Novation DICER :: New Serato / Digital DJ Controller Announced :: Video & Review…

Novation’s new DJ controller, the Dicer, is set to fill the looping and cueing needs of many Serato users.

One of the key things that differentiates DJing with a digital DJ system as opposed to vinyl is the option to use cue-points in order to cue your songs without backspinning or needle dropping back to the beginning of the record. This allows you to beat-match much faster by spending more time correcting the pitch of the incoming record and far less time re-cueing it. Up until now most of the working DJs I know achieved this by pressing the number keys on their laptop keyboards which correspond to assignable cue-points in Serato.

There are a number of problems with this approach, chief among them being that while mixing you often don’t want to move from turntable to laptop and back again.  Also on many computers there is some latency meaning that there is a delay between when you tap the key and when the track starts.  Obviously this is a serious problem in a timing oriented practice like DJing.

Novation’s Dicer controllers address both of these questions nicely.  The main issue of ergonomics is solved very well by placing the controller directly on the corner of the turntable using a mount that fits nicely into the 7″ or 45 adapter holder on every turntable.  The placement of the units (one on each turntable) is very ergonomic and allows you to move quickly between triggering a cue-point and making a pitch or timing adjustment on your vinyl control record.  The latency issue is also solved and the units are pleasantly responsive.  One issue which came up for discussion here at Dubspot was that there might be an issue with having the needle jump if you tap the buttons too vigorously.    I personally have a tendency to over-hit gear and break my equipment when getting too amped up in the moment and so would be a prime candidate for this problem but my personal experience having performed with the units is that with a reasonably light touch this should not be a problem.

Hot Cue Mode: Add, delete and trigger Serato’s cue points on the fly.  The controller lights up red and each of the five buttons can be assigned.
Loop Roll Mode: Drop into a short loop in sync with the track that will drop back out where the track would have continued if it had not been interrupted.  The controller lights up green and the five buttons correspond to 1/4, 1/8, 1/16/, 1/32 and 1/64 note divisions.
Auto Loop Mode: Turn on Serato’s loop function based on the track’s BPM starting from wherever you are currently playing.  When deactivated it will continue from where the track is looping.  The five buttons correspond to 16 beats, 8 beats, 4 beats, 2 beats, 1 beat.

The cue-points can be added by tapping an un-assigned button and the buttons light up red to provide clear visual feedback as to what cue points have and haven’t been assigned.  Once a cue has been assigned you can tap it again to jump to that point instantly.  This can be used to create some cool beat juggling type effects which you will see in the accompanying video above.
I see the cue-point feature to be the major killer application for this product however the controllers offer two additional modes.  The second mode (when the controller lights up green) is loop roll mode.  In this mode if you have the BPM calculated for the track playing (this must be analyzed before performing or typed in) then you can touch the buttons to trigger repeating loop rolls of different lengths.  This can be used to create interesting build or stutter effects but I would advise against over-using them.  They will get old quickly if used too often.  These are more of a flashy look-at-me type feature than something I would see myself using day to day.
The last mode is auto loop mode and while less exciting than loop roll is likely to be far more useful.  It enables you to jump into a loop (starting at 16 beats  and getting smaller) generated automatically again based on the tracks BPM in Serato.  This is a feature you might find useful if you discovered you were about to run out of a record playing and needed some additional time to mix.  You could drop into loop mode for a little while to repeat a piece of the track before jumping out and continuing to play from where you left off.
The Dicer units are powered by a single USB cable and what looks like an 1/8th inch cable which connects the USB cabled unit to the other.  It is plug and play out of the box with the latest version of Serato and apparently will offer options to be configured to work with other software like Traktor.  There is no software to setup and it can alternately be mounted to either a CDJ by un-screwing the foot for the 45 adaptor or stuck to the space on your laptop where your wrists would rest.
The final and very important feature of Dicer that I think will greatly help it’s popularity is the price.  At approximately US $99 retail for a pair of controls this product will not be a major financial commitment to pick up and try out in your sets.  The low cost, combined with the extreme portability – they literally fit in my front jeans pockets – ought to put Dicer in a good position.

Do you think this is a product that you would use? Does it do what you want it to? Have a question about it? Leave us a comment!

  • Tweets that mention check out a review I did for of Novation's new Dicer DJ controllers #dicer --
  • 6/3/2010

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Shadetek, Matt Shadetek, SeratoHQ, Dubspot, Brian Akpa and others. Brian Akpa said: RT @mattshadetek: check out a review I did for @dubspot of Novation's new Dicer DJ controllers #dicer [...]

  • DJ Sean P
  • 6/3/2010

If it’s as cheap as you say – then it’s a no brainer – a must buy for me! I’ve been unhappy with other controllers because I just keep reaching back to my laptop. This has my primary functions lined up right by my finger tips. It will make things just a little more accessible, which when performing makes a world of difference.

  • Anomoly
  • 6/3/2010

very cool… i don’t have 100 to drop on it… but i would drop $40 for it.

  • Anomoly
  • 6/3/2010

Very cool… I think that it’s more for the trance/house/electro/funk dj’s but i could see using it with hiphop and top 40. i’m not so sure i would drop $100 on it… maybe $60 but i’m interested in checking it out. more vids please