Richie Hawtin Arkaei playDifferently mixer

Getting the playDifferently mixer from Richie Hawtin’s hands proved to be harder than Ray had expected.

Here at DJWORX, we no longer believe in signing non-disclosure agreements. Frankly, if you think the only DJ technology blog never to break an embargo can’t be trusted with confidential information, you can just pack up whatever you’re selling and take it elsewhere. Between our team members, we’re aware of most developments within the industry, and that privilege is maintained due to our ability to keep secrets. We will never sacrifice our credibility and integrity for a few clicks. As such, being confronted with an NDA before getting to see Richie Hawtin’s new playDifferently mixer immediately turned us off to the idea — after all, why would we be interested in something we can’t discuss with our audience afterwards? We write for you, not for the industry, and we won’t sign over our firstborn just to become another part of someone’s hype machine.

Luckily, the NDA I was presented with turned out to be a pretty harmless embargo only — not the usual multi-page bureaucrat’s wet dream filled with all sorts of threats (“if this leaks, we’ll eat your cat and make you watch!”)(and usually silences you about anything for a period of 3-5 years — Ed), but more like a plain old gentleman’s agreement to shut up about specific details until the release, or else… well nothing really. I can respect that, so I signed — and got a one-on-one walk-through by Richie Hawtin himself.

As it stands, the playDifferently mixer is at such a late stage of development that any core changes to its design are unlikely. I was told the announcement can be expected to happen quite soon, so you won’t have to wait very long for us to go really deep with it. I did, however, also agree not to talk about it — so why am I even writing this? Because looking at the way Richie Hawtin performs and the way I perform should allow you to try to fill in the blanks yourself, based on the vaguest of hints — and we all like to speculate. So let’s see what we can get away with, shall we?

The playDifferently has a lot of things going on that appeal to me on a technical level — but at the same time, it’s definitely not for me. In a way, it reminded me of the Rane MP2015: amazing to play on, yet unlikely to become a permanent part of my setup, but most definitely something I would like to own and mix with, if only for the sheer enjoyment of using a smartly engineered tool for sculpting my sound. There are many things about it that I’ve always wanted to see on a DJ mixer — things mused about on many gear forums for years. I was really happy to see these things finally implemented on a unit. Other features, albeit genuinely unexpected, simply make sense — but some are so specialized, I’m pretty sure most people won’t have a clue how to use them in the first place.

I wouldn’t call the playDifferently “game-changing”, aside from the fact that it’s a horribly overused marketing buzzword — if anything, the correct term would be “game-refining”. It screams smart from top to bottom, and just like the artist behind it, rather than overstimulate, raises basic principles to new heights by focusing on how to really nail down every single detail within. Am I excited? In the context of my setup, not really — the Rane Sixty-Four is still my weapon of choice, and the only mixer that allows me to do certain things — but those are things only very few people bother with. I’m itching to get my fingers on this new beast for a review, and I’m seriously intrigued by how the industry will respond, because there are several concepts the playDifferently gets incredibly right.

TEA WITH THE PLASTIKMAN

So… what’s this Plastikman like, anyway? Well, meeting a person who’s set major trends in electronic music before I even knew what a turntable looks like should be a humbling experience, but this one really wasn’t. Richie Hawtin has this QBert-like air of complete relaxedness about him — I guess that’s a natural side effect of reaching a near-untouchable level after years of hard work. We spoke briefly about technology and tea (apparently I’m not the only person who travels with a fresh ginger root in his DJ bag), shook hands and moved on — you know, like two ordinary people. If only our comment section were so civilized on controversial articles… oh well, a man can dream.

By the way, here’s that invincibilitea recipe we talked about. Of course you can experiment with different kinds of mint, honey and black tea to taste – but you can also trust me, because I’ve been doing that very thing for a couple of years and this is the conclusion.