The Roland-Serato combination stakes out a clear niche: adding live techniques to DJ routines. Now some free sounds and videos will get you started.
There is a dizzying array of gear out there, and a lot of really similar. I’ll talk separately about the DJ-XXX line from Roland, but it’s pretty easy to sum up. All three units have built-in TR-S drum machines from the Roland AIRA line for 808 and 909 sounds, with the 505 and 808 adding additional dedicated controls and progressively more AIRA features and more mixer functionality. (The 808 even has a vocal processor on it.) And the Roland devices also give you more hands-on access to Serato’s sample playback and sequencing features. Combine this with wheels that are really, really good, and have uncommonly low-latency performance, and these are exceptionally playable controllers. (That’s what you can’t see in the photos – I’ve tried all this gear, and only the Roland controllers at the moment really feel responsive; other than that you’re into digital vinyl or CDJs.)
Roland obviously want to get your attention on those sampling features, as they’ve partnered with Loopmasters to release some free content.
There’s no proof of ownership, so you can also give these things a go even if you don’t yet own the hardware. (Cough.)
Disclosure: CDM is partnering with Roland to release some of our own guides to the DJ-XXX devices.
Onto those sounds: the TR-S sequencer can trigger internal analog-modeled 808 and 909 sounds, which is a little like having a mini AIRA TR-8 in your hardware. (TR-808 and 909 sounds are there now; TR-606 sounds are promised, too, in a future update; 606 and 727 were rolled out to the AIRA TR-8 in the fall.) But when you’re ready for some different sounds, the TR-S can also be used together with Serato’s internal sample playback facility.
There are actually two separate DJ sample sets. They’re also delivered as WAV, so — for instance, I dropped these in an Ableton set as well as into Serato for a bit of messing about.
First, the ROLAND TR-S DJ SAMPLE PACK is available on the download pages of the DJ-202, 505, and 808, so for example:
That gives you a whole new set of kits. All you have to do is tick a box to approve a user agreement. Then you get a few megs of sounds organized into what they call 80s (yay!), Drum’n’Bass, EDM, and Trap (though you can gleefully ignore those genre labels if you like, they’re just kits).
More specific are the Loopmasters sounds. If you’re willing to sign up for a free Loopmasters account (if you have one already, you’re sent straight to the download), you can get another 13 megs of sounds. (You can even untick the box signing you up to the newsletter.) They’re here:
These aren’t so interesting on their own – these are mostly vocal one-shots, stabs, and sound effects – but they’re there more to show you what someone good with sample manipulation can really do on these. Watch DJ Skillz with the same kit. The takeaway – pitch manipulation and scratch skills can transform this into something else entirely:
That’s already been the strength of Serato – creating a core set of effects and sampling and sequencing features and then making it easy to access them. The Roland hardware lets you get responsive scratch results with wheels and without the hassle of digital vinyl, plus an intuitive layout for the other features of the software.
This all draws heavily from hip-hop, but I think even in other genres (hihi, techno) there’s potential for using this hardware to unlock hybrid sets where you jam on the kits or remix tracks – especially useful when you’re playing your own productions and want them to be recognizable but don’t want to hear them verbatim all over again. And that’s to say nothing of the potential for unlocking synchronized visuals, another Serato strength.
Here’s a look at that DJ-505 sampler access. (The DJ-808 is basically identical; the DJ-202 also can access the sampler but has fewer controls, so it’s a portability/cost tradeoff equation.)
And watch more of what this can look like in action – with OP, Recloose and DJ Spinna:
More on the DJ lineup and the rest of the AIRA line (neon green!):