Posts tagged ‘DJ Times’
It was my pleasure and privilege to hang out and stroll the show floor once again this year with long-time DJ Times editor Jim Tremayne during the Winter NAMM Show 2013, as a contributing writer for the magazine. For those who don’t know, NAMM—the National Association of Music Merchants—has produced the NAMM Show annually since 1901, and it’s one of (if not the) the largest music industry trade shows in the world. Nearly 100,000 people converge on Anaheim, California each year for four days of madness, much of which is centered around product introductions and deal making between manufacturers and retailers, and spans everything from band instruments to sheet music to guitar picks to studio mixers to DJ lighting and everything in between.
With the massive interest in DJ culture in recent years, it’s a good time to be a writer for a DJ magazine, and I love looking at the latest in DJ and studio gear, and writing about my experiences. I’ll save the intimate details for the magazine, but here are a few comments from my experiences this year.
- Numark was showing-off a new DJ controller called the Orbit. For a start, it’s completely wireless. But it’s basically a game controller for your DJ software, sporting a large knob in the middle, and array of buttons. But the real innovation here? Accelerometers. While it’s completely configurable, Numark was showing it in action tweaking an effect parameter in Traktor through tilting the controller side to side. It’s a bit mind-boggling, but I think with the right mappings and a little practice, it could easily be the centerpiece of DJ’ing-as-performance-art. Can’t wait to tinker more with it.
- For the second year now, I’ve received a demo of The One from Audio Artery. This Finnish company is still in development on a pretty innovative piece of DJ software that combines elements of DJ software, producer software, and “auto-mix” software that people often use to create their own digital mixtapes. It has matured a lot since last year, it demos well, and looks like it might just bring a little out-of-the-box thinking to the world of DJ software as the lines continue to blur between simply playing and mixing other peoples’ music, and functioning more as a performing artist. Hopefully it comes to market soon.
- I got to play around a bit with the new Prophet 12 from Dave Smith Instruments, which was introduced at the show. This is the latest synth from the legendary Dave Smith. Back in the day, I would have given a left nut to have a Prophet 5, and its more recent reincarnation, the Prophet ’08, is still something I lust after. But now I think I have a new lust target. While the ’08 was intended to be a faithful recreation of the original, the 12 goes much farther, evolving in a number of key ways, including 12 voice polyphony (hence the name). It’s a wild keyboard, great fun to play with, and if I had the room, the budget, and the keyboard chops to really leverage it, I’d figure out a way to make it mine. Incredible.
- Ableton didn’t exhibit at NAMM, but they were in Anaheim meeting one-on-one with people, and I got a live demo of their first hardware device: Push. Both Push and its companion Ableton Live upgrade—Live 9—are coming sometime this quarter. It seemed as if Ableton was more excited about Push than Live 9, but I was the opposite. At least until I saw Push. Ableton is positioning the device as a music instrument more than simply a sample triggering controller for Live’s Session View, which is how it appears at first glance. I’ll be reviewing the Push for DJ Times, so look for that in an upcoming issue. I am still excited to check out Live 9 in more detail, including its audio-to-MIDI capabilities, but I’ll get that chance given that Live 9 is a prerequisite for Push. Stay tuned.
- Native Instruments was also lurking at NAMM versus exhibiting, and I also had a chance to see what they have in the works. I’m not able to say more at this point, but as an avid Traktor user, it’s nice to see NI staying ahead of the innovation curve. Speaking of NI and Traktor, I did recently review their Z2 mixer for the magazine, along with Traktor Scratch Pro, and was suitably impressed—enough so to put away my usual mixer and use the Z2 exclusively alongside a pair of Pioneer CDJ-400′s. Look for the full review in the next month or so in the magazine.
Additional comments from the show will appear in DJ Times, both print and online, soon. Until then, it’s time to nurse the blisters on my toes, head back home, catch-up on sleep, and wrap-up a couple of pending music projects.
I don’t really write this blog for other DJs, so I guess this post is a little off-topic. But I was struck in an e-mail conversation I had yesterday about how many cool toys there are for DJs these days. I have no idea how big an audience DJs compose as a consumer group, and in this economy, I am even more clueless how many DJs are spending money. But DJs, like musicians, tend to have big aspirations (which is a good thing), and I don’t know about yours, but my local Guitar Center (where both musicians and DJs tend to frequent) still seems to be pretty busy these days.
Anyway, I recently had the chance to play with the Hercules DJ Control Steel pretty extensively so I could write a review of it for it DJ Times. It’s a USB-based DJ controller (i.e., “MIDI control surface” to use the typical parlance) that provides a variety of knobs and sliders and LED indicators to enable better, more accurate control of your DJ software. It has enough of those knobs and sliders to provide direct access to the key aspects of digital DJ’ing, thus freeing you from having to use your computer mouse to manipulate the software. And at around $300, and bundled with DJ software (Virtual DJ), it’s ready-to-use and a steal (bad pun).
You’ll have to wait until the May issue of DJ Times hits the streets to see what else I had to say about it.
As I told the person I was corresponding with by e-mail yesterday, I think what’s cool is that things like the DJ Control Steel even exist. When I started DJ’ing, I started out all-digital, and there were perhaps one or two choices for DJ-specific MIDI controllers at that time. After trying the M-Audio X-Session Pro (which I found to be an overly limited choice, not to mention its cheap, plastic feel; it was truly a toy, not a serious solution), I eventually settled onto using (of all things) an M-Audio Trigger Finger which is actually intended to be a MIDI drum controller. But it served me well for quite some time until my Allen & Heath Xone:3D (and later the 4D) came into my life.
But I digress. The point is that today, there are an increasing number of dedicated controllers already on, or coming onto the market, from Behringer, Vestax, Stanton, and Hercules (among others) at the affordable end that are great for mobile jocks and within reach of even aspiring DJs. And at the higher-end, pro goodies (with price tags to match) from people like the aforementioned Allen & Heath as well as interesting entries from places like Finland’s EKS.
In short, there’s no better time for a DJ to move from the traditional turntable-based approach to the art to the all-digital realm. Great controllers and increasingly great software choices make it way easier, and way more fun, than it was when I started out.
I’m a bit late in writing about this, but there’s a new addition to my family. Well, so to speak; no, I’m not a proud father of a bouncing baby, but rather, the proud owner of a shiny new Allen & Heath XONE:4D mixer/controller.
Last December, I acquired a XONE:3D, after lusting over the thing for most of 2007, and saving my pennies and nickels so I could afford to buy one. (It was a lot of pennies and nickels, so much saving was involved.)
Unfortunately, my ownership experience with the 3D wasn’t the best. Within the first month, I returned home from a gig to find most of the unit dead when I hooked it back up in my studio. Three weeks of being without it later (shipped off to get repaired), it was fine… For awhile, and then suddenly it started having a number of minor but annoying problems that slowly became more major over time.
Ordinarily, that might make me want to dump the thing and try something else. But most any digital DJ who’s tried a XONE:3D probably feels as I do: You’d have to pry this thing from my cold, dead fingers to get it away from me.
To make a long and sordid story a bit shorter, I actually did get rid of the XONE:3D, but not before using a replacement 3D for a few months, finding it perfectly reliable and robust, and making me even more confident that my original 3D was, simply, a lemon. It happens, even with the best of products I suppose.
I got rid of the 3D, yes. However, the day I did so was the day I got a new XONE:4D. The 4D addresses a number of the 3D’s technical shortcomings, and adds some great new capabilities, but otherwise retains everything I loved about the 3D. To get the 4D away from me, you’d not only have to pry off my cold, dead fingers, but figure out how to unchain it from my cold, dead body.
Honestly, I just can’t imagine DJ’ing any other way.
My full review of the XONE:4D and its improvements over the 3D is coming out in DJ Times in the November issue, which will hit newsstands and subscribers’ mailboxes in the next couple of weeks.
Once again this year, the good folks at DJ Times will be endeavoring to name “America’s Best DJ.” While it’s only in its third year and perhaps doesn’t have a hugely long track record, I appreciate one of the key motivators of the effort: to celebrate the DJ talents of US-based DJs, since it seems our brethren in Europe get most of the global recognition (Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Armin van Buuren, etc.).
The contest comes with its own summer tour, featuring many of the DJs up for the award. Everything culminates in Las Vegas in September for a blow-out closing party and the hand-out of the award itself. Voting apparently opens on May 1st at http://www.americasbestdj.net.
I certainly applaud DJ Times’ work on promoting dance music and the DJ art in the US, and I’ll be watching the contest with interest. But searching for the best DJ is a little like searching for the best motorized vehicle; from the tiny Smart ForTwo to the sensible Corolla to the extravagant Hummer to those monstrous dump trucks you see on obscure television shows on the Science Channel, “best” sort of changes contextually depending on who you are, what you’re trying to accomplish, and myriad other factors.
Similarly, “DJ” has way too many meanings. Are you a radio DJ? A dance DJ? A hip-hop DJ? A producing DJ? A wedding DJ? That of course isn’t DJ Times’ fault, but it does point to the difficulty in naming one, singular “best” in a category that has a dozen very different shades of meaning.
At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter much. Like any awards show, there are the people who get nominated, and there are those that don’t. There are those who win, and those that don’t. And there’s likely to be a lot of overlooked and perhaps unhappy people in DJ circles. (I hasten to point out I’m not one of them.) But anything that shines more light on an art form that seems in my mind to be a little too underground than it probably should be is a good thing.
I’ll keep you posted as this unfolds over the course of the summer months.