Gear

Mixars 2 channel mixer review - CUT - MXR-2 - DUO

In this episode of C-SIK's corner, GSD joins C-SIK to review three different 2 channel DJ mixers from Mixars. Each of them at different price points and feature set.

Mixars Cut

Price: $250USD|  $340CAD

  • 2-Channel Battle Mixer
  • Integrated mini innoFADER Crossfader
  • Crossfader Rated at 4 Million Cycles
  • RCA and XLR Master Outputs
  • 3-Band Channel EQ
  • Mic Input with 2-Band EQ
  • Aux Input
  • 1/4" and 1/8" Headphone Connections
  • Solid Metal Construction

Mixars MXR-2

Price: $350USD|  $525CAD

  • compact 2-channel mixer w/ built-in effects and studio grade 4-in/4-out soundcard
  • 7 different effects w/ easy tempo syncing via auto-BPM counter
  • combines all essential DJ features in a familiar + intuitive layout
  • 3-band EQ per channel
  • independent mic input w/ EQ
  • smooth dual rail 45mm input faders
  • convenient AUX input
  • balanced 1/4" + unbalanced RCA outputs
  • sturdy metal construction

Mixars DUO

Price: $1000USD|  $1300CAD

  • Integrated Serato DJ
  • 8 x RGB Pads for Cue Trigger and Sampler
  • High-Pass and Low-Pass Filter
  • 3-Band EQ for Each Channel
  • Switchable Mic/Aux Input
  • Built-In mini innoFADER
  • 2-Port USB Hub
  • XLR Master and 1/4" Booth Outputs
  • Master and Record RCA Outputs

The History of DJ Gear Part 2: Rise of the Technics 1200

The History of DJ Gear Part 2: Rise of the Technics 1200

Although the basic principles of how records work haven’t really changed in over a century, the equipment and techniques used continue to improve. These days, a turntable is not hard to get a hold of. Every so often a half-decent deck pops up in thrift stores or Kijiji. Many record stores also sell used home stereo decks on consignment. There are also tons of currently produced models ranging from the cheap $130 belt drive deck with built-in USB converter from Best Buy to the opulent (but probably very satisfying) audiophile hi-fi decks. The ones listed here start at $100,000 US! Of course, none of these are suited for the demanding rigours of DJ’ing.

The History of DJ Gear Part 1: Ancestors of the Turntable

The History of DJ Gear Part 1: Ancestors of the Turntable

Take moment and think about how music has changed in your lifetime.  Now try to imagine what that music would sound like today without the influence of DJs.  It's hard to even conceive what modern music would sound like without them.  Join me as I investigate the history of the tools that DJs used to build their craft and how those tools altered the course of music history.  Like any good story, this story has a beginning and it all started with the most important tool in the DJ's arsenal – the turntable.

History of the Sampler Part 4: The Best Modern Sampling Tools

History of the Sampler Part 4: The Best Modern Sampling Tools

In the last three blog posts we’ve looked at the evolution of samplers – from tape, to expensive dinosaurs, to little grey boxes, to no boxes at all (besides the computer of course).  Recently, while trolling vintage samplers on Ebay I noticed that the prices vary quite wildly.  The Emulator I and IIs can go for as little as a few hundred to as much as several thousand dollars.  There are legitimate reasons for this – its more expensive if a technology is no longer produced, some have modifications like card readers and bigger hard drives.  A vintage samplers will also fetch more if it comes with a significant library of disks.  

EQ Techniques You Need To Be Using

EQ Techniques You Need To Be Using

No tool is more important than EQ when making a mix.  EQs allow you to carve volume away from select frequencies of a sound in order to make room for the other sounds in your song.  Having a clean mix means that every element in your track has its own place and can be distinguished from the other elements in the song.  Of course there are other mixing tools producers use to achieve clean mixes but every sound is comprised of frequencies and if you can get those straight your mixes will really shine.  Try applying these EQ tools to take your mix to the next level.

History of the Sampler Part 3: Sampling Comes to the Masses

History of the Sampler Part 3: Sampling Comes to the Masses

In the last 2 blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2) we looked at the history of sampling – from pre-digital manipulation of tape to expensive studio behemoths like the Synclavier and Fairlight.  That brings us up to the very early 1980s and a small company with big ambitions called E-mu Systems. 

History of the Sampler Part 2: Dawn of the Digital Age

History of the Sampler Part 2: Dawn of the Digital Age

In the last blog post of this series we looked at the analog pre-history of the samplers we know and love today.  The concept of a true digital sampler – something that could record, play and store sound while being manipulated like a synthesizer – only became practical in the late 1970s.  Even then, most mere mortals would have to wait until the mid-80s and the budget sampler boom to get their hands on one.  More on this to come in the next article.  Early digital sampling machines were dinosaurs by today’s standards – bulky, expensive and equipped with very limited memory which translated into very short sampling times.  

Spring Reverb: More Twang for your Buck

Spring Reverb: More Twang for your Buck

It’s still a classic effect today – and a ubiquitous part of reggae, dub and other genres.  It’s probably the simplest analog effect device in existence.  You send sound down a metal spring and pick it up on the other side.  Presto…..reverb!  

History of the Sampler Part 1: The Pre-Digital Age

History of the Sampler Part 1: The Pre-Digital Age

Nowadays the sampler is just another tool in the arsenals of the musicians, producers, and DJs.  Although popular music created in part (or entirely) with samplers is a relatively new, the idea of using snippets of sound to create new music has been around for a very long time.  Since the 1920s, composers have toyed with the idea of composing music just for being played on phonographs. At that time, audio recording technology had been around a few decades and some composers were starting to wonder what else could be done with the new technology.

Roland AIRA Clinic - Performing Live and Producing in the Studio

Roland AIRA Clinic - Performing Live and Producing in the Studio

Last June Beat Drop played host to drum machine/synth wizard and Roland Senior Product Manager Lyle Crilly.  He spent the afternoon giving us a run through of the history of Roland and an in depth look at how Roland's new AIRA line can be used in the studio and for performance.   In case you missed if we filmed it and uploaded the workshop to our YouTube Channel.

Getting The Most Out of Your Hardware Part 1: Syncing A Drum Machine to Ableton

By Brandon Smith

Judging by the number of modular synths, drum machines, effect units and other lovely knob and button-laden things at this year's NAMM show, it's clear that hardware music technology isn't going anywhere.  Producing music entirely "in the box" (i.e. with a computer in a DAW environment) is now common and widely accepted.  People 20 or 30 years ago would have been amazed that you can do all that stuff on a computer - let alone a personal computer.  Yet there are now more modular synth manufacturers around today than there were in the 60s and 70s, when names like Moog, Arp and Buchla were at the cutting edge.  So why would more manufacturers be making hardware when you can just do everything on a computer now?  These may be contributing factors:

1) Hardware is cheaper and easier to manufacture than ever before which makes owning gear nowadays comparatively far more affordable than in the past (owning a modular synth in the late 60s was akin to buying a luxury car).

2) Some people prefer the tactile "feel" of an instrument.  Even "in-the-box" productions require outboard MIDI controllers, speakers etc. to interface with the people making the productions.  Computers can't read our minds.  Yet......

3) While the software emulations of things like Minimoogs and other classic synths are getting quite good, there is a lot of variation in sound and feel with the real Minis out there.  They were made for a decade.  Therefore, a 1971 Mini won't behave exactly like on made in 1980.  Individual instrument quirks can be important to musicians - analogous to a guitar player who really likes the feel of the neck or the tone on a particular guitar.

4) Inspiration.  With everything conveniently at your fingertips it's all too easy to fire up Massive and start cruising through the list of presets until you find something that's close-ish to what you want.  Then you mess around with parameters trying to make the sound more like what you hear in your head.   It's not any easier making sounds from scratch on a hardware synth - in fact it's usually harder.  But eventually one gets sick of all the presets and wants the inspiration that may come more naturally on and instrument with limitation - but has lots of character.  It seems counter intuitive, but sometimes we can be the most creative by limiting our tools of expression.

5) Sound.  Kind of stating the obvious here, but people wouldn't go through all this hassle if the sounds weren't worth it.

So how does one use a hardware instrument within DAWs like Ableton?  It depends on what the instrument is, how old it is, and how you intend on fitting it into your productions. Of course the most obvious way to incorporate a hardware is to just record the audio into Ableton.  Sometimes there's something to be said for a sloppy, un-quantized synth line played by hand and recorded direct.  If it's an old synth that has no means of MIDI or CV control recording the audio output may be your only option. If it's a pre-MIDI drum machine there might not be any way to "clock" or control its tempo externally.  If that's the case its probably best to sample a pattern and loop it.  Ableton's "Slice To MIDI" feature makes it easy to break down cheesy preset drum machine patterns into their constituent parts and re-sequence them in the box.  If it's a more modern machine with MIDI you can opt to tempo or "MIDI clock sync" it.  That way you still get the "feel" of the drum machine's own sequencer, just running in sync with Ableton. MIDI-equipped machines usually have the ability to trigger the individual sounds using MIDI notes, so patterns can be sequenced directly from the computer that way as well.  There are lots of possibilities.  Below is an example of a setup where the computer is controlling a Roland TR-8 through USB.  The MIDI out of the TR-8 is going into the MIDI in on the Oberheim DX, which is a much older machine from the 80s and only has MIDI.  The DX is being "slaved" by the TR-8 (they could both be used that way without a computer).  However in this instance, they are both slaved by the computer which controls the master tempo and start/stop via USB.  Sync has to be enabled in Ableton's MIDI preferences for this to work properly.

 It can be really frustrating to get your gear to work the way you think it should work.   It doesn't help that MIDI has been around for over 30 years, and USB is only now starting to replace it.  Very often outboard synths/drum machines won't sync properly or at all on your first try (make sure you are using the correct sync mode in your DAW’s preferences).  Learn how to do a factory reset procedure on your gear (usually by holding a combination of buttons and powering the unit on and off) in case you get into a mode and can't get back out.  Again, this is why reading the manual is a good idea. Luckily the latest hardware boom comes complete with devices designed to make our lives easier - marrying  the old with the new.  One such device is Roland's SBX-1 (see below). It can also hook up to a computer via USB and drive multiple drum machines/synths/grooveboxes through its 2 MIDI outs.  For pre-MIDI machines it features "DIN Sync" which is an older proprietary system that Roland used back in the day for syncing and start/stop messages.  The ubiquitous Roland 808 and Jupiter 8 both have it.  The SBX-1 can also convert MIDI messages into CV and gate signals to drive old analog synths and modulars.  Gotta love mixing the new with the old!

Roland Sync box.png

Find out more about the TR-8 and the rest of Roland's AIRA line-up on June 13th, 2015 at Beat Drop.  The Roland AIRA Clinic runs from 1 - 3 PM, is hosted by Lyle Crilly and it's totally free. 

Novation Launchpad S Control Pack

This morning Novation launched their new Launchpad S Control Pack "a kit containing all the gear a musician would need in order to create and perform electronic music with Ableton Live." 

The Launchpad S Control Pack is made up of the Novation Launchpad S  the Launch Control, two custom-made protective sleeves for the hardware (to keep your gear in tip top shape) Ableton Live 9 Lite , and a humongous 1 GB pack of Loopmasters samples to keep you inspired and making beats. 

The official release date is not yet posted but if you're keen you can sign up to be notified on their website. Click HERE for that link.