As DJ technology has been changed out of all recognition by the digital age, the demands of such a revolution have taken their toll on new gear. Traditionally mixers would be pretty empty metal cases with yawning chasms of space that readily allowed for everything to be kept inside. And because it was quite normal for them to be wedged between a pair of turntables, the natural size of a mixer was dictated by the height of said turntables.
But then controllers came along. And everything changed.
Controllers are considerably more compact affairs, and are crammed to the gills with microelectronics. But the demands of DJs are still the same, and they want a really good crossfader inside their new playthings. In the time before controllers really kicked off, most companies knocked on the door of the makes of Alpha faders, or if they were really pushing the boat out, Penny & Giles. But then the fader game exploded with new third party models with Ebsel’s Pro X Fade, followed by Audio Innovate’s Innofader.
While the Pro X Fade became a firm favourite with the scratch guys, the Innofader became a wide success with all styles of DJs. This was mostly down to Elliot Marx’s obsession in trying to get his long bodied Innofader fit into every single mixer and controller ever made. This spawned all manner of lateral thinking editions, most notably the Innobender that allowed the Innofader to sit at 90° inside the mixer and squeeze into spaces that it just wasn’t designed for.
This however was a temporary solution. The mini Innofader was the obvious solution to such hackery. There has always been a problem with squishing down a long bodied fader into a very low profile model and still have it working properly. Elliot however is a very tenacious individual, and after many late nights and shouting at factories, the original mini Innofader was born, but only for certain models of mixers and definitely not available as a third party model.
But those days are over as the official retail mini Innofader is just about to hit the shops. And being the long time buddies of Audio Innovate, we laid our hands on what are the very first units from the first production run. What you see here are the finished final models in all their shiny red and black glory.
A quick note about this article — it serves purely as a first look, to give you first impressions and important information that has up until now been missing. It doesn’t delve into the fun work of taking screwdrivers to expensive gear — that is being saved for an entirely separate article.
Wait… models plural?
Yes. The mini Innofader PNP (plug n play) comes in two models:
The P Version: You’ll recall that the original Innofader came with a crazy amount of extras by way of cables and plates to give it maximum compatibility with as many mixers as possible without resorting to busting out a soldering iron and wire cutters. That’s what the P version is — to fit the widest and most awkward of units with just about everything you could need in one box without hacking.
The S Version: This is the stripped out version designed for those who aren’t afraid of a soldering iron and can follow detailed technical instructions to get their mini Innofader to fit the widest range of mixers and controllers.
Like its bigger sibling, the mini Innofader is a non-contact capacitance based fader. Based on an off-the-shelf A-Plus low profile fader, Elliot has poured his considerable experience from the original Innofader and condensed it down to fit into the lowest profile possible. As far as I can tell, just about everything about this off-the-shelf fader has been left on the shelf, and what remains is a fader shell, and the rest is Elliot’s custom design.
The issue with low profile designs has been keeping it running smoothly. Quality on a lot of low profile faders has excluded them from being used for anything but line faders. Yes, you can scratch on them, but they simply can’t hold up under the punishment that a scratch DJ meters out. There’s also the issue of rail grab, where the very short body sticks agains the rail because it doesn’t have the long body and spaced out rails to stabilise it. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be an issue for the mini Innofader. The DJ Tech DIF-1S gets a daily battering at home and is still as good as new with no grab or sticking at all.
One major difference is the fader stem. The original Innofader comes with an 8mm stem, designed specifically to stand up to heavy handed turntablists. The new mini Innofader however comes with a regular 4mm stem. I’ve yet to hear of any issues with bending or snapping on the Traktor Kontrol Z2 or DJ Tech DIF range. Somebody always will, but I’m pretty confident of that being a rare occurrence for most.
In The Box
Cosmetically, both boxes are identical bar a checkbox on the back to indicate which model is inside. Common to both models is the inclusion of a pair of red striped fader caps. These seem to be identical to the original ones bar having a smaller hole for the fader stem.
The box also includes a small tube of Deoxit for cleaning and lubricating the mini Innofader. A cautionary warning — the mini Innofader isn’t designed to be opened up easily. There are small metal tabs that need to be pried open, as well as a small blob of solder holding the circuit board to the case. You’re going to have to really want to get inside it.
The mini Innofader boasts a number of stickers. There’s a small one for the faceplate of your mixer once you’ve done the necessary transplantation. But also included for the vinyl based user are a sheet of hot cue stickers as well as very useful vinyl labels too. Elliot is certainly making sure that the Innofader brand (that I very proudly designed) is maximised.
The P Version
Now we’re past the commonalities between the S and P versions, let’s look specifically at why they’re different.
We’ve shown that the P model is designed to make swapping out a fader much more of a plug and play affair. Just like the original Innofader PNP, the box contains a plethora of connectors that should connect the mini Innofader up to the maximum number of mixers and controllers without a hint of solder or wire cutting.
The basic fader comes with a “regular” 4 pin connector solder on board. I say regular as this is the size that a standard P&G fader used to have. After dismantling your mixer or controller to discover the connections on your fader, you simply select the additional matching cable, and connect it to the 4 pin connector on the mini Innofader. Ensuring that the onboard fader switch is in test mode i.e. pushed towards the middle of the fader, connect the mini Innofader up to your unit, power up and look out for a green LED. If that comes on, then all is well. If you see a red light, power off, disconnect the mini Innofader, flip the connector and reconnect, and after powering up you should see a green light. That’s the basic installation done.
After this, it’s a matter of calibrating the mini Innofader. This stage (which appears to be the same for S and P versions) lets you tailor the individual curves and cut-ins on a per side basis, as well as reversing the crossfader if it only fits in one way.
So that’s it. Hopefully the vast majority of people will experience little in the way of issues using the P model in the supported mixers and controllers.
Gulp. The simplicity of the S kit belies the potential complexity of what could happen next. While the S version does support some units out of the box, it really is made for those trickier models where a plug and play solution isn’t going to work so well.
Warning — the S version will require soldering of some sort. The S version circuit board has exposed pins and a detailed instruction sheet that goes some way beyond the skill levels of the majority of DJs, who are generally becoming used to “it just works” solutions for just about everything.
If you need to know which is the best solution for you, check out the constantly updated Innofader compatibility chart. When you look at the chart, it’s a safe bet that if the Innofader PNP is listed as being the one for your mixer or controller, then the P version mini Innofader will fit as well. This should save you some cash, and given the smaller footprint you should find fitting that little bit easier.
It’ll be interesting to see the list develop. Up to now, Innofader compatibility has generally been focussed around crossfaders. But with this diminutive fader comes the ability to squeeze into line fader slots too. The issue will be with those soldered onto the motherboard. I suspect that a flimsy excuse like that won’t stop Elliot from making it happen though.
This is where this first look piece ends. I just wanted to give you the heads up that the Mini Innofaders are available,and cover off the important details as to which one you should look at. I’ll be selecting some units to fit both mini Innofaders to and reporting back on how easy or indeed tough it is. We also ran an article post NAMM when the DJWORX team and Elliot got together and tackled a couple of popular units.
The feel is already established in the DJ Tech DIF-1S review and touched upon in the Kontrol S2 and S4 reviews. You can take it for granted this is silky smooth, and while not feeling quite as velvety as the bigger Innofader, the mini Innofader is still excellent and feels considerably better than any other short bodied fader
Prices and Availability
Now to the bit you’ve been waiting for. Elliot tells me that he’s expecting for boxes of freshly hatched mini Innofaders any day now, and says that within a week, they’ll be heading off to retailers in many key markets. The simpler S model will retail for $89.99 MAP, and the more complex P model will be $99.99 MAP. UK prices will be added once they’re in.
UPDATE: UK Pricing Mini S @ £84.99, Mini P @ £94.99
I’ve been a proponent of customising gear since day one. Not so much blow torches and angle grinder modding, but being able to have choice when it comes to components. So I welcome the mini Innofaders with open arms. Elliot has gone out of his way to make sure that selecting and installing is as simple as possible, and I imagine this process will be honed and simplified too. And there are always new mixers and controllers coming out too. Sadly despite the ready availability of third party faders, manufacturers do seem to make it unnecessarily hard sometimes. We can only hope that they start to change their ways and make it easier for their customers to swap out their faders in the most warranty friendly way possible.
As I’ve said, I’ll be revisiting this in the next few weeks to show just how easy or indeed hard it will be to shoehorn a mini Innofader into assorted lumps of gear. Yeah NS7 II — I’m looking at you.