Hands On With The Novation Twitch

Review Summary:

It's definitely a good all-in-one for those who aren't interested in having permanent use of four decks. Its mapping with ITCH is excellent, giving the user a great out-of-the-box complete solution. Its built-in audio interface is high-quality, and the ITCH software has unlimited lifetime updates, so it matches up to the Native Instruments S4 in several regards. However, it's more portable than the S4 and for me, more suited to hardcore controllerism.

Twitch
  • Twitch
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Novation
  • Price: $300
  • Reviewed by:
  • On June 20, 2011
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Twitch

Review: Novation Twitch

The Novation Twitch DJ controller caused a real stir on its first public outing at the Musikmesse Show as reported by Digital DJ Tips earlier this year, being the first major controller to offer DJs an alternative to jogwheels in an all-in-one controller. On Friday I went to Sonar Barcelona 2011 with the main aim of getting my hands on the new Novation Twitch to see if it’s as good as Novation’s Twitch YouTube video suggests. Here’s my review:

Layout and build quality

The unit is a bit smaller than I expected, though it’s not fiddly (and I have big hands); the pads are well spaced-out as are the EQ knobs and faders. The only issues I had were minor ones. Firstly that the line faders seemed quite loose, which I was assured was down to the fact that this was a pre production unit that has been used to death on every demo and testing process they’ve done (in which case the fact that every feature was still working perfectly is promising for build quality). My second issue was LED brightness, but this was in the middle of the day in a very bright white tent, so all the controllers in there were struggling under the Spanish sun. I later saw it in a demonstration indoors and the LEDs were plenty bright enough.

In use

I spent a couple of hours talking to Simon from Novation, who’s brand manager for the Twitch. We spoke a lot about the Twitch’s development, and what became abundantly clear is that they have put a lot of time and effort into mapping this to ITCH, both in terms of firmware and software, and it works extremely well. I was a little worried beforehand that the touchstrip might be unresponsive and that fine adjustments would be difficult, but as it turns out it responds to movements as fine as a fingertip rolled across it.

Novation Twitch Serato ITCH DJ controller

Gesture DJing, with the Novation Twitch DJ interface.

Of note to those of you who might be interested in creating a Traktor mapping of your own is the fact that not only the pads but also the touchstrips have different Midi messages depending on which of the four performance modes you’re in. This will make complex mappings a lot easier without the need for so many modifiers. Most of the features are clear from the videos in the previous article, but of course there is more complexity to them than can be explained in the time they have in those short clips.

Slice and dice
The slicer, which is the feature a lot of people are raving about, is a lot of fun. It’s very adjustable with the touchstrip, which effectively becomes a double parameter control in slicer mode, and once you’ve got to grips with it it’s quite intuitive in use and is a nice advancement on the classic loop roll. There’s also a feature in one of the needle drop modes whereby the LED lights up in the middle and placing your finger anywhere to the right speeds the track up and anywhere to the left plays the track backwards, with speed depending on how far your finger is from the middle. I can’t think of a way I’d use it in my workflow, but I’m sure someone can!


Tempo encoders
The use of rotary encoders in place of pitch faders is, in my opinion, a very good solution to tempo control on a software controller.The problem many of us have often had with traditional pitch faders on Midi controllers is the lack of parity between the hardware and the software, where the physical fader ends up in the wrong position and we have to rely on either using the fader in relative mode (a problem if you’re at the end of its travel) or with soft takeover (the fader being unresponsive until it’s in the same position as the one in the software), which can be a nightmare. Apparently the rotary encoders were initially designed simply as a space saving measure, but in my opinion they are a much better solution to the problem. In ITCH, the sensitivity and acceleration of the encoders is very good, and you have control down to 0.01 BPM should you need it.

The Novation Twitch master FX section.

The master FX section.

Effects
The effects available in ITCH aren’t as varied as those in Traktor for instance, but they’re of high quality and are quite easy to use. The fader FX mode à la VCI-100 is also very good, enabling fast and expressive use of effects. That said, with those pads available, to me it’s crying out for an instaFX layer, like the DJ Tech Tools Midi Fighter has. This is something I mentioned to Matt, who’s head of Novation hardware, and he seemed receptive to the idea. I’m not expecting anything like that to appear for the Twitch itself any time soon, but they’re definitely aware of the Midi Fighter, so there’s a chance it’s something to look out for in future Novation products.
Sync mode
ITCH’s sync has been criticised in the past, and admittedly I only had a few tracks to play around with on the demo laptop, but it seemed very accurate to me. In fact the sync button on the Twitch has to be shift-pressed to be disengaged, which leads me to believe that the developers have confidence in ITCH 2.0’s sync capabilities. As I mentioned before though, the touchstrip swipe and tempo encoders are very accurate and for anyone unhappy using sync, beatmatching manually is definitely an option, especially with ITCH’s parallel waveforms.

Conclusion

I went to Sonar with high expectations of the Twitch, and in general it delivered. Its mapping with ITCH is excellent, giving the user a great out-of-the-box complete solution. Its built-in audio interface is high-quality, and the ITCH software has unlimited lifetime updates, so it matches up to the Native Instruments S4 in several regards. However, it’s more portable than the S4 and for me, more suited to hardcore controllerism. It’s definitely a good all-in-one for those who aren’t interested in having permanent use of four decks, a camp which I certainly fall into.

For Traktor users there is a mapping provided (along with an overlay), but I don’t feel it¡ has taken proper advantage of the unit’s potential. However,with the community of mappers out there for Traktor, I’m quite sure that a mapping will come about that really exploits it to its full capability. So – want one? There’s still no still no specific date, but I was told that there had been a delay in manufacture due to the project manager insisting that some encoders were changed. I think this is a positive, since Novation is clearly trying to ensure that build quality is top of the list of priorities. The latest news they could give me was that the first batch could arrive before the end of July…

• Jon Hersom is a DJ from St Albans, England, currently residing in Barcelona, Spain.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

It's definitely a good all-in-one for those who aren't interested in having permanent use of four decks. Its mapping with ITCH is excellent, giving the user a great out-of-the-box complete solution. Its built-in audio interface is high-quality, and the ITCH software has unlimited lifetime updates, so it matches up to the Native Instruments S4 in several regards. However, it's more portable than the S4 and for me, more suited to hardcore controllerism.

Twitch
  • Twitch
  • Rating: 4
  • From: Novation
  • Price: $300
  • Reviewed by:
  • On June 20, 2011
  • Last modified:August 19, 2014

Are you waiting with bated breath for this controller? Could you see yourself happily DJing without jogwheels? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

Comments

  1. I think it’s an utterly cool controller, but lately I’ve been more elevating towards controllers that aren’t proprietary. I just think it’s a waste to spend that extra amount of money and end up with an expensive piece of software that you aren’t going to use.

    It’s clear I’m pretty loyal to Torq, hence why I would rather just pay for a midi control and not a midi control with some other expensive software title.

    I do hope we might see some of these companies offer discounted controllers that aren’t software-specific.

    • I would really like to see controller integration options that are less limited than MIDI.

      At the moment, while I have the same issues with you with the proprietary controllers, generic MIDI mapping doesn’t cut it in my case for really tight/clean integration.

      Traktor/NI are doing things really well with their HDMIDI devices – they’re fantastically editable and have fewer limitations than straight MIDI. Unfortunately, it’s not broadly supported or standardised.

      OSC is another option, but I think unnecessarily powerful and confusing to non-technical users.

  2. Timskow says:

    Thanks! I was looking all over the place for info on this thing. It looks very interesting to me.

    The only thing I wonder about is its functionality with Itch and whether it’s tight enough to make a Traktor mapping obsolete.

    • Jon Hersom says:

      I have been interested in this controller for a while, but I always thought the ITCH certification was just something that would be nice to have (I’m a long time Traktor user). Having used it for real, I can really see myself using this in place of Traktor. Not necessarily permanently, but certainly from time to time.

      If it’s good enough to make a hardcore NI fan use a Serato product, it’s pretty exciting!

  3. Treebal says:

    I’ve got a vci 300 (really happy with it) and seriously thinking of switching to Twitch…

    • Phil Morse says:

      I guess sticking with ITCH is part of your thinking too…

      • Treebal says:

        yeah man! I don’t dislike traktor at all but itch’s functions are all I need plus I love its simple layout. I mainly play electro-disco so I don’t need jogwheels at all since I never scratch and these launchpad style cue buttons make things way more comfortable!

  4. Great Review and Im impressed by your ability to talk about a controller for a couple of hours with another person :-).

  5. Hey Man, Is itch stuff interchangeable with SSL? Cause then you could use this with a DVS as a sort of overkill mixer, a la pioneer DJM series.

  6. Soulguru says:

    How much is this controller?
    Also is it just a midi no audio?

  7. goodguy says:

    Thanks for the hands-on, been interested in reading one for a while now!
    I do a weekly radio show, so have been keen to get a portable (as in chuck in a bag and walk to the studio portable) unit for a while – has to be Itch as I will also occasionally use SSL (I’m a Kiwi, so we have Serato everywhere ;) ) but the VCI-300 just wasn’t quite me and the Xone, whilst cool, seemed a bit bulky and spendy. So Twitch looks perfect if:
    – Touchstrips were reliable and responsive (I’ll probably continue to manually beatmatch a lot of stuff just cause I enjoy it)
    – Audio quality of the soundcard was impressive enough

    Would love your (further) views on those two points, thanks Jon.

    • Jon Hersom says:

      Hi goodguy. As far as reliability is concerned, this unit had definitely had some hard use and the touchstrips worked perfectly. They’re much more responsive than i expected.

      I can’t really comment much on the soundcard since I was testing the Twitch in a very noisy environment and was basically just mixing in headphones. All I can tell you is that the headphone output can be turned up painfully loud on a pair of reloop cans. It’s a 24 bit 48khz soundcard which on numbers alone is plenty good enough, and judging by the thought and effort that’s gone into the rest of this controller I doubt it’ll be let down by sound quality.

  8. Boney Collins says:

    Thinking about the future, i can imagine the next gen. of midi controllers as lego block-

    Imagine a midi contorller with modular systems that you can change or upgrade, take this buttons out and put other encoders there, one unit or expandable units with automapping.

    Just my thought for the future of midi controllers

  9. Like this?
    http://blog.lividinstruments.com/2010/08/06/builder-contest-results/

    ;)

    About Twitch… I saw it at messe and I found it a bit “plasticous” but I still love it hehe.

    I buy recently a vci300 and I’m doing it some nice mods…

  10. Hey Jon, thanks for the great review. You mention that ‘It’s definitely a good all-in-one for those who aren’t interested in having permanent use of four decks, a camp which I certainly fall into.’ I saw a video on Youtube made by the guys at Novation and they show Twitch being used with Traktor using four decks. I wanted to make sure that this can be done because you didn’t mention it in the article and I don’t see how you go about setting it up on Twitch. Thanks.

  11. it's all about soul says:

    the soundcard’s quality worries me

  12. it's all about soul says:

    Why the blogs review dont tell the deficient lower twitch output ?

  13. ^^^ indeed… the serato forums are over the issue

  14. Hello there i’ve bought Novation Twitch yesterday,really nice controller, great build quality much like NI x1 and machine (not “bombproof” as the denon dn sc 2000 but built to last) the only build issues are the faders which are a bit kinda waggly but highly responcive and trustworthy and the knobs wouldn’t hurt to be more grippy but nothing you can’t get used to.Generaly the controller is very ergonomic and really beautiful.The touchstrips are a huge (in)novation and really take digital dj into a whole new level where skill matters cause digital djing is about knobs and buttons and touchpads not emulative joggs and timecodes in my opinion.In terms of software on Itch 2.0 all the fun beggins with the slicer mode and twitch is the ideal Itch controller for me.On Traktor 2.5 you can map deck (switch) 3,4 to the remix decks and sky’s the limit, i must say that i did use my own mapping but the default novation mapping isn’t bad at all -controllerism is all about mapping your way to the top-.I still haven’t use the controller to ableton but i intend to when i purchase a copy of ableton -real soon-.Finally i’d like to talk about the hardware setup i use.On Itch 2.0 i connect directly the twitch’s master outpout to the speakers and use the controller’s headphones output as well as the booth output -Serato won’t let you use other sound outputs but the controller’s,a big minus for me- at this point i must say that i come to agree with those saying that the outputs could be louder but in a club situation you won’t have a problem.On Traktor 2.5 i use twitch as a controller only without using it’s audio interface as i use Twitch along with Trakor Kontrol X1 for 4 deck and remix deck control and for sound output i use Traktor Audio 2 soundcard connected to a Numark M2 mixer for eq and channel mixng control and i use the mixer’s master and headphones outputs a setup which gives me a much louder but also high quality sound.My opinion is that Twitch has opened the Pandora’s Box -in a good way- of digital DJ and has started a new dj era.

    • Nikos,
      Hqw did you configure traktor 2.5 to use the Twitch, Kontrol X1 and the Traktor Audio 2? I keep getting conflicts when I try to use the Audio 2 instead of the Twitch audio.

      • Hi Vid, sorry for the delay but i haven’t check this topic for a while.Your problem is only with the Traktor Audio 2 soundcard right?This is how i’ve donne it.Map the two controllers in any manner you prefer.After you’re donne with that go to output routing and set it to external as Twitch’s soundcard applies to the internal option -audio 2 must be connected to your pc/laptop -and then you shall see each channel a-d and the option to set L,R to the outputs of the card, do it as you would do normally and it shall work like a charm.I hope i’ve helped you, if not don’t hesitate to ask again.

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