Ecler's HAK line of turntablist mixers welcomes its newest addition; the HAK 380 Performance Mixing Instrument. The Spanish manufacturer has a strong reputation for the design and manufacture of quality products, and this high-end model continues the evolution of Ecler's scratch DJ — oriented product line, which has proven quite successful with the European turntablist community.
The HAK 380 is the new flagship mixer in the series that also includes the HAK 360. Discontinued is the good but less expensive HAK 310. Both remaining models feature Ecler's own Eternal inductive crossfader, which in the HAK 380 features updated control circuitry. The HAK 380 also includes Ecler's new microprocessor-driven Scratch Cue mode. Likely competitors to the HAK 380 are the comparably priced Rane TTM 56 and the Vestax PMC-08Pro.
The HAK 380 is a solidly constructed two-channel mixer with an attractive, industrial-looking black and silver anodized aluminum similar to that of previous HAK models. The weight (9.5 pounds) and dimensions (10.4-by-14.1-by-3.1 inches) are identical to the HAK 360. Both mixers feature internal power supplies that use a standard power cable, so there are no external brick or wall warts here. Despite a large number of controls, inputs and outputs, the well-made HAK 380 has an uncluttered layout with clearly labeled controls. All of the knobs and switches have a high-quality feel that instills confidence in its manufacturing.
Typical of most scratch-oriented mixers, the top panel is divided into two sections. The lower half features a pair of 12-segment VU meters surrounded by the VCA line faders and the Eternal crossfader. It's a nice, clean layout with no obstructions to hinder flying fingers.
The upper half features an array of knobs, switches and faders for controlling the various features. The layout of this section is one of the more striking ways in which the HAK 380 differs from other mixers. Typical scratch-DJ mixers feature two centrally located columns of line/phono switches, as well as gain and EQ controls, with the remaining controls located around the outer edges. With the HAK 380, Ecler switched from the HAK 360's unusual horizontal control layout to the more common vertical layout but also cleverly located each input channel's controls down the outer edges — closer to the input device that they are controlling. That threw me off at first and took a little getting used to; however, once familiar with the new layout, it worked very well. The controls you are likely to adjust most frequently — gain and EQ — are located closer to the turntable. If you have been frustrated by the illogical or ergonomically unfriendly layout of many other mixers, you'll appreciate and adapt quite readily to the HAK380's well-conceived layout.
Ecler also paid attention to the design of the oversize rotary knobs, which have a knurled ring around the top, making them easy to grip even with sweaty hands. Balance, cue and effects loop wet/dry are easily adjusted with faders — a more intuitive choice than rotary knobs. The effects loop on/off and Scratch Cue on/off are controlled by two small toggle buttons that have solid tactile response, letting you know whether or not they are engaged. The switched controls (EQ on/off, cue toggle, input fader reverse and phono/line) feature short stalks that protrude just a few millimeters above the mixer surface. While that keeps them out of the way, it makes them more difficult to quickly flick if you need to change a setting.
As should be expected in a high-end piece of professional-audio equipment, the HAK 380's back panel features a well-laid-out assortment of input and output connections. A flexible output array is particularly impressive. Master outs include balanced XLR and balanced ¼-inch TRS and two pairs of unbalanced RCAs. Also included is a nonadjustable RCA line-level output (for recording). The XLR, TRS and one pair of the RCAs are adjustable via the top surface's Master 1 knob and can be configured to either 0 dB or +6 dB via a switch on the back panel. The second unbalanced RCA output is separately controllable through the Master 2 knob — likely intended for booth monitors. The output of the mixer can be switched to mono via a small switch located on the back panel.
Inputs include a set of phono- and line-level RCAs for each of the two channels, as well as a pair of RCAs labeled Session Input for input from another mixer or line-level device. This is a great attention-to-detail feature that essentially gives the 2-channel mixer a third channel, the level of which is adjustable via the Session knob. A combination XLR/¼-inch TRS mic input features a dedicated (but nonadjustable) effects loop via a ¼-inch stereo jack (tip=send, ring=return).
The main effects loop is hooked up via two pairs of send and return RCAs. Wet/dry levels for the effects loop are controlled by a centrally located fader on the top surface. Unfortunately, the effects loop is equally applied to both channels with no option to apply it to only one channel. This is a surprisingly major misstep in the design and is likely to disappoint those wanting to make use of effects.
DOWN IN FRONT
The left quarter of the front panel features the headphone jack, level-adjust switch and headphone-mute switch. The headphone amp is powerful and clean and would have no problem driving headphones to sufficient levels in a noisy nightclub. The remainder of the front panel is dedicated to the main fader and crossfader adjustments.
The main input channel faders on the HAK 380 feature Ecler's notably smooth, separately adjustable VCA faders. Ecler claims to have tested them with as many as 4 million operations. Separate adjustments for each main fader include Normal/Reverse switches for reversing the fade direction and curve-adjustment knobs that can be set to anything from a standard gradual fade to a sharp, 1 mm cut-in (assignable to either end of the fader). At its sharpest setting, the main fader cut-in occurs roughly 4 mm from the fader's extreme.
ETERNITY IS A LONG TIME
The Ecler-designed Eternal crossfader features magnetic-based inductive fade technology similar to that of Rane's TTM 56 (although their marketing departments may disagree). The Eternal fader features three main adjustments: a curve or slope adjustment knob, a small cut-in point adjustment dial and a reverse (hamster) switch. Both the curve and cut-in point can be configured separately for each side of the crossfader.
Curve can be adjusted from a standard gradual fade to an extremely sharp cut-in (less than 1 mm of travel required). The cut-in point can be adjusted anywhere from roughly 5 mm away to as close to the crossfader's extreme as you can get; in fact you can adjust it such that you turn off the crossfader's ability to cut the signal altogether.
The only tweakable setting missing from the Eternal crossfader is a tension adjust (available, for example, on the Mackie d.2's Infinium optical fader). Personally, I did not miss this option because the Eternal fader feels smooth with what I can only describe as “the right” amount of resistance (not so loose that it bounces, but loose enough to have no noticeable resistance). I'm pretty sure that any scratch DJ will be happy with the feel of the crossfader and the tweaking options available.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The biggest selling point of the HAK 380 is the new Scratch Cue feature. With this microprocessor-driven function, you can pre-listen to your crossfader scratches to practice a scratch technique without affecting the main outputs.
Engaging Scratch Cue requires you to press the Scratch Cue button and then move the crossfader to one of its extremes (cutting the signal of the input on which you want to practice your scratching). Once engaged, the crossfader no longer affects the master output. You can use the crossfader to practice your scratches in the headphones leaving the main audio signal unaffected. To disengage Scratch Cue mode, toggle the Scratch Cue button off and move the crossfader back to its original position; the crossfader will now function normally — sending your scratches to the main output.
While complicated to describe, Scratch Cue is a simple and natural process that worked flawlessly for me on my first try. The HAK 380 is the first mixer to include such a feature and — as opposed to some of the gimmicky features included on other mixers — Ecler has hit on a truly useful and innovative addition.
The HAK 380 is not inexpensive; however, with no extraneous bells and whistles, its solid construction and high-quality sound, Ecler has created a high-end mixer that includes some new features of real value to DJs. As a longtime Rane TTM 56 user, I would be hard pressed to pick one mixer over the other if I were in the market for a new mixer today. While Ecler's reputation in North America is not as well established as it is in Europe, the HAK 380 represents a solid tool with which the company can take on the likes of Vestax and Rane in the North American scratch-DJ mixer market. Viva España!
HAK 380 PERFORMANCE MIXING INSTRUMENT > $799
Pros: Eternal crossfader. Scratch Cue. Build quality and layout. Flexible output options. Integrated power supply and standard power cable.
Cons: Globally applied effects loop. Stubby switches.