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Next Level Beats

Wacom’s Nextbeat 1000 all-in-one DJing device is out to totally transform how DJs work the crowd. But will it please, or is it just a tease? DJ Sonny Wharton puts it through its paces…

Wacom are not your usual DJ kit manufacturer. In fact they are one of the leading lights in the computer tablet and touchpad market so it is with interest that we approach the Nextbeat 1000. This is an interesting bit of kit that goes against the current scheme of things when it comes to the whole digital DJing experience. The Nextbeat 1000 is meant to be the “one stop, do-it-all” machine for the performing DJ. It takes its lead from the old two decks one mixer approach that we all love and know so well, albeit stuffed into one very neatly contained box.

But will this capture the hearts of the DJ? The Nextbeat 1000 is unique in that everything is controlled from just one unit. What is on offer are two channels, A and B (effectively your decks), a mixer section that comes with built-in FX, and a sampler, the latter of which occupies one of your two channels. Now whilst it is keeping true to the original DJing ethos a lot of the technology out there in the digital DJing domain now allows up to four-deck mixing as the norm.

The Nextbeat 1000 is quite a compact unit that can fit into any standard record bag. Built into its own carry case, the construction is quite sturdy, and feels like it can take a few knocks. On first look, the Nextbeat appears visually pleasing. Split into two halves the left being the main deck selection area, there is an LCD screen for track selection, and it also displays graphical track waveforms, running time, track info, etc. Also in this section are the loop and sample controls, master volume cue and headphone knobs. Loading tracks onto a channel is pretty straightforward, and anyone who has used any CDJ-type player will be at home with this.

Touch-Sensitive
The right hand side features the removable remote unit, which houses the platter control and mixer section. The platter control is a touch-sensitive chappy that obviously gets its high-end technology from Wacom’s experience in this market place. The workings of this are quite similar to Stanton’s SCS3d. The feel is actually quite amazing, and for a touch-sensitive device, it is very accurate, to the point that convincing scratching can be achieved with a little bit of practice.

Around this central dial are five split areas. These are the slider controls for each of the channels. Placed towards the bottom end of the unit are the channel volume faders. These can be customised to increase or decrease volume incrementally, or by placing your finger on the spot where you would like the volume level to be. Between these faders is the crossfader, very reminiscent of the standard two-channel mixer approach. Placed around the top of the platter section are the pitch shift sliders for each channel, or deck if you like. Once again, the action of these sliders can be customised to suit the user. On the handle section, there are the usual EQ and Trim controls for each channel, a very basic display for volume visual reference, A and B deck selector, and in the middle of this is the effects section.

Now, as previously mentioned, one of the “unique selling points” of the Nextbeat 1000 is the removable remote that allows the DJ to effectively roam around the club, performing at will to an awestruck crowd. But there’s a problem — no headphone socket on the remote. This means that all cueing up has to be done beforehand on the master unit before separating the remote, which could mean that accurate mixing may be a problem if a DJ so chooses to get on the mix mid-separation. So is this a bit more of a gimmick than a useful tool? Well, I felt a little weird using it, but my helpful tester Sonny Wharton who advocates this unit proved it can be done with some aplomb, as he mooched around the studio demonstrating the ideology behind this little wonder! I asked Sonny some tough questions and for his interpretation of this unit…

Sonny, can you auto beat sync with the Nextbeat 1000?

“Yes, you can auto match the BPM allowing the tracks to mix together easier than having to gauge it yourself. It’s a pretty simple operation to do - Let's say, for example, Channel A has the track playing already and you want to synch Channel B with this. Whilst holding down button A just press button B, and it will automatically match the BPM of Channel B to Channel A.”

Can the Nextbeat create loops?

“Yes, the Nextbeat can do that as well, it’s a very familiar format that DJs are typically used to, from using a CDJ. Simply hit the loop 'in' and loop 'out'. Nextbeat also has two rotary dials to finely edit, or crop the loop. You can loop from both the base unit and also the handheld remote.”

How easy is it to add effects to your tracks?

“Very easy. Select them on the remote part of the unit by clicking the desired effect, e.g. High Pass Filter. This will automatically apply the effect, based on the time increments, of which you can choose one of four presets. You can also manually adjust the effect parameters via the control surface of the remote.”

How do you use the sample player on the unit?

“The unit has four banks. Recording to these is easy and you can call any of them up via the 'sample play' button and select the bank via the base or remote. Each sample is automatically split into four sections and these can all be triggered from the touchpad in whatever order you desire allowing quite a lot of creativity as to how you playback your sample. These four sections are easily edited, via the same rotary dials as used for editing loops.

“On top of your typical sample play, there is also a cool function called 'phrase record' where you can record the samples into a loop as you play them, which is great fun to do live! You simply set a loop, and then choose the sample to play — hit 'phrase record' and then trigger your sample via the remote. This will be recorded and played back. If you wish to choose a different sample and do the same, this will be added to the 'phrase'. You can build this as much or as little as you like, whilst applying effects.”

How is it to mix on the Nextbeat, truthfully?

“I find it really easy, as the pad is very responsive to manipulate and you've got pitch bend/fine pitch available as well, should you need it.”

Would you recommend the Nextbeat to up-and-coming DJs looking for something unique?

“Definitely, it offers a whole new dimension to the typical DJ format. The DJ is no longer restricted to the confines of the DJ booth, if you want to be at the front of the stage, or even out in the crowd, Nextbeat allows you to be as adventurous as you like!”

Verdict

Price   £1125.00
Contact   nextbeat.net
Build Quality
  4.0
Ease of Use   3.5
Features   4.0
Value for Money   3.0
Sound Quality   4.0
Hype   All-in-one unit with a removable remote section for added performance, fun and control.
Gripe   No headphone socket on the remote section.
Conclusion   This is an interesting product that may find its way into the heart of the DJ. Give it a try, and see how it goes. At over £1000, it’s not cheap, but there is an old saying “Different strokes for different folks.”
Overall Score   3/5