We asked the Mmmmaven DJ & Production instructors: “What’s your favorite piece of gear right now?”:
My favorite piece of hardware is the Evolution UC-33. Unfortunately, this bad boy is no longer in production, so I’m super glad I opted to purchase one about seven years ago. As a universal controller, all of the knobs and faders are fully assignable to any MIDI parameter in whatever DAW software you are using. This goes for Serato DJ software as well as for production programs like Ableton and Reason. I find myself to be more productive when using a hands-on approach – avoiding the mouse wherever possible. With 24 knobs, and 9 faders, plus the option of switching between program pages, you can make or adjust envelopes on the fly and can add a more organic feel to your sets. It also came decked out with several mapping presets for (albeit somewhat dated at this point) programs and had preset covers to go with each. I used it for my first all-digital Ableton set many, many moons past and still use it as a primary go-to when producing at the studio.
Currently the iPad in combination with iConnectmidi2+. This combination is fantastic in so many different ways. Its always been my goal to perform as much as possible in my tracks. The iPad gives me the feeling of actually playing analog drum machines, grooveboxs and arpeggiators. The fact that you can restrict the iPads (in most apps) keyboard to a given scale or mode makes quickly coming up with a set of coherent ideas a breeze. The iConnectmidi2+ provides a seamless MIDI and audio link between Ableton right through the iPads plug.
I love the Ableton Push because of all the MIDI controllers I have ever used (I’ve owned six in my lifetime), it’s the only one that actually feels like a musical instrument. It makes creating music with Ableton very natural; rather than sitting in front of a screen clicking away with a mouse I can apply the same performance techniques that I would use during a live set to create ideas quickly and efficiently. It expedites my work flow and lets me express myself as if I were playing a guitar or bass. I hardly have to look at my computer when I’m using it to write and that makes the process super creative and enjoyable. Finally, all this talk about it being more of a studio controller than a performance controller is nonsense; the Push is the most versatile, intuitive performance controller I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried them all.
I suffer from gear lust, an affliction I share with millions of djs and producers across the globe. While it is tough to narrow down my favorite gear to just one thing, currently, my most treasured piece is the Pioneer Rmx-1000. The RMX is a digital effects processor, built with an analog soul. It combines all the traditional additive and subtractive effects that Pioneer mixers are famous for, throws in a drum machine and loop recorder, and tops it off with an SD card slot to add whatever drum/sample sounds your heart desires. Built like the effects processors of old, it uses quarter inch or RCA cables to send/receive audio, so you can hook it up to just about anything, a mixer, an ipod, even a guitar. Finally, it comes with a VST program so you can use it with any DAW. You get the best of both worlds. The problem with a lot of new gear is that it becomes outdated quickly. That’s the best part about the RMX; it is something that can grow with my gear no matter what I use, and I’m sure the RMX will be a part of my set-up for a very long time.
I just use a QuNexus a QuNeo as my main MIDI controllers, because of durability, mobility, simplicity, and customizing options are endless. Recently added a Traktor Z1 to have a compact flexibility of a Sound Card and a DJ interface to be able to have real knobs and few faders to satisfy any performance needs with Ableton or Traktor.
This year I really got into the Mackie CR1604 mixer. It originally came out around 1990–I got mine on Craigslist for $75. It has 16 channels, which I use to run multiple outputs from Ableton (I use all 6 outputs of my Traktor Audio 6 soundcard) plus audio from my drum machines and synths. I love the way it sounds. It makes everything I send into it sound a little more natural, and if you get the overall volume loud enough it starts to compress the full mix a little bit. The mixer only has three bands of EQ but they’re really well-tuned and it’s a nice change from working in the computer where it’s easy to get distracted with crazy-precise EQ options. The CR1604 also has 6 sends, which is a lot for such a cheap mixer, and a bunch of other cool routing options that make it good for experimenting with feedback and effects. The main downside is that it’s noisy, but I made a preset for EQ 8 in Ableton that takes most of the noise out. The CR1604 is built like a tank and they’re easy to find for $100-200. Highly recommended!
Learn more about what it takes to be a good DJ/Producer, enroll in our courses at mmmmaven.com/courses