DJ technology has always had to balance the efficiency and portability of digital with the timeless feel of analog. As DJs, we’ve been skeptical of anything that hasn’t adequately fulfilled both.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen various attempts at a needless turntable with varying levels of success (most recently, the highly anticipated Rane Twelve), but MWM, the French manufacturer of the Mixfader bluetooth crossfader for portablists, is approaching the challenge from a different angle.
Some are calling Phase the biggest announcement of NAMM 2018. It lets you control DJ software without turntable cartridges or timecode vinyl promising a level of steadiness and accuracy never seen before. In demos, DJs like Qbert, Mike Relm, RTST, etc. have removed the record from the turntable and rotated it like a steering wheel to demonstrate that the DVS control still works in mid-air.
If ever there was a holy $#*!, it works! demo, this was it.
How it Works
Phase consists of a rectangular transmitter that is mounted on the spindle, and a receiver that is connected to a DVS interface or mixer. The transmitter reads the record’s rotation and beams that data to the receiver, which translates the signal into timecode data and feeds it to the DVS, just as timecode vinyl or CDs would.
Will DJs Actually Abandon Needles?
The key to this product’s success or lack thereof will be its latency between the transmitter and receiver and the stability of pairing. Final Scratch was the first DVS on the market, but it never took off due to lag and instability. Years later, when Serato solved these problems, it quickly became the industry standard.
If the Phase product that hits market is the same as the concept model that made Qbert say “that’s crazy!” (see video above) at NAMM, we may have a bona-fide game changer on our hands.
Technology aside, MWM has taken a dedicated focus on the turntablist community, which represents a small, but dedicated, influential and opinionated group of DJs. Thus far, Phase has done right by turntablists and if they keep it up, they just may be able to change turntable DJ culture as we know it.
But What About Needle Dropping? What if I want to play regular vinyl too?
Remember iPhone/iPad skeptics insisting that touch screen phones would never take off because physical keyboards were better? About that…
Analog is great because of easy visual navigation and manual manipulation, but digital has been whispering “out with the old, in with the new” for years. In 2018, every major DJ software has a robust system of cue points allowing for fast, precise navigation and more. The most recent Rekordbox DJ allows as many as 16 cue points per track.
As for manual manipulation, we have an entire industry of subcontrollers, starting with the humble Novation Dicer going up to the 32-pad Pioneer DDJ-XP1, which can be played like a keyboard. We even have turntables and mixers that look like they’ve mated with MPCs.
While needle dropping may disappear, accurate, physical navigation of music won’t. If anything it’s getting better and allowing DJs to be more creative.
There’ll always be a place for the vinyl purist, but the Phase, if it works as promised, will make that an aesthetic decision, not a practical one.
Pricing and Availability Updated May 2018
Tell us what you think in the comments!
Will you switch? Game changer or gimmick? Why or why not?
By DJ Deets, contributing writer for The DJ Hookup, DJ Times, DJ Tech Tools and EDM.com. Follow him @djdeets