Percussa micro super signal processor

The evolution of what we now call “DJing” is inseparable from the turntables and mixer. So, what happens when you enter the digital domain and you really don’t need to refer to either device? Many digital DJ controllers have simply mimicked those previous inventions, with virtual tables and a mixer-style layout. To some extent, they must, not only for familiarity but to even make it possible to perform the kind of tasks DJs expect.

Then again, the computer, endless shapeshifter that it is, can do whatever you like. And so we’re beginning to see mass-market controllers marketed at DJs – not just the laptop performer, but DJs and DJ software – that goes in new directions.

Novation Twitch is one such effort. New Yorker Abe Duque takes up the Road Test series for Dubspot. I rather enjoy the lo-fi video as he flies New York to Munich; I could almost imagine the entire video being shot that way. (There you go, CDMers: I now have no excuse not to shoot some video tests for y’all on my smartphone.) And, uh, yeah, been there. Maybe the most ringing endorsement for the Twitch is how snugly it fits into the carry-on bag. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the superb UDG Gear line carrying both his laptop and Twitch.

Getting down to the actual review, Abe Duque – whatever impatient YouTubers may say in comments – does a fine job of coherently covering all of the features fairly and in detail.

Highlights:

  • The Twitch is clearly set up to integrate with Serato, though there’s also a Traktor overlay. I’ll be eager to see how it works with Ableton Live, though, as the layout would seem to apply nicely to that.
  • Having faders double as effects wet/dry controls is a clever twist, and reveals the intention of the Twitch to focus a DJ performance on mucking around with individual songs and not just queuing, beat matching, and mixing.
  • The highlight is probably the slicing control, which uniquely couples the touch strip with pads.

You begin to see how a Twitch performance would come together, with two-deck slicing and dicing and effects controls. Of course, that could be accomplished with other means, but the Twitch embodies a lot of what we’ve seen in the DIY scene and homebrewed controllers, assembling a layout that conceptually reflects all of this track-mangling in the hardware’s physical form. In fact, it’s hard not to think that that scene influenced the Twitch.

This kind of track manipulation was common both with the Akai MPC and Ableton Live. Curiously, the design of the Akai APC40 for Live really doesn’t make that sort of performance very easy, focusing instead on clip launching and mixing.

In practice, Twitch looks promising. It does face a lot of competition. For Serato alone, there are various controller options, and Serato loyalists can expect this and other control surfaces to cater to their needs. The big entry we know is on the horizon is Native Instruments’ upcoming controller and software – something the company has already revealed in some detail prior to its official release. In fact, it’ll be tough to judge Twitch without having seen in person whatever NI has cooked up, as it appears their offering could focus even more closely on the sample triggering / looping notion, again within a DJ paradigm (Traktor).

DIYers, many carrying the banner of “controllerist,” have been pushing DJing in this direction for some time, and back to its original roots, DJing has embraced more inventive ways of really transforming tracks and not just playing them. Now, as those ideas seep into the mainstream, we’ll see if the line between DJing in the sense of playing tracks – and live performance, more as you’d expect in the instrumental vein – continues to blur.
Dubspot Lab Report: Novation TWITCH DJ Controller – Road Test w/ Abe Duque

Oh, yeah, and for something completely different DJ controller-wise, see Dubspot’s take on the compact Allen & Heath Xone: K2.