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Tech Review: The SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixstation from Stanton

Reported by Jack Bridges TID on November 7, 2011

This summer Stanton turned heads at pretty much every major Tech fair with the unveiling of their revolutionary new Mixstation controller, the SCS.4DJ. What sets the SCS.4DJ apart from its competitors is that no laptop or external computer is required to play your music. It's a fully integrated all-in-one system comprised of software, computer and controller and is capable of playing music from your USB stick, smartphone, iPod/iPhone or external hard drive. All major file formats are all catered for including MP3, MP4, AAC, WAV, and AIFF.

This is a feature heavy unit that is set to take the DJ market by storm!

The SCS.4DJ adopts a traditional 2-channel mixer style and Stanton have created a thoughtful layout and been careful not to overcrowd or overcomplicate things. All buttons are nicely illuminated with 2 central 7-LED stereo master output meters. 

It’s extremely lightweight weighing in at only 5.0lbs and although quite plasticky it feels fairly sturdy with a rugged build quality. Overall the unit is well put together and although the casing doesn’t appear as durable as some other units on the market it is built from the same scratch and scuff resistant material as the SCS.3. 

Ease of use and portability are its key selling points so once in the booth you just take the audio out, either 1/4" TRS or RCA phonos, and plug straight into the amp or mixer channel. No additional soundcard or computer required! A great feature is the inclusion of both 1/4" and 1/8" stereo headphone connectors as I'm always losing and misplacing the adaptors.

Once you've loaded up your portable drive of choice with tracks, plugged it in and switched on the device the SCS.4DJ will instantly start analysing the tracks. This actually takes a fair while at only 1/4 the speed of the overall track time, meaning your 10-minute epic house tune is going take around 2.5 mins to fully analyse. You'll need to do all your gig preparation ahead of time rather than on the fly. 

I was hoping for some sort of ‘Rekordbox’ style software for quickly analysing and creating playlists but I have been informed that an offline analyser app called QuickGrid is currently in beta which will be capable of analysing a song every few seconds.

Now that your tracks are ready it’s time to turn your attention to the central 4.3inch colour screen where much of the action takes place. From here you can start to sort your music and create playlists or dive straight into loading tracks to the decks and getting a mix going. Navigation of the menu screens was pretty intuitive and on the whole using the device required little or no referencing of the manual. The built in screen means you can do all your track selection, mixing, beat juggles, and FX triggers without having to look away from the unit.

Browsing and selecting tracks is done by the large navigation wheel between the EQ's with "soft" buttons each side of the screen to load tracks to either Deck A or Deck B. No chances of accidentally loading up a track on the wrong deck as they go into lock mode as soon as you hit play. Manageable playlists are key here as searching for tracks by the character input method can be time consuming so best to sort your music by BPM, artist, genre, comments etc.

The high-resolution 4.75" touch-sensitive platters are weighted and provide very responsive scratch, touch and nudge functionality; however I found skipping through tracks using the fast forward mode too slow when trying to quickly preview tracks. Scratching audio back and forth sounds extremely accurate and although it’s unlikely to be a device that appeals to the most hardened scratch fans, I experienced pretty much zero lag time and is a testament to the quality of the build, software and accuracy of the platters.

Finding and setting your initial cue point is done in much the same way as cueing on a CDJ but the ability to add multiple cue points or hot cues is a notable absence. 

The beat grid and BPM detection software is very advanced and accurately synced up tracks of varying styles and tempos with a pretty much 100% success rate. I didn't go as far as testing with any particularly abstract electronica but it easily managed my selection of house, techno, dubstep, and drum and bass. Additionally there is a TAP tempo button for your non standard musical genres. The colour-coded waveforms displayed on screen are bright and clear and are instantly recognisable to users of Traktor or Serato.

When switching off sync mode I really enjoyed having a freestyle mix using the pitch faders and platters to manually beat match. The faders can be adjusted between +/-5% and +/-100% so you can achieve a very accurate mix. As previously mentioned the platters have a very authentic feel to them when nudging or scratching and are even capable of realistic sounding spin backs.

The 3 band EQ's are of a notable quality with complete kill and +6dB boost which certainly added to the smoothness of the mix but another notable absence is the omission of any gain controls. All tracks are normalized by the inbuilt auto-gain but in a club / bar environment it's often essential to have that added dimension of control. I really like the depth and control of the filter effect too. Delay, Flange, and Slice (glitch/stutter) effects are also included and are automatically synchronized to your tracks’ BPM but can only be used one at a time.

On the fly looping is also a nice inclusion and with snap mode enabled you can easily and accurately drop into a loop snapped to the nearest beat. You can set the default loop length in the system preferences but once you trigger a loop a great feature is that you can actually halve or double the loop length by using the divide and multiple buttons to quickly get the desired length. 

There is an Auto-DJ function that will automatically mix tracks form your playlist and fade them together using one of six predetermined fade times. It was cool listening back to tracks as a continuous mix at home while you’re doing other tasks or hanging out with friends but not a feature I’d use in a performance scenario.

Once you’re familiar with the controls, recording your fist mix is as simple as hitting the 'Rec' button the master LED output and the SCS.4DJ will instantly start recording your set in WAV to your USB stick. Couldn’t be easier!

Finally, for those with a computer and DJ software such as Traktor, Mixvibes or Virtual DJ you can use the SCS.4DJ as a standard MIDI controller connected via USB. Traktor and VDJ mappings will be available shortly.

Conclusion

This is a huge step forward in the controllerism market as people continue to look for ways to scale down and miniaturize their performance set up with more convenient plug and play options. It also presents a very affordable option for those not willing to splash out on a laptop or perhaps compromise their existing laptop by taking it to gigs. 

There are some minor gripes such as, no gain controls, slow file analysis and only one cue point per track, that stop this from becoming a professional performance controller for the club.  But as a unit that retails for less than £500 there are many areas where it excels and is well suited for home, bar, after party and mobile use. 

There's currently no other unit like this on the market and is a product I highly recommend to our Trackitdown customers. 

If you like what you see then we urge you to head over to your nearest Stanton dealer and get a hands on demo of this fantastic bit of kit.

Competition

We are offering one lucky winner an SCS.4DJ delivered straight to your door

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Please check out the Stanton website for further details of the SCS.4DJ and their full range of DJ products and controllers.

www.stantondj.com