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New digital DJs read this: difference between a mixer and a MIDI controller

Discussion in 'General DJ Discussion' started by TeLLy, Jun 6, 2010.

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  1. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    Let's clear up something right now. Neophytes, luddites, noobies, whatever you want to call yourself (or what some forum members have called you), you need to be sure of what it is you're using or asking about. There are mixers, there are MIDI controllers. There are vinyl turntables, there are CD turntables, and there are MIDI controllers that have platters that simulate the use of turntables. Let's put down some examples. Because it's getting confusing and people are buying the wrong things, only to be sadly disappointed or told they've got the wrong product.

    Mixer:
    This is a Rane TTM56. Widely acclaimed as the world standard for scratch mixers, for DMC-style turnablist competition:
    http://www.proaudiosuperstore.com/media/rane-ttm56-big.jpg

    This is an Allen & Heath Xone 62, and is an example of an installation-style club mixer:
    http://www.powersound.co.nz/images/large/xone62_front_max.jpg

    Neither of these controls Traktor on its own.

    This is a Vestax VCM-100. It's a MIDI controller that has its own soundcard, and can control Traktor's internal mixer functions. But it is by no means a "mixer", as it can't fade/mix between two external sources. It must be hooked up to a computer, and controls only internal mixer functions.
    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/vestax-vcm100.jpg

    Some mixers have their own MIDI functionality and can quite happily control Traktor functions while still mixing between two analog or digital sound sources. Example? My beloved Korg Zero4, which, properly programmed, can actually control Traktor without the need for turntables or CD player or even another MIDI controller. Remember, a "mixer" does not REQUIRE hookup to a computer to work, whereas a MIDI controller is useless if not hooked up to a laptop/desktop.
    http://2beat.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/korg-zero-4.jpg

    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

    Turntables/CD Decks/MIDI controllers with platter:
    Here is the Technics 1200MK5 turntable, the current reigning king of vinyl turntables:
    http://theacidhouse.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/technics_1200mk51.jpg

    Seeking to dethrone the king are the Vestax PDX series of turntable (PDX-3000 shown):
    http://www.djsuperstore.ro/cs-photos/products/original/111_0_1242737101.jpg

    The Stanton STR8-150:
    http://www.music-town.de/images/product_images/popup_images/stanton_str150.jpg

    And the Numark TTX (TTX USB shown):
    http://www.altomusic.com/altoweb/images/products/500/5011/TTXusb-0.jpg

    Here, likewise, are some examples of CD turntables. Some do have the added benefit of outputting MIDI or HID signal to control Traktor/Serato, but their primary function is to play CDs, of the type burned by the download-inclined or purchased by those who still frequent music stores. Some even play MP3 CDs, but depending on features, usually don't hook up to computers to play sound files on the hard drive.

    A shining example of a CD deck that has both of these functions is the Pioneer flagship CDJ-2000. It's got a scratchable (non-motorized) platter and plays regular CDs just fine, but can output in HID mode to control Traktor transport functions:
    http://images.lilypix.com/albums/userpics/10089/CDJ-2000_FACE_1000.jpg

    There are also Denons. See the DNS-3500. Similar to the Pioneer in style, but a few marked differences you can read up on, such as a rotating, motorized platter to simulate vinyl playback and feel:
    http://proaudio.com.es/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dns3500_0edit.jpg

    Some of the mobile or small-installation crowd may encounter CD players like those below, which combine a rackmounted pair of CD trays with a separate rackmounted player section, which usually doesn't have platters but uses tiny jogwheels instead. See the Denon DC-D4500.
    http://www.artsound.gr/catalog/images/denon/dnd4500.jpg

    And here is an example of a MIDI controller that uses jog wheels with which to scratch, cue, or simply tempo bend. The ubiquitous Vestax VCI-100:
    http://www.createdigitalmusic.com/images/2007/jan/vci100a.jpg
    Note that like the VCM-100 it does have faders and knobs laid out in typical mixer fashion, but the VCI-100 cannot mix between two sound sources without a computer connection, and it simply sends MIDI signals to and from the computer in order to control the software's internal manipulation and mixing of the sound files loaded and playing therein. Thus it cannot be defined as a "mixer" or a "turntable" or "decks".

    The newer Vestax VCI-300 includes its own sound interface and uses HID instead of MIDI to control Serato's Itch software (can be used for the most part in Traktor as well btw), but it is still not considered a mixer OR a turntable:
    http://getridiculous.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/vci3001.jpg

    Some controllers, like the fantabulous Numark V7, attempt to bridge the gap between turntable and MIDI controller, by adding motorized platters to controllers but they are STILL controllers in that they require a computer hookup to manipulate sound:
    http://turntabling.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Numark-V7.jpg

    There is also the world famous NS7, which basically is a giant VCI-300 but with motorized platters, hernia-inducing weight, and generally awesome functionality, or perhaps a better comparison would be that it's like having two V7s sandwiching a mixer (a TRUE 2-channel mixer that has some HID functionality itself). Again, this setup does not work on its own and needs a computer and the appropriate software (Serato Itch is bundled) to manipulate and mix music.
    http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/shop_image/uploads/Image/numark_serato_ns7.jpg

    If you take nothing else away from this early-morning jabberwocky, remember: mixers and turntables don't need a computer to play or mix between tracks. MIDI and HID controllers DO need to be hooked up to a computer to play tracks stored on said computer. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
  2. Fzang

    Fzang Forum Member

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    316
  3. fella

    fella NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    595
    Good post.
    I think one of the moderators should move this to the first column of general dj discussion page, for easy acces.
  4. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    I have no idea why I woke up at 7 in the morning, stumbled downstairs, fired up my laptop, and wrote THAT, of all things.
  5. goonzy

    goonzy Modérateur

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    2,885
    Great future sticky I guess :)
  6. PhilL

    PhilL Moderator

    Messages:
    7,090
    Nice work mate, clearly marriage agrees with your analytical side!

    Phil
  7. moedxb

    moedxb New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Hey great post, many thanxs for that.

    what do u think the best combination of midi controller and mixer is out there.. or even buying serperates and putting it together. traktor friendly. dollars not an issue.
  8. DJ Freshfluke

    DJ Freshfluke Moderator

    Messages:
    25,405
    reading this comment, i dont understand either! ;)

    jk - thx for the good post!

    anyways, i'm missing the "hybrids" like nuo4 & vms4....?
  9. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    6,430
    NUO4? I thought the NUO was just a standard mixer. I did give my own Zero4 as an example of a mixer that has MIDI functionality, and would love to hear more on it from DNX1600 and EVO owners.

    The VMS4 I haven't even really glossed over but perhaps you could add a little blurb, seeing as how you've had some actual experience with it.
  10. dannybyrne29

    dannybyrne29 NI Product Owner

    Messages:
    2,331
    Oh no....!....!
    i've just bought a cement mixer and now you tell me it can't control Traktor.......AArrrggggghhhh......!

    If only i'd seen this post earlier....!

    Gutted...!
  11. Thomas @ NI

    Thomas @ NI Administrator NI Team

    Messages:
    1,660
    Thanks Telly! A truly extraordinaire post.
  12. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

    Messages:
    6,430
    Cheers Thomas. I do my best nowadays to mix "productive" in there with "jerkwad".
  13. DJ Freshfluke

    DJ Freshfluke Moderator

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    25,405
    nope, the xfader and 2 of the 4 channels and their respective EQs can be used as midi channels (and god only knows why ecler didnt implement that functionality for all channels). also the buttons and knobs in the middle are pure midi.

    it was the most promising concept at that point of time - and after all those years, the vms4 is the only one that made a step further in this direction. regarding the vms4 i pretty much said all about it in the skratchworx video, i guess - but questions are always welcome.
  14. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    You're right. The NUO4 was MIDI-capable. They removed this functionality in the NUO4.0.

    Behind every great man....is a woman kicking his azz forward.
  15. DJ Freshfluke

    DJ Freshfluke Moderator

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    25,405
    oh really? i wasnt aware of this, having disappointed gone away from ecler products... :(
  16. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    Yeah the 4.0 doesn't have MIDI, either by 9pin or USB. Which I actually don't mind. I found a guy who MIGHT sell his 4.0 for $500 and I'm dipping a voodoo doll in tequila nightly to see if I can get him drunk enough to sell it to me for that price shipped.

    http://www.mk2.pt/file/ecler/nuo4.0_2.jpg

    I would rather get my hands on a Nuo4 though, as the headphone jack is on the front of the mixer, not up top where I could never get used to it. I really love the Ecler NUO line, it's just the right price for just the right performance.
  17. DJ Freshfluke

    DJ Freshfluke Moderator

    Messages:
    25,405
    i absolutely dont understand why ecler didnt develop the hybrid concept any further... they were ahead of their time with the nuo4, but obviously did not have the selfconfidence to trust in their senses... but that's only my 2ct.
  18. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

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    Then they left it for Korg to run with. Personally love my Zero4 what with its firewire card and MIDI galore, but imagine it with Ecler build quality and EQs....mmmmm.....
  19. David_Smith

    David_Smith New Member

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    17
    Now my friend you need to explain the difference between MIDI, and HID in a DJ environment.
  20. TeLLy

    TeLLy NI Product Owner Extraordinaire

    Messages:
    6,430
    I could basically say "HID stands for Human Interface Device and can, in the DJ sense, be simply considered MIDI on steroids", which would suffice for the most part, but I'd rather link you to somewhere more informative:

    http://www.virtualdj.com/wiki/HIDvsMIDI.html
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