Sónar 2011 report + Twitch news
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  1. #1
    DJTT Tankard fullenglishpint's Avatar
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    Default Part 1 - Twitch Review

    On friday I went to Sónar Barcelona 2011, which just happened to be 2 minutes walk down the road from my flat, with the main aim of getting my hands on the new Novation Twitch to see if it's as good as the youtube videos suggest. tl;dr version: yes it is.

    Here's the video in case anyone hasn't already seen it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytM05o1wqhw

    I apologise for the lack and poor quality of photos, I only had my Blackberry with me.

    Let's start with a suitably embarrassing photo of me holding the controller I've been obsessing over since its announcement a couple of months ago (and wearing my shiny DJTT t-shirt with a ridiculous ableton headband):


    The guy in the green T shirt in the background is Sam, a Vinyl traditionalist who carries crates of records to gigs yet confusingly enough works for ableton.


    Layout & Build Quality

    That picture gives you an idea of size; it's a bit smaller than I expected. In use though it's not fiddly (and I have big hands), the pads are well spaced out as are the EQ knobs and faders. The only issues I had were minor ones; firstly that the line faders seemed quite loose, which I was assured was down to the fact that this was a pre production unit that has been used to death on every demo and testing process they've done (in which case the fact that every feature was still working perfectly is promising for build quality). The other problem was LED brightness, but this was in the middle of the day in a very bright white tent under the spanish sun so all the controllers in there were struggling. I later saw it in a demonstation indoors and the LEDs were plenty bright enough.

    Mapping & Traktor

    I spent a couple of hours talking to Simon from Novation, who's brand manager for the Twitch and also the guy who answered my email with questions regarding Traktor mapping a few weeks ago (here). We spoke a lot about the Twitch's development, and what became abundantly clear is that they have put a lot of time and effort into mapping this to ITCH, both in terms of firmware and software. It remains to be seen how well it works with Traktor, and what some of those magical midi mappers we have around here such as flashflooder might be able to do with it given the chance, but in ITCH it works extremely well. I was a little worried beforehand that the touchstrip might be unresponsive and that fine adjustments would be difficult, but as it turns out it responds to movements as fine as a fingertip rolled across it. Of note to those of you who might be interested in creating a Traktor mapping of your own is the fact that not only the pads but also the touchstrips have different midi messages depending on which of the 4 performance modes you're in. This will make complex mappings a lot easier without the need for so many modifiers.

    Use in ITCH

    Regarding how it works in ITCH, most of the features are clear from the video above but of course there is more complexity to them than can be explained in 6 minutes. If anyone has any specific questions I'm happy to answer them, I had a good long play so I got a fairly clear understanding of the specifics. The slicer, which is the feature a lot of people are raving about, is a lot of fun. It's very adjustable with the touchstrip, which effectively becomes a double parameter control in slicer mode, and once you've got to grips with it it's quite intuitive in use and is a nice advancement on the classic loop roll. There's also a feature in one of the needle drop modes whereby the LED lights up in the middle and placing your finger anywhere to the right speeds the track up and anywhere to the left plays the track backwards, with speed depending on how far your finger is from the middle. I can't think of a way I'd use it in my workflow, but I'm sure someone can.

    Part 2 to follow...
    Last edited by fullenglishpint; 06-19-2011 at 09:24 AM.

  2. #2
    DJTT Tankard fullenglishpint's Avatar
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    Default Part 2

    Tempo Encoders

    The use of rotary encoders in place of pitch faders is, in my opinion, a very good solution to tempo control on a software controller. The problem many of us have often had with traditional pitch faders on midi controllers is the lack of parity between the hardware and the software, where the physical fader ends up in the wrong position and we have to rely on either using the fader in relative mode (a problem if you're at the end of its travel) or with soft takeover (the fader being unresponsive until it's in the same position as the one in the software), which can be a nightmare. Apparently the rotary encoders were initially designed simply as a space saving measure, but in my opinion they are a much better solution to the problem. In ITCH, the sensitivity and acceleration of the encoders is very good, and you have control down to 0.01 BPM should you need it. But that brings me onto my next point.

    Sync Mode

    ITCH's sync has been criticised in the past, and admittedly I only had a few tracks to play around with on the demo laptop, but it seemed very accurate to me. In fact the sync button on the Twitch has to be shift-pressed to be disengaged, which leads me to believe that the developers have confidence in ITCH 2.0's sync capabilities. As I mentioned before though, the touch strip swipe and tempo encoders are very accurate and for anyone unhappy using sync beatmatching manually is definitely an option, especially with ITCH's parallel waveforms.

    Effects

    The effects available in ITCH aren't as varied as those in Traktor, but they're of high quality and are quite easy to use. The fader FX mode a la VCI-100 is also very good, enabling fast and expressive use of effects. That said, with those pads available, to me it's crying out for an insta-FX layer. This is something I mentioned to Matt, who's head of Novation hardware, and he seemed receptive to the idea. I'm not expecting anything like that to appear for the twitch itself any time soon, but they're definitely aware of DJ Tech Tools, the MidiFighter and how successful it's been, so there's a chance it's something to look out for in future novation products.

    He also asked me a a question to which I didn't really have a very good answer; if I were Novation, what would I be working on next. I'd be interested in hearing people's opinions on this, bearing in mind that Novation is a very left field hardware manufacturer always open to new ideas. I'll send them an email if there are a few replies, they certainly seemed interested in this forum's opinions.

    Release Date

    Still no specific date, but I was told that there had been a delay in manufacture due to the project manager insisting that some encoders were changed. I think this is a positive, since novation are clearly trying to ensure that build quality is top of the list of priorities. The latest news they could give me was that the first batch was just about ready to ship from China, after which they'll be on the boat for about 4 weeks before being ready to distribute. So release is looking like it'll be before the end of July, hopefully.

    Conclusion

    I went to Sónar with high expectations of the Twitch, and in general it delivered. Its mapping with ITCH is excellent, giving the user a great out of the box complete solution. It has a built in high quality audio interface and packaged software with unlimited lifetime updates, so it matches up to the Native Instruments S4 in several regards, but it's more portable and in my opinion more suited to controllerism. It's definitely a good all in one for those who aren't interested in having permanent use of 4 decks, a camp which I certainly fall into.

    This forum has a high proportion of Traktor users, and I believe the Twitch has very promising features in terms of midi compatibility. I don't think the Traktor mapping that's supplied (along with an overlay) has taken proper advantage of the unit's potential, but with the community of mappers here and elsewhere on the web I'm quite sure that a mapping will come about that really exploits it to its full capability.

    I hope this review has been helpful and as I said, I'll try to answer any questions you might have. I'll follow it up soon with a brief rundown of the other things that caught my eye at Sónar.
    TSP 2 | Serato DJ | Live 8 | MBP (SSD + HDD) | AIAIA TMA-1 Fool's Gold Edition | 1200 Mk2s | MidiFighter | KRK RP5
    Xone: DB4 | Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus
    DJTT FAQ | Read my guide to AUDIO CABLES

  3. #3
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    Great review buddy!

    I think they're getting real close to the perfect controller for someone like me and your review just makes me want to buy one even more

  4. #4
    Tech Guru TommyQuiet's Avatar
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    nice review man i like the look of that controller and looks like its gonna be a hit
    and with twitch 2.0 and the bridge its gonna be great.

    p.s i must own that ableton headband where can i get one? :d

  5. #5
    DJTT Tankard fullenglishpint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TommyQuiet View Post
    i must own that ableton headband where can i get one? :d
    Hehe they were giving them out hand over fist. I've also got a stack of stickers, a couple of serato bottle openers, a handful of branded lanyards, a serato hacky sack and a launchpad t shirt.

    totally made the ticket price worthwhile
    TSP 2 | Serato DJ | Live 8 | MBP (SSD + HDD) | AIAIA TMA-1 Fool's Gold Edition | 1200 Mk2s | MidiFighter | KRK RP5
    Xone: DB4 | Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus
    DJTT FAQ | Read my guide to AUDIO CABLES

  6. #6
    DJTT Tankard fullenglishpint's Avatar
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    Default Part 3 - all the rest

    A good few other companies were there showing off their products. The first one I've got to get out of the way is this...


    Yes, that's right, it's a 52" touch screen Traktor emulator controller. The less said the better, I'll just add that I tried it and it really wasn't that great. There's a reason no one's made a controller that big before: it's neither easy nor much fun to use. moving on...

    Pioneer were there with the DJM-T1 and the 2 DDJs. I've tried out the DDJs before, and my opinion remains the same. Too big, too expensive and not enough features. And the Traktor one comes with a poorly featured version of Traktor.

    The DJM-T1 I also don't really get, it's lost somewhere in the gap between Scratch mixer and midi controller. A good friend of mine (who has been a scratch DJ for several years and recently picked up an Ecler Nuo 2.0) pointed out that while it's the same size and format as the DJM-909 (which no one can deny is a brilliant scratch mixer), in terms of actual hardware features the T1 is lacking. For example, it has no FX send return and no built in effects (it relies on those within Traktor), meaning that post fader FX are impossible. That's something that a Scratcher will miss.

    Moog were there with a (to my non-synth-literate eyes) dizzying array of harware synths and their moogerfooger effect pedals. I love that name. Here's a pic:


    I also tried out Korg's new Monotribe, which being as I said a total synth n00b made no sense to me. I managed to make a beat, just about.

    I saw a live demo of the bridge, which is pretty impressive, although the poor guy couldn't make video-SL work and while trying to demonstrate mixtape had a brain fart and forgot to press play. That doesn't detract from what an achievement the bridge is, especially taking into account that ableton is apparently working on their audio engine to allow backwards playback for proper scratching of a Live set. The demo also served to further reinforce just what a beast of a mixer the Rane Sixty Eight is.

    I think that's about it, hope you found that interesting!
    TSP 2 | Serato DJ | Live 8 | MBP (SSD + HDD) | AIAIA TMA-1 Fool's Gold Edition | 1200 Mk2s | MidiFighter | KRK RP5
    Xone: DB4 | Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus
    DJTT FAQ | Read my guide to AUDIO CABLES

  7. #7
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    All those Moogerfooger pedals and UA rack systems are making me wish I could have gone!





    Stupid girlfriend wanting to go to Paris instead
    Production - 24" iMac. Digidesign 003+ Rack. Genelec 8020A Monitors. UA 710 Twin Finity Preamp. Many Microphones.
    DJ - 15" MBP. Traktor Pro 2. Audio DJ 2. Kontrol X1. Maschine. MidiFighter Pro. AIAIAI TMA-1 Headphones.
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  8. #8
    Tech Guru TommyQuiet's Avatar
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    Moogporn mmmm

  9. #9
    DJTT Tankard fullenglishpint's Avatar
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    So guys, what would you make next if you were novation?
    TSP 2 | Serato DJ | Live 8 | MBP (SSD + HDD) | AIAIA TMA-1 Fool's Gold Edition | 1200 Mk2s | MidiFighter | KRK RP5
    Xone: DB4 | Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus
    DJTT FAQ | Read my guide to AUDIO CABLES

  10. #10
    Tech Mentor jezalenko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fullenglishpint View Post
    So guys, what would you make next if you were novation?
    A S4/Twitch/Maschine hybrid.

    Basically two decks with mixer section, plus some jogs to control effects, and those yummy pads from the Twitch for some sample/midifighter/FX madness.

    And design it to work properly with Traktor out of the box too!!!
    Dell Studio XPS 1645 | TSP 2.6 | Kontrol S4 | Audio 6 | HDJ-1000 | Alto PAM5A

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