We typically don't review pro audio gear at CNET, but once in a while a product will come our way that is such an obscene piece of gadget eye candy, we simply can't resist. Such is the case with the Numark NS6, a four-channel audio mixer and USB DJ controller with so many buttons and blinking lights that it feels like a control panel ripped out of the Death Star.
Young and broke. That pretty much sums up the DJ chapter in my life. Aside from the handful of celebrity DJs out there, most of us start out with only a few bucks, a love of music, and the goal of someday playing an unforgettable party.
It is with these humble roots in mind that Gemini created the FirstMix. A combination of USB hardware and cross-platform software, the $99 FirstMix system gives newbies an inexpensive entry point into DJ stardom.
As DJ rigs go, there isn't much to it. The hardware is a plastic slab with a toy-like feel, a crossfader, some knobs, and two jog wheel controls dressed up like little virtual turntables. The overall feel is about what you'd expect for the price. The sensitivity and responsiveness of the controls is impressive, though. … Read more
Some things are just better left as eccentric indulgences. A plastic, nightstand version of Stephen Hawking's Chronophage' Corpus Clock wouldn't have the same meaning as the original (I'd still buy one, of course). Likewise, a plastic, toy Star Wars lightsaber isn't in the same league as a hand-tooled replica.
At an original asking price of $1,200, 2008'sTenori-On music sequencer definitely falls into the "eccentric indulgence" category. But if you're a self-described electronic music nerd (why yes, I am), the sequencer's hand-brushed magnesium body, unique portability, and performance-oriented design, made the cost justifiable.
Not content with Tenori-On sales trickling out MIDI-worshiping electronic music producers, Yamaha set out to create a less expensive plastic model, lacking a few bells and whistles. The end result is the Tenori-On "O," a $699 take on the original dressed in white plastic and an orange LED grid.
As someone who's had the pleasure of spending a few days with both versions of the Tenori-On, I have to say that the "O" doesn't hold the same appeal to me as the original. In cutting corners to produce a low-cost (relatively speaking) Tenori-On, Yamaha also cut out a little of the instrument's soul. … Read more
IntelliScore Ensemble WAV to MIDI Converter provides a complex collection of tools for dissecting a song or musical recording. However, its setup and operation require some musical knowledge, which limits its appeal.
While the program's interface features a helpful Wizard, some aspects were still confusing. Because IntelliScore relies heavily on musical terminology, the average user or amateur musician may be overwhelmed. The program's best part was its capability to take any MP3 and convert it to a MIDI file. You can also decide whether the file should be played with the same instrumentation as the original recording or … Read more
MagicScore School provides users with a program to write, edit, and listen to their score. With a utilitarian layout and a variety of options, this program will appeal to musicians.
We felt a little overwhelmed by the program's interface, not having much technical musical knowledge beforehand. But the Help file's breakdown of the commands and a swift online tutorial made navigation much easier. We began creating our score immediately, as we had the option to click and drag notes from a bank and place them on a music scale or to play a virtual piano that also populated … Read more
MidiLogic allows beginning guitar and bass players to practice their notes and chords. Although the program's interface isn't the most intuitive we've ever seen, the program has the potential to be tremendously helpful to budding musicians.
The program's interface is obvious in some ways, but puzzling in others. The program displays either a bass or guitar neck across the top of the screen; this can be rotated or adjusted for left-handed players, which is nice. As a midi file of the selected song plays, red squares appear on the instrument to show users how to fret, … Read more
FastChords Pro provides a little something for piano players of all skill levels. With an ability to transcribe as well as play songs, musicians will get a lot of use from this program.
This program's ingenious layout makes all its many operations simple to access. With a piano's keys laid across the top and a calculator-like box for all other commands, users shouldn't have to make too many trips to the Help file before they are navigating the program like an old pro. Playing a song was very simple and only required users to input the specific … Read more
One of the biggest arguments against laptop-based DJ setups is that they just aren't as reliable as a conventional turntable rig. For analog gear, the worst thing you have to worry about is a frayed cable or a warped record--unlike digital DJs who live with a constant fear that a software update may invalidate an audio-card driver or cripple their MIDI controller. The more components in the equation (external storage, USB drivers, software authorization dongles), the more you need a computer science degree just to diagnose the problem.
One way to tackle the reliability is to borrow a page … Read more
Hot on the heels of CES and Macworld, the 2009 NAMM showcase (National Association of Music Merchants) kicks off Thursday, offering musicians and audio professionals heaps of new gear to drool over.
The first eyebrow-raising announcement comes from Akai, manufacturer of the MPC series of audio samplers and sequencers that have become a cornerstone of hip-hop music. As reported on the Create Digital Music blog, Akai has unveiled its design for the APC40, a stunning live-performance MIDI control surface designed specifically for use with Ableton Live's popular music software.
The APC40 is designed as a plug-and-play device that connects … Read more
DJing with your laptop has loads of advantages, but emulating realistic DJ scratching can be tricky. Some people solve the problem with Wiimotes, but the most common workaround to get vinyl-like control of your DJ software is to convert your old turntables into digital-MIDI controllers using expensive systems such as Serato, Torq, or Traktor Scratch. Now, if you want to get all touchy-feely with your digital-DJ software without breaking the bank (or your back), Stanton is offering a new option called DaScratch.
DaScratch is a USB-powered MIDI controller that offers touch-sensitive control over your DJ software. Stanton includes integrated-software support … Read more