Back when the full onslaught of the digital DJ revolution kept my inbox and workload fit to burst, you could always guarantee that some ultra-niche craziness would get released from one of a plethora of backstreet garage startups determined to change the world. And then it all slowed down, the little startups had their dreams destroyed by the realities of making stuff, and the industry contracted to be in the hands of just a few large companies putting out units that they know would sell, but not change the world.

What usually happens in any industry is a cycle, where those big companies run out of steam. Be it money or ideas, the bubble bursts and a fresh bunch of little companies with new ideas of changing the world pop up, designed expressly to service those niche needs all over again. 

And after a particularly shitty day, I received a truly uplifting email from the guys at dark-controller.com that transported me right back to those heady days of crazy stuff from little guys, and the world was good again. 

This project currently has three products:

DARK BOARD

To realise the ideas that they had, the guys at Dark Controller needed a circuit board on which to build their products. This process itself turned into a product in its own right, which essentially is a Teensy based board that the cleverer types out there would be able to use as a base for their own controller ideas. They sell it unpopulated for 49 euros, but are happy to talk about bundling components for you to solder yourselves. 

DARK FADER 

This is the product that captured my attention instantly. The SL-1200 pitch fader is put on a pedestal and is a key reasons that DJs love the turntable so damned much. Obviously it’s not the original analogue one, but is the digital pitch fader found in later models. 

But putting such a quality item in any old plastic home-brew box just wouldn’t work. So the Dark Fader is housed in a seriously lush metal case. Not just that, the Dark Fader also features stainless buttons (thank god for not plastic) designed for pitch bending, shift layer switching, and changing MIDI channels. 

It’s an iconic slice of Technics in a box. Why wouldn’t you want that? And if you do, it’s 330 euros, with 40 euros extra for a USB hub. 

DARK WHEEL

Wait… another iconic control in another lush heavyweight case? Hell yes. The circular Pioneer CDJ buttons are possibly visually more iconic that the 1200 pitch fader. And the Dark Controller guys are putting them into a similar case. 

And the Dark Wheel is a thing of beauty, but so much more than just buttons in a box. The key is in the name — the Dark Wheel has a custom-made jog wheel, and a handful of additional controls such as rotaries and cue buttons, essentially making this a pocket-sized deck. And when you pair that with a Dark Wheel and put them either side of a rotary mixer running with your favourite software… well that’s a boutique but modern setup right there. 

No word on price just yet — this is still in the planning stage. 

ALL HAIL THE LITTLE GUYS

It’s vitally important for these small startups to keep doing things like this. While not of immense practical or affordable use to every DJ, the fact that someone is addressing or indeed creating a niche is important. Large companies have an incredible amount of overhead to cover, thus tend to take a product route that guarantees sales without rocking the innovation boat too much.

But when a company like Dark Controller comes along, makes desirable gear that they would want to buy themselves, and importantly don’t crowdfund it (honestly, I tend to switch off when I see Kickstarter attached to a DJ product now), they get my attention and I’ll happily showcase them.

I feel it’s important for the little guy to get their time in the spotlight, and that’s what we’re here to do. The big players definitely don’t need help reaching a mass market. But the new players, often bootstrapping their dreams and not always being savvy at marketing, need all the help they can get. 

I love these units. Apparently one is coming my way, and I’ll enjoy playing with something different.