26 juni 2017

Getting DJ Mixers Right

First things first, I have a confession to make: I have never owned a Rane mixer.  In fact, at the time of this writing, I’ve never owned a Rane product at all (though I’ve played on the occasional old-school Serato mixer here and there).
That being said, I really appreciate the company’s current approach to their mixer lineup… especially when compared to some of their competitors.

Circular Reasoning

Here’s the MP2015: a mixer with a rather spartan appearance, trimmed out in laser-etched wood and large knobs.  Not a single line fader to be found, Rane’s latest offering is a throwback to the club mixers of yore.
Rane MP2015
This mixer doesn’t just satisfy a market of people who prefer circles over lines.  This mixer is for control freaks.
Starting with the simple fact that it’s a rotary (knobs just feel more subtle than sliding forward-and-back), the very design of the mixer implies a need for precision.  Each meter has plenty of LEDs, for instance.  But aside from that, the mixer presents some intriguing routing and “shaping” options.
The MP2015 features a Submix – basically, an additional mix bus which you can have any or all of your mix channels routed to.  Think of it this way: in the same way that you can press any number of “CUE” buttons to hear those channels in your headphones, you have another button which routes any selected channels to a new “fifth” channel (complete with its own EQ, filter, and volume controls).
This allows you to do things that might otherwise require you to have four arms.  Example: If you are mixing 4-deck techno, and you want to “filter up” two of the channels while bringing in the bass of another song, this allows you to do that.
MP2015
Another feature is the Isolator – a sort of glorified EQ which is applied to your entire output.  It has three frequency bands, with adjustable crossover frequencies between those bands. The crossover between lows and mids ranges from 80 to 640 Hz, the one between mids and highs ranges between 1kHz and 8kHz.

What this would mean for me, personally, is that I could properly listen to some of my OLD records (pre-1990s), and compensate a little bit for the sound of the room I’m in.
But, with great power comes great responsibility.  This level of control is easily abused by DJs who don’t know what they’re doing.  This mixer is meant for a seasoned ear.
The mixer may appear old-school, but don’t let it fool you.  It contains within, a dual-USB high quality sound card.  That’s right, two DJs can use the the internal sound card at once, making switch-overs a breeze.
Yes, that means that while this mixer harkens back to an analogue era, this is a digital mixer through-and-through… just to be clear.
Unfortunately, the sound card has no DVS-certification of any kind (including Serato).  Which means that using timecode involves the addition of a separate box in the chain (aside from, perhaps, Virtual DJ).  This seems severely limiting to the target demographic.
It is, however, nice to see that Rane is concerned with the level of quality in this product.  The thing looks like it’s built with Technics 1200-like indestructibility in mind.  Of course, only time will tell if this pans out… but Rane claims they are testing the knobs for a minimum of one million cycles.
This mixer, in all it’s sonically-OCD glory, does weigh in at a hefty price… advertised at $2199.  Unfortunately, this price tag makes the mixer prohibitively expensive for the average DJ.
Still, what I really like about this mixer is the statement it makes.  There’s been a long push of DJ hardware that was designed by marketers instead of experienced DJs.  The MP2015 says, “I’m a mixer for DJs.”  There is a recent trend of this, lately… we can only add so many bells, whistles, screens and lights.
MP2015
I like hardware designed with intent.  Gear which is designed to support a certain workflow… to solve a particular artist’s problem.  This mixer is a shining example of this, and if it does well, may prompt similar moves by competitors.  I see this as only being good for the industry.

This mixer is too rich for my blood, but damned if I don’t fantasize about sitting behind my decks and playing records through it all night.
I suppose I’ll have to settle for a high-quality rotary kit for my Kontrol S8, for now.  Hint hint, NI…

Scratch DJs, Rejoice!

The TTM57SL was a popular choice for Serato DJs for years, and is still used by many.  But when Rane announced their discontinued support of classic SSL devices, owners couldn’t help but feel abandoned.
Serato hears the cries of their customers, and their answer is the TTM57MKII.  This mixer is for the no-nonsense scratch DJ.
Rane-ttm57mkii
A classic reborn, the “MKII” version of the mixer sports a familiar layout, while adding features now expected by the modern digital DJ. For example, the TTM57MKII also features the dual-USB architecture, making switch-overs between DJs a breeze.  And, of course, today’s staple feature: RGB-backlit buttons.
Some PR from Rane:
Rane Introduces the TTM57mkII for Serato DJ
When introduced in 2006 the TTM57SL broke ground as the first ever DJ mixer with built-in USB sound card and tightly integrated Serato software controls. When discontinued in 2013, the TTM57SL had developed a cult-like following.
TTM57mkII stays true to its original design by supporting familiar workflow while improving performance and software integration. Updated software controls include silicone RGB backlit pads for triggering 4 cue points per deck or the SP-6 sampler. Classic joystick controls toggle slip, instant doubles, internal mode, censor, and transform. Dedicated auto-loop & loop roll controls with back-lit buttons. Intuitive Serato DJ iZotope FX controls for easy & quick access.
The mixer features Rane’s exclusive dual USB port architecture for intuitive DJ change over and supports creative dual computer applications. The TTM57mkII is a classic reborn.
Key improvements include:
  • TTM57MKII
    Dual USB 2.0 high speed class compliant audio and MIDI USB ports
    • No driver required on Mac
    • High performance ASIO driver for Windows
    • 10 record and 10 playback channels per port
  • Sample rates of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz and 96 kHz
  • Dedicated Serato DJ iZotope USB FX inserts for each deck
  • Software color coded silicone RGB back-lit pads.
  • Aux Channel for SP-6 routing.
  • High/Low-Pass sweep filters for Decks 1, 2 and Aux.
  • Ranes proprietary non-contact magnetic faders
The Rane TTM57mkII Mixer is a plug-and-play package supporting one or two computers, with two-deck digital vinyl simulation (DVS), the Serato SP-6 sample player, software effects and all the record and playback channels you need.
Both USB ports connect to computers running Serato DJ or most DJ and DAW audio programs, working with Native Core Audio support for Mac and an ASIO driver for Windows. Class-compliant audio and MIDI means no driver installation on a Mac, and a unified ASIO Rane driver is provided for Windows. Dual USB ports help DJs seamlessly change over between sets, even if they use different software.
The TTM57mkII has so many improvements over the TTM57SL, it’s truly a new mixer with a lot more creative power.
• Each USB 2.0 port supports 5 stereo record and 5 stereo playback channels.
• Great-sounding 32-bit floating-point audio processing sampled at 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz.
• Deck controls include source select, Gain trim, 3-band full-cut isolator tone controls and a sweepable High/Low-pass Filter.
• An external analog insert can route the left, right, or both Decks to an analog effects processor.
• Independent USB FX Inserts for each deck support post-fader iZotope software FX.
• A dedicated USB Aux Input for SP-6 sample playback with Gain Trim, sweepable High/Low-pass Filter and a Headphone Cue.
• Long-life magnetic crossfader and channel faders have reverse and contour controls.
• All controls are MIDI-mappable.
A typical setup includes two Serato DVS decks, software FX through independent USB digital inserts for each Deck, and the SP-6 sample player on its own USB Aux input.

Rane Sets an Example

The thing I appreciate about the imminent Rane mixer lineup, is that each mixer serves a specific purpose.  Rane recognizes that there are different types of DJs, and different ways they like to play, so why discriminate?  Let’s serve each corner of the market.
This seems like good old basic business sense, but it’s surprising how many companies have gotten this wrong.  Pioneer has a well-earned hold on the “pro” mixer market, but their lineup is comparatively a mess.  The differences between a 750, an 850, and a 900 are strangely chosen and really seem to be a case of “slap more FX on it and double the price”.  Even Allen & Heath, god love ‘em, have made similar decisions with their mixer lineup.
I hope that other companies start to act in kind, and realize that DJs want equipment designed by real DJs and not by marketing firms. I’ve never owned a Rane mixer and I have no real stake in this… but I like where their heads are at.
Make it, Rane.

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