The Technics SL-1200 is back, and this time for DJs again

First it was dead. Then, it came back but … inexplicably cost four thousand bucks and seemed to be for audiophiles, not DJs. Now, at last, the iconic* Technics SL-1200 turntable is back, and in a newly-manufactured form that might actually suit DJs.

The pitch: take advanced tech, learned from Blu-ray players, and turn it into an accessible turntable that delivers the performance and playing style of traditional players, with greater reliability and better sound.

If you don’t particularly need the name “Technics” on your turntable, of course, this may not even qualify as news. Manufacturers from Pioneer to Reloop now make reasonably affordable turntables that expand on the legacy of the Technics turntable and enable DJs to play decks like an instrument.

A couple of years ago when Panasonic revised the SL-1200 name, it at first seemed the company was surrendering the DJ market to those rivals. The first SL-1200GAE/1200G was a heavy, expensive machine engineered to within an inch of its life for vinyl consumers and deep-pocketed audiophiles. (Okay, I want to say “suckers.” At least people with money to burn.) Bizarrely, there wasn’t much mention of the DJs or hip hop producers who made the SL series famous in the first place. (Wired got the first preview; Vinyl Factory commented on the company’s explanation of that $4000 sticker shock.)

Now, it seems, we’re back to reality. The new SL-1200MK7 has specs more like a normal SL-1200, has marketing and specs intended for DJs, and while we don’t know the price, at least returns to a normal weight (just under 10kg).

The SL-1200MK7 (aka the SL-1210MK7 in Europe) then can be fairly dubbed the first Matsushita/Panasonic turntable for DJs to come off the assembly line in nine years – and the first in nine years to be a direct successor to the 1972 original 1200.

Onboard, some new engineering, now again in the service of DJs:

Coreless direct drive motor – okay, first, Panasonic are again making a new motor, apparently even after the 2016 audiophile take on this. It’s a direct drive motor like the original, but Technics promises the torque of the MK5, but without the iron core that can cause cogging (inconsistencies that impact audio quality).

To put it more briefly – this is the kind of more reliable motor Technics was pushing, but this time not so damned heavy and expensive.

Also new:

Reverse it. Provided you have a compatible phono cartridge, you can enable a reverse play function accessed by hitting the speed selector and Start/Stop at the same time.

Scratch-friendly – with computer control. Here’s the surprise: you get new motor control Panasonic have borrowed from the development of Blu-ray drives, using microprocessors to keep the motor operating smoothly. The MK7 tunes that relationship, says Technics, to work across playing styles – including DJing. What else does that mean?

Pitch is digitally controlled. Greater accuracy of pitch adjustment is another side benefit, because the motor can respond interactively as you play.

Well, apparently the original silver color is now reserved for audiophiles.

But there’s no question this is a sign of the times. Where as the digital age first seemed to jettison old brands and old technologies, all of them are back with a vengeance, from film photography to turntables to synthesizers. And finally even the likes of Japanese titan Panasonic, Technics parent company, are getting the memo. Just like a violinist wants particular features out of a violin, a DJ has expectations of what a turntable should be – not only appearance or moniker, but engineering.

And, let’s be honest, there is something nice about seeing new Technics in production.

Now the question is, can Panasonic trickle down new advanced tech in motors and control, inherited from advanced Blu-ray players, to the traditional turntable? If they can, they might just be able to best some of the other commodity turntables on the market.

Full details: [Press release]

[Product page]

A timeline of Technics turntables

The SP-10 started it all – at least introducing the world to direct drive turntables. But notice it didn’t even have its own integrated tonearm.

DJ Kool Herc was far enough ahead of the curve that he started on the 1971 SL-1100, not the SL-1200.

1970: SP-10
World’s first direct drive turntable (the enabling technology that would enable DJing technique and scratching)

1971: SL-1100
Starts to look like the turntables we know (integrated tonearm and platter). Used by hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc.

1972: SL-1200/SL-1210
You’d feel at home cueing and beatmatching on this, but – note that the speed control was on a dial. (The 1210 variation of this is a Euro-friendly model with voltage selection and black, not silver.)

1979: SL-1200MK2
The SL-1200 was already a standard, but the MK2 looks more like the template DJs recognize today. Influenced by a field trip to Chicago clubs, the engineers unveiled the MK2 with Quartz Lock, a big pitch fader (whew!), and other details like a vibration-soaking cabinet and rubber.

Later revisions added other minor improvements, but it was really the MK2 that looks like the template for all DJ turntables to come – particularly thanks to pitch being on a fader and not a tiny knob (once Japanese engineers worked out how artists in Chicago were using pitch).

1989: SL-1200MK3
Improvements largely around vibration.

1997: SL-1200MK3D
The end of the center click pitch controller (so you could get hairline adjustments around zero more accurately).

2000: SL-1200MK5
Sort of the gold standard here, based on tiny performance enhancements and details like brake speed adjustment. See also the MK5G variation, 2002.

2019: SL-1200MK7/SL-120MK7
All-new motor, digitally-controlled pitch, reverse play.

And yes, I agree with my colleague James Grahame of MeeBlip in thinking this is all becoming a bit like the modern Spitfire kit remake planes, the Submarine Spitfires.

All photos courtesy Technics.

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Nerdy Stuff: Tape Scratch, Keen-o-Tron, Monobloc Low Cost Modular

Tape Sampler Loop

Wieso nicht mal ein paar nerdige Dinge vorstellen, die ganz unterschiedlich sind. Hier sind drei Vorschläge, davon haben zwei indirekt oder direkt mit Bandgeräten zu tun und einer mit günstig zu bauenden Synthesizern:

1. Keen-o-Tron

Dieses Gerät wird vom russischen Hersteller des Polivoks (ursprünglich Formanta, heute Keen) hergestellt, es ist eine Mischung aus einem Mellotron, jedoch ohne Band und einer Touch-Tastatur mit USB und Sensorflächen. Diese Flächen werden per Opto-Koppler rekonstruiert – es sind 35 Stück, womit die Zahl der Tasten feststeht.

Die VCAs werden speziell dafür entwickelt. Es handelt sich also wirklich nicht nur um ein Sensorkeyboard, sondern auch um einen Synthesizer. Allerdings ist gerade das Mellotron eher eine Art Ur-Sampler. Einen “Timbre Corrector” gibt es allerdings auch, was aber auch ein anderes Wort für eine Art Filter sein kann. Das Gerät wird neben USB auch MIDI haben.

Keen-o-Tron Schema

Aktuell gibt es nur ein Blockschaltbild und ein Symbolfoto, more to come – soon.

2. Tape Sampler – Scratch Player (DIY)

Eigentlich ist dies etwas, das jeder aus einer Bandmaschine basteln könnte, Jeremy Bell hat es aber einfach auch mal getan. Eine einfache Bandschleife über Umlenkrollen hat eine Menge Vorteile – auch gegenüber dem klassischen Drehteller. So kann man an verschiedenen Stellen den Kopf anlegen und ihn hin und her fahren. So bekommt man gezielte Stückchen aus einem “Sample”.


Tape Sampler Loop

Tape Sampler Loop

Als weitere Alternative kann man das Band bewegen oder es einfach statisch lassen. Bewegt man beides, so kann man ein paar spezielle, sehr typische Band-Effekte “spielen”. Und das gezielt, deshalb ist die Bandschleife nicht nur fest angeordnet, sondern über einen Motor auch weiter transportiertbar.

Wer lediglich ein Stück Band und einen Tonkopf verwendet, hat dennoch schon sehr viele Möglichkeiten, und sonderlich komplex sieht es nicht aus. Vielleicht fühlt sich jemand inspiriert dies nachzubasteln und damit eine Performance auf die Bühne zu bringen?

3. DIY-Synthesizer Monobloc – günstiger durch zusammenfassen

Monobloc ist eigentlich ein Modular-Synthesizer. Die Macher wollten ihn günstiger machen und stellten fest, dass sie auch die Module zusammenfassen könnten. Das Ganze sollte auch fungieren als eine Art Einsteiger-System. Das Ergebnis sparte etwa 20% der Kosten dafür ein und ist ein Selbstbau-System.

Von Frequency Central wird es zwei Anbote geben und die sind 42HP groß (breit).  Beide Systeme werden mit Frontplatten und Platinen geliefert, die Bauteile selbst bestellt der Lötende selbst.


Monobloc DIY Synth

Monobloc DIY Synth

Das System 01 für £145 (etwa 163 Euro) besteht aus:

  • System X VCO / Oszillator Platine
  • State 700 VCF / Filter Platine
  • System x VCA / Amplifier Platine
  • System X Hüllkurve / Envelope Platine x 2
  • Wave Runner LFO Platine mit “PIC” (ein kleiner Prozessor)
  • Stromversorgung

Monobloc 02 ist etwas günstiger (£125  = ca. 141 Euro), da der LFO fehlt, es besteht aus:

  • System X VCO / Oszillator Platine x 2
  • einer System X Filter Platine
  • der System x Amplifier Platine
  • einer System X Envelope Platine
  • und der Stromversorgung

From Rane and Roland, competing visions of digital DJ gear

Roland and Rane each have products aimed at Pioneer’s offerings in the computer controller market. Both work with Serato software – but each represents a different approach.

If Pioneer’s hegemony in standalone players seems unshakable, there’s at least the computer arena in which to compete. Pioneer for its part has moved to strengthen its Rekordbox software as a computer DJ software rival to Native Instruments’ Traktor, Serato DJ, and others.

For the experienced touring DJ, that strategy may well be meaningless. If you view Rekordbox as a tool for prepping a USB stick that you play on the CDJs already installed in the club, you may not particularly care about what it does in a laptop/controller setup. But, there’s still a large market of people getting into DJing for whom both the Pioneer name and the company’s vertically-integrated offerings hold a lot of appeal.

The challenge for Rane and Roland – hook into the Serato platform instead, and try to be better than Pioneer at similar price points. And there’s some added maneuvering room here. Native Instruments’ Traktor line hasn’t really evolved much lately, hampered in part by aging flagship software. And I agree absolutely with DJ TechTools’ Dan White – it looks like Roland is poised to become Serato’s main hardware vendor while Pioneer and InMusic focus on their own integrated ecosystems. Also, you can often expect a Japanese manufacturer to have more patience to play a long game. Serato remains a big player in a number of markets (notably the USA and southeast Asia), so there’s some market to pursue.

But let’s consider each company’s angle.

Rane: A gimmick-packed battle mixer, a MIDI-only turntable

Rane, formerly independent, is now owned by InMusic. The Rhode Island-based music giant is the one that is gunning directly for Pioneer – not only with computer controller rigs, but also in the standalone player market. The new standalone Denon players are the first with any potential to unseat Pioneer’s ubiquitous DJ, by offering more features for the price. (I’m not going to comment on their odds, though – beating Pioneer’s entrenched position in the club market will be one heck of an uphill battle.)

For computer-based DJs, Rane has two offerings. One is a mixer packed with features, and one is a turntable re-imagined as a MIDI-only device.

Seventy-Two Battle Mixer

This is what happens if you cross Rane’s mixer tech with InMusic’s touchscreens and pads – and then go after Pioneer’s competing “Battle-Ready” DJM-S9.

Indeed, the Seventy-Two is essentially control-for-control a clone of the Pioneer mixer, with the addition of touchscreen, and in a Rane case.

The screen lets you access Serato’s waveforms and use internal effects. Like the Pioneer S9, the Seventy-Two features pads and controls intended for use with Serato effects, digital vinyl, and internal mixing. Unlike the Pioneer, those effects require Serato. (The S9 is more useful when used as a conventional mixer, in that it has internal effects.)

The controller can be assigned to other tools, though I’m unsure how access to the touchscreens works. (It might be hackable; generally these devices treat these displays as external monitors.) One commenter on DJTT notes that other Serato displays have been made to work with the popular Virtual DJ software.

US$1899, fourth quarter

Twelve – the computer-only turntable

This is the most interesting product of the bunch, to me. It’s basically a full-sized (12″!) motorized turntable, minus the tone arm and needle. So you can’t play records on it, but you can use it as a DJ controller. You connect it via USB, and then you have the tactile feedback of an actual turntable, without the hassle and unreliability of digital vinyl control.

Eliminating the tone arm may not please everyone. What you get in its place is what they call the “Strip Search” (which gives me not the most pleasant associations as a phrase, but okay). That touch interface at least has the advantage of hot cues, with access to eight points on a track you can access immediately – something you can’t do quite as easily by physically lifting and moving a tone arm, to be sure.

Full 12” Vinyl with motorized platter to control playback
Traditional, familiar turntable layout, no need to learn something new
Strip Search with 8 hot cue triggers access
5.0 kfcm High torque motor with Hi/Low torque adjust for more traditional setups
4 decks of control so you can use one, two or more (switchable on the top right of the unit)
Extreme precision—3600 ticks of platter resolution for seamless performance
MIDI interface via USB that can be connected to the SEVENTY-TWO or your computer
33 1/3 and 45 rpm platter speeds
8/16/50% pitch with precise dual resolution detented slider
Top Panel rotary and traditional Motor Off switch, allows traditional wind down effects

Of course, this immediately begs the question, why not ditch the laptop and use this interface for a standalone player? I suspect someone will do that soon, whether it’s InMusic (with their Denon or Rane brands) or someone like Pioneer. And a 7″ rendition of this also seems a no-brainer. But this is already interesting.

And I almost totally want one. Almost, because the darned thing is a whopping US$799. I’m trying to figure out the person who will pay twice the price of a normal turntable for something that won’t play records. Wealthy … uh … Serato clinicians? Don’t know. But as technology, it’s interesting, and could be a sign of things to come.

US$799, fourth quarter

Roland: Affordable, low-latency controllers

So, if Rane has some really interesting but high-priced products – more demonstration of where things might go than something to buy right now – Roland brings us back down to Earth.

And that’s in stark contrast to where Roland entered, with the DJ-808 they added to their AIRA line last fall. The DJ-808 was cool, but … weird. It did Serato control, TR drum machine sequencing, and VT vocal transformations, but at a high cost – both in money and size.

But the new controllers from Roland bring price and size in line with competing options – enough that have probably become your best bet if you’re in the market for a Serato controller.

Both also have the same ultra-low-latency performance featured on the DJ-808 (though they lack the high resolution of the 808 platters).

The US$699.99 DJ-505 gives you most of what the DJ-808 did, plus a bundle of Serato DJ and Serato Tool Kit (for most additional features), and can be upgraded to Serato digital vinyl control.

The US$$299.99 still performs most of the controller tricks and TR functionality, with Serato Intro.

Both have TR (808 and 909) drum sounds and hands-on controls for them; the DJ-808 includes the full TR-S sequencer onboard.

The DJ-505 looks like quite a buy. It’s still a standalone mixer. It doesn’t have the VT vocal transformer effects of the DJ-808, but it still includes a mic input and some basic effects. And you get hands-on controls for both Serato and the internal TR sounds.

But as entry-level offering, the DJ-202 is no slouch, either – and it looks to be portable, too. Really, the only reservation you might have is buying into Serato as your DJ tool, depending on your preference. (Then again, if the Roland gear catches on, alternate tools like Virtual DJ may soon see support.)

The DJ-202 could also give Pioneer’s DDJ-SSB2 a run for its money.

In fact, figure that this low end of the market is where most of the sales is. (DJ TechTools observes that the Pioneer SSB2 is the best-selling US controller.)

And Native Instruments, while I’m a fan of Traktor, it really does feel like your offerings have fallen badly behind. Curious what your next move is.

Standalone, anyone?

At the low end of the market, it’s clear why computers aren’t going anywhere.

If people want into a music shop and want a DJ tool that’s flexible and cheap, there’s nothing quite like spending under $300 and getting a full-fledged system. In fact, even for a couple hundred dollars more, you might get something that works with your computer and still functions as a mixer. Even with cheap embedded computing and touchscreens, you can’t change the fact that people already own laptops (or iPads) with lots of internal storage and big displays.

But you also can’t change some of the problems with laptops. Bringing them to gigs and fitting them in a booth is a pain. Audio can be unreliable and tough to configure.

It’s still impressive to me that there are so few standalone options. Denon has its own CDJ rival and even an all-in-one (though massive and expensive) coffin.

But once you see products like AKAI’s new MPCs, which are essentially controllers with their own computer inside, it’s not hard to imagine where things will go. What about a DJ device you can take out of a flight case and plug directly into a mixer? There’s no question that makers like Roland, InMusic, Native Instruments, and others all have the technical capacity to make such a device.

While we wait, though, my prediction is this: when those hit, the whole direction of the market will change fast.

Bets, anyone?

The post From Rane and Roland, competing visions of digital DJ gear appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Turn a terrible toy turntable from a supermarket into a scratch deck

Well, this is probably the world’s cheapest DVS [digital vinyl system]. The reader here got the deck for £14; retail is just £29.99. Add a Raspberry Pi in place of the computer, a display and some adapters, and you have a full-functioning DJ system. For real.

Daniel James tells us the full story. My favorite advice – and I agree – don’t buy this record player. It really is that awful. But it does prove how open source tools can save obsolete gear from landfills – and says to me, too, that there’s really no reason digital vinyl systems still need to lean on conventional computer hardware.

Now – on with the adventures at Aldi. The necessary gear:

1. A terrible turntable (EnVivo USB Turntable in this case)
2. PiDeck. (See the official project page. That means a recent Raspberry Pi and SD card.
3. Control vinyl – Serato here.
4. Audio interface. Since the USB connection in this case was unusable, the author chose an audioinjector, crowd-funded hardware available now for about £20.

Daniel (of awesome 64studio Linux audio expertise fame) writes:

I was looking to find the worst deck in the world, and I think I found it. The EnVivo USB Turntable retails for £29.99 at Aldi, a supermarket. I paid £14 for mine brand-new and boxed, at auction. I wanted to find out for myself just how badly these plastic decks were built, as my neighbours have similar models, and the sound from the analogue line-out is sucktacular. Really, don’t bother if you intended to use this deck for its stated purpose of digitising your vinyl collection.

There are more expensive versions available under various brand names with deluxe leatherette cases or built-in speakers, but the deck inside looks the same. What would we reasonably expect at this price, given that it shipped all the way from China? Ed.: uh…. heh, well, that’s true of pretty much everything else, too, let’s say more to the point it’s some of the cheapest turntable hardware to ship from China.

Inside, there are very few components; these decks appear to be an experiment in just how cheap you can make something and still have people buy it. The straight tonearm has no bearing, it simply pivots
loosely in a plastic sleeve. There is no counterweight or anti-skating adjustment, just a spring underneath the deck pulling the stylus towards the record. The platter is undersized for a 12″, and so is the spindle. Records playing off-centre must add extra vintage charm, they figured.

A 12″ hip-hop tune would not play on the brand-new deck, as the kick drum hits bounced the stylus right out of the groove every other second. The analogue audio output lacked any meaningful bass, too. Then I tried a 12″ Serato CV02 timecode with the PiDeck, and things started to look up. With the control vinyl’s pilot tone containing little or no bass energy, the stylus tracked fine.

Then, I popped out the three rubber nipples from the platter which are all that serves as isolation from motor vibration, put tape around the spindle to make it regulation diameter, and dropped on a slipmat. With the control vinyl on the deck again, it started working as well as most turntables with little torque, but took scratches and backspins in its stride. The USB interface does not have enough headroom for backspins without distortion of the timecode, so I used the line-out RCA sockets instead. No pre-amp is required to hook up an stereo card for the Raspberry Pi, and this far superior audio interface created by Matt Flax takes care of the output to the mixer.

The spring-loaded plastic tonearm will even work with the deck held at an angle, which previously I had only seen achieved with the straight tonearm Vestax decks. Maybe a 10″ Serato vinyl and slipmat would be a better fit. With a pitch control, these decks would have everything you need to get started DJing. How long they will last in use is anyone’s guess, and you are heavy-handed on the platter, you will probably burn out the tiny motor. The stylus is at least replaceable.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, please, do not buy one of these cruddy decks; the world has enough plastic trash already. However if you happen to own one, or found one in a dumpster: one, two, you know what to do!

Previously: PiDeck makes a USB stick into a free DJ player, with turntables


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Pioneer really want to sell you a turntable, with $350 PLX-500

Pioneer clearly seek to own DJing – and they’ve now got a pretty solid play for every piece of that landscape. The latest piece: a direct drive turntable with USB connection, ready to play, scratch, or work with control vinyl (and Pioneer’s increasingly ubiquitous Rekordbox software). Price: US$350 – affordable enough to appeal to even casual DJs as a set of two.

Vinyl is fast looking less like specialist equipment or niche fad, and more like the last man standing in music sales and an essential part of DJing. So it fits that, even in the home, a turntable is suited both for DJing and playback. And that’s what the PLX-500 promises: it’s advertised as ready to scratch (thanks to direct drive operation) and is even compatible for cueing or scratching digital via Rekordbox and optional control vinyl.

The pricing is aggressive, relative to the other Pioneer decks: suggested retail US$349 or €349 / £269 in Europe.

Intro video:

This is the second turntable from Pioneer. So, that positions the PLX-500 as the “home” model, with the PLX-1000 street at about twice as much. That mirrors the way Pioneer has differentiated its digital players, with the XDJ series a the “home” model and the CDJ nexus for “pros.”

How do you decide which to buy? Well, the 500 is a plug-and-play solution for home users. So you’ve got built in preamps (so line in and line out are built in), built-in USB interface (mainly with an eye toward letting you digitize your vinyl collection), and a lower cost.

The “pro”-focused 1000 assumes that you’ll want to use your own turntable amp and interface – so that’s not so much diminished value as it is a nod to more serious users. You can detach input and output more easily on the 1000, essential for use in the booth and studio and whatnot.

But most crucially, the 1000 has what Pioneer tells CDM is a “durable platter designed for professional DJ-ing.” That’s really everything, because the whole selling point of the PLX-1000 is its unparalleled stability. In fact, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from DJs using the PLX-1000 everywhere it’s been installed. The verdict: it’s better even than the legendary Technics SL-1200 that had been the gold standard. And just in case you weren’t already seeing enough Pioneer logos in clubs, I’ve noticed the PLX-1000 has increasingly been supplanting Technics decks, especially as they’re retired.

So while I don’t yet know what the platter mechanism is on the PLX-500, it’s clear that’s the main thing you’re buying when you invest in a PLX-1000. On the other hand, home use is generally far less treacherous than a club install.

Ironically, of course, you can get a pair of PLX-500 turntables before you’ve even gotten to the cost of a single XDJ digital player. Tables have turned, so to speak.


More details:

Signal path inherited from the PLX-1000. Pioneer says the 500 should borrow some of the great sound quality of the 1000: “The shortest possible audio routing from the stylus to the outputs reduces distortion, and the phono and line outputs mean you can connect directly to your sound system or powered speakers to enjoy warm sound.” (It’s funny to refer to something as new as the 1000 in this way, but – I’ve already heard a lot of mileage on the 1000’s. Well done, Pioneer.)


USB for recording. Digitize with the free Pioneer Rekordbox app – which will even detect silences and slice up tracks into different files for you, ready to tag. (Hmm, how long before even the tagging is automated, I wonder?) And of course, this also solves the problem of DJs just dabbling in vinyl – because they can just add their favorite records to their collection easily, with the hardware already on the decks and the software to which they’re accustomed.


Scratching/mixing-ready. High-torque, direct drive – so yes, scratch turntablists can use this. (Will be curious just how it compares to the 1000s here, particularly). And Pioneer also offers a complete solution here – the “rekordbox dvs Plus Pack” which works with Pioneer’s JDM mixer and RB-VS1-K Control Vinyl. That makes the whole bundle a real rival to products like Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch. (I’ll have to find out if it’ll be compatible with Traktor, too.)

You do have to pay for rekordbox for this use case, though – $/€139 plus a rekordbox dvs license key ($/€129) – or a €9.90/month subscription. (To be frank, Serato and Native Instruments are lucky Pioneer aren’t giving this away, too.)

The whole thing weighs under 11kg and comes with everything you need. There’s a USB and phono/RCA jacks. And you get a bunch of accessories in the box: slip mat, dust cover with jacket stand (cute), adapter for EP record, balance weight, headshell (with cartridge), shell weight, power cord, USB cord, audio conversion cord (Stereo pin plug (female) to stereo mini plug(male)) – all in there.


All in all, I think this is a pretty powerful offering. With just one product, Pioneer are answering a lot of different users’ needs – from digitizing those records you just collected to being able to DJ with them to an inexpensive turntable that you can scratch on.

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Pioneer focuses on scratch, battle, effects with new mixer


Meet Pioneer’s new push, a strategy aiming squarely at scratch and turntablist DJs and effects lovers, with or without a computer.

If some of the latest mixers have conventional analog mixing, bread and butter features, and rotaries, Pioneer’s DJ mixer this week – isn’t any of that. Instead, the DJM-S9 is a “battle” mixer loaded up with extras and emphasizing scratch and effects features. And it is unmistakably a Pioneer box in that it draws heavily on wild effects.

It’s a “party rocking mixer” as an artist describes it in the launch video.

Also, watch the video. What you mostly don’t see is a laptop. So while Serato integration is a selling point, you mostly see turntables spinning away, and Pioneer is quick to emphasize that the S9 works without a computer at all.

A turntablist strategy is a big part of what Pioneer is emphasizing (and, I might add, the polar opposite of the strategy at Native Instruments). So, the company that just got into the turntable business is also coming with the introduction of a PC-X10 cartridge and stylist.

Both the mixer and Pioneer’s turntable will also come in a very spendy limited-edition gold-plated edition. (Right, then!)

The S9 is the main story, though. Here’s the quick run-down:

  • Scratch-focused crossfader. It’s called “Magvel Fader Pro” (sounds like some sort of new high-speed Chinese train). But the idea is durability: high-performance scratch operation, contactless magnetic operation. And it’s customizability – shock-absorbing bumpers with different levels of resistance and configurable curve and response.
  • Colored pads. If electronic music vendors made toasters, I suspect they’d have colored pads on them now, too. But on the DJM, they trigger cue, roll, slice, and loop features on their own, or you map them to Hot Cues and other features if you’re a Serato user.
  • Effects, with or without a computer. Onboard, you get 15 Pioneer effects – echo, delay, reverb, flanger, phaser, trans, beat FX, BPM-synced. And you get filter effects, too. Effects are the reason I know a lot of DJs ask for Pioneer on their tech rider. But interestingly, if you do use Serato, you can map its 55 iZotope-developed effects instead (with its effects pack).
  • My God, it’s full of sound cards. Two USB sound cards. Four deck support. Switch inputs on the front.


In other words, take the mixing features of the DJM-909 battle mixer and cross-breed them with the effects features of the RMX-1000, then add a bunch of Serato integration for those who want it (or ignore that, for those who don’t). (Inside, Pioneer says they’ve “inherited” the audio circuitry from their top-of-range DJM-2000NXS.)

If you don’t get one in a club, you can carry it around easily – it weighs just 4.6 kg. And it still is fully MIDI-compatible, so while there’s no mention of Traktor here, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a map.

And then you have a mixer that works for turntablists, that works for Serato mavens, that works for people who love Pioneer effects, and works (finally) for people who want to play back to back – even if they’re using two computers.

It’s gimmicky. It’s not bread and butter. But for DJs who use a mixer as an instrument, I think it’s likely to be dynamite. It could be the most popular thing Pioneer unveils this year.

And by the way, it makes me still frankly puzzled why no one has come up with a clever performance mixer for producers who play live but aren’t turntablists. Roland’s AIRA mixer was one attempt, but it’s pretty specific to the AIRA lineup.

In the meantime, if this isn’t a hit, I’ll eat my slipmats.




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Jazzy Jeff, Shiftee Show Us Turntable as a Musical Instrument

Serato and Native Instruments may have a fierce rivalry when it comes to tools. But at the end of the day, the leading DJ vendors exist for one reason: they’re there to support musicians.

And I do mean musicians. Watching new routines from Jazzy Jeff and Shiftee, you really see the turntable emerge as a virtuoso musical instrument.

They’re released as promotions for Serato (Jeff) and Native Instruments (Shiftee). And the tools are important: they’re there to allow these players to make use of their skills, to do more than just select tracks like a jukebox.

But this really is about engineering supporting the human body, supporting physical gestures. I think they also tell us something about who DJs can be in the age of digital DJ technology.

Jazzy Jeff is Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Allen Towne, here covering a Run DMC classic that has me tingling with nostalgia as a tail-end gen Xer. Now could be a perfect moment in his career – a time when young people are rediscovering hip hop DJ roots, and perhaps not so hung up on the DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince association. (Well, or maybe those young people will have additional associations; I’m sure The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air lives on on Netflix and so on.)


What’s great about Jeff is that he draws that connection from the early days of hip hop and rap to modern turntablist technique. And he does so in a way that seamlessly melds tools – the perfect person to show of a digital vinyl control system, in other words.

There’s just one problem. Watching Jazzy Jeff “DJ” is to DJing for a lot of us as listening to a Horowitz performance is for someone who keeps a piano unplayed in the living room. We’ve got the furniture, but we haven’t got the chops – it’s almost like we’re not even involved in the same activity.

Don’t get discouraged, though. Because listening to Jeff I think can be inspiring for anyone working on DJing and live PA.

In particular, in a follow up interview with Serato, Jeff talks about melding the producer and DJ in him. Making a DJ set sound like it was produced in a studio, he says, is: “putting that production brain and that DJ brain together.”

He also has encouraging things to say about DJ culture and the art of DJing. He talks about the importance of “becoming more well-rounded DJs – not only play selection, but your technical skills … your showmanship. To me those are all the things that will end up making a great party.”

And whether or not you’re a great scratch turntablist, Jeff has some words that should encourage you to branch out a little on song selection. Asked about the influence of iPods, he reaches a surprising conclusion about “shuffle mode”:

“I started to realize that people started becoming a lot more accepting of you playing a wider range of music at different times of the night… you can just throw something left-field… because everyone is used to iPods.”

And just saying tech should be “invisible” doesn’t mean it’s less important. It means it’s actually more important:

“The end goal is for the gear to be transparent and … it to be about the way that you deliver the music. … And that’s why I think sometimes the gear doesn’t get enough credit.”

I’ll let Jeff close with these words from Jeff’s SoundCloud. These are important, because I’m sure people can feel now like they are obligated to follow rules, too:

I came up in the Music (Business) where there were rules and guidelines to the way things were done. It never made sense to me. I felt like you can own your own studio,make your own records and put them out how & when you want and even shoot your own videos. I’m soooo happy to finally be in that place now. I hope you enjoy the music i’m putting out now as much as i’m enjoying making it. Welcome to my Independence!!

Uh, that’s one of the best SoundCloud blurbs ever.

And then there’s Shiftee

I’ve been (unintentionally) putting off publishing this story, and then along come Native Instruments with a new S8 video. But here, you’ll be hard pressed to keep your eyes on the S8, because DJ Shiftee is dazzling.

It’s perfect putting Shiftee in this category. He’s a short Amtrak trip up the eastern seaboard, a native New Yorker. But he’s also the younger generation, literally born as Jeff was coming up in the world.

Native Instruments is a company founded by techno-heads in a techno capital, but just as a piano can play classical and jazz, there’s really nothing about Remix Decks or big mixer control surfaces that says anything about genre. I have to rely on the press department for track IDs:

Alt-J – Left Hand Free (Lido Remix)
Low Pros – Who Wanna Play (Feat. Que)
DJ Shiftee – Uh Yo And Also Yo

These are, I’m told, some seriously hot tracks as far as what people are listening to. I only know they’re seriously hot tracks to my ears.

Shiftee is a master turntablist and turntablist educator, too – he’s on the front lines of making sure this tradition stays alive.

Let’s close by talking gear, though, this being CDM.

Jeff vs. Serato

What I like about Jeff’s setup is that it’s versatile but rigorously minimal.

The Pioneer DDJ-SP1 is actually a really cool controller for Serato, one that ought to give Traktor fans some envy. You get four-deck control on pads with a bunch of performance modes – Hot Cue, Roll, Sampler, Slicer, Auto Loop, Hot Loop and Manual Loop. That makes for something that nicely recalls the MPC and dedicated loop hardware, not just the usual DJ business.


And it’s all nice and small. You get all this mileage without giving up a bunch of space.

The mixer is a Serato classic – the Rane Sixty-Two. But I should note that today you also can choose the Allen & Heath xone:43C, a digital version (complete with sound card) of the analog-geared xone:43 we saw last week. More on that later.

Shiftee vs. NI

Not so much to say about the NI side of things. It’s an S8, the flagship controller. The bigger story here is how Shiftee is using it – especially since you can now get the same per-deck functions in a smaller D2 (and use another mixer for that bit).

He’s using it as a mixer for DVS control, fully exploiting the all-in-one capabilities of the unit.

He’s using Remix Decks.

He’s using Freeze Mode.

In fact, the latter two really show a digital approach with visual feedback – not just “playing” the turntables, but the software instrument, too.

Then again, there’s more in common between Shiftee’s and Jeff’s approach fundamentally than different: this is really about playing with your hands, and making something new.

By the way, don’t miss Shiftee’s routine for Dubspot, the training academy / platform, with Maschine in the mix. This is real live performance stuff – more live than a lot of “live” sets, giving DJ some real meaning:


So, tomorrow morning, we’ll have a bunch of new DJ gear. But I think this is at the heart of how the handful of master DJs make them into instruments.

A lot of us do occasional mixing, perhaps focusing our performance virtuosity on live PA sets, improvised electronic forms, acoustic instruments, electric instruments, the lot. But I’m glad that whatever happens with the evolution of DJing, it’s still allowing traditional DJ practice to evolve.

For someone, DJing is still about blowing recorded music on turntables wide open.

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The Most Complete iPad Control of Traktor Yet: One Lemur Template Does Nearly Everything


You can now run Traktor on the iPad, but with a fraction of the power of the desktop Traktor. Or you can map Traktor’s capabilities to hardware controllers – just expect to make some choices, and spread out some controllers. A new Lemur template for iPad does something different: it controls nearly everything from custom pages on Apple’s tablet.

Platters, pitch control, beat jumping, hot cue manipulation, remix decks – it’s all there. There are massive touch platters that turn your iPad into a kind of scratch deck. You can edit your cues directly in painstaking detail. You even get remix decks – complete with a sequencer.

You can even bring up a keyboard and browse and search files, and there’s multiple iPad support. The philosophy:

Traxus Control: Traktor is a user created template built in the DIY iPad Midi app Lemur for controlling nearly every aspect of Traktor Scratch Pro. At the expense of tactile feedback, it attempts to challenge the marriage and reliance on traditional controller hardware by offering more accurate visual feedback, smoother user interface, un-paralleled control over the software, and unprecedented flexibility in the face of software updates that would typically render traditional MIDI hardware obsolete.


Those sequencing ideas are credited to our friend DJ Tomash, and if you prefer tactile control, you’ll still want to check out his terrific, open source Digital Warrior step-sequencing hardware. But as a way of augmenting physical controllers, manipulating Traktor on the go, or if you like touch interfaces, this is terrific. (It’s also a solution when you need to crank out a quick mix and you don’t have your hardware handy.)

There’s no official release yet, but the app is in pre-release to artists and press. They’re deciding on a pricing model (if you want to discuss what -and how — you’d pay in comments here). Options:

Traxus Control: Traktor will be released to the general public once we have decided on a fair pricing and distribution method. We are currently weighing the costs and benefits of several options, including: ex Post Facto Crowd funding (request donations reach a certain value whereby we take the code open source); pay per license (not per user); controlled free distribution through ad networks as to generate income from advertising; as well as standard donation ware.

For more:

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Scratch Anything, in a $20 Plug-in: MIDI, Turntables, and Hosts Like Ableton Meet

Turntablism is still alive, but surprisingly, turntable techniques haven’t entirely harmonized with modern DAWs. One of the first products ever covered here on CDM was Ms. Pinky, a combination of software and vinyl, which recently saw a Max for Live iteration.

But Scratch Track is about the most universal, easiest way yet to drop scratching into a project.

It’s a VST plug-in, compatible with OS X (10.6 or later) and Windows. It works with turntables. It works with MIDI. It works with host automation. It works with host automation and MIDI even if you don’t have a turntable. And there’s probably no simpler way for turntablists to scratch their itch for scratching in Ableton Live and other hosts.

And, oh yeah, it costs US$20. Too much commitment? (Okay, maybe you blew all your money buying vinyl. It happens.) There’s still a 30-day trial.


  • Add multiple loops; set up cue points
  • Works with timecoded vinyl
  • Works with MIDI triggers – learn-assignable to anything, including cue points
  • – so you can, for instance, beat juggle with MIDI, scratch with the turntable
  • Built-in crossfade with adjustable volume curves
  • Loops sync and stretch with the host
  • Automate cross-fade and scratches using VST host automation
  • Audio output to the host – making it easy to record


I suspect the folks at Stagecraft Software hope this gets at least a few people interested in their upcoming project, Livetronica Studio. It combines DJ, DAW, sequencer, drum machine, and scratch metaphors in a single program:

Livetronica Studio is a hybrid between DAWs like ableton and DJ software like traktor or serato. With Livetronica you can mix and play samples like never before, scratch and sequence, and manage effects chains on your turntables. Livetronica is a vinyl emulator, sequencer, looper, effects host, and drum machine. It has midi mapping, and is touchscreen ready.

That software is now in beta.

But with Serato’s The Bridge now nowhere in sight, and many turntablists just looking for a way to scratch inside something like Ableton Live or FL Studio or Renoise, Scratch Track clearly fills a niche.

If you do try it out, let us know how it goes – and we’d love to hear your tracks.

For more good times, developer Aaron Leese has loads of great videos on YouTube:

Here’s what scratching looks like in Livetronica:

And that includes controlling audio effects with the Leap Motion:

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