Review: Stanton's SCS.4DJ Digital DJ Mixing Station
Stanton's SCS.4DJ brings all the necessary DJ tools to the table.
There’s a lot of great DJ gear out there right now that’s changing the world based on use of digital media, and Stanton is staying ahead of the pack of media players. Live2Play blogger, Shaun DeGraff reviewed the CMP.800 Cross Media Player not too long ago and we thought that unit was seriously cool.
And then the SCS.4DJ comes in the mail. And - wow! If you had a laundry list of all the things you want in a mix station, Stanton has pretty much included it.
Let’s start with an overview. The SCS.4DJ combines two digital media players/”decks” with an integrated DJ mixer. So you don’t have to build a setup by cobbling players and a mixer together. It’s all right there in one unit. You access your “media” aka song files via USB ports - 2 of them that can be used to connect to flash drives, external hard drives, memory card readers or digital music players to get files into the unit, and one that can be used to connect out of the unit to your computer in order to use the SCS.4DJ as a MIDI controller with DJ software packages such as Native Instruments Traktor, Atomix Virtual DJ, or Mixvibes Cross. You can also attach a USB hub to the in ports in order to attack more hard drives, or a computer keyboard to control particular functions on the machine.
The mixer includes your standard fader controls: channel A and B mix, and a crossfader to switch between them. Each deck has a master low, mid, and high EQ knob and a headphone on/off button. A record button allows you to record your mix in CD quality (16 bit/44.1 sampling rate) as a wav file to any media storage device you have connected. You can then download it from the device to your computer and do anything you want with it, including share it to the internet.
Both of the decks on the unit have the same basic features: a play/pause button, a cue button that allows you to designate a specific cue point in the song to return to when it’s pressed, a sync button that allows for one touch beat matching of your two tracks, and a tap button that allows you to quickly tap a tempo in for the deck to match. ??The platter/jogwheel has allows for three different kinds of control: pitch bend (the outer ring), scratching (the inside touch surface), or on the fly fast forward and rewind through a track (by holding the scratch button down and rotating the platter). A touch and scratch button on either side of the platter allow you to control which function the platter is doing at anytime.
In the top left of the deck is a pitch control slider and two buttons - either + or - that when pressed and held momentarily change the pitch until you release them.??At the top of the decks are effects and looping controls - the unit comes with 4 onboard effects: filter, flange, splice and delay, all of which are controlled with two knobs - time/rate and frequency amount. The loop buttons include loop, divide, multiply and reloop. You can set loop in and out points, and by using the divide and multiply buttons easily divide your loop in half or double it. The reloop button recalls the parameters of your last loop.
LCD and Track Navigation
A multicolor 4.3 inch resolution LCD screen is your home base for choosing and loading tracks into the media player/decks and making all your system parameter changes. A navigation jogwheel sits below it for scrolling through menus and a “back” and “enter” button sit on either side to either back out of the menu or make a selection. Selecting and loading tracks to the decks is easy and intuitive, and making playlists for each deck is also really simple. You can sort your tracks by almost any criteria, including artist, bpm, album, or genre.
Four buttons just below the LCD screen allow you to access all your menus. Home/Waveform takes you to your track screen which gives you the file name for each deck and bpm info, and it toggles between the waveform screen so you can see both track’s waveforms sitting on top of each other which makes for easy cue or loop setting, or beat matching. The browse button takes you to a screen that brings up all your files in one place. Playlists takes you to a playlist screen for both decks, and system jumps to your system parameters menu. In the systems menu - almost every control on the machine can be customized to your taste, including throw of the faders, and how quickly crossfade happens. Four softkeys on either side of the LCD screen allow for easy access to all the parameters, so you are constantly scrolling through menus. ??I found all the controls on the SCS.4DJ to be not only really logical, but very easy to navigate through. Stanton’s use of the softkeys is truly great - they’ve added every function you need in those buttons to just get things done with a few simple button pushes.
Most notably, an update to the firmware for the unit, SC-IX Version 2.0, and newly released software for Mac and PC called QuickGrid is a significant update to the SCS.4DJ. QuickGrid allows your Mac or PC to do the track analysis offline while your SCS.4DJ is in use. So, DJs with large libraries don’t have to worry about how much time their machine will be down while the analyzation process occurs. You can prepare a hard drive full of songs from your computer from the QuickGrid application and be ready to go as soon as the drive is plugged in. ??SC-IX Version 2.0 allows you to turn off background analysis, which frees up processing power in the machine. The update also improves speed while browsing and switching through menus, improves the beat grid to allow for better syncing in songs where the bpm has been altered. It also improves high-speed seek, offers more auto DJ settings,
and improves the recording and MIDI functions of the machine.
The SCS.4DJ is a great tool for DJ’s - both pro and beginner. The all in one combination of everything you need in one small space means you don’t have to haul giant racks of gear around. Two powered speakers, this unit in a good case and a couple hard drives, and you’ve got a rig. The unit is super light - and that would be the only thing you would really want to watch out for if you plan on pro gigging with it all the time. You’ll want a solid backup and it will need a heavy duty case, and you’ll need to make sure it’s anchored well to your rig. The unit is mostly made of plastic, but the knobs and faders feel solid and smooth. But it’s not going to take a brutal beating or dropping. If you are really hard on your equipment, this unit might not be right for you. Stanton also makes a softcase for the unit if you’re doing light duty with it.
The SCS.4DJ is also a great tool for gigging musicians. I plan on using it to run some backing tracks for my solo and duo projects. It’s the perfect tool for that because you can load up playlists on both decks and just bounce back and forth between them, easily controlling playback, or set it up to AutoDJ between the two playlists and just keep running through tracks while you play. And when you want a break - set up a playlist with all your favorite artists in it from your library, hit play, and take off. I also plan on experimenting with the sync controls for live backing tracks with a drummer by loading backings track to one side and it’s corresponding click track to the other and then syncing them. With that feature, you’ve got a really simple media player that your drummer can control with a headphone click mix just for him/her.
I love the SCS.4DJ. Stanton may not get it back from me. It’s just too flippin cool and loaded with so many awesome tools. If you’re not a DJ yet, when you get a hold of one of these, you will want to be one. Even if it’s just for your own backyard BBQs.??
Pros: All the DJ features you need in one unit, super portable, USB connectivity galore, cool effects, and easy to learn.
Cons: None for beginners, weekend warriors, and hobbyists. Gigging pros will need a backup in case the file access side goes toes up. Won’t stand up to heavy duty gig wear and tear without a really good case and some TLC.