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.

  • Stijn

    I really love that slicer mode. I use ableton to dj with but this really would be something to conceder switching to serato. Does anyone know of a function like slicer that makes it possible to slice and trigger slices live, on the go within a track in ableton? (And i don't mean the slice to midi option caus that is highly unpractical during dj-sesions).

    • http://soundcloud.com/7ar kathal

      im sure it could be done with m4l,

    • http://soundcloud.com/lokey lokey

      Hi Stijn, ive made a m4l patch called Shfflr that is meant for this exactly, drops onto a track, allows a rolling buffer to be recorded and rearranged with a variable number of steps. It's designed for monome integration, but its all midi mappable, so you can use a chromatic keyboard or drum pads or whathave you. The clipchopper described below does something similar, but m4l timing issues forced me into the buffer based approach i use for shfflr.
      forum post http://post.monome.org/comments.php?DiscussionID=
      app page http://docs.monome.org/doku.php?id=app:shfflr

  • http://nonagon.net Nonagon

    @Stijn I've been playing out for a couple of years with a clip chopper I wrote in Max for Live that does pretty much exactly what you see here. Another monome guy, Myralfur, took my core code and extended it into the Live Clip Chopper: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device.php?id=2

    Late last year I adapted my clip chopper patch (with a few other patches I've written) to the VCI-400. The end result looks more or less exactly like the Itch demo here. I've made the whole VCI-400 template (all patches included) available for free download at controllerism.com: http://www.controllerism.com/vci-400-nonagon-perf

    You can see the clip chopper in action in my demo video for the VCI-400: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks__CPrwL80

    • Stijn

      Would there be a way to make it work with a launchpad?

  • Stijn

    Wow that looks really great! Thanks a lot!!

  • http://xfader.com regend

    Stjin, the way I have been doing it in ableton is making new clips and dragging them on the same track and chaging the start point of all the clips. I find that that's easiest.

  • Baldrik

    this whole thing made me a little sick in my mouth – a novation shill followed by an ad for overpriced clown college. 

  • Pnizzles

    Lol @ Baldrik. Apparently discussing new products = shilling. What should Peter write about, exactly? 

  • http://audiovoid.net lindsey g

    Just a word of warning for anybody considering buying Twitch.  The built in sound card has an extremely Low output level. About a quarter to a quarter and a half less volume than the SL1 box (which already had a slightly quieter output than a standard cdj).  There's forums about the issue and serato/novation suggest buying an extra mini mixer or preamp to run into Before running in to the venue's dj mixer.
       I was really excited when I 1st got Twitch and I instantly loved the layout, slicer, and fader fx setup. But when I actually tested the audio output on the thing next to my cdj100 and also the NI audio 8  I decided to return it.