EVERY now and then, a product arrives on the DJmag bench that is so simple, yet so effective that we can’t help but wonder why we didn’t think of it first. Novation’s Dicer is one such product, a midi controller aimed predominantly at turntablists, and vinyl-loving Serato users.
Serato Scratch Live (SSL) DJs using turntables have until now been carting around various ad-hoc midi controllers in order to access the key functions of the Scratch Live software (loops, loop rolls and hot cues). This often meant using limited booth space to fit in controllers that were adapted rather than created for the job at hand. With this in mind, Novation decided to go about this little conundrum in a slightly different manner.
The Dicer is a product conceived in conjunction with American Digital DJ Ean Golden, who has been spearheading the digital DJing revolution since 2003. Ean has been very vocal in this department and has worked alongside many other established manufacturers to further the cause. The partnership with Novation has resulted in the Dicer, which brings tactile control of the SSL software right to the place you want it on the turntable itself — it just feels like it was made to be there.
The package includes two identical Dicer controllers, each housing five trigger pads and three mode select buttons. The two controllers are linked together with an included mini-jack lead and they run through a single USB cable back to the laptop. DJs who keep their laptop to one side of their set up as opposed to behind the mixer will find the included USB cable slightly short — however, this is user replaceable, so it doesn’t pose a huge problem.
Novation have come up with various ways to secure your Dicers to your surface of choice. One of these is the Play Doe type re-usable gum that can stick the Dicer to the corner of laptops or CDJs; but the real beauty of this product is their compatibility with the ubiquitous Technics turntable range. Simply pop out the 45 adapter disk found in the corner of the turntable, and the controller fits snugly into the resulting hole, where it sits tightly without interfering with the platter. Hey presto — your battered Technics 1210s are now bonafide midi controllers!
As previously mentioned, the Dicer has five back-lit numbered trigger pads. Dice numerals are used rather than numbers and can be read whether you position your Technics in traditional or battle style. There are also three mode switches that assign which layer of the controller is active. The three modes are Auto Loop, Hot Cue and Loop Roll — engaging a mode will cause the trigger pads to change colour, so there is always a visual reference to which layer is being controlled.
The Dicer’s pads are responsive without being over-sensitive. There is no give in the pads, meaning that they do not depress when triggered, but respond quickly to the touch, enabling swift transitions between hot cues in cut up routines or between scratch samples for the turntablists amongst you. Having access to the loops on the deck itself will also appeal to CDJ jocks that have moved to Digital Vinyl Systems, as it allows for a more natural workflow behind the decks.
As an add-on for existing Serato users, Dicer is a doddle to use. If you’re using the latest version of the Serato Scratch Live software, it’s true plug-and-play simplicity, and if you’re not, pop onto the Serato website where a free update is available. Traktor users needn’t feel left out, as they can download a patch to enable them to use the Dicers from novationmusic.com, which will allow full integration with Native Instruments’ popular alternative.
Users of other DJ kit, or even Serato or Traktor users who want to alter the set-up can do so with the ‘midi-learn’ function of their chosen software. Two Dicers can send up to 60 midi messages — making them a versatile and compact controller fit for firing loops in Ableton or controlling any other production or DJ software with midi capabilities, which is a major plus point for these little controllers.
At under £80, it’s really difficult to fault the Dicer. It doesn’t automatically control the newly-introduced SSL effects plug-in. Perhaps a couple of rotaries and a DJ FX layer would complete the package. But it isn’t really what the product is about at this stage. Put simply, Dicer is an essential purchase for SSL or Traktor users who still use their Technics to control their software. Expect to see these popping up in booths worldwide very soon.