Controller Clinic #1: Novation Twitch vs Traktor Kontrol S4

The Novation Twitch comes with an overlay and mapping for Traktor, although there are mixed reports about the quality of the supplied mapping. Pic: Zzsounds

The Novation Twitch comes with an overlay and mapping for Traktor, although there are mixed reports about the quality of the supplied mapping. Pic: Zzsounds

Reader Kirill write: “I am moving now from the Vestax Typhoon to a new controller and I’m all excited about the Twitch because it has no jogs (I don’t scratch, never did, never will). It also seems to have lots of buttons and FX controls that seem great to replace an external pad controller. I am mainly playing electronic music and dubstep, and working live with another DJ who is using Ableton Live with an APC40 to control our drum triggers and play loops and other effects while I run the tracks and mash them. I am worried that I will outgrow the Twitch just as fast as I did with the Typhoon (squeezed every little bit that it had to offer!), and wondering if it won’t be better to get a Kontrol S4. Trouble is, it’s huge and when playing with several DJs during the same night you often just can’t find place on the table for your set-up. If I found myself struggling with the Typhoon then I can only imagine the nightmares I will have with the S4!”

“What’s your call on the Twitch? How good are the touchstrips? Do you miss anything while using it? Did you find it to be fun for home and small pubs and dance bars or can you see yourself doing large gigs with it? (like 1000+ people in the audience)?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

The Twitch is small, light and original. Twitch is great if you’re happy to beatgrid your music. For freestyling (ie manual beatmatching), jogs are still the best way of phase matching your music; I don’t scratch either but I do like to DJ with jogs when mixing non tempo-matched material. But if you really don’t need jogs, then Twitch has lots of innovative features that’ll keep you happy for a long time. It has a good enough sound card for any size of venue (some say it’s quiet, but it’s loud enough to feed into a club mixer and as long as you have decent DJ headphones it’s fine).

However, if you have a Typhoon then I presume you’re already using Traktor – switching software platforms is a big thing, and although the Twitch does with Traktor mappings and an overlay, it is first and foremost a Serato ITCH controller. Why don’t you consider going down the Kontrol X1 + sound card route? If you used the Kontrol X1 and a small sound card such as the Audio 2, you could plug in to two channels on the club’s house mixer, and use that for mixing, EQing etc, using the X1 for your loops, FX and hot cues. The X1 is absolutely tiny and can tuck next to the mixer or anywhere else you can find a small gap for it.

Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1

The beauty of the Kontrol X1 is that you can slip it in to every the most cramped DJ box far more easily than a controller. Pic: Key Music

You could also look at the Kontrol S2, but to be honest it’s still bigger than your Typhoon. Or alternatively take a look at the new Denon DJ MC3000; it’s around the same size as the Twitch and you’ll definitely never outgrow it, as it controls practically all of Traktor Pro 2′s features, including sample decks and loop recorder.

What would you advise for Kirill? Please feel free to add to my thoughts by posting your own in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Twitch is great for serato itch. I love it and like article says if u go thru a house mixer, ur volume will be fine. But its is designed for itch and it really shines when used with itch. I am not a fan of it for use with traktor.

    S2 is a great choice for traktor. Kontrol series works so well with traktor.

    I think u have narrowed it down to 2 great choices. Imo, if u like itch, go with twitch. If u like traktor, go with s2.

    These would be the 2 controllers id consider if i was in market for 2 deck midi controller too.

    I went with twitch as a portable solution controller a few months back.

    • southyfreakin' says:

      On that note though, the Twitch offers four deck control of Traktor in it’s mapping doesn’t it? I just received mine this morning and have yet to get stuck in, but I currently use Traktor Duo and was looking at upgrading to Traktor Pro 2, which with the new sample decks looks amazing and a good partner to the Twitch. In terms of size, it looks like it’s not much bigger than a 15″ laptop. Whatever software you use, it looks like an awesome controller

    • southyfreakin' says:

      On that note though, the Twitch offers four deck control of Traktor in it’s mapping doesn’t it? I just received mine this morning and have yet to get stuck in, but I currently use Traktor Duo and was looking at upgrading to Traktor Pro 2, which with the new sample decks looks amazing and a good partner to the Twitch. In terms of size, it looks like it’s not much bigger than a 15″ laptop. Whatever software you use, it looks like an awesome controller

  2. I quit scratching years ago but I still need jogs to do what I do. They aren’t just for scratching.

  3. I don’t really think you can outgrow the twich as the typhoon cause the twitch is a super pro controller and the typhoon even when is vestax is still basic, I think if you don’t do jog wheels its great kit, I personally even when i’m not a scratch dj I would rather have jogs to play around with scratching here and there plus its awesome to find cues and match beats etc… I personally love twitch but still like jogs… I would really consider the denon dn-mc6000 to be honest with you

  4. The twitch is the most disappointing product released this year. Cheap plastic rubbish with a low output soundcard of which many users are complaining. Great concept. Poorly executed. Shame Novation shame.

    • I wonder if you even have a twitch, the only ones complaining about the sound card are those who dont have them. This “cheap plastic rubbish” has lasted me countless shows including Burning Man (in the desert) and hasn’t given me a lick of trouble. Is it as good as it could have been, no. But neither are the S4, S2, VCI-any, or countless other kit. ohh and that low output hasn’t even caused me a hiccup at any clubs i bring it to because of a simple concept called GAIN STAGING, look it up.

      • i have to agree with you…i am relentless with my twitch and it keeps bangin the beat…gain staging!!!! most deff!!!i also have the s2 and i have to say novation dropped the ball on the traktor compatability!!! what compatability?? all i see are problems getting it going for the 3-4 (c-d) decks that have no independant eq’s…..so im going to just do 2 diff midi sets using my vinyl to tie it all together, along with my 2 seperate mixers i guess u could say i got DECK STAGING going on lol a total of 6

    • I disagree strongly with you there. It is indeed plastic, as are many Novation products and many other DJ controllers including the s2 and S4; that doesn’t matter a bit, indeed IMO it’s better because it makes it lighter. The sound card sounds sweet, its output level is not an issue. As a reviewer who’s lucky enough to have seen and used practically every DJ controller released this year, these are two of the best.

      • I think the Denon MC-3000 will compete with the Twitch and the S4 will compete with the Vestax VCI-400. The S2 does not have enough features and the Pioneer Ergo can not handle professional abuse (it might win the bedroom DJ market though…)

  5. Professorbx says:

    The twitch gets such a bad rap it isn’t even funny, and I don’t know why. As a controller it is genius, and the traktor map is solid. I would go with that.

  6. Okay, I use a Traktor S4 it’s great. I love it. I’d marry it. If space is an issue I would consider getting a durable stand. (crane laptop stand) You can always find space to put a stand, and BAM lifted gear. Looks cooler, out of the way, your backs good, and nobody can spill a drink on it. That’s what I would do if I were you.

  7. I’ve been looking at this Twitch and it does look like great concept for digital DJs. This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkzSjUe_3iA was quite impressive imo. But I’m in favour of jog wheels. Reason being, I play alongside vinyl DJs and some times we go wild with 2 decks on digital and 3 decks on vinyl at the same time. This makes jog wheels necessary when trying to keep everything matched and sounding as it should. I’m not sure how the jog wheel styled pitch bending works with the Twitch and how difficult it would be keeping things in time. Sync is good but not always useful.

  8. Has any1 said the vestax 400? It would much better 4 traktor and u can map jogs to do exf anyway?

  9. I havent fully read this post yet but I havent worked a club yet where an S4 would even fit in the DJ booth. I was at Guitar Center today comparing the S4 and S2 along with other devices and the thing is just huge. I have 2 X1 controllers and I have played in some very tight spaces with them. Just my 2 cents.

  10. If you’re willing to stick it out on your Typhoon for a few more months, Allen & Heath is releasing the K2 in February. That, I think, is the way to go if you’re looking for something small and powerful and don’t want the jogs. Allen & Heath are legendary for their sound and the fact that the thing’s got 3 layers of control means that you can control everything you could possibly want to control with just one small controller (did I just use ‘control’ four times in one sentence? Yes I did. Wait, five?). Like Phil said about the X1 you’ll need an external sound card, but your footprint’ll still be less than the twitch and the functionality blows the X1 out of the water, hands down.

  11. If you dont need the jogs, go with the twitch. As you partner is using Abelton, you can link up with him. The Abelton mapping for the Twitch isn’t bad, and is really easy to customize. The size of the Twitch is also a good compromise for the features it has, its about as big as a 15 inch laptop.

  12. I purchased Twitch on the recommendation of Mr Morse… (from a VCI-300 MkII)… And believe me it’s all the machine it says it is and more… From simple phase beat matching to remixing on the fly… It’s robust,light and small and a thoroughly Proffessional feeling bit of kit… And with itch is ultra stable… (check the specifications and requirements… Ram needed etc… Compared to other controllers old and new)I love it and would recommend it to anyone…

  13. Although I didn’t have the best experiences on Novation (I had a Nocturn and a Launchpad, and they both were not what I had expected), I will still give the Twitch a go. It is truely revolutionary, the size is just perfect, and it looks great. 2 Decks and some sample banks is all I need, no jogs required. I think about buying it in December.

  14. I have tested my friend’s S4 extensively and beside the great build/design, output and timecode support it’s nothing spectacular IMHO. the Twitch would be a better choice if you want to experiment a little bit. and if you don’t like ITCH, there’s still endless possibilities mapping it to Traktor [2 decks + sampler + various FXs…) i’m thinking oif getting the Twitch myself, but still waiting for a Christmas sale :D

  15. Got the Twitch.

    Prefer how the nudge works on touchstrips compared to many controllers like mc-6000 and such. I don’t see any problems matching by ear using the Twitch.

    All a matter of taste and “workflow” I suppose. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages. I would like jogs for FX mapping. Don’t miss them at all for transport. Then I would like something larger. Think S4 size jogs and strips are equal. But it all boils down to personal preference and what you want to do with it.

    If possible, try them both and make your pick. Or just think in terms of + and – and go for the one that suits you the best!

    I personally think the Traktor mapping for Twitch is a little weak on the FX side. But believe me, there is stuff to be done if you feel like beeing creative.

    A lot of usefull info about how the Twitch works is written in the “Twitch programmers guide”. Regarding which channels and notes are availible by firmware.

    Hope that made some sense. And obviouse I’m a little biased since I own the Twitch.
    Like it alot, what I miss is four physical channelfaders and eq.

    Good luck with your choice!
    Regards
    //Joel

  16. I definitely recommend a Twitch if you are willing to switch to Serato. I know in NorCal most clubs have a scratch live interface so it is more professional to have your cues and loops in Serato.

    I used a VCI 300 for a long time, but found that I didn’t use the scratch feature that much. I have a regular two decks and a mixer setup too, which is infinitely better than simulating with a jog wheel.

    In terms of pitch bend, there is no difference between using the pitch bend on a jogwheel or with the Twitch’s touch strip except that you are moving your hand in a line rather than in a circle. I repeat: It works just like a CDJ/VCI/S4 jogwheel when adjusting the pitch. It is just a small adjustment to how you mix because the hand motion is a little different, but that is the only difference.

    I NEVER use the sync feature of Twitch. The visual display in Itch is more than enough information to get tracks perfectly in time.

    If you live in Europe or really like Traktor (IMO there aren’t huge differences between Serato and Traktor if your aren’t doing your own midi mapping) then I would suggest a Native Controller. The X1 with an Audio 2 is a pro setup that costs the same as a Typhoon, so you could save money that. I think it’s better to save for the S4 than to buy the S2 if you stick with Traktor.

  17. DJ Forced Hand says:

    I used to use a Vestax VCI-100 and 300 and they weren’t great. It did what I asked it to do but it was not very… good at going beyond mixing 2 tracks for a club. Jog Wheels always felt like someone trying to emulate Vinyl records but they totally missed the point. It’s not that records were round that made them great, it was the direct-action upon the music. CDs never let you interact with them directly but with a touch strip, you totally feel like you’re touching the music… just like Vinyl.

    As a very satisfied owner of a Novation Twitch, I would like to dispel a few myths that I believe a lot of people are trying to perpetuate.

    * First, “You cannot nudge the track forward and back (to manually beat match) with a touch strip.” Just because this device doesn’t have a jog wheel, does not mean you can’t and it’s on by default when using either Itch or Traktor. Plus, when electing to scratch on a Twitch (by pausing the deck) it is easier than most Jog Wheels because you have a groove to keep your finger in (and it’s a straight line).

    * Second, “For freestyling (ie manual beatmatching), jogs are still the best way of phase matching your music” Beat Gridding can be done as easily as tapping out the beat in real time (while the track is being cued), so this isn’t really a problem unique to Twitch, it’s Traktor with ANY controller on this issue.

    * Third, “(Needle) Drop isn’t important.” Try to imagine a one-touch “Needle drop” to any point in your song (like Vinyl). Twitch has a Drop mode, the S2 and S4 don’t. Now, I know you can use a mouse to do this, but it’s still something the S4 and S2 don’t have. The touch strip acts like touching the bottom edge of a vinyl record in swipe mode, except that a loop can be pinched or expanded (like zooming with an iPhone) whenever you want (in Itch).

    * Fourth, “Those buttons aren’t worth losing the Jog Wheel for” Those trigger pads beneath the touch strips (for each Deck… if we’re paying attention there are 4 Decks in Traktor (decks C and D are a button push toggle away) aren’t just there to handle 8 (4 wide x 2 high) hot cues, they also affect Loops, your beat gridding (in Traktor) or Slicer mode (in Itch), FX on (just the top row, you can assign anything you like to the bottom row) and these buttons are not only BIG, but they also have 2-color LEDs (which allows you to choose colors between Red and Green (which includes Amber/Yellow) and they’re a lot more visible. For anyone doing the math on that, it’s 128 button options (without pressing the shift key) and that’s a HECK of a lot more buttons to trigger things with than the S4 and S2 combined! The Twitch controller is so advanced, it won’t need a side car when Traktor 2.5 comes out because (if you assign decks C and D to Sample Decks) you’re looking at 64 buttons to play with (32 per side) and there will only be 16 Sample Tracks per Deck in Traktor Pro 2.5… which means you still have room to assign unique triggers in Ableton if you’d like. Sure, the Twitch doesn’t have as many colors, but for 1/2 the price of the S4, I’m sure you can make do with Red, Orange, Yellow, Lime and Green (and 8 states of brightness in those colors)… or just buy the $200 Kontrol F1 (like everyone else who owns an S2 or S4) and leave the buttons on your Twitch for other things in Ableton.

    * Fifth, “The sound card isn’t professional grade.” Focusrite makes the sound card in all Novation products that have a sound card. If someone says that the sound card sounds too quiet or is not capable enough, refer them to the Focusrite website (http://www.focusrite.com/) for a little lesson in professional audio gear.

    * Sixth, “Twitch isn’t configured well for Traktor.” The Traktor Control Manager allows you to map and remap controls with any controller that sends and receives MIDI (and both do). If you don’t like the way something is mapped, you can change it (unlike with Itch).

    Ultimately, Kirill wants to know if the Twitch is capable of growing with them and if the DJ controller at least on par with the S4, to both questions I say a resounding YES! Should Kirill buy it? That’s something they should decide by going down to a local DJ Equipment store and trying it for themselves.

  18. After thinking for a long time about which controller to buy, I went with the Novation Twitch–and I couldn’t be happier.

    As Phil mentioned, it really changes the way you think about DJing. instead of just playing a track linearly, it forces you to recognize the bits and pieces, measures and builds that make up the track. It’s almost like more of a sequencer than a turntable. Since that’s the way musicians are making music these days, it feels like the next step of DJing.

    It did take a little bit of getting used to, but once you get over that relearning curve, it actually feels like a more natural way to digitally DJ. The Traktor S4 is definitely a great tool–probably best in class–but it’s almost like it’s retrofitting new technology to an old system. The Twitch really is game changing. I think I’ll have it for a long time.

    Phil, as always, your articles proved invaluable in helping me make my decision. Thank you!!

  19. My advice is to keep your Typhoon and buy a Kontrol X1. I use it with a Mixtrack and a Audio 4 DJ sound card. It’s a complete setup with hotcues, effects, samples, loops. And there still some buttons left to map any function I’d like.

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