Well, well, year’s end is upon us already, and in these last reflective days between the indulgence of Christmas and the resolutions we’ll make, hand on heart, tomorrow night, we take a look back at the trends shaping DJ hardware and software in 2011, and honour the best of the gear that landed on our desks. It’s Crossfadr’s night of nights, so brush off your tux, grab yourself a gift bag and settle in for the whole red carpet spectacular!
Product of the Year: Numark NS6
Some gorgeous hardware has graced the pages of Crossfadr this year, but right from the start the NS6 stood out as something truly special. As well constructed as it is sexy (ie, utterly), Numark’s masterpiece is a distilled version of the NS7 (sans motorised platters) and was one of the models made available with the release of Serato’s long-awaited ITCH 2.0. Featuring a meaty sound card and simple, powerful four-deck control, great effects and browser integration and simply the finest platters found in any non-motorised controller, anywhere, period, NS6 isn’t the cheapest bit of gear out there (on par with Pioneer’s also magnificent DDJ-S1), but it certainly does bring the goods. Conceding no compromises and offering only top-notch hardware and software components, Numark has really raised the bar with NS6, and we watch eagerly to see how the other manufacturers will respond.
App of the Year: Griid Pro by Liine
2011 has been a big year for mobile development. Thanks to the fertile work of the early adopters and innovative independents, the power and versatility of iOS is now attracting bigger, more established brands keen to get their share. In 2011 we’ve seen Korg continue to impress, Native Instruments release a mobile supplement to Maschine and a flood of MIDI and controller apps for Traktor and Ableton, and it’s to one of these, Griid Pro, that we tip our hats as App of the Year. Griid, produced by the very, very smart people at Liine, is a modular controller app for Ableton Live. Built for performance, it isn’t as fully featured as some of its competition, but it’s much more streamlined, efficient and reliable. Each of the modules – centred around the clip grid, mixer and step sequencer – are precision crafted to allow for effortless creativity and control. Griid became an integral part of my workflow faster than just about any other piece of gear I’ve ever owned. Griid wins because for its lucidity and restraint, the elegance of its interface and the robustness under its hood. Marrying simplicity of form with clarity of functional purpose, it’s a triumph of good design.
Software Of The Year: Serato ITCH 2.0
2011 has been a big year in software, too. Expectations for Traktor 2 were high (and were, generally, satisfied), Cross continues to grow and grow and more and more indie devs are bringing fresh perspectives to what can sometimes be a pretty imitator-friendly software scene. Distinguishing itself from the crowd, though, Serato’s ITCH 2.0 is clearly this year’s winner. Unleashing a torrent of new features and a sleek new GUI, Itch has graduated from promising neophyte to a formidable platform in its own right. The new incarnation is fast and stable and (kind of) free: it’s bundled with a number of dedicated hardware controllers from various manufacturers. The hardware runs the gamut from the cheap and awesome to the expensive and breathtaking; Serato’s foresight has been to create a professional tool that any level of performer can get into. It’s neither so expensive that only the superstars can afford it, nor cheapened by limited or sub-par hardware support. Being free, it also manages to avoid the piracy that plagues so many other software suites out there. ITCH 2.0 is just about the whole package (I’m still desperately waiting for The Bridge, though!) and, when combined with your choice of great control options, rises to the top of this year’s list.