It's possible, and sometimes pleasurable, to swim against the current, which these days is definitely flowing toward the widespread adoption of computer-based DJing. But has the current already become a riptide, against which it is pointless to struggle? Perhaps. Although some still think digital DJing surpasses cubic zirconia in its inauthenticity, it may inevitably suck everyone into its vortex. The cautiously curious can test the waters by dipping a foot in with low-cost yet functional pieces such as the Behringer B-Control Deejay BCD3000.
For a sum that's already low as an undiscounted list price, the BCD3000 serves up a 4-channel USB audio interface with DJ-mixer capabilities through its controls, as well as — using the same controls — a fully MIDI-assignable control surface for common DJ software. With all these attributes, one the one hand, it could anchor a full analog/digital soundsystem by controlling and mixing music from a USB-connected computer, turntables and line-level sources. On the other hand, for beginners or dabblers, the BCD3000 is plug-and-play with included DJ software for diving in immediately.
FRESH OUT OF THE BOX
As a class-compliant device, the BCD3000 requires no drivers for Mac OS 10.4 or later. The software disc comes with a PC driver for Windows XP, Native Instruments (NI) Traktor 3 LE and some small freeware apps thrown in to help manage podcasts. I tested the BCD3000 on an iMac G5 2.1 GHz, and always enjoyed stable performance and no noticeable audio or MIDI latency when running GarageBand, Traktor 3, M-Audio Torq or Ableton Live. Although not bus powered, the BCD3000 comes with a detachable AC power cord. Once powered on and USB connected, the interface's audio and MIDI functions were immediately accessible within the above software's preferences, as well the Mac's System Preferences.
The BCD3000 has RCA connectors for two sets of stereo inputs and the master outputs. The input pairs can, if you choose, correspond to side A (left) and side B (right) in order to use the mixer controls on audio sources. An XLR mic input gets its own level and high/low EQ controls, but not phantom power, so use dynamic mics only. Rounding out the audio-interface control in the upper right-hand corner, a Master volume knob sits with Phones Volume and Phone Mix knobs for the ¼-inch headphone jack on the front.
While all of the remaining controls are MIDI assignable, the BCD3000's layout obviously suits a DJ in general and more specifically, fits Traktor 3 LE like a glove. (It's one of the few controllers so far to earn NI's new “Traktor LE Enabled” designation.) The main section resembles a rackmount DJ CD player merged with a DJ mixer. A crossfader straddles two identical sides, each with buttons for transport controls, EQ kills and loop/cue settings; a jog wheel; center -detented knobs for gain and 3-band EQ; and faders for level and pitch. At the top, an extra FX Control section adds four knobs and buttons, for a total of 53 MIDI-assignable controls.
TOGETHER IN PERFECT HARMONY
To start, I fired up Traktor 3 LE to see just how well the hardware and software jived. In a word: flawlessly. The program immediately integrated with the interface without even having to open the preferences, and each control corresponded exactly with the software function. Instantly, the somewhat rudimentary program became viable for performance. I can't see how you'd even want to use DJ software without a control surface like this to make it more tactile. It's as essential as using a MIDI keyboard to play virtual instruments. Some particularly handy hardware controls on the BCD3000 made a few things accessible that don't even have software interface controls in Traktor 3 LE, such as mid- and high-band EQ kills. The FX Control section was also crucial for choosing effects quickly and making adjustments naturally when using a mouse would have been much more tedious and less sonically rewarding. Selecting the Scratch button on either side designates the jog wheel as a miniturntable for scratching the music; it's nowhere near the natural feel, but it's still handy.
Traktor LE itself now has some convenient perks, such as importing all of your iTunes playlists and a built-in browser for Beatport. If you access Beatport through Traktor LE, you can preview tracks in Traktor LE's preview player with a waveform display for skipping around in the song. You can also search Beatport from the Traktor LE search field. Tracks that you buy from Beatport are placed in Traktor LE's Purchased Tracks playlist, as well as in the overall Collection list.
Later, I stepped up to the full Traktor 3 software (which can be done for discounted price of $119 once you have installed Traktor 3 LE). This transition required designating the BCD3000 as the audio and MIDI interface in the Traktor's Preferences window and then also setting the Booth outputs to BDC3000 output 3/4 (headphone jack). Many Traktor 3 controls were assigned perfectly right off the bat for the BDC3000, but others were incorrect. For example, the Key Deck A+B button became the Record button for the master recorder in Traktor 3. Also, the hardware Mid EQ knobs were not assigned because Traktor 3 has MidHi and MidLow EQ controls. By figuring out Traktor 3's MIDI Learn function, I was able to set up the BCD3000 exactly how I wanted it in Traktor 3 and save this preference as a template file for later.
Such was the case with other programs as well, particularly M-Audio Torq DJ software and Ableton Live. Neither of those apps mapped anything to the BCD3000 automatically, but both have easy MIDI Learn functions, and it was fun to create an entire system of controlling those programs from scratch. For example, the eight knobs across the middle were great for panning Live tracks. Their center detents could be a bit tighter, but that wasn't detrimental to working. I also enjoyed assigning the two jog wheels to the “x” and “y” values in an effect's x-y axis for a different approach to tweaking controls usually assigned to joysticks.
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As an audio interface, the BCD3000 worked a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde act. In its most basic use, it gives you four outputs (stereo master output and stereo headphone jack) from the computer via USB. In this capacity as a 24-bit D/A converter, it holds up quite well. I compared it side-by-side with another option a DJ might consider, M-Audio Torq Conectiv. For the same list price, Conectiv gives you the full version of the Torq software and a USB audio interface designed for DJs but without the MIDI control surface. After listening to the same source material through both interfaces, the Behringer produced a satisfying overall sound that could be presentable in live situations. Conectiv excelled slightly more, delivering a tad clearer sound where the frequencies seemed to separate into their own space just enough more to be noticeable.
One of the BCD3000's two RCA phono inputs can be switched to line level for CD players and other sources. These inputs can also be assigned to a side of the BCD3000, so the unit also does duty as a basic analog DJ mixer. The analog inputs, including the XLR mic input, also pass through the USB connection, so you can record them into software. Unfortunately, the signals from the BCD3000's inputs carried noise with them and also had a low input gain. The low original gain required me to boost the level controls wherever I could, thus increasing the noise. I tested the same audio sources through the analog inputs of the Conectiv, and it returned a clean sound with a good, strong level.
ONE FROM THE VALUE MENU Given the noise on the audio inputs, I wouldn't recommend routing turntables or CD players through the BCD3000 for professional gigs. So except in the case of casual use, the BCD3000 is best used as a soundcard solely for audio files on a computer or as the MIDI control surface in a DJ (or studio) setup that already uses another pro-level audio interface for DJs, such as NI Audio 8 DJ or M-Audio Torq Conectiv. Either way, the BCD3000 is still a bargain. It also feels well suited for gigging. Although the outer casing and controls are plastic, the bottom and back plate are steel, and the unit feels solid and durable without being such a monster that it's too heavy to haul around. Now if Behringer were to offer a version of the BCD that was MIDI-only and saves DJs even more coin, that could be awesome.
B-CONTROL DEEJAY BCD3000 > $299
Pros: Perfect integration with Traktor 3 LE. 53 MIDI-assignable controls. Good D/A conversion. Economical.
Cons: Noise and low gain on the analog audio inputs.
Mac: G4/1.5 GHz; 512 MB RAM; OS 10.4 or later; USB port
PC: P3 or Athlon XP/1 GHz; 512 MB RAM; Windows XP SP 2; USB port
BEHRINGER TWEAKALIZER DFX69
Another notable recent addition to Behringer's DJ products line, the Tweakalizer DFX69 DJ effect processor specializes in tempo-based effects and performance-oriented controls. For a $149 list price, the DFX69 offers six DSP functions that you can apply simultaneously: flanger, delay, filter, scratching, 3-band EQ and a 16-second loop sampler. Beyond that, a bpm counter can set the tempo for the effects by automatically syncing to the incoming audio signal or manually from the tap-tempo button.
The flanger and delay are tempo synced, and the three filter types (lowpass, bandpass and highpass) can be controlled manually or by a tempo-synced LFO. With the scratch function enabled, the large jog wheel applies a synthesized scratching sound over the incoming audio, rather than actually scratching the incoming audio itself. While the scratching sounds a bit cheesy, I was pleased overall with the accuracy of the bpm counter; the performance of the effects, EQ and sampler; and the control layout. Operation of the DFX69 for the most part only took a little bit of poking around to figure out, rather than having to study the manual.
However, like the BCD3000, the DFX69 introduced some noise on its RCA phono- and line-audio inputs, and its RCA outputs tended to decrease the original signal level. That marred an otherwise fun and inexpensive way to add some powerful tempo-synced effects to a DJ rig.