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PLASTIC FANTASTIC?

Is Kam’s first foray into the DJ software controller market a worthy contender?

It seems like every manufacturer under the sun has a DJ midi controller on offer at the moment, so it comes as no surprise that the latest product from Kam is a USB controller for Digital DJing software. Kam’s Digi Mini is being launched into an already crowded DJ controller market and given the amount of DJ software controllers, the quality and stunning value some of these units offer at the moment, the Kam Digi Mini has its work cut out if it’s going to make any kind of impact in today’s market.
At the heart of the Digi Mini setup is Virtual DJ 6 LE, which runs on your Mac or PC, allowing the Digi Mini to control the software via the knobs and faders on the unit, thus giving DJs all the functions of the software at their finger tips. Virtual DJ now has video capability and the Digi Mini makes full use of this. Kam have made sure to shout about the fact that the Digi Mini is an ‘Audio and Video’ controller.

Virtual DJ is clearly positioning itself as competition to the market leaders such as Traktor; while the software just doesn’t have the slick feeling of some of the competition, it still does the job. The addition of video mixing capabilities will ensure attention from those jocks and performers incorporating video into their performances, which is a plus. The Kam Digi Mini isn’t restricted to just Virtual DJ and can be used with any DJing software that DJs choose, opening up more scope for users.
What’s under the hood? Kam’s Digi Mini is basically a two-channel DJ controller based on the two-deck mixer format, with each channel having its own three-band EQ, a gain, two FX send knobs, a pitch fader, volume fader as well as buttons to control FX and loops. Each channel also has a jog wheel as well as controls for cueing, play, pause and a sync button to pull beats together. At the bottom of the channel faders is a short throw, battle-style cross-fader. The master section has controls for track selection and loading files, so gone is the need to move away from where the action is on the control panel to load tracks from your computer via a mouse.

Perhaps the nicest feature of Virtual DJ software is the on-screen visual waveform representation of the tracks currently playing. Both waveforms are displayed on top of each other, with a different colour for each of the channels. It then becomes very obvious when a mix is starting to drop out of sync, and pulling them back is as easy as hitting the sync button on either of the Digi Mini’s channels. Also found in the master section of the unit are controls for the video transitions and effects for video files being played via Virtual DJ.

The Digi Mini makes an interesting departure from the norm when it comes to the soundcard. Most software controllers either come with a full blown soundcard or none at all. The Digi Mini has opted to supply only a headphone output via an internal headphone amp, and they have opted for a Mini Jack rather than the standard Jack connector. The Virtual DJ software allows selection of two soundcards at once, so what this means is that the audio interface that comes standard in any laptop can be used as the main output while the Digi Mini’s headphone output takes care of the headphone monitoring duties — a nice touch.
In a refreshing change from the installation and configuration hell that can be a part of getting a new toy up and running, as soon as Virtual DJ loads, the Digi Mini’s controls are mapped to the software and ready to go.

It’s funny how the more things change the more they stay the same. Back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s the only choice was turntables, and then it came down to a choice between the Technics SL1200s with their high torque and direct-drive platter or any other deck that could be used for mixing duties. Everyone still opted for the more pro approach and went for a Technic 1210. So today with the vast choice of formats, equipment and prices, the basic choice now is to choose between what equipment will be a joy to use or to make do with a stop-gap measure that just about gets the job done.
The Digi Mini has to compete with all this to grab a DJ’s attention. The problem being that there are also options like Native Instruments X1s or Akai’s APC20 for less money than the Digi Mini. The good news is that there’s now a fantastic amount of choice for all those digital jocks out there, but remember to do your homework first to find a controller that suits you.