We reviewed Stanton’s SCS.4DJ as soon as it came out, and we pretty much loved it. For the uninitiated, it’s a DJ controller that doesn’t need a PC to work – you use the built-in colour screen and just plug your music in via external hard drive or USB stick.
Unlike previous attempts at this type of product by other manufacturers, the SCS4.DJ has proper waveforms, decent sync, reasonable library features and really good jogwheels. In short, it was more fun than it had a right to be.
It grows up with new firmware…
However, there were a couple of caveats. We did say clearly that such a system would live and die by the quality of its on-board software, and one issue reared its head among users pretty rapidly: The speed at which it all worked. While DJing with it is responsive, navigating the screens, and particularly analysing tunes, weren’t.
It wasn’t too surprising: It has an underpowered processor compared to the kind of computer most people attach to a DJ controller (plainly so – you play US$500 and get a DJ controller and a computer in one case with this thing, so it ain’t gonna be a MacBook now is it?), but nonetheless the fact that it took a while for screen modes to change and took an age to analyse songs dulled a bit of the shine on a nonetheless pretty revolutionary product.
However, late last year Stanton quietly slipped out a new firmware, v2.0. This is really easy to install (put it on a USB, turn the unit on, and click “OK”), and offers a long list of benefits, the biggest two for us being the general zippiness when moving around screens in the software, and the fact that they’ve revamped song analysis.
While they can’t do much about the time it needs, they have changed the way it works. Before, if you loaded an unanalysed song to a deck, you didn’t get waveforms and were basically DJing “blind”. Now, it can analyse on the spot for you, like most DJ software does, meaning you can DJ more easily with an unanalysed collection.
They’ve also improved playlists and autoplay with better handling from iTunes, onboard playlist generation, and more “auto DJ” options for the truly lazy. A host of other improvements have been made not least to the sonics: Spinbacks work better, and crucially for those with less-than-ideal cans, the headphones output is now much louder. All in all, v2.0 of the firmware (downloadable from the Stanton website) means this young upstart has now definitely grown up.
…and leaves home in a smart new bag!
Underlining Stanton’s desire that this product be seen as the simplest, easiest portable DJing set-up that there is, the company has now made available a custom carry bag.
The bag is messenger-style, in black nylon, with a mesh back and two smart, jumbo clips on the front to hold the flap closed.
There’s a padded carry handle bearing their logo, a shoulder strap, a zipped headphones pocket on the front (just about big enough for compact headphones, but a squash for full-sized ones), and a big inner section for the unit itself.
A dark great high-density moulded foam cutout sits in the bottom of the bag to hold the unit snug. The inside is bright Stanton blue and is rather fetching, the whole main compartment also being well padded with stitched-in eggshell foam. There’s a deep, narrow elastic-topped pocket on one end, and two mesh pockets on the other. We like it.
So has it come of age?
It’s certainly a lot closer to being a mature product now.
There’s a small program called QuickGrid available (finally, it’s out for Mac as well as PC) that lets you do the processor-hungry number-crunching on your main PC, not on the SCS.4DJ. It zips through the job, but it’s hardly elegant, and you can’t just drag and drop from iTunes, which is annoying – you have to navigate through files and directories to choose the songs for analysis.
The unit has always been touted as a Midi controller too, and this version of the firmware improves Traktor handling of the device.
There’s Virtual DJ support now too, but in both cases the internal sound card won’t work with external software, which is disappointing.
If Stanton could improve this, and work a little on QuickGrid (let’s face it, nearly everyone arranges their libraries with iTunes), they’ll have tied up a couple of the remaining loose ends on a nearly-there product, making it an even more intriguing alternative to laptop / software / hardware DJing than it already is.
As it stands though, an “SCS.4DJ v2”, especially in its smart new bag, more than ever would make a handy second system for backup gigs or those where it’s not worth hauling out your main rig. For the casual DJ, the laptop-phobic or the serious minimalist, it offers a great alternative to the traditional route.
Are you an SCS.4DJ owner? What are your view of it, especially if you’ve owned it for a while? Would you consider a system that doesn’t need a computer, and indeed do you think this is the way things are going? Let us know in the comments.