What if one controller could pack everything you need for playing creative DJ and live sets in a single, tall, slim device? What if it had the ultra-compact design of German builders Faderfox and Glanzmann?
And what if it borrowed elements from previous controllers, but grouped them in a new way you probably hadn’t seen before?
We’ve just gotten the first look at Versus, a new controller collaboration built with the artist Magda, alongside Nyma (Nima Chatrsimab), a DJ/producer and technical guru with a long resume here in Berlin, and the builder Faderfox together with Glanzmann DDS.
It’s a kind of hybrid focused on DJing, but entirely centered on digital performance and live technique – just without any “live remix” gimmicks.
At the top, ALPS faders and encoders, which control more functions through shift keys.
Next, push-button FX assignments by deck.
Below that, a V-shaped control arrangement, with a push-button encoder for navigation around which are grouped unique looping controls.
And below that, push-button controls handle pitch and bend with cue points.
Another key feature: there’s a separate MIDI bus on the same controller. So you can independent control outboard MIDI gear alongside the control layout. That’ll be high on my list to try out when one of these units stops by my office shortly.
What strikes me about Versus is that it’s closer to more traditional approaches both to DJing and live playing. Rather than lots of business about clip triggering or playing melodic and rhythmic parts, the performance controls center on looping and device control of instruments and effects. That’s doubly interesting, as the last show I saw with Robert Henke live (as Monolake, for more dance-oriented material), the Ableton co-originator emphasized fader control of effects even in his Live set. (Now, granted, his approach is to avoid any shift keys at all – he just has a bunch of faders, in experimental and dance sets alike. But getting lots of mileage out of effects still gives him a surprising amount of expression.)
The deck controls seem to focus more on conventional cueing, too. And I like the light indications that show you as tracks begin to end.
If you’re unmoved by Native Instruments’ recent DJ direction, this is something radically different – both in form factor and the way assignments and layout are handled. It’s “optimized” for Traktor.
That initially surprised me, though, as my first read was “ah, an Ableton controller” – and so, it shouldn’t be hard to remap for just that. Ableton Live controllers have moved forward by leaps and bounds, but they’ve been really live performance / live PA affairs – which is lovely, but which doesn’t solve the problems of people trying to DJ with Live.
And DJ controllers, too, have gone their own specific direction – controllers from Serato and Native Instruments have rather pre-defined assignments, with Serato’s best stuff (in my opinion) still centering around digital vinyl control, and NI expanding on their obsession with Remix Decks and so on. Versus might be a different direction for both, including a usable DJ controller for Ableton Live players – something that has recently been left to DIYers.
It’s also been a while since we’ve seen a real boutique controller, and this is. Versus will set you back 1500€. I think discriminating players who earn mid-range booking fees will take a look at it, though – better one controller you love than a stack of cheap controllers collecting dust. And for the rest of us, Versus is a refreshing take on controls in a scene that has increasingly centered around the same basic mapping techniques. So I take this as inspiring regardless, from artists and engineers whose work I already admired. I can’t wait to sit down with them and take a closer look. We’ll be doing that soon, so do let us know if you have any questions.
4 Potentiometer FX
8 Fader FX
8 Push Encoder Browser, Tree & Favorite, Seek & Play, Loop Size, Loop Move
64 Push buttons with double-functions (shift button)
92 LEDs different colors to display various informations
Rubber knobs for best tactile feeling
3 Displays Master Clock, Loop Size
1 Jack input for expression pedals
1 DIN Input / Output Midi and Power supply (link)
1 DIN Output Midi
268 Midi commands
USB bus powering power supply via USB, consumption less than 200mA
USB interface class compliant, no driver necessary
The whole thing weighs 2kg. More info: