A great leap forward in audio quality, or the Emperor's new console? Harold's not quite sure yet...
The current hot topic in dance music is of course, Richie Hawtin and his brand new line of analogue kitchen goods - blenders, washing machines, dishwashers and such, all designed in collaboration with industry experts, with input from some of the top names from the artisan and organic white goods sector.
What we're really talking about here, of course, is the PLAYdifferently Model 1 analogue DJ mixer, unveiled by one-man Elfin techno-collaborative-node Richie Hawtin. It’s a pretty large mixer and just about the right weight for pushing onto overzealous fans (for when you really need to drop the bass, ho ho). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it comes all in black, and has a funny haircut.
Reaction to Richie’s latest endeavour, as is ever the case in our scene, has been subtle and nuanced, but a lot of comment has focused on the £2,500 price tag. However, Hawtin is attempting to bring high-quality audio back to the fore and a number of innovations on the mixer, including some kind of magic boost to bring the level of vinyl input up to that of digital files (we used to call it a ‘gain knob’) and an insistence on analogue circuitry reflect this. And I, for one, am totally down with high-quality sound in clubs.
Others have mentioned the lack of a crossfader, and the addition of an additional cue section, to enable two DJs to use the mixer at the same time. Your opinion on these two factors basically defines where you are on the dance music continuum of Luddite to futurist. Personally, I'm struggling with the concept of shelling out two and a half grand and then not having a crossfader to slam across when I’ve messed up a mix!
The real issue here, I’ve just decided, is that this mixer acknowledges that DJs are in the spotlight – literally, up on stage and on your newsfeed, live. Putting tracks on. This is soul-suckingly dull to watch, which is why certain DJs started to twiddle knobs on mixers that weren’t even switched on, in order to look busy and useful. With the PlaYDiffEREntlY (see, innovative use of upper and lower case isn’t restricted to the DJ elite!) there are now literally loads of things to do while in the mix, so DJs no longer have to pretend to be making minuscule adjustments to the sound that seem to bear no relation to what’s actually playing: now they can actually make minuscule adjustments to the sound instead. So in that sense, Richie’s new mixer lives up to his claims that it’s been designed to account for the changes in DJing over the last 20 years.
Having never used it or heard it in use, and having only seen small photos of it on the internet, I can definitely say that the PLAYdifferently Model 1 is a game-changer. But only if the game you’re playing is called How Much Did Your Mixer Cost?
Words: Harold Heath