Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ableton/Serato Bridge: The Verdict




The Bridge is the result of a partnership between Ableton and Serato to create a way of interfacing their Live and Scratch Live products. The concept has been out for around six months, but it’s fair to say the concept has not yet really set the world on fire. A lot of resistance is based around the notion that maybe you CAN connect Ableton Live and Serato Scratch Live, but why should you? Well, as much as fervent defenders of their favourite software will assert that what they use is the perfect solution, some software is just more suited to certain tasks than others. Scratch Live is one of the best Digital Vinyl Systems on the market, whilst Live is ideally suited to live production and on the fly remixing. Is pairing the two a marriage made in heaven?
The Bridge comprises two functions, Mixtape and Ableton Transport Control. Let’s have a look at what they both offer.

 

MIXTAPE



 

Mixtape records each of your decks (Scratch Live decks only – your actual vinyl/CD inputs on the input through channels aren’t recorded) and the SP-6 sampler into separate tracks of an Ableton Live file. Using an SL1 or SL3 (or the new SL4), that’s all that happens – not particularly inspiring. However when using a TTM57 or Sixty Eight mixer the MIDI capability of the mixers is utilised. Fader and EQ movement is recorded in automation lanes, so that when the Live file plays back, your performance is replicated perfectly (perfectly except for Scratch Live effects NOT being recorded). This affords you a number of opportunities, from offering something of a hybrid middle ground for DJs who find all their enthusiasm comes from being behind the decks, but want to be able to clean up their mix with Live standard precision, to those who want to think of the live mix as step one in a much bigger, effects, loops, and instrument encompassing mixtape.
It’s not really the ability to fix a mix that’s the most interesting part of Mixtape; although a mistaken fader click or forgotten EQ reset can be easily corrected, it almost seems like an arbitrary distinction between ‘keeping it real’ and just doing it all perfectly in Live in the first place. What I found the most interesting was the capability to actually change the sound of a track, even though it’s being cut up, scratched and mixed, in isolation. That classic Motown that sounded great when you were high on your mixing endorphins, but from the tranquility of the sofa sounds a little flat in comparison to what it’s top and tailing with, can be beefed up without messing with any other aspect of the mix – to me that’s the best part of the ability to ‘cheat history’, so to speak.
You can’t load a Live set into a deck when you’re recording the set with Mixtape and have it paste on the actual Live set into the new recording – it simply comes out as audio. It’s a shame, because the idea of incrementally adding to a mixtape by loading a half finished Mixtape into a deck and then carrying on was one that really appealed to me – and cutting and pasting tracks, automation and all, between Live sets isn’t really possible. Some way to resume a Mixtape recording would be fantastic, because as it stands once that record button’s unpressed, that’s the end of your mixtape.

ABLETON TRANSPORT CONTROL

 


 

Broadly speaking there are two reasons to use the Ableton Transport Control: Playing songs you have created in Live and retaining the capability to remix them on the fly, and utilising it as a sound bed and synth panel on steroids.
For the former, load an .als file into a Scratch Live deck and you’re away – cues, loops and effects are all at your disposal on top of full control of your instruments and effects in Live. Because Live is synced to the platter, speeding it up and slowing it down will affect Live’s playback; changes in speed will result in the same sound you would expect from a record, in that a faster deck will raise pitch and vice versa (you can see this at the beginning of the video). Scratch Live isn’t playing an audio stream from Live though, it is actually controlling it – moving the platter in reverse will rewind Live’s transport, which stops playback as opposed to audibly rewinding the track. This means that scratching is out of the window, and also that any effects that rely on Live being in a play state, such as Stutter Edit, will stop playing.
For the latter, where having an entire deck dedicated to effects and keyboards isn’t feasible, you can sync ATC to one of your decks (around 5.56 in the video). This method is perfect for loops and drops, albeit with the caveat that it is tied to the crossfader channel that the Scratch Live deck it’s twinned with is. Users of an SL3 box can avoid this by simply utilising their third deck, and of course Sixty Eight users have four channels at their disposal.
A big benefit to the integration that The Bridge offers is the unified user interface. Loading a Live set into Scratch Live allows you to open a customised copy of Live’s session view (take a look at around the three minute mark in the video) and device controls below the deck view. This view syncs with what’s actually happening in Live, so using a controller such as an APC40, Launchpad, or other controller with control surface support for Live should work just as well in the Scratch Live view.
Beat grids have quietly made their way into Scratch Live, and this facilitates mixing tracks in with Live. Traditional waveform displays don’t show in Scratch Live for an Ableton Transport Control deck, but its beat markers do; because ATC syncs to the BPM of a Scratch Live track, the success of quantising and so on relies on the accuracy of your Scratch Live track beat grids.

BUT SHOULD YOU USE IT?

First things first: with a box style Rane hardware, The Bridge is effectively half as useful (assuming each of its capabilities is worth the same) as it is with one of its mixers, as Mixtape is a little pointless without recording fader and EQ movements.
The entire slant of The Bridge is getting Live to fit around Scratch Live. I think two of the pipe dreams that some people will have, and have had broken, are the ability to use Live sets as though they were audio in Scratch Live, scratching and all, and using Scratch Live’s capabilities in Live to scratch and cut up clips. What The Bridge does is provide an elegant solution for running two pieces of software that have totally different strengths in tandem, and whilst the sum of the whole is greater than its parts it doesn’t come up with much genuinely new material, just an easy way to mix the two components.
If you already own both Scratch Live and Ableton Live then you’re presumably au fait with each piece of kit’s strengths – The Bridge is just waiting for you to have a poke around and see whether it opens doors for you. You can stop reading now, go check it out!
If you’re an Ableton Live user looking to integrate your performances into a DJ set, The Bridge is the most elegant way to do it; being able to play a Live set as if it were a record, albeit one that can only play forwards, makes mixing between Live and Scratch Live more straight forward than any other production software / DVS pairing. It’s entirely possible to run both Live and another piece of DJ software at the same time, perhaps even using MIDI to sync the two, but the single screen, cue and loop ready ease of The Bridge blows everything else away when it comes to integration; The Bridge could be the deciding factor for a Live user not sure whether to add Scratch Live or Traktor to their set.
If you’re a Scratch Live user just clamouring for some more advanced options, such as bolstering the SP-6 sampler with something with real grunt, then The Bridge is definitely going to do that. That said, at €349 for Live its value is very subjective. It might even be worth looking at Traktor Pro 2 to see whether a crossgrade to its loop decks and advanced effects float your boat. However, Live is the kind of software that can really inspire you to dabble in a little bit more of the possibilities that it opens up, and the 30 day free trial is the ideal way to see whether there’s anything extra to take your fancy in it and mitigate some of its cost – be it production, live instrumentation, or making edits of tracks to use in your sets.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The reason The Bridge hasn’t really set the world on fire is because it’s not really revolutionary, but it definitely offers the best way available to syncronise a DVS and a live focused sequencer (Live is really in a league of its own when it comes to feature set, but nevertheless). Give it a go, and see what you think. It could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Apple iPad 2: Ready for DJ Prime Time?


With the iPad 2 hitting stores in the United States at the end of this week, Apple looks poised to hold off the growing competition and stay strong with its position as the leader in tablet computers. However, will it be the mobile dream device that digital DJs and producers have been hoping for? Let’s take a look at the critical new features of the iPad 2 and see how it stacks up to its closest current competitor, the Motorola Xoom.

UNDER THE HOOD


The original iPad was a major success for a variety of reasons, but it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination a powerhouse in computing power. The iPad 2 is primarily a major upgrade in technical specs, while the prices for each configuration stay the same.
First up, Apple designed a new custom made A5 1GHz dual-core processor specifically for the iPad 2. The first-generation iPad ran on an A4, which also has a clock speed of 1GHz but is a single-core processor. Although Apple is touting the iPad 2 as twice as fast as before, dual-core doesn’t necessarily mean that speeds are directly doubled. Rather, it means the chip processes data much more efficiently. Additionally, Apple claims that the new A5 processor will deliver its faster speeds without causing a huge drain on the battery, which supposedly will last up to 10 hours of active use.

Both the A4 and A5 have integrated GPUs, and while not much is known about the graphics processor in the new iPad 2, Steve Jobs claims that the A5′s video engine will boast speeds that are nine times faster than those on the first iPad.
Besides the processor upgrade, the hardware on the iPad 2 seems mostly comparable to that found on the original – although we were excited to see that Apple added a gyroscope to the device, allowing for a full range of motion detection that was not previously possible with only an accelerometer.

WHY DJs SHOULD CARE

This performance upgrade in the iPad 2 could potentially mean seeing the device integrated into DJ setups as primary controllers. While the original iPad made a number of high-profile DJ booth appearances, it has yet to amount to much more than a flashy accessory.
Enter the app developers: As always, having access to a hardware platform with a higher set of specifications means the ability to develop more stable, more powerful applications, which will most likely be attractive to developers who have avoided touching the iOS platform yet (we’re looking at you, Rane and NI). In the last few months, we’ve seen fairly simple DJ applications arrive on the iPad, including the top-selling Djay application by Algoriddim.

A PRODUCTION PLATFORM


Coupled with the announcement of the iPad 2 was the release of a $4.99 version of GarageBand for iOS, allowing users to utilize the iPad’s large touchscreen with the simple but powerful array of tools in GarageBand. Besides being limited to 8 tracks, it’s nearly identical to the full version of GarageBand on OS X. It’s focused around a central multi-track arrangement window that allows for recording and editing of audio and MIDI tracks. As with the OS X version, it comes complete with a full library of audio and instruments.
Even better, the built-in multi-touch instruments let you play keyboards, guitars, basses and drums directly onscreen, which could be a boon to your live performances. It’s great to see a miniature DAW on the iPad, and maybe it will lead to some more professional DAW solutions for it in the near future.

GETTING GYROSCOPIC

The addition of a gyroscope to the iPad is fairly significant; here’s another way to allow users control over their applications. The potential uses for DJ applications is exciting considering that one of the largest complaints about a lot of touchscreen digital DJ kit is the lack of tactile control, this is a promising new feature that allows for a different way to manipulate your applications, and maybe soon, your music.

THE ICING ON TOP

A few new additions don’t really affect DJs directly, but they still add greater value, given that the iPad 2 will cost the same as the original. For example, there is a front-facing VGA camera that will enable FaceTime, Apple’s video calling service for iPhones, iPads and Macs. The rear-facing camera will now shoot 720p HD video, which you can edit in the new iMovie for iPad ($4.99). The iPad 2 will also ship with the new iOS 4.3 upgrade, which speeds up Safari browsing, lets you access your Mac’s iTunes library over Wi-Fi, and lets you stream music and movies from the iPad to an Apple TV.

A Few Potential Flaws

RAM

One of the strange things in all of the news and discussion over the iPad is the fact that Apple isn’t revealing the amount of RAM in the iPad 2. One unconfirmed source (via Gizmodo) let it slip that the new tablet might have a meager 256MB – the same as what the first generation had. Even with a speedy new CPU and GPU, there’s no doubt that such a small amount of RAM could be a serious cap on memory-heavy apps. This won’t be as big of an issue for apps that don’t actively load and unload media, so DJ applications that act as controllers, such as TouchOSC, will be mostly unaffected. If you’re planning on running an all-in-one DJ solution on the iPad 2 that actively holds long songs and samples in the RAM, 256MB RAM could be a serious inhibitor.

I/O

The iPad 2 continues to sport few offerings in the way of input and output – just the classic 30-pin dock connector and the stereo headphone jack. Of course, achieving such a slim form factor and sleek design might have proven harder if USB ports had been included, but it most certainly would have opened up a number of possibilities.
There are accessories that utilize the dock connector to expand the iPad’s input and output capabilities – such as the camera kit which adds a USB port and allows lower powered MIDI controllers to be connected directly.

IS THIS THE TABLET TO DJ WITH?



Our assessment is that the iPad 2 has serious potential to be utilized by developers to make some killer DJ applications for – but at the moment, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s a laptop killer for DJs. That would require at the very least more RAM and connectivity, perhaps via Apple’s new darling for high-speed data transmission, Thunderbolt. However, iPad 2′s new power, along with its environment of more than 65,000 native iPad apps, make most other touchscreen tablet devices seem weak in comparison. Expect to see more iPads than JazzMutant Lemurs in DJ booths this year.
As for the other competition, a slew of 10-inch tablets utilizing various operating systems are set to drop in the next few months, including the RIM PlayBook, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and the HP TouchPad. But for now, Motorola’s Xoom is the main competitor, and the only currently available tablet running the Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) OS. Honeycomb is the first Android OS to be optimized for tablets, rather than smartphones.

In the smartphone arena, the Android platform is actually gaining on the iPhone in market share and offers more than 100,000 apps. For tablets, however, the Android app market is basically starting from scratch, and it remains to be seen whether the offerings will gush in or slowly trickle down. Because the music production and DJ market are already a narrow niche of interest, we speculate that the majority of those app developers will be more likely to put their limited development resources into the platform with more than 15 million current users: iOS. That is at least until Android tablets gain some momentum.
There’s also a question of whether the non-Apple tablets even will gain momentum if they can’t match the iPad 2′s prices. In the case of the Motorola Xoom, the specs are comparable or favorable to the iPad 2. It also has a dual-core 1GHz processor, front and back cameras with 720p video, comparable battery life, and a gyroscope/accelerometer combination. On the plus side, the Xoom has 1GB of RAM, a micro-USB 2.0 port, and an Android app market that does not require developers to be approved before they can offer their apps. For those advantages though, the lone Xoom model with 32GB, 3G and Wi-Fi costs $799, as opposed to $729 for the iPad 2 with 32GB, 3G and Wi-Fi. (See full spec comparison chart below.)

STAY TUNED

We’ll be keeping a close eye on DJ app development for the iPad 2 — as well as other tablets — to find those revolutionary applications that will change the game. For now, what do you think? Will an iPad 2 be a good addition to your setup? What kinds of applications do you want to see developed for DJs?
The iPad 2 ships Friday, March 11th in the United States.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ReLoop Contour Controller Reviewed


If you’re looking for a slim line controller that is well built and offers a wide range of controls, there are surprisingly few options on the market. The ReLoop “contour” offers such a controller embedded with a host of controls without breaking the bank. Continue reading for a full review, including pro’s and a few con’s you will want to know from contributing writer, Michael O’hagen.

ReLoop Contour Review

By: Michael O’hagan
Price: $299 W/O sound card, $399 W sound card
Communication: MIDI over USB
Available: Now
Ships with: Traktor LE


The Good

  • The metal housing  is very solid to the touch.
  • All parts are high quality, feel good to the hand and play responsively.
  • LED’s are bright and very bold even in daylight.
  • All encoders double as push-buttons for dual control from a single knob (on-off w/ wet-dry).
  • The audio interface is solid and good enough quality for public performance with no concerns about output quality. 10 outs total with a high quality and hot level output signal.
  • Most deck controls you need in Traktor are provided.

The Bad

  • All Encoders are indented and click when turned.They also only send 3F/41 messages, which can limit their use outside of Traktor.
  • LED button & encoder feedback is software dependent. Unless your software is driving the LED messages they do not work.
  • Audio interface edition MUST be wall powered (USB power is fine for the controller edition).
  • The 4 FX mini faders are really short, about 1” total
  • There is NO DEDICATED PITCH FADER! This is biggest downside to the units overall layout.
  • Although it’s sturdy the unit is heavy.
  • Fairly cramped layout.
  • With the release of T pro 2 pending, many new features are not supported.

The Bottom Line

Overall I really like this controller, it is well built and responsive with a lot of control for the money. It’s not perfect, but I have to say that it’s very good in many areas and provides a lot of control possibilities. The physical housing is metal and solid but a little heavy, so it’s a trade off between build quality and durability vs. convenience and affordability. The layout is sensible and traditional, so everything is where you’d expect it to be. The only real problem I experienced is that it can feel tight and cramped when using side by side controls.

DIGGING INTO THE DETAILS


There are 4 main types of shift commands coded directly into the hardware unit itself. These do not require modifiers in Traktor or any other software as the shift action and outgoing messages are all built directly into the unit.
  • 1 sectional shift that adjusts the platter and transport section.
  • 2 cue point modes for 1-4 and 5-8.
  • Deck shift buttons, top right corner of unit, A,B,C,D – these send out all new MIDI messages per deck.
  • 4 jog wheel modes.
The four internal controller decks are hard coded channel shifts (A=Ch1, B=Ch2, C=Ch3, D=Ch4) so they will still work with a software that does not offer modifier assignments like Traktor, this allows the full use of all of its controls with any software. Then there are four buttons offering five jog wheel modes directly above the jog wheel labeled Scratch, Pitch Bend, Search and Trax. Each button will glow blue when selected and represents a platter mode with hardware based changes in MIDI messages.
There are a lot of overlapping page and template based controls on this unit, so it can be a lot to remember or keep track of. It should also be noted that some of the shift buttons send out their own MIDI commands. For example, the cue point and platter shifts send out their own midi messages as well as shifting the associated controls on the hardware.
This could potentially be used to set up conditional modifiers in Traktor such as loading a specific set of FX when selecting a specific group of cue points.


  • The 32 semi-rubberized buttons (20 usable) are hard plastic tops with soft touch response and a click point activation with good response.
  • All encoders double as push-buttons for dual control from a single knob (on-off w/ wet-dry).
  • The jog wheel is the same quality/feel as most other re-loop dj products. It is low profile and has a surprisingly smooth feel/action.
All in all the Contour from Reloop is a great little controller that might just be right for you or could be very wrong, depending on your style. It all depends on what you want and need out of you MIDI controller and how you intend to use it. This controller assumes that you will also have mixer that takes care of the basic mixing, cueing functions or the controller might be used as an auxiliary deck for an S4.

Detailed Features:

  • 40 direct physical usable controls on each of the 4 banks.
  • 4 faders, 7 push-button encoders, 2 rotary knobs w/ center reset indentation and messages.
  • 32 semi-rubberized buttons (20 usable), they are hard plastic tops with soft touch response and a click
  • point activation with good response.
  • 1 touch-sensitive jog wheel.
  • All buttons are backlit and the encoders have LED feedback.
  • Kensington lock port
  • 2 physical headphones connections (6.3 mm & 3.5 mm jacks)
  • metal chassis with brushed aluminum top plate
  • 4 deck controller optimized for Traktor
  • Integrated hi-speed 10 channel USB PRO 24 bit / 96 kHz audio interface
  • External mixer mode: Up to 4 stereo channels can be routed to an external mixer
  • All buttons backlit, encoders with feedback LEDs
  • Software controlled feedback LED buttons for visual control

The Evolution of Traktor


Traktor was first introduced over 10 years ago, and since then, it has become an institution when it comes to digital DJing. The impact the software has had on the DJ scene as well as shaping the trends and developments is both undeniable and impressive. Looking back at the development of Traktor sparks nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings very much like old school Nintendo does for many of us. In today’s article I will take you through the evolution of Traktor from 2000 through today.
The video below is a great example of how far digital DJing has come but continue reading for a look back to its humble beginnings.


I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in a pretty committed relationship with PCDJ when I first met Traktor and the chemistry was spot on. The switch was an obvious choice for me and I haven’t looked back since. Today, the market has branched off into many different focuses and styles of digital DJing with very impressive software like Ableton and Serato. Here is a look at how the program and the UI has changed over the years.

Traktor DJ Studio 1

Traktor was first released in 2000. The initial versions were Traktor Studio and Traktor DJ, with Traktor Studio being more full-featured.

Traktor DJ Studio 2

In 2002, Traktor DJ Studio 2 was released, which offered several new features including scratch macros. It also expanded its looping, MIDI, and cue point functionality. In 2003, Traktor DJ Studio 2.5 was released. This new version expanded the time stretching functionality, added Open Sound Control(OSC) support, and gave the user limited ability to customize the look of the interface.

Traktor Final Scratch

In 2003, Native Instruments partnered with Stanton Magnetics to develop the software for their “Final Scratch” digital vinyl system. This partnership gave Stanton a Win/Mac version of the Final Scratch software and allowed Native Instruments to use the Final Scratch timecode engine in their own Traktor line.

Traktor 3

In 2005, Native Instruments added vinyl emulation capability to version 2.6 of Traktor DJ Studio. Version 2.6 included live input, streaming internet broadcasting, support for more file formats, and greatly expanded MIDI capability. Soon afterward, Traktor DJ Studio 3 added two more playback decks (for a total of four), built-in effects, Beatport online store integration, a four-channel mixer, a Universal Binary version, deck caching, and minor improvements to existing features.
On October 11, 2006, the partnership between Native Instruments and Stanton Magnetics ended, and Traktor DJ Studio 3 was renamed Traktor 3.

Traktor Pro

In 2008, an updated version of Traktor Pro, and a new version of the DJ studio, Traktor Scratch Pro were released. Traktor Scratch Pro had additional DVS functionality enabled, including the specifically designed Audio 8 DJ audio interface, and timecoded CD or vinyl control.

Traktor Pro S4

When Native Instruments released its newest DJ controller, the S4, it came bundled with an, in many ways redesigned software, adding sample decks among other things. The Traktor Pro S4 also became the natural inspiration for what came next.

Traktor Pro 2

On April 1st 2011, Native Instruments will release its newest DJ software and if you haven’t already read our article with a solid 10 minute video walk through by Ean Golden, you should do that right now. In the meantime I’ll be right here, waiting for holographic DJing with Minority Report gestures.
Special thanks to DJ FDRK, StuC and the people who posted in the thread which gave us the idea to put together this article.

Rane 68 Mixer for Serato Scratch – Reviewed

The 68 mixer is Rane’s answer to Pioneer’s popular line of 4 channel club mixers equipped with built in effects. This serious interface takes the quality, strength, and Serato integration from the 57 series to new heights with a full sized mixer aimed at club installs. Continue reading for a full review on the Rane 68 mixer along with a video going through our favorite, and least favorite features.
Reviewed: Rane 68 Digital DJ Mixer
Price: $2499
Available: Now
Ships With: Serato Scratch Live

Good

  • Two USB ports and dual sound cards makes DJ switching truly seamless.
  • Sturdy, robust and well made, this mixer will last for a long time.
  • Two channels of full Scratch Live controls on each side of the mixer.
  • Full featured and well equipped mic input section.
  • ASIO/Core Audio drivers allow sound card use with any software
  • Scratch Live DJs can route sample players and up to four decks of audio into the mixer.

Bad

  • Really expensive for the home DJ, it might be primarily an install mixer
  • Lacks automatic beat detection on the effects.
  • Average effects offerings don’t include beat slicing, beat masher, or looper.
  • Stiff cue point buttons are not great for rapid play back.

Bottom Line

Even after the release of the brand new Pioneer Nexus, the Rane 68 is still one of the only mixers on the market to support two DJs at the same time on the same mixer via its built in dual soundcards. It really can’t be stressed enough how convenient this feature makes the 68 mixer.  With integrated controls for Serato Scratch Live and a bullet-proof construction style, this is an easy choice for clubs that primarily serve Serato DJs. Sadly, there is no Traktor Scratch support, and that fact alone may be enough to give the new Nexus the edge in Europe. Here in the U.S however, I think most DJs would be very happy to find a Rane 68 installed in their local club since it means seamless switching between each performer.

THE VIDEO REVIEW




EFFECTS SECTION


This is the one area where Rane falls slightly behind Xone and Pioneer mixers. The effects section performs like an early DJM-500, with limited manual controls and basic effects. For the average Serato DJ, you probably won’t care too much since the effects in Serato offer far greater control, flexibility and automatic tempo timing. The only challenge is finding knobs and faders to control those internal software effects. While the TTM-57SL mixer offered limited controls for Serato’s internal effects, the 68 does not offer any dedicated controls. Since all of the controls on the mixer are MIDI-mappable, you can assign them to Serato’s internal effects but that would mean losing some of the loop, cue, or browse controls.
One difference between the Rane 68′s effects processor and other mixers is that once a BPM is set for each effect, it is stored to that effect when switching between effects. For example this allows you to set the delay value to ½, and the flanger to 16/1.  This is a different experience compared to the DJM series which is driven by one single master tempo value.
Editor’s Note: Rane did tell us that they are working on auto tempo detection and that may be available as a free download sometime in the future.

INPUT/OUTPUT


As usual Rane’s input and output section reflects their professional audio pedigree. The mixer offers a wide range of connection options that will be more than sufficient for any club install and certainly plenty of connection points for a home studio. Since the 68 is a digital mixer, it offers 4 SPIDF inputs and outputs available directly available on the mixer.

SERATO CONTROLS



The 68 offers dedicated Serato controls for Deck A and Deck B on either side of the central mixer area. In terms of layout, spacing and position, these groupings are ideal. Each channel strip is equipped with dedicated deck scrolling, a full looping section and five cue points.
The only downside is the feel of the encoders and buttons, both of which are less than ideal. On the positive side, all buttons found on the 68 are solidly built with high resistance tact switches that should survive a lor of abuse (The TTM-57SL was notorious for switch failure from hours of button presses). The downside is that the buttons are really stiff and un-playable. For basic triggers, it really won’t be a problem at all. However, if you’re the type of DJ that likes to get crazy with cue point juggling, a pair of Dicers would be more appropriate.

SOUND CARD



Dual sound cards sporting ASIO, Core audio and Serato Scratch live support makes this a mixer that will truly work for everyone.  Traktor and Serato DJs can not only play back to back without any awkward swap moments, they can easily play together – each mixing on 2 of the consoles 4 digital channels.
In two months of extensive testing in the office, we had no problems with driver failure or poor performance. It’s safe to say the dual on-board sound cards work really well and can easily replace your trusted Audio 2 or 4. The only downside? A lack of Traktor Scratch support means those timecode-reliant Traktor DJs still need to plug in a NI sound card to play ball.
Editor’s note: Although the Rane 68 mixer is not Traktor certified, you can use HID controllers like the CDJ-900 and 2000 directly in Traktor Scratch Pro (without time code). It’s primarily turntable control through time code records that is not supported without a NI sound card.

BRIDGE INTEGRATION


If you are a Serato/Ableton “Bridge” user then this mixer does pack some ideal features:
  • Independent routing of ASIO channels from Live to each channel in the bridge
  • Full recording of 4 channels of audio including mixer automation of all 4 faders and EQ’s.
  • You can MIDI-map the buttons on the side of the mixer to trigger clips in Ableton Live
  • Use of the effects in Ableton as inserts on all channels in the 68 (digital send and return)

MIDI-MAPPING IN TRAKTOR
 

As a bonus, every knob, fader and button on the 68 is MIDI-mappable in Traktor. The entire mixer surface both controls the audio and sends MIDI signals at the same time without requiring any shift buttons. With this you could theoretically layer Traktor effects on your low EQ or do anything else our crazy readers might dream up. Rane’s product specialist Zach Stone created a Traktor mapping for the 68 and we will be posting that later in the day.