Many DJs have made the transition into the virtual environment, mixing in applications like Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor. As the virtual mixing environments become more powerful and add more features, we see a need to have more powerful interface controllers to work with the changing times. One interface that is sure to catch your attention is the new Allen & Heath Xone:3D digital DJ workstation. I recently tested the new Xone:3D mixer with Traktor 3.
The Xone:3D is based on the award-winning Allen & Heath Xone:92 series and lets you mix a combination of vinyl, CD and any other audio source through its four stereo channels, which are routed to main mix and monitor outputs. It's configured with two effects send/return loops, a 3-band EQ section and two wide-range analog VCF filters with tap-tempo LFO. There's also a VCA crossfader and channel faders, DJ mic and comprehensive cue-monitoring system. To top if off, the Xone:3D has a convenient built-in bpm counter at the top left-hand corner that can be set for tap tempo or automatic beat detection. The audio signal may be routed from the main mix or from an individual channel via the prefade FX2 mix so that the track playing may be calculated and checked before the track is routed to the mix.
There are also two dedicated control strips on each side of the interface that are identical. These controllers allow a Xone:3D user to control MIDI-compatible software, audio hardware or lighting rigs. Additionally, Allen & Heath included overlay templates for Live and Traktor 3. There are a total of 105 MIDI messages from a combination of many control options, linear and rotary faders, rotary encoders with integrated switches, push-button switches with and without light-ring indicators, and two large dedicated jog wheels with four position switches. The mixer can also be used as your main interface, eliminating the need to bring out a soundcard for live performances and mixing.
My first few shows with the Xone:3D went extremely well. It has a light but robust feel, and the MIDI controllers in conjunction with the internal analog mixer make the perfect hybrid for live mixing. In regard to using it with Traktor 3, it was a breeze. You can load up the included .tks file from the installer CD, and you are off to controller heaven. Every fader and knob has already been assigned to all the crucial parameters in Traktor. Having access to all the controls on the MIDI strips allows you to do things that weren't possible before with Traktor. A great way to get started is to play around with the current .tks file settings given on the installer CD. I was able to modify a few settings to my own template and was mixing in minutes. I conducted many tests with the 3D and was able to do multiple FX and loop manipulation all on the fly with minimal effort, getting some pretty wide results.
Having such a variety of options and being able to save your custom configurations with the 3D proved it to be one of the best new interfaces around for mixing with Traktor. I discovered some cool tricks and tips for users who may want to dive deeper into this incredible combo.
One tip is to get in the habit of using Traktor's .tks file format. Here, you can save and configure within Traktor's 500 key and MIDI commands. I usually set up several different .tks files for different modes of operation. If I am doing a live show, then I just load up the .tks that is configured to run Traktor in a live setting with loop-button assignments arranged at the top and cue and playback functions assigned at the bottom. I also discovered that using a combination of key commands and the 3D's MIDI control strips was extremely versatile. I set up changing effect chains by a simple key-command assignment or button assignment on the 3D, allowing me to flip through the effects as I would on an effects processor. Making assignments to the knobs for rotary-effect settings works best, and punch-in and -out settings work well for the 34 button controls. Everything is grouped in pairs of four, so it logically works to perfection when mapping in Traktor 3's environment.
Another time-saver is mapping the navigation jog wheels to Traktor's search and database functions. I assigned navigation controls to the left jog wheel on the 3D to scroll through my different record bins, playlists and audio files. A simple assignment to the down click on the wheel to load the highlighted track saves you time and trouble.
BRING THE LOOP LOVE
Another cool trick is assigning the rotary-knob buttons at the top of the 3D to loop-in and -out functions, allowing me to jam in loops on the fly and have much better control. I then assigned the Loop Jump function to the same knob to move the loop points forward or backward, then initializing the downward-click command to lock the loop. Another interesting configuration is to assign the volume channel strips in Traktor to the four left-hand side faders. That way you have manual volume control and can make visual reference to all four audio sources, as if you were mixing live. You can even run the output of the soundcard section of the 3D back into the analog section of the mixer to have all the control right in the middle. It is cool to double up the EQs and use the filter effects right on top of my main Traktor mix.
I had an incredibly fun time mixing with the Xone:3D, and in my initial test, I discovered new ways to interface with Traktor. I was amazed at how much more control you have now when mapping every parameter out in the environment into one logical, concise interface. I love the fact that the 3D can work as your main soundcard, analog mixer and MIDI controller. I would highly recommend users giving this combination a test run, as it will surely take your DJ mixing to a whole new level.