The DJ market has been faced with divergent needs since the beginning of the controller revolution. Most users (probably 85%) want very simple plug and play interfaces that are reliable and follow a standard workflow. The rest of the market, however, may have different needs which require a more customizable approach. For them, the modular solutions that have been offered over the last few years (Behringer CMDs; Allen & Heath K2; Native Instruments X1, X1MK2, Z1, F1; etc.) have been starting to fill this need. Unfortunately, in my opinion, most of these solutions still follow that very standard workflow of the classic DJ that the new controller DJ may not need.
With software moving in very different directions, be it Ableton Live or Traktor’s Remix Decks, MIDI controllers have been unable to keep up with changes to software. If my workflow requires a slight differentiation from how Native Instruments expects me to work, I have to go through the onerous task of remapping my controller, and due to the general design paradigms that might not even be possible.
So imagine my excitement when I saw the Kickstarter for Palette. Before I start giving you my thoughts, here’s the video:
For a professional kit in aluminum (my preference over wood) it will run me around $379, not much less than a Tweaker or a Twitch. But the possibilities are very interesting to me. Each module is locked together and linked to a power unit, which is connected to the computer via USB. The desktop app they preview on the site will allow you to customize the functions of the controls based around software of your choice, but the video and Kickstarter pages don’t spend much time showing it. You can build the secondary, or even primary, controller for your rig which will probably never be designed by a major manufacturer, and won’t require you to pick up a soldering iron.
One of the best design choices they made, at least to me, is the connectors. It is a messy experience running 4 USB cables into a hub just to have three controllers and an audio interface (ex: 2 X1MK2s, a Behringer MM-1 and an eBox-44) for a complete setup. The SCS3s tried to rectify this problem by connecting the cables through the cases, but even that was frustrating and messy. If I could, instead, have built a single unit that does all of those things I could have a much cleaner, more compact setup. And that’s something which Palette could easily allow me to do. Obviously, cost does become an issue, but I wouldn’t need all the controls provided by those modular controllers since I could build exactly what I need for my style.
Or, alternatively, if I want to add just that little bit of extra functionality to my DVS rig, this would be perfect. Most modular controllers are released with a very general functionality. The X1MK2, for example, has all basic transport functionality, which I don’t need when I’m spinning on turntables. And due to the frustration of remapping in the controller manager, making it do what I want is not the most enticing solution either. This would allow me to put together a small, well-lit, informational control surface to augment my existing rig very easily. And, to bring Serato into this, since their control solutions are practically nil at this point for modular control, the Palette would allow me to take advantage of their extra functionality easily without needing to buy another full deck controller.
This is a concept that really gets me excited, and I hope to see it succeed, get funded, and happen. So,