and plastic is a mean look.  Quarter inch outs on the back ensure nice loud output and the sound card supports 24 bit playback for high quality sound.  Analog inputs let you run your turntables or CDJ’s into the mix as well.

Even having played on the S4 for only a short amount of time I can say this is not only the most comfortable controller I’ve played on, but also the one I see as most capable for developing advanced routines with practice and performance.  When approaching a controller I think it’s important to think about how you’ll DJ differently on it as apposed to comparing it to your current way of DJing.  It’s telling that Native Instruments has thought through not only the physical layout of this controller, but the software updates that come with it to really change the opportunities for DJ’s to create beats and remixes on the fly.  I think we’re sure to see S4 users embrace this unit and really take the live controller and performance game to the next level.

Mixtrack Pro and new M-Boxes!

We were lucky enough to get our hands on the new Mixtrack Pro from Numark for a few hours at the ProAudioStar warehouse so we made a quick video overview.  It’s essentially the same controller as the Numark Mixtrack with the addition of a sound card so you can cue in headphones and send you main mix out via RCA.  As I said in the video, I was pretty impressed with the jog wheels and responsiveness of the faders on this unit when using it with Virtual DJ.  I didn’t take the time to map it to Traktor but there may already be Traktor maps floating around for the Mixtrack that can be adapted to work with the Mixtrack Pro.  I’d say this is a very serious competitor to the Vestax Typhoon and anyone in the market for an entry level controller should give this a look.  The bundled software (Virtual DJ le in this case) is a notable difference and something to think about when weighing controller options as switching software after the fact will take an additional investment.

Also on our YouTube channel, post takes a quick look at the new M-Boxes from Avid.  This home studio standard interface gets a long overdue update that looks cleaner, feels nicer, and most important of all it sounds better.  You’ll see the Mbox and Mbox mini in the video.  There’s also an Mbox Pro we’ll be stocking as well.  Pro Tools recently reinvigorated their software with version 8 and now you’ve got the updated interfaces to match.  Don’t be scared to use these with other DAW’s like Logic or Ableton either as the Mbox line is a trusted easy to use interface for all applications.

Pioneer DJM-2000 Unboxing and Overview

Another quick vid from the warehouse this time looking at the DJM-2000.  This flagship model in the DJM series is the most decked out with a huge touch screen to control on board effects or send CC data to you DJ software. The screen itself can be set to button, slider, and X/Y pad like controls. The effects section gets it’s own expanded layout in the middle of the mixer with a dedicated EQ for the effects channel. The DJM-2000 can link with up to four CDJ-2000 or 900’s to create a seamless network that lets you source off of one deck and control your media across all of your decks. If you’re used to the feel of the DJM-800 or 700, you’ll feel right at home in front of the 2000 and appreciate the extended effects controls and new possibilites the touch screen has to offer. We’ll definitely be seeing high end clubs and touring rigs using these mixers more and more. It’s been tough to keep these in stock so be sure to call now to get your hands on one at a great deal!

American Audio VMS4 Video

In our latest episode on Winksound we take look at another one of the four channel controllers making waves in the controller community, the American Audio VMS4. Check the vid above to see my quick overview and read on to get my in depth take on the VMS4:

When I first plugged in to Virtual DJ LE (the software the VMS4 comes with) I was a little disappointed that it only let’s you mix on two decks.  There’s a four deck version of Virtual DJ coming out soon so hopefully American Audio will embrace and even include a four deck version with the unit.  For now you’ll need to use Traktor to take full control of the 4 channels available on the VMS4.  The traktor maps available from American Audio will get you started but I found it hard to use when switching between my main decks (A and B) and secondary decks on each side (C and D).  The 4 deck map also didn’t let you nudge tracks with the jog wheels which you should be able to do with the included plastic coverings for the jog wheels.  These functions are all midi mappable though so you can add them to your mapping in Traktor’s map editor.  So it’ll take some fine tuning to get it working with Traktor on four decks but as users get more familiar with the VMS-4 we’ll probably see some better mappings pop up in forums and on the VMS website.

Tech shuffle aside I was surprised by the responsiveness of the jog wheels, buttons, and faders on this unit.  The touch mouse pad is a little clumsy but the midi touch strips next to the jog wheels seem like a cool idea and can be used for shuffling through your library.  All around I think this is a great choice if you’re a Virtual DJ user looking for a new controller that’s plug and play.  If you’re really into the layout and feel of this controller and can spend some time editing the midi map in Traktor it’ll get you mixing on four decks there as well. The switchable analogue inputs and real mixer are a nice touch that make this unit versatile. XLR outputs also ensure it’ll be nice and loud at the gig. All around some nice touches on a feature rich four channel controller that’s half the price of it’s competitors.

Allen and Heath Xone DX Video

Our video for the Allen and Heath Xone DX is now live on the nets care of Winksound. Overall I had a lot of fun with the Xone DX. I was able to get mixing on four decks quickly and easily in ITCH, perhaps because I was already familiar with Serato Scratch. But the DX seems pretty well laid out for intuitive mixing and control of effects. This wasn’t really designed as a “scratch” style controller but I’m kind of glad Allen and Heath put their attention into the details of mixing rather then something that would imitate turntable effects. The less time you spend scratching or beat matching like with actual vinyl, the more time there is to get busy on effects and creative mixing with extra channels and this mixers puts those options at your fingertips.

The audio purist in me wished the controller used multi channel outputs and actually ran audio through analog EQ’s of a real Allen and Heath Xone mixer. This would also allow use of the analog inputs without a computer being attached (handy if switching laptops in a live set). The multi channel inputs are a nice bonus though as this can also be used as your recording interface at home.

One quick correction to the video is at 0:35 seconds I say this is the “only controller that works with Serato ITCH,” when what I meant to say is that it’s the “only 4 channel controller currently out that works with ITCH.” Just wanted to interject that before peeps on the net jump on my back :).

Hope this provides you with some more insight on the Xone DX!