A new turntablist mixer featuring the revolutionary FocusFader.
For years, Stanton made its name as a manufacturer of turntablecartridges and styli. Its 500AL no-skip cartridge, a staple amongearly turntablists, made a good match for a Technics SL-1200MK2turntable. Now, Stanton has added another good match: the newStanton SK-2F Professional Battle Mixer, featuring the Focus Fader.With its sights set squarely on Vestax's and Rane's share of thebattle-mixer market, Stanton has come out with a solid scratchmixer at a very appealing price.
The first thing that impressed me about the SK-2F is the almostfriction-free fluidity of its crossfader movement. Simply pickingup the mixer and tipping it to the left causes the crossfader toslide in that direction. This has to be the slickest crossfaderI've ever seen.
After hooking up the SK-2F to my turntables, I discovered thatthe Focus Fader is not only as smooth as silk, but also has thequickest and best-positioned cut-in of any turntablist-stylecrossfader I've played. Designed by DJ Focus of Phoenix, the FocusFader features a true optical (and thus static-free) design with anon-off-type cut-in. A mere 1 mm of travel changes the crossfaderfrom all the way off to all the way on. In addition, the point atwhich the cut-in occurs is only 2 to 3 mm from the extremes of thecrossfader's travel. This makes the Focus Fader ideal forperforming crab-style scratch techniques and should appeal to allturntablists, from expert to newbie.
The mixer also has a crossfader cut-in adjustment located on thefront vertical panel. When you use the Focus Fader (a regularcrossfader is also included), the adjustment serves no purpose— the Focus Fader has no adjustable cut-in — it is justsharp, sharp, sharp. While this might be a problem for some DJs(beat mixers especially), the Focus Fader is so well designed andscratch-friendly that I am more than happy to give up theadjustability.
As with most turntablist-oriented mixers today, the SK-2F'sfront panel features the ever-popular hamster switch that allowsyou to switch the crossfader direction — that is, crossfaderto the left turns the right turntable full on, and vice versa. Thedevice also includes hamster switches for each of the main faders.Engaging them turns the fader upside down: when the fader is down,the audio signal is on; when the fader is up, the audio is off.
The SK-2F is housed in a silver-colored case with a blueanodized faceplate called the Protekt Panel that is designed tomake the mixer's top surface as smooth as possible. Removing theProtekt Panel allows you to replace any of the faders and adjustthe line/phono switch orientation.
Many turntablists use the line/phono selector switches for doingtransformer scratches. Interestingly, the SK-2F's input switchesinclude a third position — labeled Flash — that,according to the manual, “allows users to quickly trigger thephono input.” I found the travel required to engage the Flashfeature equal to that required to switch from line to phono —and in both cases, it was more travel than you ideally want forfast transformer scratching. I also found it easier to performtransformers with the crossfader, especially considering how sharpthe Focus Fader's cut-in is.
The SK-2F is 10¼ inches wide and 3½ inches high, theperfect size for nestling between a pair of standard DJ turntables.The SK-2F's back panel includes gold-plated line and phono inputsand a pair of phono ground terminals. Additionally, the devicefeatures a ¼-inch mic input, a power switch, a pair ofunbalanced RCA line outputs, and a pair of balanced ¼-inch TRSoutputs that allow multiple hookups to various audio systems.
The SK-2F's powerful headphone amp enables switching between themaster output signal and the cue signal. Another nice feature isits headphone kill switch. Located between the main faders, theswitch provides quick and easy headphone muting during aperformance without forcing you to stray too far from thecrossfader.
My main criticism of this mixer is its construction quality.Although the product feels solidly made, certain features show alack of attention to detail. Some of the rotary dials (EQ and Gain)are slightly off center, and in general the SK-2F doesn't feelquite as polished as the top-of-the-line Vestax or Rane models.That said, its quality is quite good for a midpriced turntablistmixer.
The Stanton SK-2F is well designed, and the excellent FocusFader alone should ensure its popularity. Stanton has also infusedthis mixer with many other turntablist-friendly features in aconfiguration that will not disappoint.
SK-2F Professional Battle Mixer
PROS: Focus Fader's sharp cut-in. Hamster switches. Smoothfaceplate. Competitive price.
CONS: Too-long line/phono switch travel. Slightly poorconstruction quality compared with top-of-the-line models.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
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