Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Art of Crate Digging - How It was in 2003

I have  followed E.D.M. for as long as i can remember. I started clubbing when i was 17 back in perth circa 2001 (fake id ftw!). The music has alway fascinated me - i would be at the front row right in front of the dj booth trying to find out what that last track was by typing on my mobile phone and handing over the mobile phone to the dj. The message would be something like "That track was DA BOMB!! Track name pls??" - the DJ would either smile and tell me the name of the track -or- make a weird face & ignore me altogether - Yes that was very silly of me, coz later on being a dj i hated when that happened :)

In 2003 i moved to Sydney, the clubs there were even bigger and more awesome than Perth (sorry RISE and The Church ~Perth~, but subbies ~Sydney~ in 2003 was sooo awesome!) During that time particularly hard-dance : German Hard Trance was really really getting into me , and i started off buying mix cd's from the likes of Sanity and HMV (now both pretty much bankrupt by the whole MP3 revolution). I bought every single dj mix cds that were released, by djs such as Jumping Jack (used to be such a big fan of him) , Peewee Ferris, Nik Fish, Bexta etc. These music were getting constant play on my discman (no ipods back then!) and it started off a habit of "collecting tunes" and finding out the next awesome hit before everyone else has them.

I remember the first time i went to Central Station Records (Oxford St, Sydney). I didnt even have turntables yet - i found out that tracks are released light years ahead on vinyl than in mix CD's (back then obviously! vinyl was like the ONLY source for tracks unlike now with mp3s). I felt like a kid in a candy shop - so many music , so many vinyls, many i've never heard of before - AWESOME! The fact that a spinning analog plate with a cool artwork cover can play awesome, never-before-heard-awesome music was something very new to me - and something very interesting

After hours of browsing and "crate digging" for the first time, I bought my first ever vinyls - Music is The Drug by Lee Haslam and Ding-A-Ling by Yoji Biomehanika. I didnt even know how to listen to them at first, i had no idea on how to cue a record, i had no idea on how to install a needle on the turntables, i bought the tunes coz i heard them before, loved them and i knew i had to OWN them. Finding this new medium so appealing, i started collecting them: I learnt how to properly install a needle into a tone-arm, learnt how to listen to records just so that i could listen to them and buy what i want. Of course later on this wasnt enough and them i bought my first ever decks ever : a pair of crappy Numark Direct Drive TTs and a crappy Numark Mixer that came bleeding (LOL).

And then my Crate Digging days begun... Everytime before work (i worked 2PM shifts in Qantas airlines before) or on my days off i would frequent the local Record Shops. This was probably one of the most memorable moments in my life - the feeling of finding freshly imported wax, listening to some awesome new tunes, and buying them before anyone else did.

I would go to Central Station Records on Tuesday mornings and afternoons - when the new ones just arrived to the shop. Another shop i frequently visit was of course - the famous OneStopDJ in Oxford St. (now gone - bought by vinylwarning and then turned into today's StoreDJ) which has really good selection of tunes as well. Later on i also sourced a lot of my stuff from Vinylwarning (also gone now...) All This is where a HUGE CHUNK of my pay checks would go to - i would prefer digging them first and hunting down the tunes by hand and THEN - when everywhere else is sold out - Vinylwarning was the place to go. Sometimes a place called UTOPIA Records (underneath George St. Cinema, Sydney) would have some hidden gems in there as well - that place is not very well known but sometimes they have some pretty good stuff in there.

There was something about going into a store, flicking thru the covers, placing a needle on the groove of a record - it was an enjoyable but expensive art form, you paid a lot for a track - but it was also something of Quality Control - with the track being so expensive you only buy the ones you REALLY want. And of course, spending money for something that you cant see at all (MP3s) versus spending money for something you can hold and physically own - its just different

Life was pretty good for good ol' vinyl back then, you think? Will it be happily ever after for our old friend Vinyl? Sadly this didnt last too long...

Today, finding tunes can never be the same, In 2009 Vinylwarning - probably the largest stockist of vinyls in australia was closed down. A lot of vinyl shops soon followed or even were already downed way before this. People were saddened by this and made people realise - Is vinyl really gone for good? Did CDJs really kill Vinyl? Perhaps so, as CDJs became standard in clubs , more and more people started buying CDJs - and buying music online from sites such as BEATPORT and Trackitdown (or even stealing them from some Russian forum). People were Bulk Buying tracks from beatport to save money (The TOP10s, most downloaded etc) so a lot of people ended up having pretty much the same library...

After the CDJ Revolution, less and less is released on vinyl, and more and more are being released Digital only. After that - Compared to using CDs - vinyl were expensive , CDJs were the cheaper option and have more selection - even for myself, after 800+ collection of vinyls and having almost no savings at all , i made the switch the CDJS (and then now DVS) - it had to be done. If i was a billionare and making tons and tons of cash every year then it would be another story - but for a normal bloke with normal earnings - CDJs seemed like the way to go, after years of collecting and crate digging, my vinyl collection stopped at the number 885.

It was good while it lasted, and i will really really miss the good old days when finding tunes was more than clicking a bunch of texts and listening the preview player, but it was the inevitable - the vinyl has fallen. I will always treasure my vinyl collection, many holds memories of the good old days of djing, but i will probably never sell them - ever. They hold too much sentimental value to me - i might re-filter them and keep ONLY the ones i really really have to keep (lately i dont fancy the really hard stuff at all so i will probably keep the trancier stuff and re-filter the hardstyle/hardcore stuff) but i havent gotten into that yet....

-ZILCH 28/07/2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beatgridding in Traktor : The Unnecessary Necessity?

This is a really really good video tutorial on Beatgridding from dubspot:

As much as i hate beatgridding (try doing it for 1000's of your tracks!!!) - the benefits are really nice. Perfectly Quantized looping, Perfectly Quantized BeatJumps / Hotcue Juggling , Spot on FX Integration and so on...

With the Pioneer REKORDBOX Quantize feature , i hope someone will create a conversion thingie that converts every single Traktor Beatgrids into the Rekordbox Library (and maybe Serato? When they have beatgrids finally implemented?) - Seriously who can be bothered to do it all over again?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Probably The Coolest CDJ-350 Scratch Demonstration Video Ever?

How cool is this??
Former DMC Champion japanese DJ Co-MA demonstrated what he can do with two small jogwheels and a non-scratch mixer - a True DMC Champ!

So in case you're wondering is it possible to scratch with the Pioneer CDJ-350 or the Pioneer DJM-350 , there you go :)

NEW Native Instruments Controller and NEW TRAKTOR Coming Soon!??


4 Decks, Built in Soundcard, Jogwheels, "The Traktor System" will be priced similarly to the Xone DX

Looking forward to hear more about this new controller and what seems to be a totally re-done version of traktor!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CDJ900/2000 Firmware 3.1 : Advanced HID mode in Serato 2.1 - What about Traktor??

So we've all seen the publications and videos about the cool new 3.1 FirmWare for Pioneer CDJ900/2000...

Pioneer CDJ-900 / CDJ-2000 Firmware Update v3.10 Key Features
* HID Support (Serato 2.1) - Strengthen connectivity between DJ software and player, which allows the software to show the following information on the CDJ display.
- Browsing music file
- Cue/Loop Points
- Album Art (Jacket picture, CDJ-2000 only)
- Track End Warning
* Auto 8-Beat Loop setting by pushing the 4-Beat loop button for more than 1 second. (CDJ-2000 only)
* Track End Warning - when the remaining play time of a USB storage device or CD track is less than 30 seconds, the Jog illumination will blink and the "PLAYING ADDRESS" icon is inversed. (CDJ-2000 only)
* 0.1 Decimal BPM - Now able to show one decimal point of the BPM (CDJ-2000 only)
* Quantize Always On - The factory default of QUANTIZE is changed from OFF to ON.
* Anti Glitch - LOOP smoothing process was improved to reduce glitch sounds between the LOOP END and LOOP START points.

Im surprised that Native Instruments didnt even try to match Serato's awesome Advanced HID support? I started a thread HERE on the NI Forums , a lot of people seemed to agree with me that Traktor needs to step their game up because Serato has been growing exponentially better and better, long ago Serato was simply 2 decks and a waveform pretty much, but now with the BRIDGE soon to be released, up to 4 deck support, and built in effects, perhaps in a few years Traktor is no longer is top of the game (feature wise).

I have tried the Traktor 1.2.6 HID mode extensively with the cdj400 and the cdj900 - it BLOWS! The jogwheel latency was really bad, and the spinning vinyl marker in the middle of the jogwheel is very very glitchy. This is up until version 1.2.6 of Traktor Scratch Pro.

Would they even improve this? I Doubt so, The CDJ400 has been out for AGES (and its going to be a discontinued product soon) - and they have still yet to do a HID support that matches the Serato HID support for the CDJ400 - WHY?

If you are a traktor user and also feels that NI needs to stop being lazy and rework the cdj400/900/2000 hid support, you can visit the forum post HERE and write a comment there, maybe NI would one day listen and give us the awesomely skratchable, low latency hid support for the pioneer cdjs

Is this pioneer at fault? Probably NOT! 
Pasted from the pioneer forums:

pulse from pioneer forum states:

"No, they are for any software willing to take advantage of them. If the engineers at Native Instruments make use of the conduits provided then Traktor may also eventually have things like waveform display.

Pioneer National Trainer // Product Specialist "

So basically what they're trying to say is, its possible for Traktor to have the same level of HID support (including the WAVEFORMS, Cuepoints etc) it is up to the native instruments engineers to work on it. Let's wait and see...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rane TTM56s Review

Rane TTM-56s Review 
(and a little research i've done on other mixers that i considered)


So i sold off my DJM400 (along with my CDJ400s) and bought some CDJ900s. Now i need a good mixer to match the new gear. After a long long long research and trying many many other products, i finally decided on the Rane TTM56s mixer. I thought to myself that i want a PROPER mixer this time, something that is build like a tank, will last me a long time, good sound and especially good faders. Now, i wont call myself a turntablist but i do enjoy the occasional skratch sessions, so skratchability/good faders is definitely on the must-have list!

I wrote this review coz i really couldnt find a decent review of the TTM56s anywhere, skratchworx (awesome site - check em out!) did have an extensive review on the TTM56 (the previous model) but they didnt do a specific one on the TTM56s. Im hoping this article would be an interesting read for those in the market for a new mixer, as i will also write my observations on other mixers currently at the market.

If you are in Singapore you will also benefit from knowing the actual prices of several mixers discussed here - except for the XONE22, i noticed that the prices in Singapore arent very different from the prices in Sydney (where i used to live).

Other mixers i had in mind

Other contenders were the Ecler HAK360/Nuo 3.0, Pioneer DJM909, Pioneer DJM700, Pioneer DJM350, Allen Heath Xone22.

I didnt get the HAK360/Nuo3.0  (SGD $940/$860) because i tried them, and found that i didnt like the upfader curves. Even on the softest setting the upfader curves werent LINEAR enough for me. The Nuo 3.0 has some nice big fat knobs - but it didnt come equipped with the ETERNAL Faders - they are an extra SGD$240 if you choose to get them. The Hak360 comes with the Eternal (xfader only) but the knobs felt a bit wobbly - built quality wasnt THAT nice imo.

I seriously considered The Pioneer DJM909 (SGD$1600) but it  was S$350 pricier than the TTM56s - and only have one non-contact fader Vs three magnetic faders on the TTM56s. Very tempting tho - always been eye-ing this mixer since a long time ago , probably one of the best pioneer mixers ever made, too bad it got discontinued and now very RARE to find.

The DJM700 (SGD$1550) is a great 4-Channel mixer, but the faders arent very good. Plus i use traktor so the built in pioneer FX means nothing to me whatsoever - buying the DJM700 seemed like a waste coz i only need 2 channels aniway and didnt really need the effects. IF i was to get a DJM i'd probably get the 800 - but then again i really didnt need 4 channels so i quickly threw away that thought.

The DJM350 (SGD$830+TAX?) - the new little baby of the PIO family seemed like an interesting alternative at first with the filters, crush and usb slot,  but the price (and the stock faders) sort of put me off - Plus it looks so FUGLY and it makes no sense as i previously used the DJM400 - going to the DJM350 would be more like a DOWNGRADE so i quickly decided against buying it.

I also tought of getting the Allen & Heath XONE 22, but in singapore, they are somewhat Expensive (SGD$899???). I saw some djwarehouse sale (AU) where you can buy a Xone 22 from as low as AU$370. Just by knowing this i decided that i will NOT pay that amount for a basic mixer. Plus a quick search on the interwebs said there are bleeding issues with this mixer - plus the faders arent that great for skratching.

One more thing i really considered was the vestax pmc-05 pro 4 but hey are not out yet as of this review (damn!), so....

Ok now, onto the Review

The Review : Rane TTM56s

First Impressions

Very nicely build, slightly larger and heavier than the DJM400 is previously have. Everything about this mixer is solid and tough - the knobs, the faders, they all scream Quality. You can hook up 4 line/phono inputs - meaning you can hook up 4 vinyl decks if you want to. Every single fader is customisable with their curves and REVERSE.  Internal power supply means you dont need to plug an adapter to the mixer - just the usual desktop pc power cable (included of course!) is enough - and can be used in both 110V/220V

For FX Addicts: This mixer doesn't have any effects built in!, but then again these days most people use DVS anihow - either Traktor or Serato (and they both got FX now). If you wanna use an external effects unit (eg. EFX500/1000) they have the effects loop in/out with a dry/wet fader as well. Havent tested this feature so cant really say much about it. I personally use the NI Kontrol X1 as an effects unit / hotcues with traktor so i wont be needing this feature at all.

Ouch! Sharp Edges

One thing i noted straight after i unpacked the mixer is... how bloody sharp the edges are!!! Im not sure why they didnt round up the edges - it seemed like you can actually kill a person by thrusting any of the 4 edges of the top faceplate into someone's head.

Hmm... Slippery  - oh wait - theres a packet of 4 mini rubber feet in the box :)

When i first put the mixer on my table - i noticed that they didnt have any grip whatsoever on the table - i thought it was a really weird thing (compared to other mixers) but i later realised that they give you a mini pink pouch of 4x  rubber feet that you can affix to the bottom of the mixer. Luckily i didnt throw away the box yet! I wondered why they didnt just do this from the factory. Nevermind then! All is good!

Really Really Nice Faders!

The Rane TTM56s is known for their legendary magnetic faders (een the coca cola test? youtube it if you havent!). You dont get just one, but THREE very very nice smooth magnetic non contact faders! This means you probably dont need to change your mixer for a good 4-5 years - while the stock faders on other mixers would probably be long dead and gone by then, the TTM56s is most likely still cut like a hot knife thru butter. Even if you dont scratch, you'd still benefit from the smooth, long life faders.

Nice Sound. Love the EQ POTS - Whats with the CLICK noise on the EQ Switch tho??

This mixer sounds great - the EQ sounds really really nice as well with a complete kill.

The EQ knobs are  nice, rubbery, small-ish knobs. I kinda wished they are bigger like the NUO's, but they do the job just fine. One thing that really disturbed me at first - Everytime you engage the EQ on/off switch - theres a noticeable CLICK NOISE on the Master Out. Its not very apparent but its very audible especially at loud volume.

A quick email to RANE explained that thats the way they are supposed to be (Why???). I use the EQ Knobs and not the EQ Switch, so its not really THAT bad for me, but for people who would wanna use it as KILL switched - you'd think twice before doing that (coz of the 'CLICK'). This is something i picked up after i bought the mixer, so if you are thinking of getting one make sure you TRY it first and see what i mean - if you absolutely must have kill switches then you better have this in mind.

Mini Cue Fader 'Cross-Talk'

Explanation: Another thing i noticed with the mixer is , if i turn off channel one completely, play something in channel two, slide the mini cue-fader all the way to the left (cue-ing solely channel one) - i can VERY FAINTLY hear the music of channel two in the headphones. This is not really a BLEEDING issue (thats why i said 'cross-talk') because nothing is audible in the master output. This in no way affect anything in the main output so this is just a small thing to note. This worried me at first but seeing that the crosstalk is only in the headphones it is acceptable. I thought people should know about this before they decide buying one or not - some people might not like this at all, so if you are O.C.D. with this, please try before you buy and hear what im talking about!


The Rane TTM56s is a very nicely built, high quality mixer with no-gimmick but really nice faders and will last you a long long time. The price is a bit steep tho (SGD$1250 for a 2 channel mixer with no effects) but it was all for a reason. The TTM56s is already a legendary mixer known for its reputation, so its really hard to find anything wrong with it other than the imperfections i mentioned above.

The Rane TTM-56s is one of those mixers that will stay in tiptop quality for so long, when you finally give up yours to your grand children one day the faders probably still cut very well! As many people who own them say, RANE mixers age very well, if taken care properly (keep the leds below red at all times, for example) this mixer will probably be the last mixer you'll ever buy, just because its so tough and reliable!

I mentioned the only flaws that i found about the mixer (The FX switch click noise and the crosstalk in the cue) but those are the only things i could find that is not so awesome about the mixer. Everything else is just really really nice and high quality. If you dont scratch at all, there are other good alternatives that you can get for a similar or lower price, but if you do scratch (or want to in the future), even just occasionally, the TTM56s might be something to really consider - its more of an investment than a purchase.

Personal Review by Ivan Zilch 20/07/2010

Rane TTM56s 2 Channel DJ Mixer from Amazon

Friday, July 16, 2010

Native Instruments Kontrol X1 Review

Personal Review: 
Native Instruments Kontrol X1 Midi Controller


So after thinking about it for a long long time, i finally decided to invest in the NI Kontrol X1. As a Traktor Scratch user, previously i thought i didnt need it coz i have the Akai LPD8 and made a mapping that actually works (click on link to see the mapping). You will notice that there will be a lot of comparison between the X1 and the AKAI LPD8 in this review - the Akai LPD8 is very very affordable and serves a similiar purpose (midi and knobs?) , so i thought it would be good to do a semi-comparison with it. What? Korg Nanokeys? Pfffft - had one, broken within months of non-regular use - not recommended!!

Well the LPD8 was enough for awhile, but it didnt really have as many buttons as the X1, and also the LPD8 lacks the LED feedback that the Kontrol X1 has (very nice one as well!). So when i decided to upgrade my mixer (i bought a Rane TTM56s - review soon) i sneakily asked the owner of the shop (valentine's music in singapore by the way) if she could give me the X1 at a lower price if i combine the purchase with the Rane - and i got it! So at that very moment of impulse i decided to "ah what the heck" and just buy it. Was it a good decision? Well YES! From the very moment i opened the box, i was very impressed indeed....

Out of the box

The Kontrol X1 contains the Installation CD (with a Traktor LE serial), a free beatport gift card for $10, a usb cable and of course, the X1 itself. The Kontrol X1 unit is PRETTY DAMN HEAVY - I totally expected a bunch of knobs and buttons to be much much lighter than this, but the whole unit is really solid, built much like the Maschine/Audio4DJ/Audio8DJ - solid and heavy.

I had something against buying midi controllers coz midi controllers are basically a bunch of buttons - thats it. Without a PC they do nothing whatsoever. Plus The X1 is priced almost 3xTIMES the price of an Akai LPD8 (well at least over here in singapore). Thats why it took me so long to invest in the Kontrol X1 - i thought i was paying for a bunch of buttons that does not operate without a working pc (and especially i already have the akai LPD8).

Well in this case with the X1, they are VERY nicely build bunch of buttons and knobs. Of course the hotcue keys are small as opposed to the Akai LPD8's big fat pads, but they are somehow a lot more responsive with a nice click - The LPD8 pads require a certain amount of pressure for the pad to register the hit, touch the pad softly and sometimes it doesnt register the press. In the X1 The knobs are all very solid (with a nice centre click) and in no way whatsoever wobbly - they felt really great and just nicely built - everything screams QUALITY. The knobs in the akai LPD8 on the other hand are very short and lack a good grip - plus theres no centre click informing you where the heck you are in the FX (especially in the dark). Some people probably dont mind about the whole click thing but i do - in the filters especially (Low Pass Filter / High Pass Filter on one knob) - its nice good to know where the center is.


Well this is where the X1 shines, pretty much all the important features in Traktor is right there on the X1, so you pretty much dont need to touch your keyboard during your gigs. Everything from play controls, hotcues. looping, effects controls etc is all nicely mapped. Some functions need some getting used to tho - they require the use of the SHIFT button (which is awkwardly placed in the middle of the controller - GEEZ! single hand button smashing gets difficult like this! They should make the SHIFT button nearby so that one finger can hold/press it easily while another finger of the same hand operates another button). This is also a small thing tho and once you get used to it, you can probably live with it.

You can change the pitch and pitch bend (require the use of the SHIFT buttons but thats fine - most people beatgrid their tracks aniway and dont really use the pitch/bend as much). When you turn on the FX there is a led feedback telling you its on or off, also when the track goes out of time the pitch bend buttons light up telling you whether the track needs to be adjusted. But then again if you beatgrid your tracks properly this wont even matter. Native instruments did indeed put a lot of thought in this controller's default mapping. Its ALMOST perfect. Almost.....

Tips on changing the default mapping

Personally, the default mapping for the X1 is already pretty damn good. There are some changes that might be nice to do though, this is how i change mine:

-Change the BEAT button (beatjump) from jumping 1BEAT forward/back to 32BEATS - why the heck do you wanna jump just 1 Beat aniway?? If anything the default value should be 4?  Well the reason i change mine to 32beats is so that i can easily shorten or fasten intros/outros as necessary and to seamlessly jump between parts in the track, Essential tool in live mashing up!

-Add Effects Select Knob: At the moment (def. mapping)  if you hold SHIFT and press the Effects1/2/3 activate buttons it will VERY SLOWLY scroll thru the available effects one by one (try it!) - i personally assign SHIFT + Effects knob 1/2/3 to Scroll thru the available effects - this is way faster than the default method!

There you go! Theres nothing much that i'd personally change about the X1's default mapping - its already nicely laid out (and also labelled by default on the x1 itself - no confusion here!)

Other than that, of course, there are other user-made mappings to acommodate your needs, if nothing is what you like - you can always make your own mapping. Unlike the LPD8 which you HAVE TO MAP before using, the X1 is really plug and play with Traktor. For those who arent really keen on midi mapping, the X1 is perfect coz you dont really need to change much of the default mapping to make full use of it


The Native Instruments Kontrol X1 is a really solid, well built controller that is built to last. It is definitely worth its price (although it would be nice if they throw in the case for free?). If you are a user of Traktor and you dont have any midi controller yet (using it as a DVS solely perhaps?) and want a controller that can also act as fully functional dual decks by itself - the X1 is really for you.

If you already have a midi controller (like the VCI100, akai lpd8 , or anything that you can map with midi or has midi assignable buttons or knobs) then the X1 might not be necessary at all (if you can live with self - assigned midi mappings) - you can always grab one if you want to but in the case of the VCI100, most of the stuff the X1 can do can already be done with the VCI's - the X1 can act as an EXTRA or to control the other 2 decks if you want tho.

You can emulate the things that you can do with the X1 with any controller - by midi mapping them of course, but the X1's plug and play and well built hardware will appeal to many. In fact there was a period of  time where i cant find any of them in stock coz they were selling like hotcakes!! Now, lets see if they ever make a controller called the X2/X3/X4 - i bet it will be pretty interesting :)

Personal review written by by ivan zilch 16/7/2010
Feel free to share this around - just remember to give credits where credit's due

Grab a good deal on the Kontrol X1 - Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 DJ Controller from amazon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bye Bye CDJ800 - Say hello to the CDJ850

This looks really really nice! If i didnt already buy the CDJ900s then i would probably buying this when it comes out - the only thing this doesnt have that the 900s have is the digital out, slip mode , and lan cable connection (dont really need those aniway)

Due out in August 2010 at a MSRP of $999US Dollars (im guessing thats 1250 to 1300 in singapore? Maybe)

So pioneer is attempting to dominate (if they dont already) the CDJ market... From the affordable CDJ350 to the OMFG-Its-So-Expensive-But-I-Want-It CDJ2000

Soon: Review of my new toys The RANE TTM56s mixer and the Native Instruments Kontrol X1