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 I especially enjoy the “confidential” site, though I’m not sure marking press release with “do not publish / embargoed” has much more impact given a lot of sites these days.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.

Related:
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

  • apalomba

    That is too bad that they canned the SurfaceOne.

    It would have been a fantastic controller.

    A modern day version of the Buchla Thunder. I

    would have bought it! I hope someone comes

    up with something similar.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, and I should add … while having that big scratch area is nice on the Stanton, I don't find it anywhere near as appealing as the Thunder / Surface One layout. I'm not convinced some LED feedback will change that.

    You could probably hack your own Surface One, just be prepared to invest some cash in a significant number of those QProx sensors; i.e., it won't be terribly cheap when you're done. (Well, unless you can convince them you need a LOT of sensors for prototyping!)

  • http://www.myspace.com/miguelfrasconi Miguel Frasconi

    As a proud owner, and user, of a Buchla Thunder (and a Lightning I) I was really looking forward to that SurfaceOne. Mostly because it looked a lot lighter than the Thunder. I'm now quite happy carrying around a faderfox and an old Kurzweil ExpressionMate, with the Thunder now rooted in my studio. As someone who's been using alternate controllers for almost 20 years, it's great to see the mainstream finally catching on!

  • Smuff

    I was absolutely gutted when they dropped the Surface One. I own a Tactex pad which is the same material as the Surface One and was looking forward to the easier interfacing. The Max Objects were dropped with the introduction of OSX and the new unofficial objects are flakey. I contacted Tactex and if you did want to make your own Surface One the OEM parts alone were about $1000 let alone all the tech support. The Surface One was pressure sensitive which for me at least, made it more 'playable' than something like the lemur. Anyways, sorry got carried away… Maybe, M-Audio Will change there mind! I would buy one too.

  • http://turntablepoetry.com DJ Professor Ben

    The MSRP on this will be $299. And I must take issue with what you said about Scratchworx "breaking this story" — my own blog was on the story one day earlier with a post about it. Not that I'm claiming some major feat of investigative reporting; after all, I learned about it from Guitar Center who sent me a flyer. I'm definitely planning to check one of these things out when they're available; if the scratch surface can control record movement in Serato/Traktor/MsPinky or whatever, it will offer a pretty light (and relatively cool-looking) alternative to lugging turntables to a gig.

  • poorsod

    I don't know if you know about this, but: http://www.soundwidgets.com/stribe/

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes, indeed, the Stribe is worth mentioning:
    http://createdigitalmusic.com/2008/02/18/hands-on

    … but its sensors are a bit more simplistic and not so rugged. Also, they're all arrayed together, which has some advantages and disadvantages.

  • BirdFLU

    The Surface One was for sale on Musicians Friend for about a year for $700. Of course, they didn't have any in stock but they were "coming soon."

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @BirdFLU: HA!

    In the "waiting for Godot" section…

    Also available: a pocket Buchla 200e, and Roland's re-released *original* 808.

  • tobamai

    Scratchworx didn't really break the story of the product, but they did get an exclusive video. Given, you can't really see the item in the video, but you can see how the guy's using it with SSL.

    Yeah, the Tactex guys are still using pictures of a prototype SurfaceOne on their website ( http://www.tactex.com/multitouch_arrays.php ).

    In other dj gear news, the Aurora mixer doesn't have enough preorders to make a production run. They need 50 total and when I last checked they only had around 20 people. If enough people e-mail them it could still happen.

  • http://xfader.com regend

    OK this isn't real but for those of you who are into seeing future controllers…

    Watch this video PLEASE!!!!

    http://dantheman.tv/mov/termanology_howwerock.mov

    pay close attention to DJ Premier!

  • http://www.offnominal.com logickal

    I was fortunate enough to get some hands-on time with the Surface One at NAMM back right after they announced… Gahd I wanted one of those so, so badly. Still do… I thought the colors were a little over the top, even for back then, but the controller itself, with the slightly rubbery touch of the touch surfaces? Mmmmm.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @regend: Very nice. Actually very doable, that.

  • Ben

    The real reason the surface one got canned is it cut up some unlucky beta testers finger really bad. No joke!! Look at the area around the touch sensitive pads!

  • http://www.zacislost.blogspot.com zacislost

    Hey Peter,

    A former M-Audio employee had the only prototype made for sale on VJ forums about a year ago. We eventually deleted the thread after much bickering because we decided it could easily be reverse engineered and then this guy could get in alot of trouble from M-Audio legally.. something more or less to that effect.

    I had emailed CDM a link to the sale at the time as I thought you'd find it interesting but I never heard/saw anything of it

  • http://www.Nonplus.us Nonplus

    cut beta tester [myth]

    limited, non-extensible feature set [fact]

  • amanda

    Last I saw, M-Audio still has a Surface One prototype in a glass case in their main conference room. And a nifty picture of Stevie Wonder trying it out at NAMM. An ever-present reminder of an age past…

    As for the Stanton piece…if their CDJs are any indication of quality, I don't hold much hope for this. Surprise me, Stanton! Please!

  • http://turntablepoetry.com dj professor ben

    @amanda … Stanton CDJs aren't bad for the price. They can't take a whole lot of abuse but they are as responsive as the pioneers or anything else I've tried. I'm not a huge fan of stanton products generally — had a bad experience with a set of their needles and I've heard the nasty output that occurs when their faders (inevitably) begin to bleed. But the 314 is as good a CD scratcher as you're going to get for under $300.

  • amanda

    i had a pair of Stanton CDJs and both springs on the platters busted within six months, causing them to spin uncontrollably. Got it fixed and eventually happened again. But believe me Professor, I know everyone has different experiences with "affordable" music equipment. Stanton's just been my personal black sheep. Numark's always been good to me but I'm sure they have similar nagging issues. Just luck of the draw most likely.

  • http://hauntedshit.com/events/stackinpaper3/ KEEB$

    Ahh, the surface one… the Moby Dick of my college years.

    I would call up Musician's Friend once every week or so to check if they were available yet, only to disappointed eventually when I was told they were no longer listing it :(

  • Joe

    We've all learned that lesson at some point Keeb$

  • BirdFLU

    I don't believe the "cutting the beta testers fingers" story. Seriously, how hard would it have been to bevel the edges? I thought I read that it was just going to be too expensive of an item for what it did, so they bagged it.

  • Jengel

    The surface one looks like the controller that David Wessell uses over here in Berkeley at CNMAT. He hooks it up to a lot of different textural, rhythmic, tonal, and sample choice parameters.

  • Pingback: Touch it or grab it? Another Dj Touch controller. at djtechtools.com

  • Ben

    I heard it from a former M-Audio rep, so I can't verify it. I can't imagine he would have lied to me though.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Stanton DaScratch Details: Touch Controller Self-Configures for Ableton, Traktor, Serato

  • http://www.cassiel.com cassiel

    Like Miguel, I also own a Buchla Thunder, imported into the UK sometime around 1990 (it was reviewed in Keyboard magazine, I believe, which is how I found out about it). Cikira owns two. There was a recent eBay blowout sale of some of the ultra-rare black Thunders.

    A colleague of mine has a theory that all the Thunders in existence gravitate between the entire set of Thunder owners in various combinations, aided by eBay.

  • http://www.studioimaginaire.com Nat

    Funny, I also got an email recently from an ex m-audio employee who wanted to sell me a Surface One prototype. If someone is interested I could forward the mail.

  • NB

    I know this thread is a bit old but I just wanted to clarify; I am that ex M-Audio employee with the prototype of the Surface One. It was NOT the only prototype made. There were actually 5 or 6 made with only 3 of them that actually worked (of which, I have one of the working ones, though it doesn't have the cool blue tapered encoders but standard black ones.)

    I was trying to sell it awhile back but now have decided to keep it since it is pretty cool… and yes, I can confirm, it WILL cut up your fingers badly (it is after all a rough prototype, so they never did bevel out those edges.)

  • http://www.stenovations.com Johnny Jackson

    The patent rights for the technology used in the Surface One, insofar as keyboards, is now owned by Stenovations, Inc. Stenovations makes multi-touch keyboards, called LightSpeed, for court reporters. Stenovations six years ago made a court reporting keyboard based on Fingerworks technology, which Apple then bought and used in the iphone, ipad, et cetera. Stenovations will be introducing other keyboard using the technology. The LightSpeed used LEDs rather than fiber optics.