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Richie Hawtin’s PLAYdifferently MODEL 1 mixer finally sees the light of day…

The hype that came with the announcement of Richie Hawtin releasing a new DJ/music-related product was immense. The internet was at bursting point, with everyone trying to second-guess what exactly would be released — and when. This all came about when Richie held a (impromptu) press conference at this year's NAMM conference back in January.

Over the months that followed, there were a few teaser images and videos placed online to whet the appetites of the DJ and production community for this new product. Then followed the PLAYdifferently Prototypes Tour that started in Los Angeles and went on to take in a selection of the world's most iconic club venues including London’s Fabric, Watergate Berlin, Output New York and a host of others. It was a selection of club-nights where the prototype — to what we had now assumed was a new mixer — was being tested out by DJs ahead of the official release.

The hype machine didn’t stop there. It continued with the official unveiling in May at the Arena Club in Berlin, where performances from DJs using the new mixer were streamed live to the world via an exclusive Boiler Room webcast. This was a co-ordinated and calculated release for what we now know as the MODEL1 mixer, the first in a range of products that will be released under the PLAYdifferently banner.

The eagerly awaited MODEL 1 mixer is a collaboration between Richie Hawtin, Andy Rigby-Jones (previously head designer for DJ-related products at Allen & Heath), Allen & Heath and the AudioTonix Group. With this wealth of industry specialists at the helm, there is no doubt that the MODEL 1 is going to be something a little bit special.
The MODEL 1 is at its core a mixer, but the thinking behind it is to offer the DJ a platform to be able to do something slightly different to play differently (nice). The MODEL 1 is a six-channel DJ mixer but when we call it a DJ mixer this is in fact far from the truth — the MODEL 1 has a lot more in common with standard studio mixers. In fact, it would be best to view the MODEL 1 somewhere in between a DJ and studio mixer. It doesn’t have USB connections for hooking up to your computers, and it doesn’t come with a crossfader — this in itself will surely make for a topic of debate. What it does have, other than the six phono-style inputs, are DSUB 25 connectors for connection to serious pro-end audio equipment and nine pin D connectors for linking more than one MODEL 1 mixer together.

This is where the MODEL 1 differs from a standard DJ mixer. This new mixer is designed to bridge the gap between what we are seeing some DJs and artists doing already in their ‘live’ shows. The MODEL 1 brings a studio-style mixing desk to a DJ-orientated arena, allowing for more freedom for this style of DJ to perform with the tools that they would be used to in a studio environment.

More and more we are seeing DJ rigs resembling small home studio set-ups, and this is where the MODEL 1 could potentially come into its own.

Other obvious differences are how the EQ section of the MODEL 1 is implemented in the mixer. Gone are the standard Hi, Mid and Low frequency knobs in favour of a system that can be found on traditional mixing desks. This style of EQ aims to be more accurate and offer more sound sculpting control over the audio signal coming through the mixer.

Another noticeable area that some might grumble over is the omission of built-in FX. However, as with standard studio mixers, the MODEL 1 has two sets of send and returns where your audio signal can be routed to external hardware and FX equipment. This means once again that the DJ/artist has options as to how they want to rig up their FX and Auxiliary signal chains, and gives them freedom to use exactly what they want and for how they want to use it.

The MODEL 1 aims to be versatile for a specific group of DJs and artists. It is not intended to be the next industry standard mixer such as a Pioneer DJM-900 Nexus — this is not the point of it. As with the name, it’s all about doing something differently. From the initial look of it, it is a very cool-looking, well laid-out mixer and no doubt very well built considering that Allen & Heath are part of this esteemed gathering. It also has a price tag that is on the pro-end of the scale, so will appeal to a specific few.

The other thing that is decidedly different is that to own one you won’t be getting it at your favourite DJ store, as it can only be purchased directly from the PLAYdifferently website. DJ Mag Tech will be delivering a full in-depth review in the months to come — watch this space.