Barely a couple of weeks ago, the digital DJ world was turned on its head with the arrival of the Novation Dicer – probably the coolest-looking and certainly one of the most expressively powerful controllers ever to hit Serato Scratch users. And therein lies the quandary. What if you’re a dedicated Native Instruments Traktor (Pro/Duo/Scratch) DJ and you don’t want to make that move to Serato ‘just’ to have the pleasure of using the Dicer? Fear not, all is pretty much hunky dory for you too.
Although (at the time of writing) not yet commercially available, when shipped, Dicer will have at least one Traktor default mapping – Novation has suggested ‘numerous’ would be more likely, actually – with, no-doubt, user configurations for more specific bases covered to follow via forums on the net. I’m lucky enough to have enjoyed the privilege of being first with the initial Dicer review, but happily have also had access to Novation’s first Traktor MIDI mapping template supplied for us hacks to mess around with. So, how easy is it to set up the wonderful Dicer with the Native Instruments powerhouse of a DJ package, and how does it perform?
To load a supplied Traktor mapping, it’s necessary to firstly connect the Dicer pair to the computer, then launch the application in that specific order. Then, select preferences >’controller manager’ and import the relevant Traktor .tsi file. The first thing that strikes you is that the supplied mapping is considerably different to Dicer’s Serato functionality – but then again, it would be really.
The first Novation Dicer layer is the red one, which normally handles hot cue settings, subsequent triggering and deletion if required. This is the only layer that more or less duplicates the Serato Scratch configuration entirely. The question, then, is how Traktor responds to these hot cues? Okay, in a nutshell – not quite as good as when in Serato use. If I were to give a Serato hot cue live entry and trigger response a 100% accuracy figure, the Traktor mode would get an 80%. If, in live track playing mode, I tapped in precisely at the beginning of a beat, the subsequent reaction would trigger ever so slightly clipped. If entering a hot cue over a static file, the re-trigger response was more accurate.
The second green layer in this Traktor template – which is green – handles basic looping functions (and not the dynamic ‘loop roll’ from the Serato version). A single button loop on/off, separate half and double buttons (which climb up or drop down the beat divisions of Traktor’s 32 beats to 1/32nd of a beat) and a ‘move loop fwd/back’ pair complete the five Dice areas here. This layer works very well indeed and all buttons respond perfectly to kick in their respective functions.
Keeping with the default layers for now, the third amber mode – used for standard looping on the Serato version – really brings the Dicer/Traktor mapping into its own league. Here, the five Dice buttons are assigned to effects on and off (working on all three of a ‘chained rack), and two handle medium step dry/wet mix increase and decrease. Remember that one of Traktor Pro’s main USP’s is the huge amount of effects that are available and the multi-stack feature involved, so this one Dicer layer alone, I reckon, would justify a Dicer purchase for Traktor experts.
As with the Serato/Dicer config, the green and amber modes have shift-changeable layers, which allow for ten further user MIDI mappings as required. The Traktor version is no different, and as such I was easily able to assign such control functions as track play/pause, track load, set ‘sync’ to deck and so on. I’d envisage that totally rad and experienced Traktor users would really go to town on their bespoke MIDI mappings to further exploit the potential for Dicer to rock those amazing effects even more, going probably further and having multiple setups for EQ, levels, mixing, navigation and all manor of Traktor-related goodies.
So, with one minor gripe on the hot cue response (easily overcome by setting one’s head to slightly pre-delay any input actions I’d guess), everything else is darn awesome when it comes to the marriage of the new hardware with the Traktor professional family. For any Traktor users that have zero control hardware other than a mouse and computer keyboard, the decision as to whether they actually need this particular combo has gotta be the no-brainer of the century, really – go get the Novation Dicer!