The technology game is all about littering PR with superlatives — faster, smaller, bigger, better. And it seems that turntablism and in particular scratching has seen a shift towards cheaper, smaller, and lighter via the portablist movement. And just when you think you’ve seen the craft reduced to its most compact paradigm, along comes something that blows it all out of the water.
Courtesy of the brilliant mind of Andy “Rasteri” Tait comes the SC1000, a portable digital scratch instrument. Yes there is a little latency in the video — I downloaded it here, adjusted the audio, and it’s perfect. I had read a comment about fakery, but I assure you that there is none.
I asked Andy for a couple of paragraphs to explain, and here they are:
The SC1000 is a portable digital scratch instrument, based around the Raspberry Pi and Xwax. It requires no computer, tablet or phone, and loads samples and beats from a USB stick. At less than the size of three stacked DVD cases, it’s probably the smallest integrated portablist solution ever. Despite this, the software and hardware have been carefully tuned and optimised for turntablism, and it’s responsive enough for even the most complex scratch patterns. It can also run for more than ten hours on battery power.
The device, including its enclosure, is designed to be as easy to build as possible and uses no custom parts apart from printed circuit boards. I haven’t decided on the best way to get it out there, but it will be possible for anyone with a bit of electronics know-how to build one, and I hope other makers in the portablist scene will be interested in manufacturing some. As most of the software on the device is open-source, I will of course open-source my changes to the Xwax codebase.
But let’s take a look at the unit itself. It’s battery powered but also mains run from a USB C port (yay!). The purported battery life is a staggering 10 hours, which should keep any outdoor or even toiletablist happy.
It’s a touch sensitive metal platter — any metal in fact. And preempting the twitching modders with a commercial eye, if screen printed it must be a conductive ink. But I can imagine at least one of my friends jumping all over this and etching 4″ metal disks that resemble vinyl.
The really clever stuff comes with the sound handling. Having a Raspberry Pi inside means that file handling from USB is a reality. And you’ll see separate controls for beats and samples — they exist in their own folders on the USB drive, and the SC1000 can load them in with the selector buttons, as well as controlling the volume independently as well. Nice.
Basically, this is an extremely polished home-brew project. Andy’s knowledge and skills shine here, and are equally at play in the more advanced 7PS Portable Scratcher project too. He hasn’t really thought about commercialising the SC1000, and seeing as all the parts bar the PCB are off the shelf, at this point he sees it more as a DIY project. Again, that’ll tap right into the modding ethos of the portablist scene.
Indeed it does, and I had to dig deep into the archives of skratchworx, way waaaaaay back (14+ years to be exact) into the mess of broken links to find the very first machine that promised to deliver exactly what I wanted from a truly portable device. And that was the Freq Factory from Opus Frequency Labs.
I’m pretty sure that the project never progressed beyond what you see in the video. Others have taken the idea of using a vinyl control surface to control synth sounds.
I know Andy has been working on his version for a very long time too. I seem to remember the very early iteration of the SC1000 turning up at BPM 2008 — we even covered it all the way back then on skratchworx too. But I’m so pleased to see it mature into a product that is right for the scene. Like so many boundary pushers, sometimes they’re just too soon for the market to process.
It’s like the critical mass of scratching — the smallest possible all-in-one device before scratching becomes impossible. It’s moved beyond portable turntable and is almost something else, like a Heath Robinson version of an iPod. Pocketablism? Tinytablism? Dare I say… toytablism?
Obviously it’s not real turntablism or portablism because of the lack of vinyl or something (tongue firmly jammed in cheek so hard it hurts), so expect street battles between heavily modded PT01 Scratch owners lugging their now monstrous 7″ decks in backpacks, and the new breed just pulling SC1000s out of their shirt pockets. Or wearing them on watch straps, ready to rumble.