I tried guys. I really tried. I went to the Roland AIRA mixer (DJ808) in attempt to run the Roland AIRA gear as my standalone live production gear alongside this mega-beast of a mixer/controller. This unit is so SOLID. However, it has one fatal flaw: It runs Serato.
So, my general problem with music and gear moving into 2017 was simple: I have but one 15" MacBook Pro to run everything through. It's fast. Blazing fast, in fact. I have the top spec model sitting here and there's really not a large collection of portable computers that will stand toe-to-toe with this thing. That said, I still had an issue. For now, Native Instruments is keeping Maschine and Traktor separate from one another, meaning we have no "Maschine Deck" functionality. If we had this, it would be like a "NI version of the Bridge", but we do not. So, moving into last winter I owned the S8 Controller and the Maschine studio. Turns out both of them run a specific video process for their screens and it BOGS DOWN the processing powers of most portable computers. Combine the two, and you take a serious CPU hit. This killed my flow, as my perfect scenario was to run the S8 with 4 decks and then use a second sound card to run Maschine next to it all, so that I could jam out live on top & mix in/out of my projects in Maschine. TOO MUCH WORK for the laptop. So, the choices were simple: Move CPU from live performance to a standalone solution, or move the DVS system to a standalone. Given that only a handful of standalone Dj boxes existed in December of 2017, and I did not love any of them, I decided to run this AIRA line.
I should also note my only other gripe with the S8 - no jog wheels. It's all sync button, unless you don't mind pairing it with a set of CDJs or my old Technics 1210 decks. By the time you add turntables, your dj rig is four feet long and worth over $3,000 - and good luck replacing my printine decks for anywhere near the $1,000 per set I paid back in 2001. When playing for weddings or certain clubs, the mixed-genre thing is needed. Tempo matching like a real dj is important in those settings, and the S8 left me constantly wanting jog wheels. EVERYTHING else about the controller is laid out precisely how I would like.
If you've watched the videos of KiNK online with the AIRA stuff, I know you're impressed. It's really cool to see how much you can do with a hardware drum machine (4 voices), a synth/pad line on the deck playing back in time, and a few slots of your sampler loaded and sequenced live. Really cool stuff! So, after being a life-long Traktor user (yes, I had Final Scratch 1.0) I decided to switch.
The build on the Roland DJ808 is insane. The hardware alone almost won me over 100%. Sure, the drum machine sequencer function has weird settings (like auto-quantizing my sampler slot jams, even tho really I'd like that bizarre 1/64th pattern to come through as-is), but it's cool. I did find that syncing between the TR-S (the drum machine up top) and Serato was not 100% smooth, and at times I really wished I had a nudge button. I had to beat-match manually by twisting the tempo knob on the TR-S to keep in time with the rest of my set, which left a bit to be desired.
The jog wheels - INSANELY good. I can't stress enough - the HARDWARE aspect of this thing is just beautiful. They really did knock this thing out of the park. IT's loud, clean, mean, and people often come over from the dance floor just to watch the crazy lights. It has a lot of stuff happening under the hood, so if you're capable of mixing four decks at once, with FX and live drums/samples, you'll get on with this thing fine IF YOU LIKE SERATO.
GRIPE: The FX knobs are really close to the jog wheels, so when you first start with this thing you'll accidentally tweak FX knobs as you grab the jog wheel, or vice-versa. A bit snug there, guys.
So, my first attempt was simple: Spend a ton of cash on the AIRA stuff, use the synth and MX1 to jam over top of my dj sets live. Port the beat machine portions to the sampler in serato (combined with the built-in TR-S) and have only the four decks of DVS play over the MacBook Pro.
This plan worked, in many ways. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the shining stars of this setup were the System8 and the MX1. Roland really has some darn cool gear running in this lineup, and it all connects with USB together so you can sync and send/receive audio over the USB cables. Nice job, guys. Nice job.
BUT - the DJ808 runs SERATO, which is the topic of this thread. There is no comparison. Traktor analyzes files in a way that actually detects BPM and (mostly) gets the drop beat right. Serato does NOT compete in this area. Most of my tracks were off, even standard techno *4x4* tracks. Sure, you can edit the grid live on the fly, but that's no fun when playing a mixed-genre set for four hours live on a new mixer. Sure, take time to fix the grids as you go, and still mix like a champ. I gigged with this thing three times, collected my money and praise each time, but walked away frustrated with the software every single time. During my sets I was frustrated over and over again with the silly way Serato does things. The creativity is extremely limited, there are no remix decks or stems, limited FX to select from, and the sampler is cool - but really archaic.
For example, you can save 8 slots of samples times 4 banks, and move between them. Cool. Now what if I want to save my sample slot info as a "sampler set" or something and recall it later? Nope. Not gonna happen. The software saves ONLY the sampler data for the current 32 slots. No recall. Also, if you're on bank A and you have settings specific to the 8 slots (ASDR info, loop vs one-shot, etc) it does not save this per bank. So, when you bounce to the next bank, those slots have to be edited if you don't want them to play back just as the first bank of 8 did. Make sense? It's super archaic and does not in any way compete with remix decks.
After three gigs, lots of wasted time re-striping and manually gridding lots of song files, I gave up. No Serato for me. This is the second time I attempted to switch sides, the first being when Ableton and Serato announced "the bridge", which was also a flustered, clunky, malfunctioning mess.
So, Native Instruments - you guys still WIN in the world of DVS. Congrats! Now make a controller that competes with the functionality of the Dj808... No, better yet, make Maschine Decks in Traktor an option AND make an S8 with JOG WHEELS so that people like me don't switch!