Novation-Twitch-Dj-Controller-and-Serato-Itch

Exclusive Review! Novation Twitch DJ Controller and Serato Itch

67 responses

For too long, the DJ industry has been going round in circles – literally. Novation’s latest offering to the DJ world eschews the entire ‘wheels of steel’ principle and tries to show us another way. We took a look to see whether or not it’s the right way to turn.

SPECS

  • Product: Novation Twitch
  • Price: £399/$499 – Available here
  • Connection: USB
  • Ships with: Serato Itch
  • I/O: ¼” master, RCA booth, and headphone (3.5mm and ¼”) out, RCA and ¼” mic in.

All Dj TechTool’s readers get 10% off a Twitch unit. Click here and use the promo code: ReviewTwitch

THE GOOD

  • Slicer mode is superb
  • Eminently portable
  • Professionally printed Traktor mapping overlay
  • Touch strip is a clever way to save space and facilitate easy adjustment of many parameters

THE BAD

  • Slightly loose channel faders
  • Lights are a bit dim in bright conditions
  • Low volume output compared to other controllers
  • The knobs are not very grippy.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In daring to think outside the box, Novation have really come up trumps with Twitch. It looks good, feels sturdy, and the Slicer mode in Itch is a lot of fun.

THE UNIT

Twitch is small and light enough to sling into a bag with a distinct lack of fuss. Construction wise it’s actually quite similar to the NI Kontrol X1 and Maschine, with lightweight plastic body, a brushed metal fascia, and rubber buttons. Totally bus powered and with the audio interface onboard, portability is a high scoring area for Twitch.

Inputs and outputs are ¼” TRS for master, RCA for booth, headphones with both size connectors on board and a discreet input that will accept RCA input round the back and ¼” mic on the front. Booth output can be switched between master and cue operation, and all in all the audio quality from the 24/48 audio interface is both loud and clear.

It’s no mean feat to power a unit with as many flashing lights as Twitch, whose dashboard is somewhere between space shuttle and KITT (90s babies may, regretfully, miss out on this reference). The relatively small amount of juice that the unit can draw through USB means the lighting lacks a certain radiance in direct light, although it’s still clear.

The size of the unit really feels just right. Because the touch strip, faders and pads are all within easy reach of each other experimenting with tricks and effects feels natural. If I had one qualm it’d be that the main effects are in the corner away from the action, but even mulling that over made me consider that as a cue for the audience to really connect with you as a performer, a little movement around the interface is a good thing.

STARTING AFRESH

Twitch’s USP is the fact that rather than emulating the turntable based DJing paradigm, it focuses on buttons and touch strips to control the action. This might seem a small point to some, especially those that have never focused their attention on turntables or platters, but in operation it turns the Twitch experience into something that feels fresh and, dare I say it, pioneering. Invariably when confronted with a new controller, I go through the motions of exploring its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to scratching emulation and transferring the tried and tested DJing paradigm to its controls, and it usually feels like the manufacturer has had a very similar process during design. Twitch is completely different, and because there’s very little common ground between it and what we already know, I found myself immediately trying new things and exploring new ideas rather than rehashing (and often compromising) skills I learned on vinyl.

Of course I did try to see how the touch strip performed for scratching and manipulation, unsurprisingly the scratching sounds aren’t really worth playing with, as the small touch strip doesn’t give the accuracy required for anything approaching a party ready sound effect. That said the spinbacks sound great – we heard from Serato that despite the linear nature of transport in Twitch the deck is still modeled on a rotary platter, so flinging the playhead back and forth sounds pretty authentic.

What the touch strip really shines for is fine pitch adjustments and seeking, and in a stroke of genius parameter adjustment of the pads using swipes and gestures; because the touch strip is in easy reach of the pads it allows for some complicated fills and transitions to come to life.

SLICER

Slicer mode works by creating a section on the track and splitting that section into eight evenly spaced cue points, which are triggered by the pads. There are two modes: one press of Slicer mode makes the section shift forward continuously, letting the track play as normal, and two presses actually loops the section. Section length can be adjusted with a pinch gesture, so if set to one bar you get to play with and rearrange 8th notes of the track, if set to two bars each pad lands on a beat, and so on. As the sequence plays, triggering a pad will rearrange the playing audio but the track will always resume where it would have been; it’s akin to loop roll. The timing of the triggering can be adjusted with a single finger swipe of the touch strip too, from extremely quick stutter effects when the pad is held down to the length of the slices or longer, which has the effect of quantising the button presses. There’s one more aspect of Slicer mode, and that’s that if you’re in the middle of a slice juggling pattern when the track would normally move on, it remains locked. Put all this together and you get a function that you can get really creative with, from things as simple as an advanced loop roll all the way to live remixing.

MORE FEATURES

Fader effects are another great addition to the unit. With the tap of a button the faders change from track volume to effect parameters, and the ergonomic advantages to having effects right in the centre of the action are huge. It really does highlight the limitations of Itch though, if you’re used to complicated fader effects arrays like those facilitated by Traktor in the Midi Fighter Pro mappings, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Itch 2 release which should hopefully improve the effects support of the software line.

As a way round the long annoying ‘pitch fader conundrum’, Novation have plumped for a rotary encoder for Twitch’s decks, and it’s implemented fantastically. Single clicks of rotation will adjust the pitch by 0.01%, but acceleration compensation kicks in for fast turns and a quick half twist will shift the pitch 3% or so. Of course, manual pitch adjustment is becoming less and less important, but it’s still handy to have, and combined with the touch slider’s pitch bending capabilities it gives you, arguably, even more control than a CDJ when it comes to riding tracks with tempo drifts (on that note, here’s hoping the Itch 2 update allows for more advanced beat gridding).

The only build quality issue I have with Twitch is the faders, as the channel faders are perhaps a little bit waggly (that’s the technical term). The crossfader has about the same cut lag as a Pioneer DJM-800, so whilst it’s not perfect it does work for some cutting when using Twitch as an internal mixer for a Traktor Scratch setup, and something that I just started to really get to grips with before the review. At the moment I’m trying to squeeze a moment of genius out of my noggin that’ll allow me to hack together a Slicer mode for Traktor, but I have a nasty feeling it’s not possible right now. If and when it is, though, Twitch could really be amazing as a Traktor Scratch mixer (required purchase of a NI audio interface notwithstanding).

SUMMARY

Twitch is primarily an Itch controller, and the Slicer mode is a genuinely innovative feature that’s not on any other DJ software out of the box. That said, Twitch works very well with Traktor and Ableton Live (the touchstrip definitely feels best in Itch, though), and indeed there’s a pre-printed overlay for the included Traktor mapping in the box. The bottom line is that Twitch is still definitely a DJ controller, not a generic MIDI controller with DJ capability shoehorned onto its buttons, but it takes things in an interesting new direction. It’s a slice of forward thinking (geddit?) that’ll hopefully persuade other manufacturers to be braver with their designs.

Are you excited about Twitch’s approach? A short video demonstrating our favourite bits of Twitch is on the way, but in the meantime let us know your thoughts and ideas for using Twitch creatively!

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  • Pari Greenlime

    Hi, does anyone know what kind of (brand/ model/ or type) touchstrip controllers does the Twitch use? I’m trying to design a controller for ableton with a touchstrip controller for viewing and zooming into a clip in the track view window.by pinch zoom like in Android phones or whatever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.graham.75873708 Mike Graham

    I am seriously considering one of these.

  • Hbklive

    can you go hamster mode on the x-fader?

  • Irshu88

    Now that Traktor 2.5 is announced and due for release in April, You think there would be a Mapping for the Clip launching Properties of Traktor 2.5 incorporated for twitch’s pads? DJTT, now is the time to work your magic!

  • Djamesburke

    hi i have a question regarding your mentioned possible use of twitch as a scratch mixer. did u mean using it with timecode, is that even possible? or did u mean just using it to control the software  as its intended with the overlay included? and when using it with traktor normally do u need an NI audio interface or can u use the built in one? thanks, djames.

  • Djamesburke

    hi i have a question regarding your mentioned possible use of twitch as a scratch mixer. did u mean using it with timecode, is that even possible? or did u mean just using it to control the software  as its intended with the overlay included? and when using it with traktor normally do u need an NI audio interface or can u use the built in one? thanks, djames.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1022748911 Karl Albert Mikkelsen Jr

    I’m intrigued. I am setting up a new crew for weddings and these seem to fit the bill in every way. They are inexpensive and they seem to be able do what a wedding DJ needs. I will let you know in a couple of months…

  • Samuel

    Is it possible to change the 8-feature buttons to arcade buttons?

  • Samuel

    Is it possible to change the 8-feature buttons to arcade buttons?

    • Dj_forcedhand

      Why? Are you aware that the Twitch buttons are (color-changable) LED back-lighted? By making them square there’s no wasted space between buttons (unlike round, arcade buttons). I guess if you prefer the arcade buttons, you can buy a midi-fighter module.

  • Deny Roxtaz

    Just bought it & use with Traktor Pro 2. Great machine, but could be better. All plus & minus Ean correctly notice in his review.

  • Deny Roxtaz

    Just bought it & use with Traktor Pro 2. Great machine, but could be better. All plus & minus Ean correctly notice in his review.

  • Filipegrg

    Why the blogs review dont tell the deficient lower twitch output ?

  • Filipegrg

    Why the blogs review dont tell the deficient lower twitch output ?

  • TEPIC

    i ordered it thru guitar center it will be here this week. i cant wait especially since itch 2.0 JUST came out …

  • TEPIC

    i ordered it thru guitar center it will be here this week. i cant wait especially since itch 2.0 JUST came out …

  • TEPIC

    i ordered it thru guitar center it will be here this week. i cant wait especially since itch 2.0 JUST came out …

  • TEPIC

    i ordered it thru guitar center it will be here this week. i cant wait especially since itch 2.0 JUST came out …

  • Mike Katowice

    Anyone have any idea when it will be available in the states? Speficic date not just “late July or early August”

  • Mike Katowice

    Anyone have any idea when it will be available in the states? Speficic date not just “late July or early August”

  • Mike Katowice

    Anyone have any idea when it will be available in the states? Speficic date not just “late July or early August”

  • http://www.djpc3.com DJ PC3

    To be honest I feel this is the way most controllers should be. The need for Jog-wheels is… unnecessary. With the strip search you get all the ability to scrub through a track (which is what any jog wheel was for); other than that there really is no need for jog wheels, you can’t scratch on them (well), and anyone that wants to be a scratch artist just simply needs to buy turntables. So why waste space with them; this strip search idea is BRILLIANT! 

  • http://www.djpc3.com DJ PC3

    To be honest I feel this is the way most controllers should be. The need for Jog-wheels is… unnecessary. With the strip search you get all the ability to scrub through a track (which is what any jog wheel was for); other than that there really is no need for jog wheels, you can’t scratch on them (well), and anyone that wants to be a scratch artist just simply needs to buy turntables. So why waste space with them; this strip search idea is BRILLIANT! 

  • http://www.djpc3.com DJ PC3

    To be honest I feel this is the way most controllers should be. The need for Jog-wheels is… unnecessary. With the strip search you get all the ability to scrub through a track (which is what any jog wheel was for); other than that there really is no need for jog wheels, you can’t scratch on them (well), and anyone that wants to be a scratch artist just simply needs to buy turntables. So why waste space with them; this strip search idea is BRILLIANT! 

  • http://www.djpc3.com DJ PC3

    To be honest I feel this is the way most controllers should be. The need for Jog-wheels is… unnecessary. With the strip search you get all the ability to scrub through a track (which is what any jog wheel was for); other than that there really is no need for jog wheels, you can’t scratch on them (well), and anyone that wants to be a scratch artist just simply needs to buy turntables. So why waste space with them; this strip search idea is BRILLIANT! 

  • Lester

    The only snag for me right now is that there is only one bank of FX knobs, so no ability to control the fx on both tracks playing.

    • Steve

      All you have to do is press both the “deck A” and “deck B” buttons in the fx box in the top left corner and the fx knob within that box WILL control both (at least in Itch it will)

      • Steve

        *press those buttons SIMULTANEOUSLY*

  • http://twitter.com/migueladobe mike blakely

    Just FYI – its easier to go from Serato to Traktor with file cue point mapping wise. I might have to take this to burning man, it seems the easiest, cleanest, dust resistant, controller vs taking a sound card, vci, and launch pad. 

  • Eric

    Born in 92 and I dig Knight Rider son. Boom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dunztar Luis Gimenez

    I dunno doesn’t look very interesting to me… innovative yes… 

  • Gary

    ++++++1 on a DJTT mapping and overlay on this controller.

  • spacebrownie

    this should kick many other controllers’ ass. the qualityfeaturesprice ratio is perfect I think. only opting for no external power source, and strictly usb could be an obvious down point. but if it works fine with usb, then why not…

  • http://www.facebook.com/freshlikeseanp Sean Patrick

    It would be great if this had phono amps and you could use this as a hybrid of SSL and Itch (similar to the S4 + Traktor Scratch).  If that were the case then it would be a great addition to my setup.

  • Tcowan Atl

    I would prob had bought this is they had two aux inputs so turntablist like me could use the controller with our turntables like w/S4

  • Pyryoer

    Any chance we could get a review tailored to using the Twitch with Traktor? The effects of itch are just so limited.

  • cuttervance

    The Twitch looks fantastic with Traktor too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbdpuGDIULM

    I love the way you can change the mode of the 8 pads with modifier buttons, and it manages to include full FX controls. I can totally see this replacing my launchpad + X1 setup.

  • Jasonmd2020

    Ok I do scratch a bit while performing & I gotta question: Has anyone tried hooking a CDJ to the aux input of the twitch for timecode purposes?

  • jprime

    Awesome.   Super Want.  Lovely marriage between controller and ITCH.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrismjennings Chris Jennings

    If there were anything to make me switch from Traktor to Serato this would be it. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=698078219 Graham Danger Evans

      Or… you could just map this to Traktor…

      • Anonymous

        or just use it as an excuse to get ITCH :)

        the 2.0 update will very likely be an impressive piece of software

        Since I saw it, I really like the controller a lot!

      • Peter Lennon

        theres no mapping in the box…where the hell did he get that ??? and if he got that, why didnt he vcheck it out – my box got no tsi, neither got the novation website  - or??

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=698078219 Graham Danger Evans

      Or you could just map it to Traktor.

    • Joey Kremer

      you should switch to Serato anyway, I find it to simply work better.

  • Anonymous

    Want. Badly. Must have. Just about the most exciting DJ controller to come along in YEARS, a big step forwards in platter-free DJing and I hope to see more like this. Now we just need to extract it from it’s software to make it fully useful…

    • Spacecamp

      Yep. No jogwheels = shut up and take my money. 

  • Flik

    Now, this is something to be excited about. Different, progressive, doesnt cost the earth and novation build great stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001048670875 Johnathon Robert Flores

    I think This is a another good step forward with DJing “packing it’s bags and leaving it’s marriage with turntablism”. I know turntables have been around since the beginning and they deserve their respect, but I think this controller is what’s gonna help the rest evolve it the perfect DJ Controller

  • http://www.facebook.com/brikha Emil Beatsnatcher Brikha

    I’ve been in love with this little baby since I first saw it a few months back. Been obsessing over it since then and was throwing fists at God when I saw it was delayed 1 month. I hope they will keep the date this time and have it at my door step on August 1st.

  • http://twitter.com/yugen yugen

    Great review.  Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/PaulHolland-DoubleDutchdj/100001027166218 PaulHolland DoubleDutchdj

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, step aside VCI ean golden edition, Twitch is screaming out for a fully featured Techtools Traktor map and layover, in fact it’s begging for it!

    I really like the thought of sticking a set of 1210′s either side of the Twitch and using it as some sort of hybrid Traktor battle mixer, fingers crossed Elliot Marx from Audio Innovate will be working on a hack to cram an Innofade inside. Alas, Traktors internal mode crux, of no post fade fun sadly equals limitations.

    If Rane’s vice like grip on SSL ever loosens, then things with Serato could get very interesting. Imagine being able to combine Hi res controllers with DVS, plus video and The Bridge. Hopefully in the coming years Serato will adopt more of an open ended nature where you could combine different itch controllers and possibly DVS.

    • http://www.facebook.com/max.newson Max Newson

      yeah djtt overlay ftw! this is a lovely looking controller i must say and the price point is spot on. As long as itch had echo freeze and decent filters i’d happily leave traktor behind… does it?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/PaulHolland-DoubleDutchdj/100001027166218 PaulHolland DoubleDutchdj

        Don’t quote me on this but I think Itch has post fade fx so echo freeze in some ways not needed, drop the fade and the echo tail will still be there. I think the lack of jogs is a massive selling point to Traktor users as your not paying for a feature that becomes a low res un accurate space waster. Novation are certainly the first to make a controller that’ll be great on either software. The Twitch isn’t really something that I need but I got the feeling I’ll find it hard to avoid purchasing.

  • Tcowan Atl

    I like the booth and master out options…I can also see this being an easy acade button mod and sick controller if you make 16 drum pads to work like midi fighter

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001048670875 Johnathon Robert Flores

      I was thinking the same exact thing

    • Remote

      Not to be a Donny Downer. But I doubt that very much. such a compact unit is like to be one system board all over which means not enough room to drop in arcade buttons. It’s the same problem the S4 has.

    • Djchris73

      How do you know you will NEED the arcade buttons?

  • http://www.facebook.com/darren.e.cowley Darren E Cowley

    Mine’s at home! Yay!

    Cheers
    D

    • http://twitter.com/SamBenDavid SamBenDavid aka DJew

      I hate you ;) 

    • The BladeRunners

      Have one on pre-order.
      Hope it ships soon!
      Great review.

  • Rdevora

    Hopefully this controller does well so that novation can put out a 4 channel tracktor version even though you can already map this to tracktor, the plug and play option along with the additional channels would be nice. Be a great contender to the denn, pio & S4

  • http://twitter.com/alessandrosav Alessandro Savage

    I really really want to try this. I was going to ask when this will be out but I already have an answer I think.

  • Noelflava

    Seems like a great controller for the price, and its tiny. : ) 

  • http://www.ali.dj Hedgehog

    Very nice review. I had the chance to discuss and try Twitch for like two hours with an Ableton employee. They make great use of the touchstrip. 
    Changing the loop-size via a two-finger pinch & zoom didn’t feel very natural though.

    Itch 2.0 doesn’t have advanced beat-gridding features up until now.
    What are you looking for exactly?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001286572271 Ryan Notixx Sinatra

    awesome! wantttttt