The use of a blurred-out model and the name “DaScratch” will surely put to rest any question of the street cred of this device. Okay … maybe not. Just remember, it’s confidential. Only people on the Internet can see it. Shhhhhh!

Stanton is teasing a new DJ controller with touch controls, and particularly a circular scratch/control area, with live LED feedback. This allows “virtual” controllers not only for DJs, but (Stanton hopes) VJs, laptop musicians, and the like. (Stanton says “multimedia artist,” to which we suggest “visualists”.) I especially enjoy the “confidential” site, though I’m not sure marking press release with “do not publish / embargoed” has much more impact given a lot of sites these days.

It’s a little hard to tell, honestly, how this is different from a lot of controllers that use physical controls, thus giving them better tactile feedback. And the Stanton brand earns some skepticism from the discussion on the Ableton forum. But there’s some potential here; launch date is supposed to be September 19 so I’ll update with availability plus other specs then.

In the meantime, DJ/vinyl/DVS site Scratchworx deserves full credit for breaking this story posting the first video; they picked it up from the basement of one of the beta testers. (It looks reasonably cool, though, again, surely any controller could keep you from having to touch the laptop.):

Updated: Retail list is expected to be US$299; see turntable poetry which appears to be the first blog to have carried the story.

The moment I saw the DaScratch (or wait, is that da DaScratch? an DaScratch?) … I thought of the aborted Midiman (now M-Audio) Surface One. Announced in 2001 but apparently scrapped after it was determined to be overly expensive to produce, the Surface One still looks desirable. It combined touch controls with physical encoders, and the faders were arrayed in positions that made sense for, well, human beings with two hands.

Apparently I’m not the only one who is sad the Surface One never saw production.Our friend Nathanaël Lécaudé even made a fan page. I believe that prototype may be floating out there somewhere, assuming it works.

Look very closely at the Stanton controller and the Surface One, because touch sensors tend to come from a handful of vendors. (Yes, even the old iPod scroll wheel came from a third party.) A popular vendor is Quantum Research aka QProx, now owned by chip giant Atmel. (Yes, that’s the same Atmel that brings you goodies like the brain of the Arduino for you DIY geeks.) Atmel’s acquisition of Quantum speaks to the conventional wisdom that these kind of touch sensors are becoming an important commodity, so I expect the Stanton could be the tip of the iceberg.

The Surface One, in turn, owed a great deal to the ca. 1990 Buchla Thunder. Don Buchla is just one of those people in music technology who seemed to get there first – Buchla had a jump start even on waving around controllers in your arms before Nintendo caught on, and I gather a new generation of Lightning controllers is coming soon. The Thunder was actually made, too — just not in any quantities; I don’t even know where any of them are. Somehow, one of them managed to get reviewed in Electronic Musician, and at just under US$2000, costs roughly the same as today’s multi-touch Lemur, proof that every generation can have its own limited-run, pricey touch controller.

So, Stanton has another touch controller coming. But they now have to compete with $200 iPods that run any controller software you like. Stay tuned.

I should also note the DIY controller Stribe, though its touch strips are significantly less sophisticated than the options mentioned above (particularly the high-end, pressure-sensing ones originally slated for the Surface One).
Hands-on, Interview: Stribe Multi-Touch Controller