Serato DJs Get Slim-Line Controllers at Last, with New Akai Hardware

Serato DJs swear by their software. But one thing they haven’t had lately is a lot of choice in DJ controller hardware. Sure, there’s now a range of hardware getting updated for the latest software. But even after a transition to the new Serato DJ platform, almost all of this hardware is of the “really wide with two big wheels” variety. That big hardware is a big problem. It leaves out Serato DJs working with vinyl who just want some added control of the software. It adds two big platters, which are arguably something you don’t need in the first …

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This is What High-End Audio Can Do Now: New Trio of Thunderbolt Boxes from MOTU

You’d be forgiven for missing it in the blur of press releases and trade show hand-outs – and, let’s face it, most musicians are too focused on music to pay much mind. But slowly, steadily, audio interfaces have been getting a lot better. Talk to the people who make them, and they can tell you what’s happened even in terms of individual components. Next, they’re about to get smarter and more networked. And so that means it is worth paying attention today as industry heavyweight MOTU unveils a trio of new audio interfaces, compatible with Thunderbolt 1 and 2 and …

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24 Knobs, 8 Faders, 16 Buttons, in a Launchpad Form: Launch Control XL

If you’re reading this, and if you care about controllers at all, you’ve probably got one. Now the question is, what are you missing? LaunchControl XL is coming with a whole mess of handy faders and knobs if you’ve got more controls than you can map. In fact, while it would make an utterly horrid marketing statement, I would dub the slogan of this hardware like this: Twist knobs without having to constantly press shift and select keys or give up having some faders. There’s Push, of course, the Ableton-controlling flagship, complete with pressure- and velocity-sensitive grid. There’s AKAI’s former …

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The $100 BeatStep Sequencer and Controller: Everything You Want to Know [Review, Resources]

Even if Arturia’s BeatStep did nothing other than act as a dumb controller, it might get your attention. The compact control surface / sequencer hardware runs about $100 street. As a controller, it has both 16 pads and 16 endless encoders (with notches, so you can feel where you are), plus transport triggers and a larger encoder. With driverless USB operation, some of you will already be happy and can proceed. But the BeatStep is more ambitious than that. It has sophisticated software customization via a companion program, and a built-in step sequencer. It operates standalone, with MIDI gadgets or …

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Control, Shortcuts for Ableton Starting at $99: A Look at the New AKAI APC Line

For any tool that has “live” in the name, physical control will always be important. And so even with a broad market for controllers targeting Ableton’s flagship software, now including the slick Push hardware from Ableton themselves, AKAI’s re-vamped APC line earned intense interest when it debuted at Musikmesse this month. Let’s make sense of what the new APCs can do and how you might choose between models. I got some hands-on time at Messe, and now even in advance of a review of finished, shipping hardware, it’s worth teasing out the breakdown of the 2014 APC line. The original …

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Inside BeatStep: $99 Step Sequencer and Controller Looks Compact, Versatile [Q+A, Videos]

Every new season brings new music tools. Some of these designs, of course, are splashy and grab headlines. Some just look like no-brainers that will see heavy use in your work. Arturia’s BeatStep stood out at the recent NAMM trade show as just an insanely-great use of a hundred bucks, in a tiny box that sort of does everything you’d want. It’s a pad controller. But it’s also a step sequencer. It connects to your computer via USB. But it also does analog CV and MIDI (via breakouts) when your computer isn’t around. It works as a controller. It works …

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M-Audio Trigger Finger Pad Controller is Back – with a Step Sequencer, High-Res Screen

This is not your father’s Trigger Finger. The Trigger Finger has to be one of the biggest success stories in controllers, ever. Back before “controllerism” was a thing, this was what you took along – cheap, light, easy-to-abuse, it was a warhorse 4×4 grid of pads with faders. I’ve watched Flying Lotus tear up his; I’ve seen it win laptop battles. I’ve seen people play them with pads weirdly half ripped-off and all the knob and fader caps missing. I’ve seen Trigger Fingers that looked like someone dragged them through the mud tied to a pickup truck. (I knew that …

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Faderfox DJ44: Full, Rugged Aluminum DJ Controller for Ableton, Traktor – in a Case

If James Bond had a DJ controller, it might look like this. Faderfox, known primarily for ultra-small-form factor controllers, this time has something that looks more like a full-featured, two-deck (or four-deck), two-channel DJ controller. And that’s good news for people wanting a general-purpose, all-in-one DJ control surface with the Faderfox feel and features. The new “Solid Control” DJ44 sports the the usual selling points Faderfox has championed – high-end controls, an aluminum body, and unique hardware/software mapping integration features – but now in a single unit you can tote that does more or less everything. That’s all well and …

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OS X Mavericks Compatibility with Music and Audio Software: Updates, Resources, Advice

The usual advice applies: if you’re thinking of rushing to update to a major new OS, and you’re a musician, take your time. That’s the advice for OS X Mavericks as it would be for any big update to OS X, Windows, Linux, and now even iOS. But with that disclaimer, OS X Mavericks is so far looking like an uncommonly smooth release. The impact of App Nap, a new power-saving feature, appears to be negligible. (Presumably, it isn’t getting aggressive with apps using the audio system. We’ll need to do more testing, and as always it’s worth keeping your …

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Wave Your Hands: 3-Axis Gesture Control in New Hot Hand USB Wireless

We’ve been seeing wave-your-hands-in-the-air gestural controls for music since the early part of the last century – thank you, Leon Theremin. But one of the more wholehearted efforts to make it useful has come from the makers of Hot Hand. Initially they peddled the idea to guitarists and bass players, who were already accustomed to adding additional expression to their hand via whammy bars and the like. The Hot Hand USB is the latest iteration, and now hopes to woo computer DJs and producers. The draw: plug-it-in, driver-free control of anything via MIDI, wirelessly. Whereas these sorts of things are …

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