A well-respected manufacturer of club-style DJ mixers, Rane is making its first serious entry into the growing turntablist-mixer market with its TTM 54. Designed with the turntablist-style DJ in mind, the TTM 54 is a well-thought-out, solidly manufactured piece of equipment with many appealing features. Although somewhat expensive, it costs $100 less than Vestax's flagship PMC-07Pro-a price that should appeal to the wallets of DJs seeking a high-quality scratch mixer.
I hooked the TTM 54 up to my beloved Technics SL1200 turntables and immediately felt comfortable. The mixer is the same height as the 1200 (3 inches), and as it's only 9 inches wide, it lets your turntables sit close together-essential for high-speed fader work. Encased in sturdy black metal, the mixer features gold-plated RCA jacks, large phono-ground terminals, and Rane's proprietary phone jack-style power connector. The TTM 54 employs the popular double-panel system, clearing the top surface of protruding screw heads and other items that can get in the way of furious scratching. You can easily remove the top panel to reconfigure the Transform switch's orientation (adjustable in 45-degree steps) and replace the faders.
SHORT CUTSA crossfader can make or break a mixer's usefulness. With the TTM 54 you get smooth, long-life Active faders (similar to the ALPS faders found on the 07Pro). The crossfader features a continuously variable cut-in adjustment, and the main faders feature a three-position cut-in adjustment. (Rane is the first to include such a feature.) The crossfader's cut-in is very quick-the signal is at full volume within a mere 4 mm of travel from Off. This is an excellent cut-in time and essential for the performance of crab-style scratch techniques.
The TTM 54 also features hamster switches, which reverse the fader settings. Interestingly, Rane chose to include a hamster switch for the crossfader and for each of the two main faders as well. With the crossfader, pressing the hamster switch (located on the mixer's front vertical surface) results in the same effect as hooking your left-hand turntable up to the right-hand connectors and vice versa-a practice that was reasonably popular among turntablists before hamster switches came along. Pressing a main fader's hamster switch reverses the fader's setting so that the fader is fully open at the lowest position. This versatility greatly enhances the creative options available to the scratch DJ.
The TTM 54's two audio channels each have separate gain, balance, bass, and treble controls-handy when you're performing specific mixes and scratches or adjusting for a recording's specific sonic qualities. The TTM 54 features a powerful headphone amplifier to accommodate the performing DJ's needs. Rane also included a built-in effects loop (via two 11/44-inch jacks), which can be used to apply effects to the master signal or to the signal from channel 1 or channel 2.
It's hard to find fault with this well-designed mixer, but I have two main beefs. Unlike the crossfader, the cut-in adjustment for the main faders isn't aggressive enough. Even at the unit's most aggressive setting, the faders have to travel too far to enable effective crab-style main-fader techniques. Also, the Phono/Line Transformer switches have uncomfortably sharp edges that make them difficult to use. (Note: at press time, Rane had just come out with the TTM 54I, which features newly designed Transformer switches.)
LET IT RANEOverall, I thoroughly enjoyed using Rane's TTM 54 and would highly recommend it or its lower-priced sibling, the TTM 52 (which loses the effects loop and main-fader cut-in adjustment), to any DJ interested in turntablism or scratch mixing. If you're a nonscratch mix DJ, however, many other mixers out there would suit you better-and cost less. Having listened to the input of real DJs and addressed many of their needs, Rane has a hit with its first scratch mixer.
Robin Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) has deejayed both for radio and in clubs. He is the creator of the Online 1200, the Web version of the Technics SL-1200MK2 operating instructions (www.turntablism.com/online1200).
RANETTM 54 Performance Mixer $899
PROS: Smooth faders; crossfader's rapid cut-in; solid construction.
CONS: Uncomfortable Phono/Line Transformer switch design; long main fader cut-in; expensive
Contact: tel. (425) 355-6000; fax (425) 347-7757; e-mail email@example.com; Web www.rane.com