Sunday, January 8, 2012

MixVibes U-Mix Control Pro

Do a search for MIDI mixer, and you’ll get widely varying results for features and prices. MIDI mixers have failed to gain popularity, partly because they’re perceived to be of lesser quality than their audio or audio+MIDI counterparts, and also because many of them actually are of lesser quality. I have felt for a long time that the MIDI mixer was ideal choice, because it gives you more options; like mixing audio and video. Mixvibes either understood this, or the design is just a happy accident, because the U-mix Control Pro has done a nice job of creating and defining its’ own category, which we’ll call MIDI Mixer/Interface/Controller. The order indicates the relevance for the potential user. The U-MIX Control Pro, although small, looks and feels more like Pro gear than anything else in its’ price range. As complete MIDI controller, it’s good, but as a mixer and interface, it’s better.
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

The U-Mix Control Pro is a small two-deck controller/interface that ships with Cross software. Not to be taken lightly, the U-mix has a hefty metal chassis. The jogs are touch-sensitive, and the dual-fuction knob/buttons are sturdy. The crossfader has curve settings, and the pitch fader feels much like that of a 1200. The mixer section has 3-band EQ, kills, gains, and a master volume. Pitch is managed with a fader, bend buttons, and a bend mode on the jog wheel. Rapid-fire friendly, hot-cue buttons are above the jogs, and each deck has its’ own auto-loop and FX rotary/buttons.
Audio Interface
This isn’t some two out-puts and a head-phone interface. The two inputs make this a serious contender for the budget conscious DJ looking to get a DVS. I think you could make a good case for the U-Mix as “MIDI Mixer + Interface” alone being worth the cost. From left to right, you get an optional DC input and a power on/off-USB switch. Just past the USB port are the two RCA outputs, and the jog sensitivity dials. Holdin’ it down right below the Mixvibes logo is the CF curve dial. Rounding out the interface section are the switchable line/phono inputs and their grounding post.
First Impressions
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

The first thing you’ll notice is that it feels heavy, and there is zero flex in the body of the controller. The 2nd thought you’ll have is that it’s really skirting the limit of how small a good controller can be. I say this, because I occasionally find my hand at the top of the deck and actually pushing backwards on the track. Connect a turntable or Tonetable, and acquaint yourself with an easily configurable and highly accurate scratch control. I love words like quick, light, and smooth when talking about crossfaders, and those are appropriate here. Everything you expect to see, except loop in/out (the lack of those being my only complaint) is present. The hot-cue and transport buttons are back-lit, and although the other lettering is a bit difficult to read in low-light, chances are you’ll have memorized them before getting to the gig.
Cross 1.6 is a fine all round software. The Itunes integration is convenient, as are all of the file management options like “Quality” indicator and the “assignable color” system. There are downsides. One, the output sound is just a little compressed sounding, regardless of the determined quality of the tracks. Although the FX use system is good, the FX themselves are lacking. The Delay effect will often distort the track when first initiated, and the Flanger+ doesn’t do anything until turned to the max. Don’t get me wrong, for many tracks, and in many uses, the FX sound and work good. Nonetheless, it’s far too easy with to make some very bad sounds with using the FX.
The Controller
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Jog Wheels
The touch-sensitive jogs are 3”, and prove that there is such a thing as “too small” when it comes to MIDI controller platters. Don’t get me wrong, they’re accurate, and you can scratch with them, but don’t expect to be doing tears.
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Maybe it sounds silly to get excited about a pitch fader, but I really like this one. It has a smooth, weighted feel, and you aren’t going to ever accidentally move it. The pitch fader is accompanied by a “mode” button that changes between pitch, key lock, and hybrid mode (key changes gradually.) Use shift+mode to change the range of the pitch fader.
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Like everything else, the Crossfader is good for what you pay. The cut in distance is 1/16”. I would gladly tell you exactly what was in there, and how I glued in a corner chunk from my old B of A, but TBH, I couldn’t figure out how to get the thing open. I took out all of the screws I could find, but when it didn’t just come open, I decided not to force it. There is a dial on the back to change the curve.

The line faders are really stiff, and since the controller is so compact, this is a good idea to keep you from moving them by accident. They have a 2” travel and mix-friendly curve. Don’t even try to transform with them, you might throw your back out.

Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Three band EQ “knobuttons”- turn for EQ, push for Kill. They’re nicely spaced for convenient one-hand changeovers and “freq’n” (Do people still say that?) The gain is one of the only two rotaries that don’t have a secondary button function, and it would have been nice to see a full EQ kill here.

From the controller, this is an all “Auto-Loop” affair. You can still “loop in/out” in the software.The rotary button works as “click” to activate and “turn” to change the size. The shift function is loop jump. The loops are a little glitchy on bad files, you know, the ones with the little red frowny face next to them. The files with the green happy face performed perfectly with loops and loop jump. The use of the triple-purpose rotary/button for the loops really makes them come to life by giving you the power to quickly alternate between changing the size and shifting. This makes for some really funky “manually” created loops.

Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Again we see the dual-use rotary/button as an effects selector and activator. The second of two single purpose knobs on the unit is the FX amount. Making this knob a button and having it be the on/off would have probably been a better choice, and would have further streamlined the mixing process.

Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

Hot Cues
Three rigid plastic buttons operate 6 Cues; with the ability to delete the cues from the controller via the shift button. Cues 4-6 are accessed by toggling the select button next to the cues. It’s a simple and effective solution, particularly because of the delete feature.
Audio Interface
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

As with most equipment, it’s the little extras that make the difference. The front of the controller is where you’ll find the Mic input and the headphone outputs. The extras here are the on/off/talk-over switch for the mic, and both sizes of headphone outs.

Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

The back of the controller is where the U-Mix Pro proves it can function at levels above its’ pay-grade. Atypical to “interfaced” controllers, the U-Mix has 2 RCA inputs. I tested Cross as DVS with Serato vinyls (sorry MV, I don’t have any of your vinyl), and set the software as MV vinyl. I changed the TT pitch to 45 and then slowed it down a bit. Everything worked as expected, and the performance was satisfactory. It also turned in a solid performance with an iPad and iPod, both running Tonetable.

Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

You can play records, Cds, or media players through the system, also. Just toggle the player button in the software to line in. I found the volume to be quite low when running a line input through Cross, and I had to turn the main volume to max to get a normal output level. Not a big problem, but something to consider.
Other Software
I hope that I have made it clear that I think the U-mix Control Pro is a good choice as a MIDI mixer, therefore, I have tried it with a few other wares. Creating the MIDI mapping and selecting the U-Mix as the soundcard in Traktor Pro 2, will give you good performance sound quality. Virtual DJ use with timecode was as simple as selecting the U-Mix as soundcard, and the doing some MIDI learn action as VDJ.
U-Mix Remote App
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

U-Mix Remote is a companion app for the U-Mix MIDI controller and Mixvibes Cross. Just like its’ hardware sibling, the App gives you nearly all of the controls in the software. (Most of the ones important ones at least) The U-Mix Remote is a fully “Stand-Alone” application and can be used without the controller.

The App is nearly an exact duplicate of the controller, with a few changes. When in landscape mode, you have two decks, mixer, and hot-cues; with pitch and loop hidden away inside a pop-up window that is accessed by a small arrow above the deck.

Rotate the iPad counter-clockwise and you’ll bring up a dedicated “Deck A” screen. Turn it clockwise to go to “Deck B.” Once on the deck screens, you have better access to smart loops, but that’s really the only reason to go to that screen.

As is often the case with remote apps, the hot-cue and loop buttons sporadically refused to function. It would often take repeated taps to get these buttons to fire. I initially tested the app from a distance of about 25 yards(23 meters) and found the button performance to actually be better at this distance than if the iPad was sitting next to the laptop.

The jogs wheels have two modes. The pitch bend function performs as expected, but a quick switch to vinyl mode will dash any hope you had of wifi scratching. Holding or stopping the track works fine, but any back or forth movements are very laggy and exaggerated. You can do small rewinds if you move very slowly.

If you are using Cross and have an iPad, the U-mix Remote App is an effective way to add a MIDI controller to your set-up. Don’t worry about difficult and often confusing ad-hoc settings. The app has instructions for getting it all working. Seriously, I know we hear people say all the time that something is easy to set up, and then we try it, only to find it’s a real pain. That’s not the case here. This is probably the simplest ad-hoc set-up you’ll ever do.
Final Thoughts
Mixvibes u-mix control pro review

What else can you say other than there really isn’t anything that even compares to the U-Mix at this price. Look at what you get, MIDI controller, audio interface, and the software for less than $300. Would I have preferred to see some user MIDI mapping options? Yes, I would. Would some options for timecode other than MV sweeten the deal? Yea, you bet. But the fact is, I just can’t complain much about getting gear that is well made and versatile at such a low price.

For someone looking to get their first DVS, this is really an ideal scenario; everything in one package, and hardware that can follow you into a different software if you choose.
Price: £249/$369/€299• Link: MixVibes